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Turns out, celebrities are bullies too.
September 6, 2012 1:40 AM   Subscribe

Comedians are using their fans for co-ordinated safety in numbers bullying. Simon Pegg, Ricky Gervais and Noel Fielding [...] have used their combined follower count of just under 6 million to bully people – Gervais in particular does so repeatedly – and I’m sick of the fact that they’re not called to account for it. You will have heard plenty about “trolls and haters” in the wider media, but very little about celebrities endorsing and directing this behaviour.
posted by zoo (137 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Simon Pegg? Say it ain't so. I knew about Gervais and Fielding, but I always thought he was one of the good guys.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:00 AM on September 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Reminded me a little of my Alzheimer's ridden aunt ranting at her Jack Russell. She used to go on for hours and hours at him about nothing. Hours.
posted by teppic at 2:04 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Being a musician, even a harmless local one, has done a lot to disabuse me of the notion that being artistically talented makes you necessarily a nice person. It's also made me realize that just because someone's a celebrity does not mean you want to interact with them. Sadly, I tend to assume the opposite.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:07 AM on September 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've never used twitter and don't follow British comedy, so I'm probably not very qualified to weigh in on this, but isn't Gervais' whole schtick based around this kind of thing? A work colleague played me a few episodes of his podcast earlier this summer, and the premise seemed to be "Hey I found a dumb guy, everybody listen while I bully him into talking about random topics and I insult him and laugh at him!" (side note - Ricky Gervais has the most annoying laugh in the history of everything).

Regardless, I kept going and finished the article and ... wow, who the fuck is Noel Fielding? That whole story with 'MissSpidey' is absolutely horrific.

All in all, a bit long-winded but definitely an interesting story, from the perspective of an outsider.
posted by mannequito at 2:12 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Noel Fielding was part of "The Mighty Boosh", which you might have heard of?
posted by pharm at 2:20 AM on September 6, 2012


Fielding's antics notched him #38 on the 100 Worst People On Twitter. What's most surprising to me is how many of those tweets sound like the words of a fairly stupid person, to say nothing a mean one.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:22 AM on September 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


good read, thanks for posting - and the article linked within this one is also a good read, a very thorough takedown of ricky gervais.
posted by kev23f at 2:25 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are always 2 sides to every account. Many 'celebrities' and their followers no doubt see Twitter as an extension of a live performance and, as in live performance, if someone heckles they get put down, hopefully with style and brutality. We have come to listen to the celeb not some loudmouthed wannabe.

There are no shortage of f***wits out there who think it cool to abuse famous people from the safety of their mobile phones. I have no time for Gervais or Fielding and I suppose Pegg's persona is adopted but if the wannabe started it first and especially if they are persistent then they deserve whatever happens to them. It is also possible they are doing it deliberately just to get a rude reply.

As I said, these are performance artists so think of it as heckling, and if you can't stand the heat ...
posted by epo at 2:26 AM on September 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


"The Mighty Boosh"

Is that a George W joke?
posted by From Bklyn at 2:26 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every time I think about celebrity followers, I think of this observation from @ActualPerson084:
PEACEFULLY ENTOMBED IN A PYRAMID, SURROUNDED BY TWITTER FOLLOWERS WHO DID NOT REALIZE WHAT THEY WERE SIGNING UP FOR.
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:27 AM on September 6, 2012 [33 favorites]


Epo, not to get all RTFA on you, but if you do, I think it's a goddamn stretch to say that any aspects of these cases are analogous to heckling a live performance.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:29 AM on September 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


Is that a George W joke?

I don't believe so.
posted by pharm at 2:30 AM on September 6, 2012


You may have noticed TFA was not a newspaper. As always ask "why is this person telling me this? What are they trying to spin?"

I don't know the full story, neither do you but "celeb is an a**hole" is a better story than "twitter follower is an a**hole". Twitter heckling happens in abundance and I bet these people get lots of it. I'll stick with my caution about the alleged bullying.
posted by epo at 2:37 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Many 'celebrities' and their followers no doubt see Twitter as an extension of a live performance and, as in live performance, if someone heckles they get put down, hopefully with style and brutality.

Yeah, but the thing is, that's not analogous at all because telling someone that the word "retarded" is offensive when they are in a public space is really, I think, pretty different to going to someone's show and interrupted them. Totally different, in fact.
posted by smoke at 2:51 AM on September 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


To a point, sure, but the crux of this story - *getting hundreds of thousands of your followers to flame people on twitter* - isn't bullying, asshole behaviour? Really?
posted by ominous_paws at 2:51 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


epo: "There are no shortage of f***wits out there ..."

Foopwits?
Fordwits?
Fangwits?
Fizzwits?

I give up, those asterisks have me stumped!
posted by barnacles at 2:51 AM on September 6, 2012 [14 favorites]


Well at least this isn't framed poorly.
posted by efalk at 2:54 AM on September 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fielding's antics notched him #38 on the 100 Worst People On Twitter.

To be fair, that website is mainly there to take potshots at people more successful than the authors, so it's not much of an indicator of anything. Bullies calling out bullies, perhaps.
posted by mippy at 2:57 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fair call. I did guiltily enjoy their trashing of The Mighty Boosh, of which I was never a fan. I did think that he seemed likeable enough on the panel shows.
posted by ominous_paws at 3:00 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Johnnie Marbles one is interesting. An online aquaintance of mine was Jonnie Marbles' ex. Her Twitter bio at the time read 'not clever, not funny, not your girlfriend'. When she tweeted her surprise at an ex-boyfriend from some time ago pie-ing Rupert Murdoch in the face, Chinese whispers began, and people thought JM was her boyfriend and she had attempted to dump him via her Twitter bio. Which meant that CNN started calling her.
posted by mippy at 3:00 AM on September 6, 2012


While Gervais has pissed me off on at least one occasion and I wouldn't call myself a Simon Pegg fan (and I've never even heard of the other guy), I still expected their tweets to be relatively funny. These are, after all, professional comedians and the two I've seen in action have displayed talent. But their tweets are the opposite of professional and a lot less than funny. They sound like they were written by sixth graders. These guys should be ashamed not just of their actions, but of their attempts at humor.
posted by Clay201 at 3:00 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fielding's antics notched him #38 on the 100 Worst People On Twitter. What's most surprising to me is how many of those tweets sound like the words of a fairly stupid person, to say nothing a mean one.

From the little of Fielding's comedy that I have seen, that seems like a pretty accurate description of the guy. Although Julian Barratt seems alright.
posted by molecicco at 3:02 AM on September 6, 2012


ominous_paws - it's a shame, because it's a nice idea (I am not a huge fan of the UK media twitter clique) spoilt by vendettas, casual misogyny and axe-grinding. But I guess if you make a list of the best/worst anything, it's unlikely to be objective. Sells magazines, though.
posted by mippy at 3:04 AM on September 6, 2012


In terms of the wrangled nature of human psychology, I find Gervais' continued level of insecurity fascinating. Given that he seems to have acheived everything he desires, going on a 'div hunt' for 'useless plebs' and 'dick heads', quipping about 'mongs', doing a show as this character... although for sheer awfulness, this picture is very hard to beat.
posted by robself at 3:06 AM on September 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I did guiltily enjoy their trashing of The Mighty Boosh, of which I was never a fan.

