In The Thick Of It, fictional Tory MP Peter Mannion describes Googling yourself as being “like opening the door to a room where everyone thinks you’re shit.”
No pop star on earth can feel the truth of that more sharply than 16-year-old Justin Bieber, the target of a vigilante internet hate campaign that keeps finding ever more innovative ways to heap on the pwns.
Except in the Canadian singer’s case, it’s not so much a room, more an entire universe, made up of vast galaxies of scorn, onrushing constellations, all of them solar-flaring the message in letters a billion feet high: “Ha ha, Justin Bieber, what a bellend!”
The latest ruse, orchestrated by users of 4Chan, involved gatecrashing a poll on Bieber’s official site in a bid to send him on tour in Communist North Korea. This is funny, if only for the mental image of the bright-eyed star chirping, “Lemme see your hands in the air, Pyonyang!” – only to be met with dead silence, followed by the sound of advancing tanks.
The poor guy must wonder what he’s done to inspire such weapons-grade hatred. He’s a teen idol in the all-American tradition– you know the sort: milk-white teeth, Lego-man hair, the emotional range of a Glee cover version, personality of a Weetabix – but he’s no more objectionable than any number of clean-cut singers. His only crime is to peddle a sort of Early Learning Centre version of R&B.
Previous skirmishes in the internet’s ongoing War On Bieber have involved pushing ‘Justin Bieber Syphilis’ to the top of Google Trends, spreading fake news of his death, and hacking YouTube so that his videos automatically redirect to porn clips.
All very puerile, of course, and there’s an argument that this is cyber-bullying writ large, symptomatic of the default viciousness that makes the internet such a depressing place to be sometimes. Some finger-waggers have even noted a strain of misogyny in all this, a kneejerk distaste for the harmless passions of young women.
Personally, I can’t get too worked up about it. For all the mockery he endures, Bieber still has his devoted fans, his gold-plated future (we all know that child stars grow up to be happy and well-adjusted adults, right?).
And besides, there’s something inventive about these attacks, a mischievous spirit of misrule, that I find weirdly endearing. Like all good memes, the anti-Bieber campaign keeps morphing, developing in unexpected ways.
There’s something more fundamental at work, too. It’s related to the anti-X Factor campaign that propelled Rage Against The Machine to Number One last Christmas. Empowered by social media, there’s a new, combative mood amongst music fans, an unwillingness to be spoon-fed dreck by corporate ghouls.
And he is rubbish, after all, isn’t he? Look at him – he’s Donny Osmond with hair straighteners. A Lil Chris who thinks he’s Lil Wayne. Is it any wonder a generation is rising up in defiance and howling at the entertainment industry, Fuck you, we won’t buy what you tell us?
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Now… can we have a go at Michael Buble next?