Another week, another series of car crashes on Twitter, including, notably, the sorry tale of the Croydon-based PR consultant (actually a publicist turned cack-handed self-publicist) who confronted a woman in in the street and asked her to explain what had happened in Brussels.
When she batted off the ludicrous idea that she was in any way connected or could provide any insight, he tweeted about it and described her reply as ‘mealy mouthed’.
There are 300 million Twitter users, and much of the arrant nonsense that is tweeted (amidst the useful, interesting and pleasant) becomes digital dust, but something in the stupidity of his tweet caught the imagination and launched a wave of outrage and parody.
A careless 140 characters catalysed national newspaper attention and broadcast attention and soon the hapless tweeter found his 15 minutes of fame. He has since been arrested for inciting racial hatred.
Now most of the few PR professionals that might find themselves in this sort of fix, I’m pretty sure, would fess up to a moment of madness, apologise profusely and think about how to atone for their stupidity.
But oh no.
Instead he tried to magnify the impact of his actions as the string of subsequent tweets reveals, approaching news outlets direct and tweeting Donald Trump in a apparent attempt to gain his support.
The Icarus fable has the eponymous character trying out a pair of wings for size, enjoying them a little too much (despite his dad’s cautionary note about the wax melting if he gets a bit too close to the sun) and ending up falling in the drink.
This Breughel depiction of the story is my favourite.
It’s like an Instagram image from the Middle Ages. Icarus’ legs are sticking out of the water in the lower right hand corner.
Today, Twitter can turn us into Clickarus. The buzz comes not from flight but from the updraft of fame. All the tweets! All the likes! All the media attention! My face everywhere! Me, parodied! I’m important! How do I keep it going? Refresh, refresh, refresh.
It never ends well – and it never lasts. This is notoriety or infamy masquerading as a better form of fame.
Better to fess up, to apologise, to recant, unless it is what you truly believe, in which case perhaps stay quiet. No one likes a self-publicist that rides the eddies of the misfortune of others. You might trend for a while, but it’s a long drop.