Heresy.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:07 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Only halfway through the article, but does anyone know what "Plus, if they have a huge userbase, like [redacted], they can make a lot of money by “enthusiastically” endorsing products." is about?
posted by fizban at 3:09 AM on September 6, 2012


Gervais is somebody who at first you admire for being able to play the same nasty, smallminded, pathetic character so consisently until you realise it's not an act...
posted by MartinWisse at 3:09 AM on September 6, 2012 [44 favorites]


I'm always amazed that there are still people who are surprised that Gervais is actually just a very unpleasant person, and not some sort of particularly committed character actor.
On preview, jinx.
posted by lucidium at 3:10 AM on September 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think it's a reference to Chris Addison (from The Thick of It/In The Loop) who advertises Direct Line insurance. Though it's not the same as an athlete endorsing sportswear - I don't think anyone would think 'hey, that Chris Addison buys his insurance there so it must be great!'.
posted by mippy at 3:11 AM on September 6, 2012


Gervais is somebody who at first you admire for being able to play the same nasty, smallminded, pathetic character so consisently until you realise it's not an act...

Er, cite please.
posted by unSane at 3:13 AM on September 6, 2012


I just unfollowed Jen Kirkman a few hours ago. Even with thousands of followers I get the feeling she spends about 10 hours a day looking for people who don't like her and then promptly freaking out about it.

Not condoning the metric fuck-tons of misogynistic bullshit she must receive, but if you're going to be famous on twitter maybe learn not to give a flying fuck so often?
posted by bardic at 3:13 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I posted about Gervais a while ago. Though the discussion there was about the US/UK meaning attributed to 'spaz'. That one still catches me off-guard.
posted by mippy at 3:13 AM on September 6, 2012


Yeah, the 100 Worst People on Twitter list was—in the end—just bitter, mean-spirited, and unpleasant. And +1 on the casual misogyny observation. This supposed takedown of Helen Lewis basically boils down to "EW SHES A GIRL LOOK AT HER FACE LOL." No thanks.

And anyway, anyone on Britain knows that the worst people on Twitter are professional cricketers. By far. There is no competition there.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:14 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


in Britain. Don't take Britain, kids. That stuff'll fuck you up.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:17 AM on September 6, 2012 [17 favorites]


Skimmed through the piece, but am I right to say that Simon Pegg had bullied exactly once, in calling his followers to flame that one poor chap?
posted by the cydonian at 3:18 AM on September 6, 2012


I've been following Simon Pegg on Twitter for a year or two now, and have never seen anything like what's shown in the single example about him in this article. In fact, I've seen him ask people *not* to harass someone who disagrees with him just because they have a different opinion. My opinion is that he's aware that people get out of hand and doesn't want it to happen on his behalf.

The screengrab shows that this incident happened about 300 tweets ago. I wish the writer had linked to the originals, they do have permalinks. I've been looking for the original and can't find it, which doesn't mean it doesn't exist, just that Twitter has a really shitty search function.
posted by harriet vane at 3:18 AM on September 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


Er, cite please.

Oh god, I mean just pretty much every word the man has ever uttered in public?
posted by ominous_paws at 3:20 AM on September 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


Mind you, I do think the suggestion to report siccing a mob onto someone to Twitter's support is a good one. I'd be happy to do it for anyone I saw acting like that, even a celebrity I like.

What kind of person would attack a stranger anyway, just for daring to disagree with their beloved celebrity? That seems like it's at the intersection of troll and crazy stalker.
posted by harriet vane at 3:22 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The linked articles set off every single one of my Crazy With A Grudge alarm bells and I couldn't get all the way through either of them. Is there any evidence that any of this "bullying" involves anything beyond posting mean things to Twitter? Or, if that's the extent of it, that it's directed at a truly captive audience - like, say, minors in school or under the thumb of their parents? The creeping definition of the term "bullying" is starting to worry me.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 3:24 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Mighty Boosh = "Flight of the Conchords" divided by "The Young Ones", if you will.

I'll be perfectly honest and say that it's very disappointing to see people whose work I respect (and subsequently considered 'decent people') acting in this way. Though I'll buffer that with an healthy dose of "eh, I might do the same thing if some wanker was insulting me" along with the known fact that actors/performers are a pretty damned insecure lot, on average.

They need to be better about it, though. Wet noodle lashes all around.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:24 AM on September 6, 2012


What we have here is people bringing their dislike of Gervais etc to a hostile story and using it to vindicate their previously prepared beliefs.

If there is proof of actual, unprovoked bullying, please provide it. Otherwise this is just heckling celebs on Twitter by proxy.
posted by epo at 3:25 AM on September 6, 2012


Wow, if only you could avoid all of this by just not using twitter.

Because it's not like everything about twitter is ridiculously inane or anything, clearly you just can't be a plugged in member of society without joining.

I get that it's kind of like IRC for the everyone, except IRC where everyone is in the same channel and there are no moderators or bans.
posted by delmoi at 3:26 AM on September 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, there was also that time a follower called Pegg out on his cosplay sexism, which resulted in him insulting her for a bit and of course, his followers insulting about it as well. He eventually stepped back and apologized, asked that his followers did too, but it was pretty ugly there for a time. (The usual content about feminists, you-can't-tell-me-I-am-not-allowed-to-sexualize-cosplay-Slave-Leias, etc.)
posted by Kitteh at 3:26 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Looks like Pegg's discourse happened in December of last year
posted by ShutterBun at 3:27 AM on September 6, 2012


Mind you, I do think the suggestion to report siccing a mob onto someone to Twitter's support is a good one. I'd be happy to do it for anyone I saw acting like that, even a celebrity I like.

Minor comic actress Emma Kennedy did this a while ago. I got blocked by her for just mentioning it - I've never engaged with her at all on Twitter.

I don;t have the patience to treat Twitter as SRS BZNS. I just don't follow people I dislike, and if said users get retweeted into your timeline (a lot of my friends follow a particular journalist that winds me right up) you can make it magically go away by blocking them. However, it can be seductive. I got something retweeted by Ben Goldacre once and my phone wouldn't stay still, and if it happened all the time - particularly if you are someone like Noel Fielding with a young nubile fan-base - it's easy to mistake for actual attention.
posted by mippy at 3:30 AM on September 6, 2012


"Because it's not like everything about twitter is ridiculously inane or anything, clearly you just can't be a plugged in member of society without joining."

Looks like somebody is only up to 29 followers. . . .
posted by bardic at 3:31 AM on September 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have to admit this whole thing of "I will insult someone who happened to malign my favorite celebrity in his name and he will see how cool I am and we totally be best friends" very very very disturbing.

On another note, comedian Jamie Kilstein had his Twitter account just savaged by Joe Rogan fans making rape jokes for a few weeks, threatening to rape him or his wife because he was talking about the pervasiveness and evil of rape culture. Apparently Joe Rogan fans don't believe it exists but they sure do like proving it does (by accident!).
posted by Kitteh at 3:32 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the cosplay thing got rough there for a while, but it ended ok. The apology was a genuine one. As a known feminazi I found his original comment mildly offputting, and thought he learned a bit from it and made a genuine apology.

