Last night, I climbed into bed and onto the internet and started scrolling through all the updates I had missed during a busy week. I expected to see updates about American Thanksgiving, and pictures of children, and tales of Black Friday triumphs, and plans for the weekend.
For the most part, that’s what I found. But among the pictures of trees being decorated and menorahs being lit and babies being adorable, was the story of a guy being championed as an internet hero, a viral sensation, for live-tweeting his encounter with “Diane,” the woman in 7a who was upset that their flight has been delayed. Diane was being selfish and obnoxious, and Elan Gale, a producer on The Bachelor, was public shaming her through a series of tweets about her annoying and selfish behaviour.
At first, Elan does an admirable job as scribe. We can all relate to his good-natured incredulity as Diane becomes more and more agitated that she will probably miss Thanksgiving dinner with her family, totally blind and unconcerned with the fact that everybody else on the plane, crew included, will as well. The internet takes notice. Elan keeps going. I begin to feel queasy.
The virtual crowd grows larger and more enthusiastic as Elan tweets about the complaints from the woman in 7a, and we reward his efforts with retweets and favourites and comments and replies. Elan’s bravado and courage and conviction and enjoyment of this newfound popularity spurs him to further action.
Soon, their flight is in the air, but that does not end Diane’s tour of grumpiness.
Elan, newly crowned patron saint of the weary Thanksgiving Day travellers, tells us of her continued complaints. We raise our pitchforks in solidarity. We shout, you go, girl, and ask for more. Elan must oblige. He can’t disappoint his adoring fans; the Huffington Post has taken notice. Elan Gale takes the fight into real life, sending Diane a glass of wine and a note, encouraging her to drink the wine so her mouth is finally too busy to talk.
1,058 retweets. Why stop there?
So he gets up, gets out of his seat and this time, delivers two bottles of vodka to the woman in 7a. He tells us all of his triumph. “Oh my God I did it.” 669 favourites.
Elan Gale has confronted the monster in 7a. He is terrified. He is elated. He tweets that he is scared and super excited, like being on a roller coaster.
We want this to escalate. No longer satisfied with a comedic routine about the lady in 7a, we want it to keep going, to see what Elan will do next to Diane. We have become invested in their drama and we don’t want it to end – not because Elan is taking one for the team, standing up for the little guy and the service industry and delayed travellers everywhere, but because by now, this has become entertainment.
This is the punching game for adults, and where a teenager needs no more motivation to violently confront a stranger than a thrill and a high five from his buddies, Elan Gale needs only the thin justification of standing up for the flight attendants to confront the woman in 7a. He uses twitter instead of a fist, but the bravado is the same. He’s already secured the approval of the mob.
This has become sport, and we have become the raucous crowd, roaring for more.
A note comes back from 7a, and of course Elan Gale takes a picture and tweets it to us. We continue to back our fighter, champion our cause. 7a feels sorry for Elan Gale’s family. Elan Gale knows he has twitter on his side. He declares war. 255 retweets. He has gained tens of thousands of followers in a few short hours. The mob continues to amass.
The cause of the altercation is no longer relevant. The scent of blood has leaked into the water, and the sharks are circling. We want to see Elan annihilate Diane with his cleverness, and we want Diane to respond in an inelegant, totally lame, middle-aged asshole kind of way.
Another note or two is passed between Elan and Diane, who we find out is probably in her late 40s, and wears mom jeans. In her final note to Elan, Diane states that this exchange is inappropriate “beyond belief,” and that she will be speaking to authorities upon landing.
Elan composes his opus. The plane will be landing soon. His nearly 70,000 twitter followers are waiting for vigilante gold. But Elan is no Jon Stewart, and call it stage fright if you want, but when the time comes to deliver the punch line, the best he can come up with is, Eat my dick.
Eat my dick, lady.
This is where it ends up, and whether or not you think his twitter tirade was justified, entertaining and heroic, Elan Gale thinks it’s perfectly fine to sexually harass a stranger because she was annoying.
She wasn’t out of control, she wasn’t dangerous, she wasn’t upsetting others. She was simply annoying.
Has Gale never dealt with annoying people before, or was it the quick bolstering of his ego and his courage by thousands of faceless retweeters that finally allowed Gale to move past his initial, somewhat amusing those highly passive-aggressive twitter missive and straight into the territory of sociopathic misogynist?
Gale sums up the experience on twitter:
Let me just say this: What started off as an annoyance became a pleasure because of you people. Seriously. More than anything. I love you.
He defends his behaviour and thanks his adoring fans in greater detail on tumblr.
He had a great time antagonizing Diane in 7a. He thinks it’s ok that he was an asshole to her, because she was an asshole to a service provider, and in his code of ethics, being unkind to a service provider justifies the escalation of passive-aggressive public shaming into antagonism, misogyny and sexual harassment.
I’m not linking. Find it yourself.
That Elan Gale is claiming to have acted out of compassion for put-upon service providers is gross. Think this would have happened if the loudmouth in 7a had been a man?
Emboldened by a mass of faceless, nameless strangers on twitter, he escalated a situation from a minor irritation into an international incident, and became an internet superstar as a result.
Elan Gale is proud to have stripped a woman of her humanity and reduced her to a joke; the scope of her humiliation not even known to her as her behaviour was paraded before the entire online world.
On the Storify that annotates the Elan Gale twitter stream, one commenter cautions against the behaviour that Gale engaged in because she is concerned for his safety. You never know, she says, if somebody has a disorder that could make them react violently. You never know, she says, if somebody could be dangerous.
Another commenter counters this with the suggestion that not everybody that is an asshole is an asshole because some undiagnosed disorder compels them to be an asshole. Some people, he says, are just pricks.
I’ll leave it at that.