Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

Dear Jessica: Thank you

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Dear Jessica,

I feel sorry for you. Really I do. You got up on Friday and tweeted that it would be a good day, without having any idea that by the end of it you’d have lost your sponsorship and your FHM title and been reported to the Human Rights Commission (HRC).

So I’d like to at least say thank you. Thank you for making my life easier, becoming a trending topic the way you did. I present case studies on how to behave on Twitter, so I rely heavily on people like you voluntarily committing career hara-kiri for the entertainment of others. On Wednesday in Cape Town I’d shown an audience of high school teachers examples of the good, bad and ugly side of Twitter. I used Helen Zille (how Twitter can get you into trouble) Khulubuse (thanks to him, I got onto the 702 business show and the front page of The Star) and Nonhle Thema (how Twitter gives vacuous, materialistic celebrities a channel to broadcast their toxic inanities).

For the career suicide bit I’d cited a relatively mild example, the Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice who’d lost her sponsored Jaguar sports car after tweeting “Suck on that you faggots!” after the Springboks lost to the Wallabies.

But that happened back in 2010, and it was getting a bit long in the tooth. Now I have a lovely fresh, local example. It was like watching one of those slow motion car crash videos you see on the Discovery channel. It takes the courage of one’s convictions to follow a tweet reading:

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With another reading:

spar

This, by the way, from the same person who explains, on your blog, that you want to “win the respect of intelligent people” and that you destroy your enemies “by converting them into friends”. “I keep what is good and decent in my life and let go of the rest.” Um, ja.

First there was the outrage. Then your sponsor QuickTrim dumped you via tweet after @Jozigoddess sent them a mail:

Later they rubbed salt in the wound in the tackiest way:

You were reported to the HRC:
hrc

And — in the cruellest cut of all — FHM stripped you and announced that they’d have nothing more to do with you.

You later wrote an apology on your blog when it was clear that you’d dug yourself deeper into the dwang than you’ve probably ever been in your life. Most who read the apology interpreted it as an excuse — even though you said it wasn’t — which made them even angrier:

Whilst most of you would enjoy the opportunity to throw a few vicious words at me, please do understand that I was acting in pure anger and frustration at the time and although we know this is no excuse, it is a lesson learned and again, I am sincerely apologetic.’

I trawled through your timeline to learn a little more about the person who should probably consider avoiding Engen and Spar in future. You’d deleted the incriminating tweets, but I discovered that you work as a reinsurance broker, you have a pekinese called Tequila and a boyfriend with a really hot bod, you read Paulo Coelho and you’re planning to write a book on fitness. Basically, you don’t come across very differently from any other gym-obsessed, self-involved 20-year-old who wants your votes for the 2012 FHM model of the year promotion.

And there you go, not just thinking racist thoughts in anger, not just uttering them, not just typing them out, but tweeting them. On a forum where the media sources more and more stories and where brands have to tread very carefully indeed. If there’s a Darwin Award for careers, it’s going to you.

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I can imagine it must be tough, being you right now. For a day or two, you’ve been the most hated person in South Africa. For obvious reason, there’s a lot of schadenfreude about (something that I’ve experienced throughout this episode, if I’m totally honest with myself). You’ve been on the receiving end of so much anger that some who should be most offended by your tweets are starting to feel sorry for you.

Nobody has come out of this looking good. Not your haters tweeting that you deserve to die, not your supporters who can’t see what was wrong with what you wrote, and certainly not you. All the apologies in the world won’t help — the damage has been done. But don’t worry too much. Twitter has a very short attention span, and you’ll soon be forgotten.

Which, right now, is about the best thing you can hope for.

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