Thanks for linking the stuff from December, ShutterBun.

[Can we ignore the derail about how much some people dislike Twitter? It's happened in every thread that even vaguely references the service and it's still quite boring.]
posted by harriet vane at 3:33 AM on September 6, 2012 [12 favorites]


Is there any evidence that any of this "bullying" involves anything beyond posting mean things to Twitter?

Ah, that's the thing with bullying isn't it? It only affects the powerless. The powerful - by dint of having power - aren't bothered by it, can't see the fuss. "Why don't you stop hanging around those people/going to that place/doing that thing/saying those words? Why do you care? They're just idiots."

But if you feel powerless, vulnerable, naked, you do care you have to. I often think bullying is like another metaphorical colour spectrum. It's invisible to those who can't see it, and it's all those who can are able to notice. .
posted by smoke at 3:33 AM on September 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


It looks like Pegg took down the original tweet, but here are two subsequent tweets of contrition.
posted by phl at 3:34 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh god, I mean just pretty much every word the man has ever uttered in public?

He's in character for most of that. If you've ever seen a real interview (eg the ones done by Piers Morgan) or seen him in, for example, that boxing reality show, you'd have a different perspective.
posted by unSane at 3:34 AM on September 6, 2012


Yeah, trying to read around the tweets that phl found, it seems like as well as apologising Pegg sent Darlton tickets to Mission Impossible 4 at Darlton's request.

I think this kind of thing absolutely qualifies as bullying. "Hey, thousands of followers, why not insult this specific person?". It's not like heckling and it's not just part of the rough and tumble of communication online. But I don't think Pegg deserves to be lumped in with Fielding and Gervais on this one. I'd unfollow him if I thought he was an unrepentant dick, but as it is I'll still follow so I can read his movie recommendations and see pictures of his adorable dog.
posted by harriet vane at 3:41 AM on September 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Pegg's Bad Twit seems to be a one-off, whereas in Gervais' case it's more of a recurrent behaviour. But I think the problem is a deeper one: why should 2 million people care so much about what either of them has to say?
Really, if you come to think of it, being a "celebrity" is a truly terrifying prospect. A single "bad hair day" can lead to reaction like Pegg's that will live on for ever and ever, turning people against him at any moment. Seriously, only a pathological mind can enjoy that level of attention, and if it isn't pathological to start with, it's going to become pathological quite quickly under the strain.
This weekend I saw a thought-provoking new French movie that is a bitter satire of just this state of things: "Superstar". It's about the quintessential "ordinary bloke" who, suddenly, and for no apparent reason whatsoever, becomes a celebrity. It's terrifying. (And I'm pretty sure that it will sooner or later spawn an English-language remake. Starring Simon Pegg, perhaps?)
posted by Skeptic at 3:45 AM on September 6, 2012


why should 2 million people care so much about what either of them has to say?

Because most people are idiots for most of the time.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:46 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ah, that's the thing with bullying isn't it? It only affects the powerless. The powerful - by dint of having power - aren't bothered by it, can't see the fuss.

Yeah, no. If all we're talking about is private speech absent a captive audience, an external power dynamic, or exhortations to real life actions, there is no power disparity at all, between anyone. Everyone has the power to block anyone they choose on Twitter, or even go into white-list-only mode.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 3:48 AM on September 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Incidently, this story would be more interesting if it read "Canadians are using their fans for co-ordinated safety in numbers bullying"
posted by MartinWisse at 3:51 AM on September 6, 2012


why should 2 million people care so much about what either of them has to say?

Yeah, that's the part that puzzles me. I follow celebrities on Twitter, but if any or all of them stopped tweeting it wouldn't change my life in the slightest. I just can't imagine being such a rabid fan that I'd attack someone else on the basis of 140 characters.

And now the Fielding fans are bombarding the author of the article on Twitter, saying that he's the bully not their darling Noel. It's weird.
posted by harriet vane at 3:52 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone has the power to block anyone they choose on Twitter, or even go into white-list-only mode.

Blocking isn't a useful mechanism if you're talking about a DDoS attack.
posted by Leon at 3:55 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Really, if you come to think of it, being a "celebrity" is a truly terrifying prospect. A single "bad hair day" can lead to reaction like Pegg's that will live on for ever and ever, turning people against him at any moment."

There was a guy called Gareth Aveyard who used to post amusing things on Twitter - he wasn't famous, he wasn't known for doing anything else, he was just a guy who people thought was funny, and lots of people followed him. I went away for the weekend so I didn't have access to Twitter, and when I had my phone on again he was suddenly the trending topic. My timeline was full of tweets about him, intimating he was a dick of some sort. It turned out (and I have no idea if this is just hearsay) an ex of his posted an anonymous blog claiming he was abusive, and that he had 'scammed' thousands of pounds, apparently as much as £20k, out of followers. And that was it for him. He'd gone from being someone half my timeline followed into persona non grata, and nobody has confirmed whether any of this is true or not. He was a Twitter celebrity, his fame did not exist out of Twitter, and once something like that gets out in the open it spreads and your 'army' will turn on you. It was the Twitter equivalent of Gary Glitter's downfall.

Having said that, Chris Brown has his defenders on the Twitter.
posted by mippy at 3:55 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are always 2 sides to every account. Many 'celebrities' and their followers no doubt see Twitter as an extension of a live performance and, as in live performance, if someone heckles they get put down, hopefully with style and brutality. We have come to listen to the celeb not some loudmouthed wannabe

The difference is that at a comedy club, it's usually only the comedian doing the put down. The rest of the audience isn't also standing up and taking shot after shot.
posted by bluefly at 3:57 AM on September 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Everyone has the power to block anyone they choose on Twitter, or even go into white-list-only mode.

Not gonna help when they're calling your workplace trying to get you fired, leaving deaththreats in your mailbox (virtual or real, etc).
posted by smoke at 3:58 AM on September 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


Pegg seems like a decent sort on the whole and as others have said everyone can have an off day but Fielding and Gervais look liked they not only stepped well out of line but they are serial offenders. I've just never found Fielding all that funny so have not really given him any time, but Gervais' continuing descent into utter dickishess is almost surreal.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:08 AM on September 6, 2012


Gervais' continuing descent into utter dickishess is almost surreal.
Yeah, maybe Channel 4 can commission a show where Ricky Gervais and Jeremy Clarkson mercilessly ridicule cheap, entry-level cars and deliberately destroy their gearboxes, while Noel Fielding drifts around in black and makes random observations. Russell Brand would obviously have to be involved in this show as well.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:17 AM on September 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well, there was also that time a follower called Pegg out on his cosplay sexism

I hadn't heard of that particular blow-up at the time, but I can assure our readers that pretty much all of the girls in that particular Slave Leia picture would have been absolutely thrilled to hear Simon Pegg making "Homer Simpson drooling noises" over their picture.

(I offer as a mere point of reference the fact that my own wife is one of the cosplayers, I have met many of them personally, and most of them have in fact been in my kitchen. "Cosplay" itself is not about sexism or sexiness, per se, but when you dress up as a character in a bikini with the word "Slave" in her name, there's a certain understanding between viewer and viewee.)

