July 7, 2016
Why Justin Timberlake Offered a Public Apology
These days it seems like every celebrity with a Twitter account learns the hard way just what “mob mentality” means. One errant or even presumed errant 140 character missive and it feels like the collective world has lost its mind in their hurry to grab their digital pitchforks and torches. The latest victim singed by this groupthink gone haywire—Justin Timberlake.
JT Makes Innocuous Comment
While watching Jesse Williams’ moving thank you speech at the BET Awards, Timberlake tweeted out his praise for Williams and his message. Saying something positive about a person or his message? That’s a no-fly zone in some circles.
Timberlake was immediately set upon by people offended that he “appropriates black culture” in his music and performances.
Now, one could argue Timberlake has been playing pop and hip-hop music for decades, and, judging by his sales, lots of people love that. That’s a fact, but facts don’t matter on Twitter. The only thing that matters is the false power people get when they find other like-minded folks to gang up with.
Lesson #1: Don’t Respond to Trolls
JT’s mistake? Replying to the troll.
The troll said: “Does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture?”
To which Timberlake replied (again, big mistake): “The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation.”
JT made the simple mistake of believing he was speaking to a fellow traveler who wished to have a free exchange of ideas. Instead, he fell for the trap of a triggered goofball who gets his false power from castigating famous people for saying complimentary things when they should not be allowed to say them.
Again, the initial mistake here was responding to the troll and giving them that first glimpse of fleeting power. His second mistake was trying to be reasonable, even apologetic. That just made things worse. The jackals were waiting for weakness, and they pounced.
JT Makes Public Apology
Timberlake was pounded by increasingly angry and unreasonable messages until the singer finally apologized: “I apologize to anyone that felt I was out of turn. I have nothing but LOVE FOR YOU AND ALL OF US.”
The apology was exactly the headline entertainment media wanted. If Timberlake had simply ignored the initial tweet it likely dies without much fuss. Now his “apology” is the talk of the entertainment tabloids. Sometimes, the right action is just to walk away from the idiots.
Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."View more posts from this author