The following is an excerpt from HEATHER SCHWEDEL | July 31, 2018 | Slate.com |
Movie director Rian Johnson deleted thousands of his old tweets last week. No one told him to do it. But presumably he’d watched Disney remove another director, James Gunn, from his upcoming movie after old, offensive tweets of his resurfaced. And he’d seen television creator Dan Harmon delete his Twitter after an old, offensive video parody of his started to recirculate.
In response to these and similar events, Johnson described the erasure of his Twitter archive as “a ‘why not?’ move.”
The circumstances around Gunn and Harmon’s shameful content surfacing were not organic, inasmuch as such things can be organic. Their old content re-emerged not by chance or by accident but due to the concerted effort of right-wing trolls like Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec. The right targeted these high-profile Hollywood men in an effort to expose what they saw as liberal hypocrisy. And while Gunn’s tweets and Harmon’s video may have been inadvisable and wrong, they were not, as the right-wing mob argued, evidence of pedophilia. These accusations were made in bad faith, as Christina Cauterucci argued elsewhere in Slate, and constitute “[r]ight-wing pedophile-accusers … simply grasping for the easiest way to tarnish someone’s name.”
No mobs have set their sights on Johnson—his decision to delete his tweets was purely a pre-emptive measure. But it’s probably a smart move. If it means one less way for online trolls to potentially ruin his career, it seems like an easy trade-off. And it’s not just entertainment industry power players who have to worry about this problem, either. It comes up with some frequency for young athletes too, so much so that on Monday Deadspin editor Barry Petchesky published a piece about the phenomenon. “I do not understand why every famous person has not already deleted their old tweets,” Petchesky marveled.
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