Pegg's "unenlightened" message may have been lost on those not directly involved, but I think I can promise that no Slave Leias pictured were offended by his comments. In fact, "working as intended" would be more accurate. Certainly this dynamic may bother a lot of people, for good reason. But it's a two-way street, an Pegg himself ought not be called out for simply "doing what's expected." (Further, he seems to have done the right thing by calling off any attacks and admitting "points on both sides", based on the truncated version of events I've seen.)
posted by ShutterBun at 4:18 AM on September 6, 2012 [12 favorites]


Everyone has the power to block anyone they choose on Twitter, or even go into white-list-only mode.

The article claims that one of the victims of this was
...suspended from Twitter for “aggressive blocking.”
posted by XMLicious at 4:20 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


maybe Channel 4 can commission a show where Ricky Gervais and Jeremy Clarkson mercilessly ridicule cheap, entry-level cars and deliberately destroy their gearboxes, while Noel Fielding drifts around in black and makes random observations. Russell Brand would obviously have to be involved in this show as well.

This is why we Americans tend to put quotations around British "humor".

BA-ZING!
posted by ShutterBun at 4:20 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


It may already be linked in the main article, but here is a blog post from Simon Pegg's original detractor
posted by ShutterBun at 4:26 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


British "humour", you colonial.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:27 AM on September 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


but when you dress up as a character in a bikini with the word "Slave" in her name, there's a certain understanding between viewer and viewee

Yes, I was also somewhat astounded about this. I mean, implying that a gold bikini costume may be intended to be sexually alluring. The gall!
Perhaps what Pegg should have done to shut up his critics would have been to pose himself in a Slave Leia costume. And perhaps the mental vision of Simon Pegg in a Slave Leia costume is something that I should have never ever evoked.
posted by Skeptic at 4:29 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


ShutterBun: "Well, there was also that time a follower called Pegg out on his cosplay sexism
"Cosplay" itself is not about sexism or sexiness, per se, but when you dress up as a character in a bikini with the word "Slave" in her name, there's a certain understanding between viewer and viewee.)
"

Bullshit.
posted by ShawnStruck at 4:31 AM on September 6, 2012


Bullshit

Well, that certainly settles that.
posted by unSane at 4:34 AM on September 6, 2012 [17 favorites]


Great link, thanks. The most bizarre part to me is Twitter's apparent reaction to Fielding's bullying (what Shutterbun just quoted, from near the end of the piece):

Then it took a more sinister turn, and MissSpidey found that her address had been tracked down and was being published by the “FieldMice”, who were also threatening violence. Then she started to receive death threats – Noel Fielding was, as you’d expect, copied in on much of this by the fans seeking his approval, and knew what was going on. MissSpidey tried to counter the avalanche of hostility by using the official mechanisms in place for doing so: she started to block and report the users, eventually ending up suspended from Twitter for “aggressive blocking.”

Really, Twitter? Can that be right? If that's true, it was total ignorant head-in-the-sand horseshit on Twitter's part.
posted by mediareport at 4:40 AM on September 6, 2012


Bullshit

You may indeed have the moral high-ground here, but I guarantee I have the practical expertise in this particular scenario.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:51 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bummer. I really like Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy.
posted by whuppy at 4:54 AM on September 6, 2012


Really, Twitter? Can that be right? If that's true, it was total ignorant head-in-the-sand horseshit on Twitter's part.

Twitter dispute mechanism: side with verified user accounts at all times. Nobody will notice if MissSpidey ragequits.
posted by jaduncan at 4:55 AM on September 6, 2012


...unless she then tries to kill herself because she was using Twitter as a support network.
posted by mediareport at 4:56 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


There was a guy called Gareth Aveyard...
Crickey, wondered what happened to him, he was one of the few people on my feed that I had know idea who he was and always made me chuckle. I hope he gets the help he (apparently) needs.

I wasn't surprised by Gervais's response to this blog, as he's such an objectionable chap on Twitter. But I was disappointed by "Twitter Policeman" (hah!) Graham Linehan's response, which I can only assume came from not having read the blog, and having just taken a guess at what its contents were. I think the crux is quite right. The internet is a new medium to humankind and most people have yet to learn how to communicate effectively and appropriately on it (which for the most part really means just saying nothing). This is true for trolls, who often aren't necessarily mean-spirited but just don't realise how their tweet to a sleb is going to come across, and to the Twitter giants themselves, who haven't necessarily yet learnt the impact a call out from them can have on someone.
There are notable exceptions, e.g. Richard Herring and Charlie Brooker (and seemingly now Simon Pegg) who have learnt the appropriate way to respond, through trial and error, and that's to their credit. I think all this post is doing is suggesting that other people learn from them, which seems reasonable.
posted by chill at 4:56 AM on September 6, 2012


What's the point of having millions of minions if you can't send them out now and then to scurry around and grunt a lot and give you plausible deniability when smashing undesirables?
posted by delfin at 4:57 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Being a celebrity is a vocation where one's total long-term income (from appearances, TV shows, and film roles) directly corresponds to that celebrity's popularity. Thus, attacking people who threaten that popularity could simply be said to be a calculated business decision. After all, if you let people attack your livelihood without repercussions, you are tacitly endorsing their behavior and inviting more attacks upon yourself. I can't think of anybody I know who would "play nice" if their careers were put at risk by attacks upon their professional competence... why should we expect any different behavior from celebrities?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 4:57 AM on September 6, 2012


epo: There are always 2 sides to every account. Many 'celebrities' and their followers no doubt see Twitter as an extension of a live performance and, as in live performance, if someone heckles they get put down, hopefully with style and brutality. We have come to listen to the celeb not some loudmouthed wannabe.

Except... we're on twitter, not at the celeb's gig. Not everyone has come to hear them speak. Even if we set aside this issue, it'd still be more analogous to telling your audience "sic 'im" with regard to a heckler, and then cheering them on as they follow the poor sap outside, and to his home. A stand-up eviscerating a heckler? You can walk away from the stand-up's domain. Twitter is not any individual's domain, and it is often impossible to walk away from internet mobs, which so often spill over into meatspace.
posted by Dysk at 5:03 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't think of anybody I know who would "play nice" if their careers were put at risk by attacks upon their professional competence... why should we expect any different behavior from celebrities?

Or you could be like Stewart Lee and put all his worse quotes / insults on his gig posters

I'm always amused to see slebs using their minions as 'internet butlers' when they can't arsed googling something 'hey anyone know where I can buy such and such in this place?'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:21 AM on September 6, 2012


Can we ignore the derail about how much some people dislike Twitter? It's happened in every thread that even vaguely references the service and it's still quite boring.

No, we really can't. Among social media doodads there is something *uniquely* fucked up about Twitter in the way it rapidly escalates all tense interactions by limiting people to rapid fire responses. There really is something about Twitter that just fucking sucks and enables this.

