Josh: The Internet people have gone crazy.
Donna: No kidding.
–The West Wing
Update at the bottom
The Twittersphere started buzzing on Monday, after news hit the web of a possible Twitter-based reality television show.
Details about the program are sketchy, as the producers have released virtually no information about the show. All that could be learned from numerous identical, syndicated articles was that it would involve people on Twitter competing with each other to locate one or more celebrities in various locations around the world. This scarcity of known facts about the TV show has led to widespread speculation across the internet.
And people speculating on the internet always works out well, right?
An entertainment and celebrity writer for Examiner.com wondered if having random people hunting down celebrities for a prize was really a good idea. She wrote an article laying out a chilling hypothetical formula for the show: an army of people stalking unwitting celebrities around the world based on clues from their Twitter postings.
It was a hypothetical “what if” musing. The idea was so outlandish that obviously nobody would try something like that in the real world. It was just an absurd worst-case scenario written to poke fun at the whole idea of the show.
Then she put it on the interwebs. Right out there where all the internet people could see it.
A funny thing happens to many people when they go cruising the internet: their bullshit-o-meter goes on the fritz.
People thought that what they read in the Examiner article really was what the show was about. Then they started telling their friends about it…
Links to the article spread across the internet like wildfire. One outraged reader after another passed it on to their 50 closest e-friends. At some point or another, the link landed in front of some actual celebrities. Shocked and indignant, these celebrities began talking about it on Twitter. In front of a few million people.
The whole internet (seriously, all of it) came to an abrupt halt, with everyone thinking the same thought:
Then all Hell broke loose.
Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and Alyssa Milano all condemned the idea on the spot and declared their intention to stop using their Twitter accounts, if the show went forward. Their fans began howling in protest and a hashtag sprang up, which went straight to top of the “trending topics” and stayed there for most of the night: #notwittertv.
Liz Barret, author of this now infamous article, returned home from a Memorial Day party, logged onto the net and experienced what was surely the biggest “WTF?” moment of her life.
Just to clarify, the article was SATIRE. Yes, a TV show is being pitched. No, it won’t involve anyone being stalked.
Although it was left unsaid in the official announcement, I’ll hang it out there by saying it’s a good bet that any celebrities appearing on this show would be taking part willingly. There ARE laws and union rules about that sort of thing.
Just stop and think about it for a minute. Does it really make sense to create a TV show based on harassing people who keep $5,000 per hour lawyers on retainer? In California, which has the toughest, meanest anti-stalking laws in the United States? And only one article out of two dozen mentioned that? Say that out loud to yourself and listen to what it sounds like.
Yeah. Everybody should just settle down.
The creators of this would-be television show announced it with very few details – but gave out just enough to lead to all sorts of crazy theories. Liz Barret picked out the wackiest possible theory of all and then made fun of it.
But people did not recognize the satire and misunderstood what she was doing.
And still do, unfortunately. That protest hashtag is still rolling through Twitter, though it’s finally been knocked off the top 10 list by the NBA, nukes in North Korea, the Proposition 8 ruling in California and the announcement of a new U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Now, if people want to oppose this TV show idea because it sounds like a stupid idea, well no problem. But everyone needs to drop the crazy idea that people are going to be stalked without realizing it is happening.
I could be wrong, of course. The people creating the show did not specifically deny that they would be stalking unwilling participants. However, I would have an easier time believing reports of Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh showing up to a Prop 8 rally waving “No H8” signs. And holding hands.
I was right.