Twitter Outrage: Separating The Tweet From The Chaff, From The Kardashians to Kent State

The concept of separating the ‘wheat from the chaff’ dates back to Gospel of Matthew from the New Testament. In the Digital Age, that parable bears significance when measuring outrage on social networks like Twitter. The microblogging platform has acted as a barometer for our level of emotions when we are dismayed, appalled or shocked by current-day events. But how do we separate the meaningful from the meaningless?

Because sometimes our outrage is misguided. Not so much that it should not be expressed, but when viewed in juxtaposition to events of greater import, it sometimes pales in comparison.

TTFor example, when reality star du jour, Kim Kardashian was named Woman of the Year by British GQ this past week, her not-so-friendly fans exploded in outrage on Twitter and lashed out at both Kim and the magazine. Granted, not too many people could wrap their heads around why such a prestigious award would be bestowed on a woman whose only major achievements in life have to do with her husband, her sex tape or what clothes she is wearing.

But the outrage in this instance, in my humble opinion was misguided. The magazine making the questionable decision to distinguish KK was the “British” GQ, not the “US” GQ. Which probably says more about the editorial staff across the pond than the award itself. But that being said, in the grand scheme of things why any outrage at all? Aren’t there more meaningful issues to stir our emotions versus whether or not someone embued with such limited talent is being acknowledged by a one-off tabloid?

Yes, tweets are fleeting - and they do allow us easy access to get things off our chest quickly before moving on, but is that the kind of society we’ve evolved into? Are we proned to railing against the fates just because? Do we place the same weight on trivial issues as we do the stuff that really matters?

Case in point. The same week that KK was presented with her dubious distinction of fashionista-above-all-others, the clothing chain Urban Outfitters promoted a questionable “vintage” fashion statement of their own on their website.

Except this event was much more than a fashion faux-pas. Why? Because the promotional description of the item pertained to what was a oddly blotch red-stained sweatshirt affixed with the Kent State University logo. Dating back to a very sad day in our U.S. history, this is the same Ohio University known for the 1970 U.S. National Guard shootings that left four anti-war protesting students dead on the campus grounds.

“Get it or regret it!” read the ad copy for the one-of-a-kind Kent State sweatshirt which sold quickly online for just $129. However, the fact that there was just one available for purchase is far from the most ‘regrettable’ part of the sale — for the sweatshirt appears to be purposely decorated in a blood spatter-like pattern, reminiscent of the May 4, 1970 shootings.

For outrage to spill out across the Twittersphere in this case was not only appropriate, the thousands of tweets that followed continue to lead the Twitter trending topics, as of this posting. Adding fuel to the fire, it appears Urban Outfitters consciously used the item as a ‘loss leader’ to garner publicity - not realizing the amount of negative pushback they would receive. (One would only hope at this point in time, the marketing exec that gave this promo the greenlight has been dealt with in an appropriate manner.)

Kent State University has responded to the incident through a statement that reads in part, “We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit. This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.” 

While greed is certainly a legitimate cause for outrage, it also appears that Urban Outfitters were not the only ones anxious to cash in on the tragedy of others. Just before I filed this post, news broke the same sweatshirt is now being offered on eBay with a starting bid of $550, and a buy-it-now price of $2500.

So the next time you are prompted to lash out at the latest antics of the Kardashians, perhaps you might want to first take a deep breath, look around and weigh what’s truly worthy of your outrage.