When I read 90% of Twitter flareups there's a whole range of "What I really meant-" and "But also-" bits that never work because they can't be easily inserted into the flow of conversation -- they usually end up in blogs or 30 exchanges too late. And don't get me started about the other end, where off-Twitter reports of Twitter blowups end up using several times more verbiage and thought to villify an enemy, particularly by ascribing complex motives that most people do not have the cognitive capacity to even express in 140 characters and 30 second bursts.

This happens on message boards, fora and all kinds of other places, sure, but Twitter is distinct in the way it transmits this fucked up vibe so rapidly and widely.
posted by mobunited at 5:29 AM on September 6, 2012


[Hi folks, be decent to each other or go to some other website where that sort of thing doesn't matter. Please? Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:36 AM on September 6, 2012


I only follow Pegg, and while I've noticed him get angry at folks now and then, I guess I haven't seen a mob mentality at work. Of course, if you're sufficiently well known you're going to have lots of followers willing to take up arms in your (possibly imagined) defense.

I suspect that some people expect comedians to be "always on" and are surprised when they act like plain old non-comedians and tweet about their lousy flight some other minor annoyance. Everyone needs some time off and no one can be funny all the time.
posted by tommasz at 5:37 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've never bought Ricky Gervais' schtick. Nice try though, on the "But I'm using my powers for good" angle. No sale, prick.
posted by moneyjane at 5:42 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Any famous person who doesn't have a private, air-gapped sockpuppet is a pathetic affirmation addicted asshole. Verified user accounts are for marketing reasons only.
posted by fullerine at 5:44 AM on September 6, 2012


I think a lot of this assholish behavior begins with some jerk @ mentioning someone.

"I've never been a fan of @FamousCelebrity. He's never been funny and I don't know why anyone finds him funny."

So now that @FamousCelebrity has been @ mentioned, they see it as part of their timeline. Which, is probably the reason why the original messager used their twitter handle in the first place. They wanted it to be seen.

In which case, I have no sympathy for them when they get blasted by that person and that person's fans.

I mean, disagree and criticize all you like, but when you come to me and say I suck? I get to respond.
posted by inturnaround at 5:49 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Crickey, wondered what happened to him, he was one of the few people on my feed that I had know idea who he was and always made me chuckle. I hope he gets the help he (apparently) needs.

Yeah, it was a weird witch-hunt given it seemed to be all based on rumours. If he was a wife-beater/scammer (heard it was about £20k in total, which seems an incredulous amount) then one could argue he deserved the Ocean Marketting style backlash, but if not, then how do you start refuting that stuff?

And yeah, it happens on fora too. On an old one I posted on, someone was called a 'baby-rapist' (it was a very foul-mouthed forum) as a joke, the poster wouldn't let it go and started threads asking if it was 'ever okay to say someone rapes babies' and it escalated to the point where the poster (who was a real person I had met in real life) offered to fight the insulter for 1000EUR. To the great amusement of other posters, who got out the popcorn and pitchforks.

Every communication form online has its weird dramas and trolling that barely make sense out of context.
posted by mippy at 6:07 AM on September 6, 2012


Is there any evidence that any of this "bullying" involves anything beyond posting mean things to Twitter?

Well, an interesting case was that of "brumplum" and Stephen Fry in 2009. Brumplum, a non-celeb (I think he reviewed films for a local paper, but was professionally some sort of civil servant), posted that, although he loved Stephen Fry, he found his Twitter persona a bit annoying. Fry responded snarkily but apparently not seriously, and said, also apparently not seriously, that he was thinking of quitting Twitter, as it was too negative. He then got on a plane to LA, and was thus out of communications range for 12 hours. During which time his followers decided that he had indeed quit Twitter forever, and that it was brumplum's fault.

The fallout involved, IIRC, people finding and linking a highly NSFW picture of brumplum from a dating site to his (pseudonymous, but not anonymized) twitter account and blog, and also a suggestion that the range of possible responses could include slashing tyres, breaking windows and putting dog faeces through an offender's letterbox, which are only really relevant because in Fry's absence another of his celebrity friends seemed to accept these as within the range of possible appropriate actions, although he did not specifically endorse them in this case.

Fry found out what was going on when he landed and immediately apologized to Brumplum and asked his followers to stop, and that he was not in fact leaving Twitter - but it's an interesting case of how celebs may (at least the first time) not have a sense of the potential consequences of their actions.

(This actually reminds me of a conversation on ... NPR, maybe? Or WFMU? It was about working with, or for, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, and how they had simply never had anyone say no to them for decades - they just did not live in a world where people said no to them, and they had no sense that the way they lived was abnormal. I think many celebrities live in some degree of that kind of consent-rich environment, and comedians/nerd celebs in particular often also feel like they are still scrappy underdogs and victims of society, and thus justified in doing whatever they can to being down the quote-unquote bullies, because that's how they still feel on the inside.)

That was one of the first examples of this sort of Twitter altercation, so got some coverage - national newspaper story here. Some of the tweets are preserved here, although the editorial around them is partial.

The use of the at-mention is interesting - I think it is often parsed as a kind of "come at me, bro" call-out, but I suspect often it's simple thoughtlessness. Brumplum didn't expect Stephen Fry to read or take notice of his tweet, as far as one can tell. He was just using the Twitter-appropriate naming protocol.

It's not exactly pure Twitter, but the Cooks Source, Avenger Controller and Dickwolves controversies also spilled rapidly over onto Twitter, and in the case of Cooks Source in particular were amplified hugely by Twitter through the involvement of a celebrity - although they were more wide-ranging, and were not about celebrities being offended. But they had some pretty significant real-life consequences.

Basically, those were Human Flesh Search Engine moments, instigated by a single point of celebrity - which unveiled either actual malfeasance or at least further casus belli.

(Casi? No, casus is fourth declension, isn't it? Meaning the plural is casus...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:15 AM on September 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


The Mighty Boosh = "Flight of the Conchords" divided by "The Young Ones", if you will.

Noel Fielding is enough to make one see why people hate hipsters. He's a vapid, self-aggrandising, self-marketing attention whore who peddles a sort of weak tea of mild advertising-campaign surreality whose only purpose is to act as a vehicle for references to cool alternative/hip underground subcultures/scenes he dresses himself up as embodying, pandering to teenagers who wished they were hip scenesters in Camden or Shoreditch or somewhere.
posted by acb at 6:18 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I mean, disagree and criticize all you like, but when you come to me and say I suck? I get to respond.

To what end? You're the celebrity: you have the money and the following and the popularity. Why do you care that random internet person doesn't like you? Once upon a time they might have sent a letter to your agent's office or the local paper; now it's the internet. Lots of people are never going to like you; unless they're taking food from your children's mouths by lying about you, why waste energy responding? And why sic your followers on someone whose greatest apparent sin is expressing an opinion?

Shrug and move on.
posted by rtha at 7:02 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


acb: "Noel Fielding is enough to make one see why people hate hipsters."

I totally get that. However, I'd like to point out his (possibly only) redeeming point: He plays Richmond pitch-perfectly.
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:06 AM on September 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Everybody bring a can of food to your local homeless shelter (a good variety of stuff, too, not just creamed corn)." is what they should be riling up their fanbase to do.

In fact, everyone who reads this comment: Bring a can of food to your local food pantry/shelter. [US only links and not a complete listing by half, but srsly, would it kill you to do the research for yourself? Between tumblr posts/tweets/youtube videos?

