It’s Time Twitter Fanbases Learned Some Self-Control

If you ever find yourself doubting the number of ways it’s possible to misspell a term of abuse, simply tweet that you’re not that fussed about a contemporary pop star. In the last couple of days both Frank Turner and London-based copywriter Holly Brockwell have discovered that there’s no limit to the crimes against the English language that some fans will commit in their eagerness to defend their heroes.

For Frank Turner, it all started when he and his band The Sleeping Souls saw Nicki Minaj backstage at T In The Park being disrespectful to the backstage crew and pushing one crew member into the mud so that Minaj could walk past. Turner then tweeted:

To clarify: Nicky Minaj has been being a total selfish shithead to all the hardworking crew backstage at T. Pathetic. Fuck off.

This led to a stream of abuse pouring in from Minaj fans. Speaking to NME today, Turner said: “I suppose I was a little surprised at first – I still don’t think I’ve heard any of her music and I wasn’t aware that she was quite as popular as she is (good for her, incidentally). The deluge of poorly-written bilge that broke over my Twitter feed was actually pretty funny to me – I find it hard to be insulted by people whose idea of value is so closely linked to numbers of Twitter followers, bless.”

Holly Brockwell started her own Twitter firestorm when she tweeted:

Chris Brown is number one in the UK album charts. I hate each and every one you who bought that.

Within 20 minutes of posting that, tweets calling her “mad” were creeping in from the execrable woman-beater Brown’s self-styled miltant fanbase ‘#teambreezy’. As soon as a few fans started mentioning her by name, her timeline began filling up with a torrent of aggression (which you can read in full here if you’re willing to be profoundly depressed):

Speaking to NME today, Holly said: “I didn’t take any of it particularly hard because it was so patently obvious that the people tweeting me were plankton. Hardly any of them could spell, and the things they chose to say said a lot about them. None of them gave any valid defence of Breezy – the best they could offer was “that was three years ago”.

“Many, many more of them chose to attack me instead, and having only my Twitter profile to go on, they mostly chose my looks based on my avatar. I was called a ‘ginger slave’, told I have no eyebrows, thinning hair and two of them got confused by the negative space between my two rows of teeth and said I had ‘black on my teeth’ which was hilarious. One of them decided I was fat and made a lot of comments about that, including saying he’d chop me up and sell my fat at 20.99 a quarter pound.”

While both Turner and Brockwell were able to laugh off their encounters with the most aggressive ends of the music fan spectrum, it’s easy to see how quickly a jokey tweet can lead to sinister personal abuse. As Brockwell put it: “The abuse was absolutely intended to be personal, but it’s hard for me to care what such idiots think of me based on one photo. I was more upset by the sexually-toned tweets implying sexual violence or suggesting I make videos of myself giving oral – that was a very popular suggestion for some reason. The one saying my dad should have beaten up my mum for raising me upset me as well, but I suppose you can’t expect more from a supporter of domestic violence.”

There’s already a long history of Twitter fas turning on unsuspecting targets, such as when sections of Lady Gaga’s fanbase have taken it upon themselves to start “wars” with Madonna fans and the NME. What Brockwell’s experience shows is that it isn’t only magazines or artists that find themselves at the centre of a storm of bile and illiteracy.

Too often these ‘fans’ act as if the supposed anonymity of the internet and the shared anger of the mob excuses their offensive and often threatening behaviour. It doesn’t. On the other hand, the messages of support that Brockwell and Turner both received from other Twitter users shows that there people online who still believe in rallying-round as a community. Not just that, but as Turner points out: “I have now been referred to as an “ASSDICK”, which is a new accolade, so I didn’t come out of it all empty-handed.”