MTV Australia makes racist post during Golden Globes

The Golden Globes were held this past Sunday, and like most award shows, they were not without their share of controversy.  One such example, however, was thanks to the Twitter account of MTV Australia.

The set-up: Actresses Eva Longoria and America Ferrera were presenting an award and joking about who they were, a reference to people who confuse Latina actresses.  At the same time, they were making fun of the Golden Globes Twitter account, which confused Ferrera with actress Gina Rodriguez in a December 2015 tweet.

So, while the actresses were making Hispanic-related jokes, MTV Australia tweeted out this:

MTV Australia Tweet

Ooof.  As you would expect, the internet was less than pleased.

MTV Australia did delete the tweet, and replaced it with this:

A spokesperson also said, “MTV’s tweet was in reference to the joke made by Eva Longoria and America Ferrera at the Golden Globes. We realise it was a poor joke and have taken the post down. We apologise for causing any offence and have decided to leave the humour to Ricky Gervais.”

If you take MTV Australia’s explanation at face value, then you can at least understand how such a mistake could have happened.  That being said, someone should have thought this one through .  It’s obvious to see how the tweet could have been interpreted as racist, and any major business (or politician!) needs to be extremely careful when they tweet about issues as weighty as race and racism.

Tweets and Consequences

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Kansas State Representative shares racist meme on Facebook

Sharing offensive Facebook content is often a fast path towards instant condemnation.  That’s a lesson that Kansas State Representative John Bradford (R-Lansing) just learned the hard way.

Last week, Representative Bradford shared this picture on his Facebook page:

John Bradford Facebook Post

The picture originated from the Facebook group Conservative Country, which features a variety of conservative, anti-Democrat and anti-Obama memes.

As you can see, the meme is just horrendously racist.  Representative Bradford did remove the post, but obviously faced overwhelming criticism for making it in the first place. Said Carolyn Campbell, a member of the Kansas Board of Education, Democrat and African-American, “Representative Bradford’s actions make it very clear that we are far from reaching Dr. King’s dream of equality. I’m saddened and appalled that this is an individual who is making decisions that impact our children’s education system.”

When interviewed afterwards, Representative Bradford expressed regret for the post: “It was in bad taste and I regret it.”

Interestingly – and certainly not surprisingly – this isn’t the first time that Representative Bradford has been accused of racism.  Representative Bradford was actually one of nine Republican Representatives who filed a complaint against a Democratic Representative – Valdenia Winn – after Representative Winn accused Bradford, and others, of holding “racist, sexist, fear-mongering” attitudes based on their support of legislation which would repeal residential tuition rates, at state universities, for illegal immigrants.

Clearly, those accusations will now be seen in an entirely new light!

Tweets and Consequences

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Mayor of Superior, Wisconsin, takes to Facebook to call President Obama a Muslim

Welcome back from Christmas break, everyone!  Here’s how we’ll be starting the social media day.

Bruce Hagen is the Mayor of Superior, Wisconsin (population about 27,000).  Hagen, in response to a picture of First Lady Michelle Obama, wrote the following on Facebook:

“Unbelievable! She and her Muslim partner have destroyed the fabric of democracy that was so very hard fought for!”

Ahh, so we’re going with the “Obama is a Muslim” meme again, I see.  That’s lovely.

Needless to say, the city’s residents and other elected officials were not amused.  Five City Councilors called for Mayor Hagen to resign in the wake of his remarks, with Councilors calling the remarks “inappropriate.”  Mayor Hagen, for his part, refuses to resign, saying: “Am I gonna resign? Absolutely not. If the people of this community feel otherwise, they will vote me out of office.”

The standard response of Hagen’s remarks, from defenders, is probably something along the lines of “Free speech!”  They are right, of course – to a point.  The Mayor is, unquestionably, entitled to say whatever he wants (within certain broad limits) without fear of government repercussions.  But here’s the thing: Free speech doesn’t mean freedom from the consequences of your speech, and elected officials are, as I’ve said a thousand times, held to a higher standard for the content of their remarks.  Indeed, this was best elucidated by City Councilor Graham Garfield, who said, “”Sure he’s entitled to free speech.  But elected officials are held accountable for stupid things they do and say.”

Tweets and Consequences

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Alabama State Representative: Shop “American owned” only

Alan Harper is a State Representative in Alabama.  He is making the blog today because of this blatantly xenophobic Facebook post:

Alan Harper

To summarize: Representative Harper wants you to only shop at “American owned” stores to “purchase has and other items.”  Why?  Because non-American owned shops are “owned by folks that send their profits back to their homeland and then in turn use these funds against our country to create turmoil, fear and in some cases death and destruction.”

Wowzers.

As you can imagine, Representative Harper’s comments have come under attack from Democrats and the people at whom they were directed. What is more interesting is that the comments have also been denounced by the Alabama Republican Party.  In a statement, Terry Lathan, Chair of the Alabama Republican Party, called the statement divisive:

“The comments recently made by State Representative Alan Harper on his Facebook page referencing the racial profiles of American business owners are very concerning. Mr. Harper is certainly welcome to his own personal opinion on any topic, but his statements absolutely do not represent the views of the Republican Party.”