Go on, do it. And no, you won't "do it later." You don't have to leave your desk right this minute if you're at work, but at least take a moment and add it to your shopping list so you don't forget.
posted by Eideteker at 7:52 AM on September 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm just going to offer to make sandwiches in Shutterbun's kitchen.
You know, selflessly, so we can mend bridges across the gender divide.
posted by Mezentian at 7:54 AM on September 6, 2012


And I know you're like, "Surely, if only 10% of the people who read that comment contribute, it'll make a stunning amount of difference! ...Therefore I don't need to—" but I'm going to stop you right there. Because you have been selected as one of those 10%. Yes YOU.

And don't call me Shirley.
posted by Eideteker at 7:55 AM on September 6, 2012


In fact, everyone who reads this comment: Bring a can of food to your local food pantry/shelter. [US only links and not a complete listing by half, but srsly, would it kill you to do the research for yourself? Between tumblr posts/tweets/youtube videos?

Go on, do it. And no, you won't "do it later." You don't have to leave your desk right this minute if you're at work, but at least take a moment and add it to your shopping list so you don't forget.


Dude, I imagine that if you understood why and how this was irritating and self-aggrandizing, you probably wouldn't have posted it.

But maybe don't follow up with more comments about how shiftless and lazy we all are, and how we do so little to help the poor that buying a can of food and donating it would be some sort of incredible spike in our altruism profile, and we'll even try to backslide out of that?
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:07 AM on September 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


[Take the food bank derail to email please. ]
posted by jessamyn at 8:14 AM on September 6, 2012


Never heckle the guy with the mic?
posted by Talez at 8:17 AM on September 6, 2012


Ah well, we don't have food banks in the UK as far as I know. Though if Noel Fielding wants to come round and use up that bottle of chili sauce in my cupboard, he's welcome to it. It's probably out of date, so he might have a wacky hallucination.
posted by mippy at 8:42 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I totally get that. However, I'd like to point out his (possibly only) redeeming point: He plays Richmond pitch-perfectly.

I beg to differ. I've worked in IT and encountered many examples of the IT Goth, as well as various related types of punks, rivetheads and heshers. Richmond is not an IT Goth, but a Noel Fielding fashion-plate shoehorned into an IT Goth role. He completely missed that role, IMHO.
posted by acb at 8:49 AM on September 6, 2012


If there is proof of actual, unprovoked bullying...

That phrase bugs me. Bullying cannot be "provoked."

I was talking with a young kid last week. He looks up to me, not because I'm especially awesome but because of how we know each other. It was his last week before heading back to boarding school, which he was dreading, so we were talking about some of the positive experiences he's had and the friends he's made. He told me a few stories that I disapproved of, but I let them pass without comment. They weren't egregious or grave, just unwise and dumb. When you are a non-parental role model for a kid, I think you have to use that influence carefully. You can only give so many admonishments before he starts ignoring them, so you have to pick your battles.

Then he tells me about an unpopular kid at his school. He tells me two stories that don't actually make this "jerk" seem all that bad, but whatever, they're small and stupid incidents. The third story involves a fight. It seems the unpopular kid made some type of comment and three classmates, including this kid, beat him up for it. I didn't ask about the nature of the comment, because it doesn't matter and I didn't want this kid to think that it does. But boy, did I give him a lecture.

I got in plenty of fights when I was a kid. He knows this. There was nothing dramatic or deep about it. I wasn't a bully and I wasn't a victim. We were boys and we fought. I got several black eyes and I gave several. But I never participated in a fight that was more than one-on-one. I was never the victim of one. I never saw one happen. And I'm fairly certain that if such a thing had happened, myself or any of the kids I fought with would have immediately jumped in and stopped it. Because that shit ain't okay.

That's what is happening in the FPP stories, and it isn't okay. There is no excuse for it. If you are participating in multi-on-one, then you are doing something wrong and you need to be chastised.
posted by cribcage at 8:56 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jesus, any excuse I have for ignoring this current crop of comedians, Gervais foremost among them, the better.

I'm glad Pegg isn't a complete dick, though. That would have been sad.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:58 AM on September 6, 2012


Reminder that Seth MacFarlane engaged in this over a rape joke he made a few weeks before the Daniel Tosh debacle.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:17 AM on September 6, 2012


At least Richard Ayoade has avoided this sort of thing so far.
posted by drezdn at 9:32 AM on September 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have had several interactions with the author on twitter. He is fantastic. When all manner of US comedians were running to the defense of rape jokes he was writing about the subversive power of comedy and how comedy that reinforces the status quo is a lesser art.

Neil is a good guy and I am glad he is out there calling comedians on their shit. Also, the Chris Morris archives are glorious!
posted by munchingzombie at 9:39 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I like the work of all the comedians listed here, even Seth MacFarlane. (I don't follow any of them on Twitter.) But it just stands to reason that anyone e-heckling them is going to be at the mercy of their army of fans.

If a follower thinks it's a good idea to lecture Edgy Comedian about some perceived lapse of judgment or sensitivity, wouldn't this be a matter for personal e-mail? It seems to me they're just asking for it if they call them out in public, on Twitter, or anywhere others can see it.

I agree that Gervaise, MacFarlane, et. al. are dicks. Beware of dicks.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 9:46 AM on September 6, 2012


ominous_paws: "Simon Pegg? Say it ain't so. I knew about Gervais and Fielding, but I always thought he was one of the good guys."

Well, he acknowledged his mistake and apologized. Sounds pretty "good guy" to me.
posted by Samizdata at 10:33 AM on September 6, 2012


If a follower thinks it's a good idea to lecture Edgy Comedian about some perceived lapse of judgment or sensitivity, wouldn't this be a matter for personal e-mail?

Hey, why not just phone them?
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:33 AM on September 6, 2012


Hey, why not just phone them?

Hey, why not just pretend that I had no idea that Edgy Comedian was going to take umbrage to my upbraiding him in a public forum because his tasteless-joke-du-jour was insufficiently positive and inclusive for my liking?
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 10:50 AM on September 6, 2012


Maybe edgy comedians who tell people to grow a thicker skin if they don't like their edgy jokes should take their own advice.
posted by rtha at 10:54 AM on September 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am genuinely shocked that people believe it is a right to be free from criticism or verbal abuse when voicing an opinion.
posted by karmiolz at 11:11 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


So the victim of Seth MacFarlane's fan attacks doesn't even blame MacFarlane. His account is quite tame compared to most of the people I follow on Twitter.

Gervais? Most of his tweets anymore are about atheism. (He can be quite the ass, but I tend to miss most of those tweets.) Karl (the "dumb guy") and Gervais have know each other for years before the podcast and An Idiot Abroad.

Might start following Pegg again. (Stopped because he was almost the entirety of my feed.)

Can't speak for Fielding. I was never really into The Mighty Boosh, so I never had been interested in what else came from his head.
posted by Melee Loaf at 11:29 AM on September 6, 2012


People have been talking with Simon Pegg today about this, on Twitter naturally. He has this to say:

@simonpegg: @andgoseek It's a fair cop I think but in my defence it a was naive, knee jerk reaction, which I apologised for. I'm only human.
posted by tommasz at 11:47 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


From Apocryphon's link about Seth McFarlane:

"MacFarlane's retweeting of Steinbacher's simple words of protest, and his subsequent silence in the matter in the wake of his harassment, comes across as explicit support whether he meant to or not."

