Guys and gals, when it comes to internet-related things, I’d consider myself a veteran. I’ve seen a lot of shit – from the early beginnings on the kid-friendly Neopets, to the teen-thrilling Runescape, where I was more likely to be called rude names or start flame wars than to complete quests, to everyday internet scourges where images that could be – probably are – offensive to some people pop up. What I’m getting at, here, is that it’s hard to offend me on the internet or otherwise (I play Halo 4 online and don’t even flinch). But today, I came across something on the internet that offended me, and it should offend you too.
A fellow by the name of Taylor Caniff was the subject of quite the Twitter brawl this evening. Now, I hadn’t heard of this kid before today, so in case you haven’t, here are the details as I can find them:
- He became famous through the video-sharing app, Vine
- He’s part of a (band/group/something?) called Magcon that goes on tours
- He also posts to Instagram, YouTube, etc.
On his Twitter, this guy has more than a million followers – no small feat, I’m sure. A loyal fan base, if you will. Now, Monday evening – or, at least, that’s when I came across it – a man by the name of Tyler Oakley, another YouTube personality (that’s a thing now?) called Taylor out for this video, which he filmed about two years ago (language NSFW).
Click to watch the video. It’s only 37 seconds.
Okay. So. I imagine most of you had the same reaction after watching that, that I did. Disbelief, mixed with rage, sadness, disappointment, you name it. I just couldn’t believe it. So I watched it again. The feelings did not abate.
There are a few angles I want to approach this from. Obviously, the first would be the content of the video. I will never understand how anyone can say something like “I have nothing against blank, but…” then go on to trash talk them. Saying you have nothing against someone does not give you the right to say whatever you want about them. How can anyone think differently?
Secondly, pertaining to the content, this kid, after saying he finds it fucked up how gay people make love, corrects himself: he says man on man is disgusting, but woman on woman? Well, he can understand that.
WHAT? WHAT? I can’t even…like…what? It defies reason that someone can say this, quite seriously, as if it’s logical. Perhaps he likes watching lesbian porn, so that’s why woman on woman is okay? Not only does this blatantly display his ignorance of the meaning of “gay”, it brings misogyny in as well. Objectification, anyone? Here’s a joke: why was the blog writer odd? Because he couldn’t even.
As far as I can tell from searching through literally thousands of tweets (more on that in a minute), the Tyler Oakley dude, who is himself a homosexual and an “advocate for LGBT youth” according to his bio, is not without controversy himself. From what I can gather, he called out the Taylor Caniff guy for that video linked above. Twitter exploded, and this was the tweet, from Caniff, that kept popping up:
Spelling mistakes aside –and you know how much I hate spelling mistakes – this tweet, to many, many people, not only failed to apologize, but further insinuated that he hadn’t done anything wrong by posting the video. Now, I’ve also seen a bunch of tweets referencing an apology he made. I couldn’t find it anywhere, but I actually only looked on Twitter. And only back to May 26 or so. And even that is far more research than I normally put into these things.
The next thing, and the thing that worries me the most, is the fandom. Oh, the fandom. “Taylor Caniff” was trending on Twitter, at least Canada-wide, as was “WeLoveYouTaylor”. Wait, what? We LOVE you? I waded through insufferable tweet after insufferable tweet, grimacing at blatant spelling and grammar errors, to bring you some screenshots. Mixed among the rubble were a few tweets like this:
That may be a little harsh. But, sadly, there were far, far more like this.
I just…it blows my mind. My first thought was, why do kids who appear to be no more than 13 even have Twitter? What the hell? The vast majority of the fans appeared to be young people, and it frightens me how singular-minded they can be.
I just don’t understand. Who’s to blame here? Is anyone to blame? This guy, through whatever means, has become a role model for hundreds of thousands of people. Obviously he’s done things to merit this, but the scary part is how his fans are blind to everything negative. He posts a homophobic, misogynistic, and downright disgusting video, and people are JUMPING to defend him.
“Oh it was two years ago, get over it.” That was a common defense I saw.
“Why are people hating? Taylor doesn’t deserve this.” Another popular one.
Do these young followers support this guy because they think he’ll lavish attention on them? Half of them were crying for a follow (it’s a Twitter thing…never mind), as well as bestowing well-wishes and claiming their undying love for this person they’ve, in all likelihood, never met nor will ever meet. Perhaps they think by leaping to his defense, they’ll earn a place in his good books? I don’t know. I can barely remember this morning, much less how I thought when I was a 13 year old.
If that’s the explanation, it’s ridiculous. However, it’s probably better than the alternative: these kids actually think he did nothing wrong.
Another popular defense of this guy was that “everyone is allowed to have an opinion.” And yes, unfortunately his opinion is probably shared by more people than it should be. But here’s the difference: these people didn’t go on social media and post their opinion, which was also phrased extremely crudely, to hundreds of thousands of young, impressionable people. There’s having an opinion, and then there’s hate speech. No one has a right, regardless of their opinion or “fame”, to infringe on anyone else’s rights. When will people realize that?
Not all young people sided with Caniff, though. And the ones who didn’t were spouting stuff that was just as bad, and proves that Twitter and internet access in general should be banned, or strictly monitored, until you’re 18, at LEAST. Among the most popular wishes was for the young man to kill himself. Obviously, not cool. About 45 minutes after I stumbled into this deluge of tweeting and hash tagging, the man under fire posted a Vine showing him driving in a car at night. This led to another Twitter explosion, this time of fans begging Taylor not to kill himself, begging him to favourite a tweet or something, just to show them he was alright. People were still tweeting him messages of #bestrong etc. when I shut down the computer for the night.
Here was the scariest moment of all, though.
This guy – intentionally or not – has people wrapped around his finger. These people have never met him, yet are saying if he kills himself, they too will kill themselves. What the HELL is going on?
Again I ask, who’s to blame here? Is Taylor Caniff to blame for gaining the affection of hundreds of thousands of people, and not being a proper role model? Are the fans to blame, for blinding themselves to his faults, for whatever reason, and turning a fandom into almost a cult? Are their parents to blame for raising them in a way that doesn’t allow acceptance of people who are different?
I don’t know. I really don’t know. The one thing I do know, though, is that there has never been a better time to use this picture.