Tweeter extraordinaire Ashton Kutcher has declared he needs help.
The actor announced Thursday – as his 8-million-plus Twitter followers already know – that he is having his social-media missives vetted by handlers at his production company Katalyst Media.
The reason? A quick comment about football coach Joe Paterno that backfired badly.
After glancing at the news that the veteran Penn State coach had been fired, Ashton impulsively tweeted, for all the world to see, a message defending Paterno’s winning track record. This was before Ashton learned the full story – that Paterno was fired for not properly alerting officials after a graduate student told him he had seen a former assistant coach sexually assaulting a young boy in a campus shower.
Kutcher deleted the tweet and later said in a blog post (presumably written by him) that he was sorry for his misinformed post and was “going to take action to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Twitter world has responded with characteristic, off-hand cynicism.
Twitter, as any user knows, is the repository for all the world’s glib remarks (in addition to such news flashes as what users had for breakfast or how tired they feel after a day’s work).
An opinion piece on the web publication Gizmodo notes that, because Kutcher has used Twitter to build his fan base, he should be prepared to take the hard knocks that come from an unpopular tweet. The argument is that Kutcher was backing down and letting his posts be vetted at the very moment when he should be expressing and explaining himself.
It’s the real Kutcher his fans want, or so the argument goes, not a Kutcher that has been passed through the spin cycle by his handlers.
Yet it seems that the actor feels, with such a high online profile, that he needs the kind of back-desk editing that’s sacrosanct in journalism. Maybe he simply sees a better public good in improving his accuracy? Or maybe he just wants to be more accurate for the good of his career? Can you blame him for that?
As Kutcher argues in his blog post, Twitter started out being more of a community where users helped each other to get to the truth of issues. Now it’s simply a mass self-publishing medium (even if no thought exceeds 140 characters).
Maybe the fallibility of all those cascading tweets is enough for anyone to yearn for a little fact-checking.
Other celebrity mis-tweets:
Singer Chris Brown tweeted angrily about a Wal-Mart store not carrying his album. It turns out the store was sold out.
Guitarist-singer John Mayer kept tweeting about his relationship with Jennifer Aniston. She apparently left him partly because of that.
Joan Rivers and Lindsay Lohan got caught in an attention-getting Twitter feud, which may have helped the career of neither.
Soul singer Erykah Badu tweeted during labour.
Kanye West has repeatedly dissed others, even criticizing The Today Show. It’s unclear whether the outspoken rapper regrets this.