On my radar: Hell hath no fury like a fan

2013-09-23 12:00

Cyberspace is not for sissies, especially if you rub up a pop star’s fans the wrong way.

The staff at GQ magazine in the UK found out the hard way when they released an online preview of a series of five different covers, for their September issue, each featuring a member of the boy band One Direction.

(If you have not heard of One Direction, fear not, you’re obviously over 21 and male, unlike their 60 million combined Twitter fans.)

Even though the boy band and their fans are not the core demographic for GQ, they could not ignore the power and influence of the group.

A product of Simon Cowell’s The X Factor, the boy band was formed in 2010 and today, the five fresh-as-fabric-softener faces command a commercial empire worth £100?million (R1.5?billion) that includes licensing deals covering anything from lunch boxes to fragrances. They also have very devoted fans – in a deranged way.

On one of the covers featuring band member Harry Styles, the copy line read, “HARRY – He’s up all night to get lucky”, a clever play on words using another summer hit song Get Lucky by Daft Punk.

However, the editor could not have foreseen how this seemingly tongue-in-cheek cover line would unleash the wrath of One Direction fans.

Initially, there were so many visitors to the website that it crashed under the strain and then the toxic tweets started rolling in.

To try to give you a sense of the kind of venom that was spewed at GQ and its staff, I’ve tried to select the most printable ones, but they are few and far between.

»?HARRYS COVER SAYS HE UP ALL NIGHT TO GET LUCKY. @BritishGQ YOURE MAKING HIM SOUND LIKE A WH*RE. HES NOT A F**KING WH*RE YOU STUPID C***S.

»?I’LL F**K YOU UP GQ, I SWEAR YOU’VE MESSED WITH THE WRONG PEOPLE

»?@BritishGQ I’M GONNA BOMB YOUR HEADQUARTERS! DIRECTIONERS ARE THE WORST FANDOM TO MESS WITH! F**K YOU GUYS!

Charming.

Social-media platforms, especially Twitter, have been for a while now, the portal for either foot-in-mouth rants (usually racist), or for people who believe they can spew bile at one another or at media personalities.

These ill-timed 140-character missives have resulted in dismissals and damaged reputations, but the toxic tweets coming from fanatical fans is a new development and points to a disturbing trend.

British psychologist Dr Jane McCarthy, commenting on the insults hurled at GQ, believes the boy band’s fans are resorting to extreme measures to express their devotion to the band.

“The fans on Twitter are seeing if they can outdo each other,” she explains, “they’re in competition to see who can be the most defensive of their heroes by writing the most explicit tweet”.

This would explain a lot, because on the other side of the Atlantic the same pattern is emerging.

Celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton (known to spew his own malicious venom) recently criticised Lady Gaga’s latest single, Applause, calling it “a few steps backwards”.

He would have known that he was treading on dangerous ground because Lady Gaga’s fans, known as her “little monsters”, are not only one of the largest fan bases for any pop star, they are also known to be the most obsessive.

Hilton and Gaga have also had their fair share of Twitter spats before.

One fan alerted Gaga to the fact that Hilton was in the vicinity of her apartment (who needs security guards when you have obsessive fans?), which prompted Gaga to tweet that he should stop stalking her. And that’s when the venom sluice gates opened.

Gaga’s “monsters” seem just as vicious as One Direction’s frenzied fans. Some of the more poetic tweets fired at Hilton include:

»?@PEREZHILTON LEAVE HER ALONE OR I WILL KILL YOUR F**KING SON

»?I’M GOING TO KIDNAP UR SON @PEREZHILTON

»?@LADYGAGA IM SCARED HELP ME TELL ME THAT YOU ARE OK OR IM GONNA KILL PEREZ HILTON RIGHT NOW

Like I said, charming.

But Gaga’s fans have previously tweeted death threats to dance producer Deadmau5, who also criticised her for a video collaboration with performance artist Marina Abramovic.

To her credit, Gaga immediately sent her fans the following statement: “Sending threats of any kind, using hateful or abusive language, and the provoking of others on the internet is not supported by me or anything that I stand for. What I’ve seen transpiring is wrong and upsetting to me, and I’ve made it very clear how I feel about equality and compassion.”

She also urged Twitter and other social-media platforms to “monitor and control abusive and threatening language”, adding: “I don’t know that I am powerful enough to stop it by myself.”

If you thought cyberbullying was bad, this is cyberspace mob lynching and Gaga’s concern that even she can’t stop it is what we should be worried about. Fans today run riot in cyberspace, the boundaries of which are still undefined, so the line between virtual threats and physical deeds becomes a fine one indeed.

»?Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. Visit www.fluxtrends.com

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