Yeah, that's actually the opposite of "explicit." Implicit or tacit, sure, but not explicit.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:46 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am genuinely shocked that people believe it is a right to be free from criticism or verbal abuse when voicing an opinion.

Well, there's somebody out there who will hold almost any shocking belief you can imagine. Birthers. Flat earthers. Creationists. Breatharians. Clark/Lana OTP shippers. However, none of them are in evidence here, to my knowledge. Perhaps we should restrict our radius a little?
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:59 PM on September 6, 2012


running It seems like the majority of people believe they have the right not to be offended. Christians in America believe they have the right to legislate others how to live so their sensibilities aren't offended, the left throws around the word "bully" that is how lost all meaning. Yes the former is far more dangerous than the latter but they are parallel in impetus. Some people are jerks, it's actually not a big deal. You insulted a person who has a bigger soapbox, expect the obvious result to ensue.
posted by karmiolz at 1:15 PM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK, so... could you actually point, with quotes, to the people in this thread or linked to by this thread who have expressed the belief that it is a right to be free from criticism or verbal abuse when voicing an opinion?

And could you then explain how you came to understand them to be on the political left?
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:23 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The article certainly believes it, and those that support the articles views obviously endorse it. I came to understand that left supports absolutely zero judgement and pure cultural relativism by living in America for a quarter century. I also came to understand that the right was for restriction of civil liberties and had a particularly misogynist slant the same way. The left has spent the better part of six decades telling everyone to believe in themselves no matter whet, then wonders why we can't make fact based arguments against scientific deniers. We worry over the social standing of our children, obsess over it then wonder why it is all consuming to them as well. I understand where these reactions come from, but the long and short of it for these specific celebrity and critic interactions is if you call out someone, they are probably going to respond. Deal with it.
posted by karmiolz at 1:46 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, OK. So you are not able to point, with quotes, to any such statement of belief, and you can't substantiate your conviction that this non-exemplified belief is being expressed by people on the political left. These are just beliefs that you hold.

OK, well, cool. But that's probably about as far as we can usefully go.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:48 PM on September 6, 2012


[Seriously if you folks could take this to email from this point forward it could free up the thread to be about the topic of the thread.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:50 PM on September 6, 2012


Another Pegg follower here. I was aware of the callout of that one guy and I kinda agree with him (and ShutterBun and Skeptic, it seems) on the Slave Leias. If you want to cosplay as Leia, you're making a choice to go for the gold bikini. There are other iconic Leia outfits.

FWIW, Pegg seems to be a fairly sincere user of Twitter - which is to say that yes, he uses it to advertise his projects and such, but I think he's also a dorky guy with strong opinions about Star Wars. I mean, he tweeted that Slave Leia picture because he thought it was great. He doesn't routinely post pictures of girls in bikinis. He posts pictures of his dog because he loves his dog. He uses Twitter not as a platform to increase his celebrity or as a standup stage, but because he likes Twitter.

I'd put Pegg in the same Twitter category as Nathan Fillion or Neil Gaiman. Yeah, they're celebrities, but they're also big ol' outgoing dorks at heart who like the internet and feel like shouting into the darkness.
posted by maryr at 6:07 PM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, stepping back a bit, I think what the OP is perceiving is not so much a prohibited behavior in absolute terms, but more an asymmetry of social power between a non-celebrity and a celebrity.

And is then arguing that the celebrity should be aware of that asymmetry and not seek to exploit it - for example, by retweeting a dissenting opinion and encouraging one's followers to hassle the person who expressed it. Essentially, that's about responsibility - about imposing voluntary restrictions on one's own behavior in acknowledgement of possession of a power the other party lacks. Calling somebody out does something different if you have a million followers than if you have twenty. Punching somebody does more damage if you are a prizefighter than if you are a child, which is why a child might hit a prizefighter and get away with a telling off, but not vice versa.w

Something that interests me, though, is the way the examples given so far are comedians - or comic actors, like Pegg, or former comedians, like Stephen Fry (both of whom seem to have apologized and tried to tamp things down once they worked out the consequences of their actions.).

If Justin Bieber, say, were to do this, he would presumably be effectively signing his subjects' (Twitter or actual) death warrant. But, to the best of my knowledge, he doesn't. And not only does he not, but comparably famous people - Tom Cruise, say, or Lady Gaga - do not. Is that better image management, or just my filter bubble, or is there something about the social media personae of comedians that is particularly relevant?

It feels like it may be a number of factors - the sense of oneself as underdog, the different career trajectory, the experience of being heckled, the sense that Twitter is the room one is working, rather than, say, the huge stadium audience one is broadcasting to. And perhaps also that old cliché, the comedian's desire for approval. Retweeting somebody saying that you are not funny, or that your humor is inappropriate, is presumably a great way to get a bunch of people to tell you that you are in fact funny, and that they love you - the hassle the person retweeted get may be totally ancillary to the pursuit of that validation...

Is there something there, or is it just a coincidence of examples?

(The case of the teenager who sent abusive tweets to the British Olympian Tom Daley feels like it might fit in somewhere, also - although he got stone cold arrested.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:22 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


And is then arguing that the celebrity should be aware of that asymmetry and not seek to exploit it - for example, by retweeting a dissenting opinion and encouraging one's followers to hassle the person who expressed it. Essentially, that's about responsibility - about imposing voluntary restrictions on one's own behavior in acknowledgement of possession of a power the other party lacks. Calling somebody out does something different if you have a million followers than if you have twenty.

I was thinking about this in terms of someone else who is big on twitter (I just don't like being as connected to other people as twitter demands, and so don't use it), the Bloggess, who one time used her influence on Twitter against an advertising agency, and another time ended up in a weird situation with Nathan Fillion and a ball of twine, where it ended up not being clear where the joke ended and legitimate outrage began (The Bloggess was pretty clear she was joking, but some of her fans really weren't).

Celebrity is a weird thing. Your power is all in how other people respond to you and whether or not they do what you want, and a lot of the rest is downsides - like strangers asking you for strange things, and photographers following you around taking pictures. The internet has led to localize celebrity being more visible to people outside of the locality, which ends up causing these weird/strange/interesting dynamics of both asymmetrical influence (the celebrity has more than the not-celebrity) and knowledge (people often feel they have a personal relationshipw ith a celebrity they like when they don't know the celebrity at all and the celebrity has no idea who they are) where the population is relatively small.

I'm on Second Life, and I feel that celebrity flutter when I end up talking to people who have made my clothing, or people who I read the blog of, and I've had an easier time seeing this from both sides since I also have been friends of builders/bloggers and seen how other people react to them, sometimes inappropriately. I also am a very localized celebrity (int he chat of a store group) who had people I didn't know react to me with over-familiarity because they had seen me talking in chat, which got me thinking about the assymetries of knowledge angle.

