The Bully Pulpit

With the seemingly infinite reach and power of social media, there’s been a steady increase in chatter regarding the dangers of online bullying… but to this point, it’s usually something we associate first with our more vulnerable members of the population, and 7th graders caught in Snapchat’s daunting crosshairs. However, the heated sentiments of the past year have proven that music’s superstars are not above the fray when it comes to judgement and a lack of civility forging its path through that qwerty keyboard and out to the universe.

In a post-”wardrobe malfunction” TV world, notoriously, Mariah Carey took heat for an apparent audio playback malfunction at December’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve performance. Carey ceased lip synching and refrained from singing as the crowd heard Carey’s vocals play on. Indeed, Carey even spoke to the crowd as her recorded vocals continued to play under.  Immediately, the inevitable Twitter storm brewed.  (“Even Mariah Carey can’t’ sing along to Mariah Carey.” amongst the notable jabs.)   Trolling of the “meltdown” even extended beyond social media, across the field of entertainment – across the relationship between performer and audience, and to… professional sports. Adorned in a pink leotard, the San Antonio Spurs Mascot coyote even carried a mic as he walked around the court at subsequent game, facing fans. The coyote went on to lip sync (unsuccessfully of course) to Carey’s “Emotions.”

And fast forward to the most watched event in TV, year after year, and we find Lady Gaga giving it her all (as ever) at the Super Bowl. Inconceivably, it seems there are those who felt Mz. Gaga’s body is less than perfect – and took to self-publishing online to celebrate their perceptions. They did not phase the superstar however, who responded on Instagram: “I heard my body is a topic of conversation so I wanted to say, I’m proud of my body and you should be proud of yours too. No matter who you are or what you do.”

There were those too who were relentless in response to those who performed at the Inauguration, including Chrisette Michele. The virtual attacks on Michelle were so striking, that India.Arie stepped in to defend her. In an open letter, India.Arie wrote: “…Stop the petty talk – AND USE OUR ENERGY FOR THE HIGHEST GOOD. WE ARE MORE POWERFUL THAN WE KNOW when we are making “woke” or what I call, “high consciousness” choices…”

This year continues to shine a light on the sheer magnitude of the internet’s reach…in all its playing-field evening magnitude. While we idolize these stars, at our weakest we seek to simultaneously take them down a peg. While we once identified with these enviable escapees from the island of misfit toys, twitter and Snapchat have given us a forum to drunk text the whole world at our not so finest moments.  As stated on CNN’s series documenting the 80s, and in particular the public’s growing obsession with television, “any tool for human expression will bring out the best and the worst in us.” Each day we seem to get closer and closer to a self-perpetuated Orwellian state reminiscent of They Live, to mix apocalyptic metaphors. While the thought police are hopefully still at bay, heckling and tomato throwing will always be a part of free society and the performer-audience dynamic. And there won’t always be “safe places” to shield those from opinions different from their own.  But… there will be dancing, and the show must go on.

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