Two nights ago, I logged onto Facebook to discover a number of Facebook updates reporting the death of Nelson Mandela. I posted a few of my own.
Then, just one hour later, one of my friends posted this jpg of a Tweet supposedly made by Paris Hilton…
…in which she says, “RIP Nelson Mandela. Your “I Have A Dream” speech was so inspiring. An amazing man.”
My first thought was a, “Nooo…” of disbelief, and I went straight to her Twitter feed to see if the Tweet was still there. It was not. No signs of a struggle either. No activity there for about 4 hours.
I commented, “Fake.” on my friend’s post. He disagreed.
So I Googled ‘Paris Hilton Mandela fake’ and found confirmation that the source of the jpg was a Twitter feed called Deleted Tweets (@deIetedtweets – with a capital ‘i’ instead of an ‘l’)
The Tweet posting the Paris Hilton jpg was still there. In fact, it was the most recent Tweet. The second most recent Tweet was from Kanye West and said something along the lines of, “I DON’T SPEAK TO POOR PEOPLE ANY MORE, AND THAT INCLUDES JAY-Z AND BEYONCE.”
Clearly – and I mean clearly – this account was not even trying to be taken seriously. It was just crude celebrity satire and nothing more. I posted a link to the account on my friend’s status and he deleted the whole thing.
But then another half hour goes by and the Deleted Tweets Tweet shows up on my Twitter feed. This time it’s been Retweeted by Irvine Welsh, of all people. My favourite author just made me facepalm!
He’s Retweeted it via a couple of other writers, including John Irvine – another bestselling author – and I immediately Tweet to all of them that Deleted Tweets is obviously a joke account, and that they should have some sense.
A few minutes later John Irvine apologises for his mistake. I presumably wasn’t the only one to point it out.
Then earlier today, another friend posted the same jpg on Facebook and off I went to find the source, only to discover that, oh so very ironically, Deleted Tweets had deleted it, along with all of the other ‘deleted tweets’ that had ever been posted there.
All that was left was a Tweet at Paris Hilton, saying she should admit to what she said, and a brief conversation with a follower who was wondering why the original Tweet was not viewable “any more”. Honestly not sure if she meant the Tweet by Paris Hilton or the Tweet by Deleted Tweets.
Anyway, I chimed in on the exchange with,
“Maybe it’s because Deleted Tweets deleted it. Ironic.”
Soon after I Tweeted this, Deleted Tweets deleted its own part of the exchange. Layer upon layer of irony there.
The other Tweeter favourited my Tweet, so I guess either I opened her eyes or she was onto it all along.
Paris Hilton herself has posted various Tweets in response to this, including this one, which reads, “Whoever made that stupid fake tweet lacks respect to the loss the world is mourning right now. Same goes for all the blogs who ran with it.” and was Retweeted by Deleted Tweets, (un)funnily enough.
So am I writing this to defend Paris Hilton? Fuck no. She’s not the victim here. She’s made a career out of playing dumb and ignorant, so she should expect this kind of thing. If you’re going to sell yourself as a clueless caricature of yourself then you can’t really complain when others buy into the idea.
So this can’t be an attack on Deleted Tweets either then, can it? No, it can’t. Not really. The original joke was unfunny and a little disrespectful to Mandela, but harmless enough in itself. And, most importantly, it was obviously and clearly presented as a joke. Deleting all his old Tweets makes him (I’m guessing it’s a ‘him’) look decidedly spineless, but still, I don’t think he can shoulder much blame.
But all the blogs who ran with it, and anyone really who gleefully and unthinkingly spread it around… you need to take a look at yourselves. Paris Hilton has a point there. Yeah, I mean it. Paris Hilton made you look dumb.
And she makes a good point about respect too. Honestly, the man had been gone for a few hours and people were already leaping (without looking) at the chance to use his death as an excuse to make themselves feel superior over someone totally insignificant by comparison (or, arguably, otherwise).
Paris Hilton doesn’t matter, and some stupid joke about her doesn’t matter, but the truth does matter. And the fact that intelligent, respectable people were so quick to overlook the truth in favour of a cheap, judgmental online thrill worries me. We can’t afford to be so easily distracted.
I’m going to leave the last word to the man himself. R.I.P.
“It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.” – Nelson Mandela