You may or may not have heard of Azealia Banks, an American rapper, singer and songwriter with more than a bit of a penchant for foul language and shocking lyrics. She’s a public figure with a reputation for being controversial and has recently said (or tweeted) some things that even her fans have found a little difficult to stomach. Banks has a history of getting into fights on Twitter and apparently has very little fear of tackling anyone, even the likes of Lady Gaga, but last week she went too far.
The fuss arose over a video created for a new release by former One Direction singer Zayn Malik. Banks believed that her own work had influenced the content of the video and that remarks that were then tweeted by Malik referred to her. So – as you do – she went on a bizarre, public tirade that didn’t just include offensive tweets but also ventured into racist and homophobic territory. It was really quite horrible. Others soon became involved – such as Disney actress Skai Jackson, who told Banks to ”simmer down” and was then subjected to a flurry of abusive tweets in return. Skai Jackson is 14 years old.
So, not a great time to be Azealia Banks, but rather than try to cool down the heated arguments that started happening across social media, Banks refused to apologise*. She claimed that her tweets against Malik were justified because she was angry and wanted to “remind him that we’re both in the same boat in this industry and people of colour” and she justified the way she spoke to Jackson by saying she believed she was speaking to the girl’s mother. Continuing to be totally unapologetic she then tweeted more egotistical and slightly crazy rubbish: “Resisting The Urge to say loads more terrible things to each and every one of u’s” and “But obviously I’m insanely *&^% talented and have already lowered myself to the levels of ppl who don’t even deserve to share the same air I breathe.” Charming.
Interestingly, Twitter then suspended her account, something that it usually reserves for trolls. So, Banks set up a new account a day later and started ranting at Twitter this time – pointing out that she wasn’t the only celebrity to have used Twitter to have spats and spread hate and asking why she was the only one to have her account suspended, making insinuations about race. Twitter promptly suspended her new account too but the whole sorry episode does raise some interesting questions about the power that Twitter has in situations like these.
Some of the content that Donald Trump promotes, for example, may not contain the same words that Banks used but it arguably has a similar effect on stirring up hate.
Actress Bette Midler accused Twitter of double standards and asked why it had banned Azealia Banks but not Donald Trump. Mr Trump has tweeted a number of controversial comments about women and race but has never had his account suspended.
So is this a prime example of the fact that social media isn’t impartial at all but somewhere that is being policed in accordance with the vision of the people who set it up? Whether you agree with the account suspension or not it’s an interesting consideration – and the way Banks has handled the whole thing is a great example of how not to use your Twitter account to build a positive brand.
Whether you’re a high-profile rapper or a lawyer, negativity and hatred is not the way to go… I can’t imagine many in the legal profession going quite as far off the rails as Azealia (although you never know!), however this is an extreme example of what happens when you allow the red mist to descend and post on social media in anger.
It is such an instant form of communication, and also so easy to get misread in the absence of the kind of visual and other social cues we pick up in normal life.
Anyone using Twitter should take great care not to get into arguments – they rarely make you look good. Always count to at least 10 before posting if you’re wound up; and never, ever post drunk… or when engaged in a public argument with a One Direction star.
*Azealia Banks has since taken to another social media platform, Instagram, to issue an apology for any offence caused by her tweets.