A Timeline of Twitter Takedowns
This past week saw the cancellation of the Roseanne reboot on ABC after the show’s star Roseanne Barr set off a media firestorm with a racist tweet about Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. Barr wrote that Jarrett would be the result if the “Muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby=VJ.” Several hours after Barr’s online rant had subsided, ABC promptly canceled one of its highest rated shows of the season, one that brought in nearly 20 million people every week.
However, Roseanne is not the first, and certainly won’t be the last, celebrity to come crashing back to Earth as a result of Twitter. Whether by composing a terrible tweet on one’s own or by being assaulted with hashtags, Twitter has claimed the careers of more entertainers than we could even remember. Let’s take a look back through some of the biggest blunders and examine how Twitter has become such a driving force on that internet that has been able to translate into real-world results.
The cancellation of Roseanne should’ve been expected by anybody even vaguely familiar with the show’s highly combustible namesake, Roseanne Barr. From her infamously nailing “The Star Spangled Banner” (which is actually really ironic now that she’s a Trump poster child) to comparing another African American to an ape, to posing as Adolf Hitler in a photo shoot, it was only a matter of time before Barr made another abhorrent, public faux pas that would force ABC to do the right thing and take her off the air. I didn’t watch the reboot (or the original) but from everything I read, people watched it like we watched the presidential debates. What crazy thing is she going to say this week? People online seemed to be a lot more interested in Roseanne’s opinion on the Affordable Care Act than whatever shenanigans her and Dan were getting into that week. But, in the end, it was Twitter that killed the beast.
However at a time like this, in the midst of a public meltdown of a celebrity, we cannot forget the watershed moment for all celebrity breakdowns. Lest we forget the true Jackie Robinson of destroying one’s career in the most public way possible: Charlie Sheen and winning. I know it’s hard to think back through all of the scandals of the past few years, so I’ll use a format I’ve been seeing on Twitter lately. LADIES imagine this, it’s seven years ago. Your man is making $1.8 million per episode of one of TV’s highest rated shows, but one night he decides to call up his boss and go on an anti-semitic rant. Next thing you know, he’s on live TV looking like a human cigarette and going on about his “tiger blood” and announcing his one-man show with a porn star on each arm. However, when your first line in the American spotlight is, “drugs?” it shouldn’t have been difficult to see this one coming.
But while Roseanne and Charlie Sheen’s career was brought down after she had spent well over her allotted moment in the sun, there are other careers that Twitter nearly destroyed before they even began. One of the most notable examples was a little-known comedian from South Africa named Trevor Noah. Back in 2015 the chosen leader of progressives, Jon Stewart, was preparing to leave his desk at The Daily Show and Comedy Central thought they found the perfect replacement with Trevor Noah (anybody had to be better than Larry Wilmore taking over for Stephen Colbert). However, somebody, I can’t imagine what political persuasion, goes digging way back into Noah’s Twitter and finds tweets so vile that he almost loses one of the most coveted desks in TV comedy news. Noah had the audacity to compare a white woman with a large behind to a unicorn because, “even if you do see one, you’ll probably never get to ride one.” In all my days, I would never suspect a stand-up comedian, going for a job on late night TV, on a network that put on such family programming as South Park, Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher and The Comedy Central Roast of Roseanne Barr to ever consider somebody with such blue-collar material.
Then there are the no-names who became big names because of the stupid things they voluntarily gave to the entire Twittersphere. The Gwendolyn Brooks of this subspecies of stupidity has to be Justine Sacco, who went viral in 2013 for her infamous tweet, “Going to Africa! Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Before PR manager (seriously?) Justine Sacco boarded an 11-hour flight to South Africa, she sent this grotesque gem of a tweet out to her 170 Twitter followers. When she woke up in Cape Town, she was not only in a different time zone, but in a hell of a lot of trouble, after the tweet had been sent to Valleywag editor Sam Biddle, and subsequently disseminated across the social media platform. Sacco’s bosses at IAC swiftly made the right decision and decided that its PR manager’s Twitter was no place for such abhorrent racism and fired her. But don’t feel bad for Sacco, back in January it was reported that Sacco is back in the PR game and once again working for IAC, running all communications for the company’s spin-off dating service Match Group.
And no article about public Twitter blunders would be complete without an honorable mention of Senator Ted Cruz. Back in 2017, well after Cruz had started licking MAGA boot, Cruz returned to the national spotlight, not for finally admitting his identity as the Zodiac Killer, but for liking a NSFW video on his Twitter page, which consequently placed a graphic porn video on the timeline of thousands rock-hard Texas conservatives. However one of the good things that this story did bring out, besides more memes than the internet needs, was the mainstream media needed to describe what the content of the video was; ya know, journalism. My personal favorite came from The New York Times:
“The video clip itself is just over two minutes, details of its contents mostly unprintable. It features a sectional sofa, the pornographic actress Cory Chase, her fictitious nude stepdaughter, and a very energetic young man.”
This media firestorm essentially ended any hopes Cruz ever had of being taken as a serious politician, let alone future presidential loser. So whoever the unnamed staffer was who took the blame for Cruz’s incest porn infatuation, you took one for the entire country.
When we follow a celebrity on Twitter, we are seeking a certain level of familiarity with them. It gives us a window into their thoughts outside the stage or screen. But when an account is clearly not run by that person or is just all business, there is a certain level of disappointment on our end. We don’t get the real life, unfiltered version of events, but it’s not like we were going to get the inside scoop anyway. But that’s not always a bad thing. The odds of a twenty-something, underpaid kid working for a talent agency is a lot less likely to tweet out racist stuff at 3 a.m. than an actual drunken celebrity. Maybe it’s a good thing to let these people go their separate ways once they leave the stage. Sorry, you won’t get to see what they had for breakfast.