Some people make the biggest possible fools of themselves in an effort to get attention. At the time, they think they're being cool, or badass, or standing up for the underdog and when it backfires they're like rabbits caught in the headlights. Let's take a look at who they are, what they do, and why they do it.
The internet villains and anti-heroes
I've written before about the clown car pile-ups on the internet that make us shake our heads in disbelief. It's as if the people engaged in these events can't comprehend that their ridiculous behaviour is the cause of all the analysis and opprobrium that results. You'd think that other people reading about these things would take away some lessons from these incidents along the lines of, "Don't film yourself doing something nasty, then post it online. It might go viral and thousands, if not millions, of people will think badly of you."
You'd also think that a company's executive might have worked this out instead of jumping on the Chick-fil-A bandwagon to film himself lambasting the daylights out of some unfortunate employee, then posting it on YouTube. When we were discussing the incident on Lauren Weinstein's thread, it emerged that one of the Plussers is deaf and couldn't hear it so I transcribed it for her. Basically, this man got all self-righteous about the hate-freakery of the Chick-fil-A's senior officers and decided to make a video about how wonderfully tolerant he is. He's probably still wondering why he's lost his job over it. See it yourselves:
Okay. I'm a nice guy, by the way, and I'm totally heterosexual. I'm not, not a gay in me, I just can't stand the hate, you know?
I presume he thought that after he'd posted that he'd have random strangers giving him drive-by high fives or something. Actually, when his bosses found out about it he was sacked on the spot. What was going through his mind when he decided to make the video, when he posted it, when the responses came in, and when he was called into the office and told to clear out his desk? I'm having to make assumptions in the absence of comment from the man himself but it goes something like this:
I really want to be popular by being seen to be doing the right thing. A bit of liberal tolerance theatre will make me look wonderful on YouTube and since my employers are pretty liberal, they might even promote me for standing up against the tyranny of the Right. Ah, the people I was trying to impress aren't actually impressed. This seems to be backfiring, I'd better pull the video. Oh $%!£, it's gone viral. Ah, the boss wants to talk to me, he'll understand. But why do I have to clear out my desk? I'm such a big liberal I filmed myself slapping down that Chick-fil-A employee!
And I bet, as he licks his wounds in his apartment trying to work out how to get another job, he still doesn't get it. Here's the fun part: when he reads about the Taco Bell employee who posted a photo of himself peeing into a dish of tacos on Twitter, I bet he'll shake his head and say he can't imagine himself doing something like that. His name is Cameron Jankowski, of Fort Wayne, Indiana. He posted the picture on Twitter with the caption, ‘Guess where I work'. Anonymous were not amused and issued an injunction to find him. The linked video is down, but hours later, they identified and outed him. Needless to say, he's lost his job. We know what he was thinking: when he was challenged he thought he was untouchable because he'd never actually served the food, he'd always thrown it away.
What we can learn
Well, apart from, "Don't be self-righteous," and "Don't take a snap of yourself peeing on a plate of food, then tweet it for the world to see," we can learn quite a lot from these two stories. First of all, consider your motives when thinking of creating a film or photo to upload onto the internet. What are you trying to achieve? How do you expect people to react when they see your image or video? What are the precedents for this kind of thing? I've made some rather edgy cartoons, particularly where politicians are concerned, but never got called out for them because they're not egregiously offensive. Put it this way, if you lack the self-awareness to know whether or not your video or picture will be received well, stay off the internet. You won't learn a thing from this post. If you're willing to try to learn, look for similar images or videos to see what the general response was. If it was, "You're fired," don't post it, okay?
Playing it safe
I'm a massive Simon's Cat fan. When Simon Tofield made the first Simon's Cat video I don't think he realised what a massive phenomenon it would become. It was just a bit of fun with Flash and some of his friends, but the video struck a chord in cat lovers and we can't get enough. What I'm saying is, you can make a sensation without being a complete prat about it. Byron Rempel and Rodney Pike are both talented men. Byron has a thing for zombies and Rodney makes cariacatures. Again, it's their talent that gets them noticed and shared.
Everyone is talented at something and it's worth showing that off. In a conversation I had with a friend online today it emerged he's a Java and PHP programmer. He wants to make money online so I suggested Java and PHP tutorials on two YouTube channels. One would be ad-supported while the other would be subscription-only. I don't know where he's going with that but he's thinking about it. The point is, you can have a viral hit that makes people like you by being interesting, cool, and fun, so why be a jerk to get attention?