His comments in no way, shape, or form reflect the values of the national or state party. Our nation has seen too much divisiveness on racial issues which only puts a wedge between our citizens.”

As of yet, Representative Harper has not elaborated on his comments aside form an additional Facebook post:

“God bless each and everyone and God Bless America! Isn’t it funny when things are taken out of context. Please buy American every chance you get to build our local economies…where we know the revenues stay here in the good old United States of America! May God Bless!”

I’m not quite sure what “context” the Representative was referring to here…except the blatantly racist one.

Tweets and Consequences

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Ohio Mayor says blacks declared war on whites

In this time of racial tension and discord, all elected officials have an obligation to watch what they say, in order to ensure that their speech is always as measured and anti-inflammatory as possible.

This is a lesson which could have been used by the Drew Hastings, Mayor of Hillsboro, Ohio (population 6,600), who took to Facebook last week and wrote:

“When are people going to figure out that we are in a Revolution in this Country. Blacks have all but formally declared war on whites, ideological types are fighting with Planned Parenthood, there’s violence over immigration, Muslim extremism, and our own Government at war with its citizens.”

Really?  Black people have “all but formally declared war on whites?”  That’s what you are going with??

The post was deleted but the damage was obviously done.  Hastings originally said that he started by discussed Planned Parenthood but the conversation escalated from there.  Two days later, he said he regretted the post and apologized:

“I have a good relationship in this city with our black community, and I regret them feeling included in some broad, over-the-top statement I made. I apologize to them.”

Alrighty then.  Well, let’s take Mayor Hastings at his word for a moment.  Hastings said that the post was just an escalation of a passionate conversation about an emotional and tragic event.  I think this goes to show the importance of taking a breath and slowing down before you make any social media post – particularly about issues as emotional as racism or violence.  All of us can learn something from this event: Don’t let social media be the first thing you turn to when you are trying to work through your own feelings about an issue.  Let it be the last one, when you have a mature, thoughtful and rational contribution to make.

Tweets and Consequences

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H&M gets hammered for racist implications of tweet

This happened a couple of weeks ago, but it’s a mistake I thought was worth reviewing for a variety of reasons.  In short, a very, very stupid tweet got H&M, the fashion retailer, in deep, deep trouble.

H&M recently opened a store in Cape Town, South Africa.  South Africa, of course, has a long and tragic history of racial segregation.  As a result, you would think that all local retailers and social media users would be extremely careful in their marketing efforts.

Twitter user @Tlaly_Branch visited the Cape Town store and sent this critique to the retailer:

Certainly a valid criticism, and one worth responding to: Generally speaking, for a business or politician, if someone sends you a valid criticism and is clearly looking for a legitimate response (not just trolling), it’s a good practice to respond. H&M did just that.  However, they did so in the worst way possible:

It appears that H&M was trying to say that their marketing is in a constant state of flux and they try to be as diverse as possible in all of their marketing mediums.  However, look at the first and second tweets…they use the word “positive” in each tweet.  In other words: Black models don’t convey a positive image.

I really don’t think this is what H&M was trying to say, but it is definitely an implication of what they did say.  Twitter users, naturally, let the brand have it, and they were forced it issue a clarification:

They also issued this apology tweet:

So, the lesson here: Be careful with every part of a tweet.  The implications of any tweet can get you into deep, deep trouble.

Minnesota GOP group tweets about #Negroproblem

Well, that’s one of the worst possible hashtags that any political group could use.

The background: Minnesota, like numerous other cities, is in the midst of heavy backlash as a result of the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark by police officers.  In the aftermath of the shooting, there have been a series of protests outside of the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis.

So, in the middle of this, the following was tweeted out by the Seventh Congressional District Republicans, a GOP group in Minnesota:

NegroProblem

Yeah…no.  Just no.  Talk about a terrible idea!!

For obvious reasons, local Democrats attacked the tweet, with Ken Martin, head of the Minnesota DFL Party, saying in a statement:

“There is absolutely no place for this kind of ugly language in our state. We call on Chairman Downey to apologize to the people of Minnesota for the racist and bigoted comment.”

To his credit, the head of the Minnesota Republican Party, Keith Downey, tweeted this:

An important point about this apology:  There is no, “Apologies to all offended.”  I hate that line, because it’s a wink and a nod:  “Oh, you weren’t offended?  Well, in that case, no apology, let’s high five!”  This is just a straight up, “Apologies.  We were wrong.”

Anyway, this entire issue shows the importance of training for anyone tweeting in the name of you or your brand.  Yes, these were volunteers who were working for free.  However, they were tweeting in the name of the Republican Party, and as a result of their bad taste and stupidity, the local Republicans have seen their brand damaged.  It is critically important that you train anyone tweeting in the name of you or your company in order to avoid a scandal like this.  That’s challenge is multiplied when you are dealing with volunteers, but it’s still vitally necessary, a lesson that the Minnesota GOP found out the hard way.

Tweets and Consequences

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