The first time was Ali Velshi, which I wrote about here. The most recent was last night, when I sent a note about ESPN's SportCenter with Scott Van Pelt, since oddly the show didn't cover the Northwestern bowl game win -- a game that ESPN thought noteworthy enough to actually broadcast. He very thoughtfully wrote back to say that they'd intended to cover it, but the show got cut back by 30 minutes. Perfectly good and gracious explanation. Yet the slams poured on...
It's sort of a tribal pack mentality (or perhaps a wolf pack mentality...), yet it transcends that because it's SO funny and bizarre when the Beloved Hero himself has actually responded and acknowledged the gaffe. Yet there are the LOYAL AND MOST DEVOTED ACOLYTES defending their Beloved Hero to the ends of the earth and trying to shred any enemy who dare criticize him about anything. I always want to write back to such people, "Hey, y'know, we ALL make gaffes. Even Shakespeare wrote Troilus and Cressida. Even Dickens wrote Barnaby Rudge. Even Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote, Me and Juliet. It happens. Deal with it."
It reminds me of when I got into a bit of a kerfuffle with Alec Baldwin on the Huffington Post a few years back in which we traded a couple of articles during the WGA strike. (Long story, but it began when he defended the tactics of directors when it came to strikes, schooling the Writers Guild, and I explained why this was historically wrong-headed. He didn't take well to that, and a further exchange followed. I was chomping at the bit to reply after he snarked at me directly, but instead I followed the Nell Minow Rule: "Someone has to be the adult here" and instead just walked away.) Yet even after stopping, I still kept getting slammed in the Comment Section of my articles by his adoring fans, prostrating themselves to the Beloved Hero. I tended not to respond, but think that I did at one point write back to someone, "No matter how hard you try, he isn't going to invite you over for dinner.")
The inveterate Chris Dunn has described this syndrome well. They way he put it is "If the Beloved Hero isn't looped in [the the Twitter exchange] to begin with, the Defender of the Faith will be sure to @ them into the conversation so as to ensure getting credit for standing up for them. I see it ALL. THE. TIME."
Someone on Twitter commiserated with me and said that this is precisely why the "Block" option exists. That's true, except that, alas, I have yet mastered the skill to Block someone in advance and expectation... That said, after-the-fact, I did choose the Mute option here. Generally, I prefer to utilize blocking for things like racism and crudity, rather than inordinate foolishness...
And speaking of "inordinate foolishness," I might possibly be willing to include the concept of going on Twitter to dare criticize a TV host. Foolish, perhaps, but when deserved at least one is now forewarned. And as such can be ready to duck.
Twitter: It's Not Just for Twits Anymore.