In rage or outrage

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How celebrities continue to bait the public on social media

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb 24, 2016

When you are a celebrity trying to promote yourself, no news is not good news. It’s better to receive hate from some than go completely unnoticed. That has been the philosophy of many celebrities who have taken to Twitter to make a big splash before sinking back into the depths of their wealth and sorrow.

But the barrage of outrage has become too much for British comedian Stephen Fry, who rage-quit Twitter after the criticism he received for a joke he made at the BAFTA Awards show. Or was it just another publicity ploy? While hosting, Fry zinged costume design winner Jenny Beavan for dressing like “a bag lady.” The Internet rose to Beavan’s defence, calling out Fry’s “offensive” comment on Twitter. Comedians defending their jokes on Twitter is not anything new, what’s surprising is that they continue to respond to those faceless voices even though they know they cannot fight the trolls.

I don’t believe Fry was harmed by the comments, I believe Fry was doing what celebrities do best, which is making the PR move that will garner them the most press. Quitting Twitter was the apt solution. It silenced the critics and made his fans appreciate him more. It also got him trending, which is rare for the BAFTA host.

Ricky Gervais, another fellow British comedian, is also no stranger to online outrage. As the host of the Golden Globes this year, Gervais made it his sole purpose to poke Hollywood celebrities and the Internet bear that defends them. Why? He openly admitted it. The more people bitching and moaning about how offensive he was on the show, the more publicity he gets. The more you get people talking about you, the higher you rise up on the Internet’s relevancy meter.

Celebrities have a powerful voice. When they speak, people listen, even when what they are saying is complete garbage. How has Donald Trump gone as far as he has on the presidential campaign? Shock factor. You cannot ignore it or pretend it wasn’t said because everyone will be talking about it days later. Simple yet ridiculous ideas that go against the grain are bound to evoke more attention than playing by the rules, nodding to what everyone else is saying, and conforming with the crowd.

Lastly, there is Kanye West. Does he have a new album coming out? Of course he does. But he didn’t market his new work as the latest Kanye West album, he marketed himself as a brand—a brand that’s so good it doesn’t give a fuck what you think. He sided with Bill Cosby, called out Taylor Swift, asked Mark Zuckerberg for money, and compared himself to Michael Jordan and Stephen Curry. Think about all the demographics he hit with those comments. Think of all the people he offended and honoured. He’s tapped into the Internet’s pathos and has manipulated it to do his album’s marketing for him.

So the next time you hear about celebrities saying something outrageous on a public platform, ask yourself: Do they want me to retaliate, or repeat what they said like some sort of megaphone?

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