Borkowski Weekly Media Trends 07-01-22
Djokovic, Molly-Mae, Fart Girl & The New Fame Game | Politics For All vs Twitter | God vs Dogs | Grammys in crisis
Djokovic, Molly-Mae, ‘Jar of Farts’ Girl: New Fame Game is unforgiving
We talk extensively about how the values of Gen Z and younger millennials are reshaping the concept of fame and creating new icons.
Zennials such as Marcus Rashford, Greta Thunberg, Emma Raducanu and even cross-generational idols like Captain Sir Tom Moore have built their reputations on authenticity, substance, consistency (lack of hypocrisy) and humility.
As if to prove this theory on the new DNA of fame, the antithesis of these values was on display in every corner of media land this week, with adverse consequences for all involved.
Firstly, in a fittingly 2022 update of Tolstoy’s How Much Land Does a Man Require? - Stephanie Matteo, a reality TV contestant who achieved fleeting viral fame for selling her farts in a jar for $1,000 a po(o)p, was taken to hospital after allegedly trying to squeeze out one honker too many.
Like Tolstoy’s Peasant, Pahom, greed and selfish ambition got the better of Stinky Steph, but there’s also a Comms lesson here: by becoming the ‘fart lady’ she pursued a fame devoid of substance that might’ve tempered the ridicule to which she was subjected this week.
Then there’s NoVax Djokovic. The tennis legend apparently spends half his time off court wondering why he isn’t as popular as Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal despite comparable career achievements, and the other half making spurious scientific claims including that even holding a piece of bread triggers gluten intolerance, and that positive visualisation can purify water.
Plain old anti-lockdown and anti-vax rhetoric seems almost mundane next to the more bonkers claims but it may have got him deported from Australia ahead of the country’s Grand Slam tournament. Again, there are reputational consequences; Djokovic’s lack of humility and substance in parroting crackpot theories over science unleashed a typhoon of criticism and leaves him vulnerable to accusations of inauthenticity and hypocrisy next time he talks about fair play, sportsmanship or unselfishness.
Finally Love Islander turned ‘girl boss’ Molly-Mae Hague has come under heavy fire again for the lack of self-awareness and ignorance of socioeconomic reality marinading her ‘why can’t the poor simply work harder’ and ‘you have the same 24 hours a day as Beyoncé’ attitudes. She reiterated these (paraphrased) positions on a podcast in the wake of accusations that fast fashion brand Pretty Little Thing, for whom she is paid a reported £500,000 annually to be ‘Creative Director’ were paying workers in UK factories just £3.50 an hour in what are being describes as ‘sweatshop’ conditions – many pointing out that those factory workers don’t have quite the same 24 hours in their day as their boss...
The hapless trio have broken nearly every rule of the 2022 fame game and, though they all still have their supporters, and Djokovic’s sporting achievements will maintain his ‘icon’ status in many eyes, all of their reputations have taken on damaging quantities of media and social media shrapnel this week from which it will take substantial time and care to recover.
Twitter flexes its authority banning popular aggregator Politics For All
Twitter's ban of popular news aggregator Politics For All has left everyone scratching their heads. Social media giants tend to be reluctant to issue the almighty ban in fear that it will 'stretch' resources, affect their bottom line, set a precedent that would mean they'd have to enforce their codes of conduct universally, or, worst of all, provoke government or regulator intervention. Then there’s the thorny issue of free speech; generally the tactic we can infer is that it’s better to profit off the culture wars than intervene.
Twitter usually reserves its bans for accounts that violate their terms and conditions in a way that has a demonstrably insidious influence on a large audience - famously Donald Trump, but also less powerful villains like Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins.
So for Twitter to crack the whip on PFA for violating platform manipulation and spam rules seems strange. Not that PFA was totally innocent, far from it. In mastering the art of virality, clickbait and the use of emojis, they routinely posted eye-catching manipulations of headlines borrowed from other sources, leading to accusations of content-theft, misinformation and, at worst, disinformation. The account and its administrator made a lot of enemies, especially in the media, but Donald Trump it ain’t.
PFA's associated accounts Football For All and News For All were also banned, which led some experts theorising that Twitter is cracking down on the …For All empire’s successful formula - focusing on elements of stories that make their Tweets go viral regardless of how misleading that might make them. There is also speculation that they are pre-emptively intervening to prevent a potential (and potentially unreliable) monopoly on breaking news - although PFA was far from that.
PFA's ban is another alarming example of social media's unchecked power and control over the media landscape, in this case with no prior warning. Twitter's ability to choose who they hold to account over their terms of service is genuinely frightening.
In the God vs Dog PR battle there is only one winner
Pope Francis began the new year with a bang by lobbing a grenade of a hot take into the mediasphere. Big Franco lambasted couples who choose to have pets instead of children as selfish and lacking in humanity.
No matter that he’s previously made similar comments, far less the fact that rapid human population growth is cited as a key cause of the climate crisis, in response to which the self-same Pontiff has called for ‘radical’ action; the Vatican’s key error here was underestimating just how much people love pets.
There’s an apocryphal half-joke in digital marketing that social media analytics can’t give us any useful information on pet lovers because our browsing behaviour and engagement indicates that 99% of EVERY demographic on nearly every platform loves dogs, with cats not far behind.
Although far from a reliable statistic, the notion that, in slagging off pets, the Pope has picked an iconoclastic fight with a group backed (often vociferously) by 99% of the internet and social media is largely consistent with an anecdotal reading of reaction to his comments.
Simply: the internet is furious.
It’s a PR misstep for a Pope whose humanitarian and economically left-of-centre views have found more favour with millennial and Gen Z audiences than one might expect for the figurehead of a hegemonic, often reactionary religious organisation, and raises more questions than it answers and the role of organised religion in a modern Western liberal democracy.
Another day in the slow death of the Grammys
As the West End, tours, and concerts fall to the growing uncertainty and rapid spread of Omicron, Covid has once again forced organisers to delay the Grammys for a second year running.
The certainty of rising Covid cases may have struck down the Grammys, but perhaps even more damaging, is the way consecutive cancellation intensifies the spotlight on what many see as the once agenda-setting awards’ growing cultural insignificance.
In December we were critical (from a reputation standpoint) of nominations for Marilyn Manson, Louis CK and Dave Chapelle, which compounded years of failure to honour women and artists of colour. The vacuum created by this latest delay may compound this controversy into more permanent reputational damage to the Grammys, edging it still closer to the yawning maw of complete irrelevance.
Large parts of the music industry are at a breaking point, including streaming, as more news piles in about artists and music companies demanding the competition watchdog to investigate streaming giants. The industry's hubris will end up killing off these institutions, and it's a case of when not if at this point.