On the internet, assymetries of influence and knowledge are both magnified and made more personal, in my opinion.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:03 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


is there something about the social media personae of comedians that is particularly relevant?

I suspect that comedians are more likely to write their own tweets; comedians in general seem more resistant to the various elements of the public relations machine. There is certainly a niche PR market in ghost-tweeting, whether for people who don't have the time or for those whose temperament doesn't match well with easy access & immediacy.
posted by catlet at 9:42 PM on September 6, 2012


can someone please make a short film about a world where everything you say, ever, to anyone for any reason, is immediately attached to your body on a post-it note that you cannot remove? thanks.
posted by davejay at 9:07 AM on September 7, 2012


oh, and:

turns out celebrities are bullies people, too
posted by davejay at 9:09 AM on September 7, 2012


If thou art a prick to us, do we not tweet?
posted by XMLicious at 9:58 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Weird how local this fame is, though - the Bloggess is not well known at all in the UK, whereas themanwhofellasleep, who is pretty much only known for Twitter is a massive account. (I'm not counting people like Grace Dent and Caitlin Moran who have careers other than, and established prior to, Twitter.)
posted by mippy at 10:01 AM on September 7, 2012


Ah well, we don't have food banks in the UK as far as I know.

Not at all relevant to the issue at hand, but yes we do, actually and shamefully.
posted by Grangousier at 10:44 AM on September 7, 2012


That phrase bugs me. Bullying cannot be "provoked."

What do you mean? Social violence is as real a threat as physical violence. On some occasions, it can even be more dangerous. Being punched in the face is something I'd quickly get over, but being successfully slapped with a label that made everybody at work think I was lazy or stupid could do permanent damage to my career.

So yes, bullying absolutely can be provoked. If somebody attacks you socially, you're more than entitled to make them regret it by turning them into a target - this is just basic self-defense. In fact, (at the risk of being accused of victim-blaming) I think much of the reason that socially awkward people are the ones who get bullied so often is because their lack of awareness of social protocols and status attacks means that they aren't fully conscious of the effect that their words have on others, so they sometimes inadvertently do something that much be construed as a social attack (e.g. criticizing somebody in public rather than in private, accidentally making somebody look bad in front of somebody that they have a crush on, etc.) and reap a much more devastating reciprocal attack. It's a regrettable side-effect of defensive behavior.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 3:50 PM on September 8, 2012


Social violence is as real a threat as physical violence.

We agree here, but retaliation is not "bullying." Retaliation, by definition, is provoked.

If somebody attacks you socially, you're more than entitled to make them regret it by turning them into a target

We will have to agree-to-disagree that this is civilized adult behavior.
posted by cribcage at 9:53 PM on September 8, 2012


If somebody attacks you socially, you're more than entitled to make them regret it by turning them into a target - this is just basic self-defense.

This is not a commonly held belief, actually.
posted by jessamyn at 6:42 AM on September 9, 2012


Jessamyn, Cribcage - a pragmatist judges actions not by motivation but rather by results. When I was younger, I used to be bullied because I was socially inept. Once I learned how to retaliate successfully, the bullying very rapidly stopped. Those are excellent results, hence I can't find fault with that approach.

I wish we lived in the kind of world where negative behavior could be discouraged by turning the other cheek and taking the high road (as you seem to advocate), but the fact is that this course of action has never proved too successful to me. If you've had luck with it, I'm very happy for you - but it seems unreasonable for you to assume that your strategy will work for all people in all situations, and unfair of you to expect others to rely on unsuccessful tactics simply to satisfy your own moral imperatives.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:13 PM on September 9, 2012


It sounds like what you're saying is that your social ineptitude is what provoked the bullying - the bullying was not the provocative act, but a reactive one. Am I understanding that right?
posted by rtha at 1:43 PM on September 9, 2012


There *are* options between turning the other cheek and retaliation.
posted by maryr at 7:16 PM on September 9, 2012


Being punched in the face is something I'd quickly get over, but being successfully slapped with a label that made everybody at work think I was lazy or stupid could do permanent damage to my career.

I suspect that a difference here is that you probably aren't a famous comedian, and "at work" for you is probably a pretty defined concept. The issue gets fuzzier when "at work" might mean "on Twitter" - if someone says "J. Doe (or this joke by J. Doe) isn't funny" to their 200 followers, is that a serious threat to a globally known comedian's brand? If anything, I'd say that how the comedian responds is more likely to have a long-term effect on how they are perceived. Critics make judgments on how funny they find jokes all the time, after all.

The specific behavior of retweeting a critical comment to one's followers and inviting them to attack the person who made it feels, to draw another professional comparison, like a politician playing to the base. It increases the dedication and investment of those already buying in to the brand, but risks alienating the independent. How much you need to worry about that is probably related to your brand values: Seth MacFarlane probably doesn't have to worry about people abandoning his product in droves because they have suddenly realized that he likes an off-color joke.

The other side of this can be found in, for example, Steven Moffat, who apparently just closed his Twitter account after asking if there was a way to limit the number of mentions he was able to see. From which one can assume that he was getting a lot of people either disparaging the new series of Who and @-ing him in, or people directly addressing him about it. Whether this ability to loop somebody (at least theoretically) directly in is a bug or a feature probably depends on a number of factors, though.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:42 AM on September 10, 2012


The issue gets fuzzier when "at work" might mean "on Twitter" - if someone says "J. Doe (or this joke by J. Doe) isn't funny" to their 200 followers, is that a serious threat to a globally known comedian's brand?

I wouldn't say it's a serious threat. However, it's certainly not trivial either. Brands tend to live or die based on trendsetters - natural leaders whom others tend to follow. These trendsetters have an exponential effect - once one of them successfully attacks the brand - whether that "brand" is a person or an idea - it's easier for others to jump in and mock it, using the previous attack as leverage. In some ways, people are like wolves - even if they don't like something, they tend not to actively attack until the target is off-balance. For an example of this, just observe the way pile-ons happen on Metafilter. Things tend to move slowly until just one person makes an astute and pointed attack, then all of a sudden everybody jumps in. All it takes is one good attack. Hence - from a purely practical perspective - it's important to make sure that first hit never lands. Different people have different approaches to this. Some take a defensive stance, clarifying their comments as much as possible to maximize how sensible they sound and avoid giving people easy openings to attack them - thus marginalizing anybody who makes such an attack by making them appear extremist. Others (such as these comedians) seem to take a more aggressive stance and attempt to smite ringleaders immediately as an example to others.

The specific behavior of retweeting a critical comment to one's followers and inviting them to attack the person who made it feels, to draw another professional comparison, like a politician playing to the base. It increases the dedication and investment of those already buying in to the brand, but risks alienating the independent.

I agree entirely. Personally, I think it's a better strategy to ignore mild criticism and conserve social capital to be expended against truly significant threats. A moderate stance encourages more supporters. My point is that using the @ symbol to criticize a comedian is a direct attack, and the comedians are correct to interpret it as such and retaliate - even if (to me at least) their danger threshold seems a bit... hypersensitive. However, I try not to judge people's personal preferences. I think their strategy will marginalize them and thus fail in the long run, and so the system will regulate itself.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:50 AM on September 10, 2012


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