By Shelley Queen
Before I start this piece, I would just like to make two things clear. One – I love Twitter. Two – I love freedom of expression.
There is however, a line between expressing what you think online and making vulgar and abusive comments. And this is what I’m going to blog about today.
A couple of days ago British GQ unveiled the stars of their massive September issue – One Direction. Admittedly, as someone who really is not a fan, I wasn’t exactly impressed. “ONE DIRECTION?! One bloody Direction? What’s so ‘GQ’ about them?” I cried. But, to give credit where credit is due, you can’t ignore the fact that those five boys are one of pop culture’s biggest bands. To leave them out completely wouldn’t be an accurate representation of who made a big cultural impact during this decade.
Plus, as the guys tweeted about their exclusive interview and cover spread, the GQ.co.uk website actually crashed because it was receiving so many hits. A good day for web traffic for GQ.
But then came the downfall.
The Directioners were not happy. And GQ used the opportunity to not only highlight just how obsessive some of the fans were, but from a legal perspective, have a record of exactly what and who sent them these messages.
They varied from “GQ NEEDS TO SHUT THE F*** UP BEFORE I BREAK MY GLASS NAIL FILE IN TWO AND STAB THEM IN THE EYES? “ to simply “I’ll f****** kill you “.
The British GQ feed started manually retweeting some of the @ replies they had received. @ClaireFon1 sent “I’M GONNA BOMB YOUR HEADQUARTERS!” They also made sure to address the less abusive fans, by pointing out that they weren’t all like this, and that they hoped they enjoyed the issue. Some balance.
I have read countless interviews featured in different glossy magazines, and yeah, sometimes a journalist will do an interview with one of your favourite people in the world and it will just be awful. They might get facts wrong. They might make assumptions. They might print something offensive, or something that the person specifically asked to be printed because they don’t want to be associated with a specific product or brand or whatever. And it’s annoying. Because as a fan, you want these interviews to show off why it is you love that artist/band/actor/etc. You want to be able to point at it and go, LOOK. LOOOK. THIS IS WHY I LOVE THEM! You want the interview to be interesting so that people who might not want to give them the time of day, will go on to read it. But sometimes you get the wrong journalist, or get the wrong atmosphere on the day, and it just doesn’t happen. So you are upset, but you move on.
Unless you are one of the Directioners who sent death threats.
And this is where bands and artists need to step in. There are too many fan bases on Twitter who, if any bad thing is even hinted at will send abusive, rude and quite frankly frightening messages to those who dared to utter such blasphemy (or to those dating their idols for that matter).
You could argue that a couple of silly death threats from a few teenage girls doesn’t actually mean anything. I mean, think of the Twitter Joke Trial. A guy tried to be funny by joking he would bomb an airport and he nearly ended up in jail. We surely can’t do anything like that. It would take up police time and just be worthless.
And I would agree with that point. But it’s the fact that these artists are letting their fans do this. Harry, Zayn, Louis, Niall and Liam all tweeted about how excited they were to be on the GQ front cover, but did they take any time out of their day to simply tweet “Hey, guys, could you not threaten to kill the guys that work at GQ? Kthx” No. And as ominous as it sounds, there is going to come a day when somebody, somewhere, is going to actually go through with their threat.
This is why these famous people need to take some responsibility in all of this. Magazines, paparazzi, journalists, romantic interests, whoever is associated with them, shouldn’t have thousands of abusive and threatening messages sent to them. Could you imagine being sent stuff like “I AM GOING TO FIND GQ AND F****** BOMB THEM SEE YOU IN JAIL”?
I’m going to offer a couple of ideas for situations like this. First of all, after the Aug 4th incident, we really do need a Report Abuse button on Twitter. If you are being harassed and are feeling frightened, you should be able to get help.
But before that either does or doesn’t come into place, if you receive abusive messages, screenshot them. Make sure you have a record of who sent you what. With a simple screenshot or a manual retweet, you have the person’s Twitter handle, which then usually allows you to get there name and location.
Which brings me onto my last point. If a fan constantly sends someone (or a number of people) messages of that nature, the band or artist should come out and publicly say that if any of their fans are caught doing this they will be kicked out of the fan club (if they are a member), and, if the abuse is particularly bad, they will not be allowed to purchase concert tickets. If they are such a massive fan of a musician that they would send death threats on behalf of them, then I’m pretty sure they would hate to miss out on their concert. Something needs to be done, and if famous musicians say they won’t tolerate abuse, then surely their legions of dedicated fans will follow suit.