That freedom-loving Frenchy, Voltaire, once famously remarked “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”. This quote was later adapted by Oscar Wilde, who declared “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself’. Of course, neither gentleman could possibly have envisaged a future where EVERYONE was given a platform to speak their mind. Because on the World Wide Web, various applications require nothing more than basic literacy (sometimes not even that) and an internet connection in order to make public pronouncements.
Social media applications like Twitter. Initially used as a networking tool and informal news gathering resource, it was quickly embraced by corporations eager to advertise their wares. Of course, a medium where off-the-cuff personal remarks and philosophic reflection is combined with capitalistic greed can lead to awkward situations. Especially since companies have learned that brand messaging is more effective when you hitch it to whatever bandwagon is trending that very moment. That’s how several companies got themselves into hot water this year by trying to link banal product advertising with 9/11 remembrance messages. One of the most egregious examples was this one:
Bikram Arlington @bikramarlington “9+11=20% OFF! PATRIOT DAY SALE on Bikram Yoga”
But social media hasn’t only attracted (overtly) for-profit organisations. Pope Benedict extended his role as figurehead and public face of the Catholic Church in 2012 when he launched his own public twitter account. After his retirement in 2013 (another first for the church – perhaps a result of these modern influences?), his successor, Pope Francis I, took up the tweeting mantle. Neither pope has abused their communication privileges. There’s been no “fornicators will be cast into the fiery pit of hell” or “repent now, sinners, before your eternal souls are lost forever”. It’s been mostly “Kumbaya” and “praise the Lord”.
The same restraint hasn’t been evident amongst the Pope’s followers on twitter. Apparently such direct access to God’s representative on Earth is too much temptation for many souls to bear. The comments and replies veer from the merely insulting (in response to the pontiff’s plea “May we never talk about others behind their backs, but speak to them openly about what we think”, one individual replied “OK then, you and your church are evil money hoarding deceivers”), to the downright sarcastic (Pope Francis’s request that “I ask all people of good will to join us today in praying for peace in the Middle East”, was met by one sceptic declaring “Why did nobody think of that before? That’s bound to work!”). Not to mention several lewd invitations to perform sexual acts and other debauched comments that can’t be mentioned in polite conversation. So whilst it’s not quite ‘from their lips to God’s ears’, it’s something akin to ‘from their twitter accounts to the special IT technicians hired by the Pope to filter out abusive comments’.
Of course, ordinary folk don’t need the red flag of a pope twitter account to make outrageous or ill-informed comments. As Oscar Wilde declared so long ago, everyone should have the right to make an ass of themselves. Here are just a few examples:
@trentlilweezy “Happy Labor Day! Be thankful for all the Mothers who went into Labor for their kids that’s what this holiday is all about!”
@IAmDeionte Hust “Just made some synonym rolls.”
@bhadchickquetta “Rosetta Stone did not sit on dhat bus for your gays to be askin for equal rights”
Bae “Had to cancel my old debit card, Apparently someone else was using it. Whatever this one is cute too “ – Followed by a picture of the back and front of said card…
But Twitter hasn’t just given millions of ordinary folk a voice, it has also allowed countless celebrities the ability to bypass publicists and PR agents. With often disastrous results. Here are just a few:
Gilbert Gottfried lost his Afflac gig after making jokes about the Japanese tsunami:
“I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, ‘They’ll be another one floating by any minute now.’ “
Amanda Bynes proved that dysfunctional celebrity and unfiltered public access can be a dangerous combination when she tweeted:
“I want @drake to murder my vagina.”
Not sure if Drake ever took her up on the offer…
That’s all for now