My daughter showed me an article* on Saturday and suggested I read it. The story was about a Hollywood producer who flew on an airplane on Thanksgiving with a rude passenger and his response to her.
He overheard her rude, entitled comments to the flight attendant and he began live tweeting what was happening to his thousands of followers (see, this is what happens when the FAA changes their electronic devices rule). Eventually, his live tweets began including photographs of notes that he wrote and had delivered to her. Then he tweeted her responses. The woman became so angry that when they got off the plane, she slapped him. Flight security offered to call the police, but he refused. His followers on Twitter have declared him a hero. He then took to Tumblr to explain the reasons for actions and why he wasn’t a hero.
When my daughter showed me the articles, I laughed. I have to admit, the live tweets were pretty funny. And I appreciated his stance in his follow-up article where he explained that he was not a hero and that service people should never have to take the kind of abuse to which the flight attendant was subjected.
But once I got past the first laugh, my opinions changed.
What the producer did was wrong. Social media makes it very easy to get caught up in what you’re doing, to feed off the reactions of others, and to think that you’re bringing a wrong to light. It also makes it easy to cross a line.
It’s one thing to live tweet something anonymously: “There’s a woman doing x.” We all do it and the anonymity makes it okay. It’s humiliating, however, to make it personal. By showing the notes that went back and forth between the producer and the woman, he made it personal.
The woman was a bully. There is no doubt that verbally abusing a flight attendant and blaming him or her personally for ruining Thanksgiving is wrong. But bullies feed on anger. Anger drives them to behave the way they do, and other people’s anger rarely stops them. Kindness kills them. People united against a bully stops them. If he really felt the need to write her a note, he could have shown compassion and still rebuked her for her actions.
For that matter, if he really felt the need to engage, he could have directed his time and energy to supporting the flight attendant. Instead, he put the flight attendant in the awkward position of delivering the notes, something that the flight attendant eventually refused to do.
When the flight security people offered to call the police, he refused. I don’t know why, but I suspect that if he had asked the police to get involved, he may have gotten cited for harassment. Because he did harass the woman, no matter how rude she may have been. He might be smart enough to outwit her, but all he’s done is moved the bullying from the verbal field to a social media one. His intentions are good, but his methods are not. He’s not diffusing the situation. He’s certainly not helping it. He’s pumping the top and letting it spin where it may.
Two wrongs do not make a right, no matter what he may think.
*I’ve deliberately refrained from linking to the articles or by mentioning his Twitter handle. If you’re that interested in reading them, I’m sure you can find them on your own (hint: check out Huffington Post Parents).