Twitter's the place to go. I don't need the news anymore, I just read the platitudes of every other needy child in the world, neatly compressed into 140 characters. Take that, Guardian Media Group PLC. Sod off, the BBC.
As the tectonic plates stopped shifting, the hashtag #prayforjapan (prayer, just what they need) appeared and trended. A hashtag is the subject line of a tweet. If loads of people all tweet using this same tag, there's a chance that the subject may 'trend' - i.e. become one of the most discussed topics in the world (although you can also view what's trending in the UK, or London, or perhaps just in Balham - organic coffee, blonde children, tofu).
So Japan was everywhere. #Tsunami, #Japan, #earthquake and myriad variations thereon trended. #Godzilla had a go, too. And then - understandably, completely rationally, optimistically, humanely - calls for charitable aid. The Red Cross text-to-donate number flew around the world. That's great. Well done all.
I had a look through the tweets racing in, mainly in the hope that I'd find something dreadful and depressing. Excellently, I found Sean Hackett (check him out on Twitter, he's @shackett, some kind of biscuit-arsed independent filmmaker). On Friday, at 9.05 pm, he tweeted:
I will donate $1 to Redcross.org for every person who retweets this message #japan #prayforjapan #tsunami Text Red Cross 90999Seriously Sean, why bother with this? Seriously, just donate. If that's what you want to do. Just hand over the cash, you twat. Instead of turning the entire thing into a self-publicising crock of shit.
He's playing the old "I love charity work, but I don't like talking about it" card. But by posting it on Twitter he is talking about it to the entire world, like a fucking foghorn. Still, at least every time someone retweets the original tweet, Sean will donate a dollar. That's something, the small gesture of an otherwise impotent bystander. And it's the people of Japan - subjects of the world's third largest economy - who will no doubt be delighted by his munificence.
But it didn't stop. More and more people retweeted. Every time you retweet, the original tweet appears on your timeline, and consequently on the timeline of every one of your followers. So it's very easy for something to spread, very quickly. If I had 1,000 followers (a number far beyond the realms of reality or possibility), each with 1,000 followers, my maths GCSE allows me to calculate that within 30 seconds, one hundred million billion people could have seen my tweet. This is how stuff goes viral.
When someone called @QBKILLA retweeted the initial tweet (achieved with the lazy unthinking press of one internet button), the shit was on. Cat's out the bag, dickhead.
QBKILLA is also known as Warren Sapp. He's a former American Footballer, built like a house. A house of steroids. The problem for Sean Hackett is that Warren has over half a million followers. Most people who follow celebrities simply exist to retweet their idols' tweets. They smack the retweet button just as soon as the latest bit of flob from their hero's gob is spunked out, possibly in the thoughtless hope that they'll be noticed as the first person to do so. Obviously it never works. Mainly because most people on twitter are LOL-ing retards.
Fact is, when someone with half a million crazed loonies hanging on their every word retweets your tweet - a tweet in which you've pledged to pay $1 for every time that same tweet is retweeted - you better start panicking and hunting down the back of the sofa for loose change. If just one in every 100 of those followers idly hit retweet - it's the knee-jerk action of a split second after all - easy enough for anyone with even the most basic motor skills. A crab, maybe. That would leave Mr Hackett owing the people of Japan $5,000. That's enough for a new nuclear reactor, right?
People were getting excited. @dj_nastynate said:
Whoever @shackett is better have a lot of money he got mentioned 1000's of timesOh dear, Sean. What do you do now? You've been dangerously successful. Obviously, pretend it's not happening, and change the rules. First, an attempt to draw a line under the whole self-aggrandising endeavour:
Awesome job everyone. You just helped raise $200 dollars for the Red Cross just by Tweeting! Make sure you Follow Me. I'll do on Sunday.Translation: "fuck. This has been far too much of a hit and spiraling towards to financial disaster. If I don't pay up, I'll look like a prick. And a prick who's just had his name bandied all over Twitter. Although it's all good publicity, so I might as well encourage all these people to subscribe to my tweets."
And then people obviously started complaining. Sean knows that it's starting to get a bit tasty, financially. SHIT SHIT SHIT, says Sean. How to end this onrushing disaster? He tweets to the world.
Thanks for retweets and follows. The pledge was only for an hour where I received 200 RTs. Please inform peeps to txt 90999 #prayforjapanOf course, it was all our mistake, right? We just missed the point where Sean said it was just for an hour.
Where did it say that, asshole? You've only got 140 characters, but you'd think - if you're going to start this kind of bullshit - you'd make the terms and conditions VERY clear. But - and we all know this - that wasn't the point. You just wanted some publicity on the back of the death of a few thousand people. Hooray for you.
Brilliantly, the tweet is STILL being retweeted, accompanied by occasional abuse for the publicity-seeking shitebag (e.g. alternatively you could donate and not try to gain publicity from tragedy you ass - lovely work (amongst others) from @wiredfire there).
The whole circle of vainglorious bullshit, the power of the internet, and a shamefaced kick in the cunt for a complete prat. I lapped it up.