(“Ew, it’s touching me! What do I do now, Jack?!”)
By Dustin Seibert
I’m a bit torn about power of Twitter.
On one hand, I’m glad that it allows for an increased awareness of cultural, gender, and sexual preferences. On the other hand, I think we’ve gotten just a bit too goddamned sensitive for our own good. Thanks in no small part to Twitter, some of the funniest pop culture from the 1990s probably would never get made in 2010 — an era in which you’ll wake up to seven opinion columns about you if you accidentally breathe sideways.
But since we are here, it still blows my mind back that people in positions of power keep tweeting dumb shit from behind the invisible wall of white privilege. The latest example is from last Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, when Chelsea Handler — she who perpetually requires a bath in ammonia — took over The Huffington Post’s account and made sketchy jokes about 12 Years a Slave while plugging her new book. (“Congratulations #12yearsaslave Go to Africa or buy #ugandabekiddingme http://amzn.to/1de1ka9 #aheadofthecurve #Oscars.” Jesus.) Handler caught some flack for the tone-deaf one-liner, which might have resonated more five years ago when she was still quasi-relevant.
Of course, Handler isn’t the only white person who has failed epically over 140 characters while attempting a joke. It happens time and again, so we need to start sending Tommy over to these people with a tack hammer before they hit “send.” Here are just a few of many examples…
Justine Sacco – This one was the most schadenfreudelicious of the bunch. This chick was the public relations director of a media company, which meant that, by virtue of her job description, she wasn’t supposed to be so galactically stupid. But when she tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” before boarding a plane, the Twitter faithful had their way with her on the long coastal flight; she landed jobless and as a Twitter trend. That’s what you get when you manage to be racist and insensitive to AIDS victims in less than 140 characters. Dumbass.
Voula Papachristou – Yes…even perfectly sculpted, hot Olympians can get in trouble over stupid tweets. Papachristou was a Greek triple-jumper who was headed to the 2012 London Olympics before hop-hop-hopping her way onto the couch to watch them at home because she wrote, “With so many Africans in Greece… the West Nile mosquitoes will at least eat homemade food!!!” No one knew who the hell she was before the tweet (because lets face it: who gives a shit about triple-jumping?), but the controversy caused the Greek Olympic Committee to negate all that hard work and training. I kinda feel bad for her because she was 23 (and therefore dumb) and the tweet wasn’t that bad. But I’m sure she’ll get a chance to jump again.
Mike Bascik – Again, you have a media personality — someone who should know better — hitting the “send” button after writing some egregiously ignorant shit. Bacsik, former major league pitcher and current soup line attendee, tweeted “Congrats to all the dirty Mexicans” in response to actions in a Dallas Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs game. Of course, he lost his job in sports radio over it. His after-the-fact apologies did no good because the tweet made national television and forced his employers’ hand. Because as we all know, folks don’t really care about racism until everyone knows about it.
Gilbert Gottfried – I have slightly more sympathy for Gottfried than anyone on this list, because shock has been his schtick for years; it’s his job to see how far he can go to make you clutch your pearls, and for that reason I’m willing to not hold him as accountable. That being said, making joking tweets about a tragic natural disaster that killed over 15,000 people is never okay. And his employer Aflac, for whom he lent his heinously grating voice to their duck mascot, does much of its business in Japan, the country directly affected by the tragedy. Gilbert, dude…a quick Google search would’ve gone a long way before making those jokes, but you know what they say about hindsight. I just wanna slap him because he probably earned more money to go into a studio and shriek a couple lines than a full-time Wal-Mart employee will see in the next decade.
Steve Martin – When I first heard about this, I was like, “Noo! Not The Jerk! Not the Father of the Bride!!!” But yeah…when someone asked him if lasagna is spelled “lasonia,” he tweeted, “It depends. Are you in an African American neighborhood or at an Italian restaurant.” Because, you know, black folks spell names funny-like. Get it? I think there are several reasons Steve got off relatively unscathed from this: 1. He apologized immediately and publicly and deleted the tweet. 2. Salon.com fucked up the story. 3. He is a comedian to begin with. This won’t be a taint on his legacy; most people have forgotten about it already, if they ever were aware.
The Onion – Obviously, The Onion is a satirical publication and not a white person per se, but I’m gonna operate under the most-likely-correct assumption that there was a Caucasian behind the Tweet Heard ‘Round The World. It seems like no one saw the humor in the Onion’s Twitter account handlers calling an adorable young black female actress like Quvenzhane Wallis a “cunt” unprovoked. I “get” the attempt (ooo, she’s a cunt but not really, you know? Because she’s just a little girl? Ha?), but the knowledge that America believes the “c” word was sent from Beelzebub himself, combined with the fact that folks are twitchy about race would motivate me to shitcan whichever attention-seeking intern was responsible for the tweet.
Home Depot – The older I get, the more I think everyone is racist as hell, but I honestly think this is one big ol’ misunderstanding. Three drummers, two who are clearly black and one in a gorilla suit, and the tweet from the company account read, “Which drummer is not like the others?” Doesn’t matter what I think, though. Folks were pissed. Home Depot went into damage control and parted ways with the agency that handled its social media. This is one of those situations that could happen to a lot of people who are just not being uber-careful. Still, considering how hyper-sensitive we all are about race, it might be a good idea if everyone just stayed away from gorilla suits in general. Is that too much to ask?