The holiday season brought us many gifts, including two celebrity social media meltdowns. Viewed together, they’re examples of the worst and best ways to handle a tweetastrophe.
Ani Difranco, ’90s relic, was the first to offend when she announced a songwriting retreat that cost $5,000 a head and took place on the grounds of a former plantation in the deep South. Angry Twitter hordes battled, with defenders citing DiFranco’s past progressive actions, and attackers seeing white privilege gone haywire.
There was even a double-agent incident of unclear provenance: Was this a white DiFranco supporter pretending to be a black DiFranco supporter? Or was it a black DiFranco hater pretending to be a white supporter pretending to … guh. Head spinning. Must sip grande Frap, adjust hoodie.
The silence seemed interminable, spanning an entire weekend; with no end point in sight, it was as if Justine Sacco had leapt into a wormhole of unknown destination rather than a flight to South Africa. There was no #HasAniLandedYet hashtag; instead, there was #AniDifrancoRetreatIdeas (full disclosure — this reporter came up with some doozies) to fill the empty hours of the elusive songstress’s absence. Toshi Reagon weighed in, saying she had signed on to the event before knowing what the venue would be, and expressing disappointment in her friend Ani’s silence.
Finally, a statement emerged, widely criticized for seeming evasive. There was an apology, but it was tempered by a reproachful request for understanding, and a raising of the possibility of reclaiming tragic ground in the name of healing. And the event, rather than being reskedded at, I dunno, a Marriott, was canceled.
Meanwhile, Questlove — born Ahmir Thompson, protonerd and drummer for The Roots (who also act as Jimmy Fallon’s house band) — was in Japan, where he embarked upon an embarrassingly large and particularly juvenile series of “Engrish” Instagram captions, making fun of various Asian accents with the requested complicity of far-east friends. While the backlash was not nearly so brutal — Questlove has an intense and personable social media presence, and few enemies — Questlove’s response, though it took the same three days, was refreshingly unadorned with excuses:
“THE ISH THAT I SAID WAS DUMB (PERIOD) … Allow me to ask for forgiveness and understanding.”
And so, the rules for coming out of an online blurt smelling like a rose: Show up. Own the mistake. Own your privilege. And apologize without the (implied) word “but.” Yeah, someone’s emailing her agent right now with a book idea called “All I Really Need to Know About Social Media I Learned in Kindergarten.”