“Her tweet was supposed to mimic—and mock—what an actual racist, ignorant person would say.” A cautionary tale of a disastrous attempt at irony:
One year ago today, Justine Sacco was the global head of communications for the digital media conglomerate IAC. Getting on a plane for a trip to South Africa, to visit family, she published a tweet: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m White!”
At the time, I was editing Valleywag, Gawker’s tech-industry blog. As soon as I saw the tweet, I posted it. I barely needed to write anything to go with it: This woman’s job was carefully managing the words of a large tech-media conglomerate, and she’d worded something terribly.
It was a natural post. Twitter disasters are the quickest source of outrage, and outrage is traffic. I didn’t think about whether or not I might be ruining Sacco’s life… The minimal post set off a 48-hour paroxysm of fury, an eruption of internet vindictiveness.
Sacco was in the air, unable to realize what she’d done or apologize it, and as the tweet garnered retweets and faves and the first drafts of think pieces, eager observers tracked her flight across the Atlantic. A hashtag trended: #HasJustineLandedYet. Several hours later she emerged into an unfathomable modern multimedia hell-nightmare and was quickly and summarily fired.