By Joe Badalamenti
Someone “pound the alarm”, because there was just a case of delicious internet beef. Around a month ago, celebrity musician Nicki Minaj caught the attention of the mainstream media from a series of “super based” tweets. While Nicki has been known for her aggressive style of tweeting, her recent controversy has pulled her into the depraved realm of politics. Has Nicki discovered the key to Internet fame? Or is this just another example of celebrity shenanigans?
It all started on September 13th, when Nicki tweeted about the controversial COVID vaccines, sharing an anecdote of a “friend of a cousin” who became impotent as a result of taking the vaccine in order to encourage her audience to be informed and confident before taking the vaccine. The tweet was as follows: “My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called of [sic] the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied.” From there, the Internet did what it does best and exploded into what has been dubbed “Ballgate”. Nicki Minaj was attacked for her opinions; however, as she is well versed in the area of celebrity beef, Nicki was able to fire back with a series of “ratchet” responses. For instance, in response to a Joy Reid segment, she tweeted: “This is what happens when you’re so thirsty to down another black woman (by the request of the white man), that you didn’t bother to read all my tweets. ‘My God SISTER do better’ imagine getting ur [sic] dumb ass on tv a min after a tweet to spread a false narrative about a black woman”. While the drama was escalating, the powers that be took it upon themselves to send Nicki to Twitter jail, as revealed to us through the celebrity’s Instagram story. In the end, this event shows how hopeless modern society is.
Going for the low hanging fruit, no pun intended, this is yet another example of the hypocrisy and impulsiveness of modern political discourse. While the anecdote may be far fetched, the message of the tweet was well intentioned and reasonable, especially for a celebrity. However, Twitter is not a place for reasonable discussion, so what followed was a wave of impulsive reaction. On the left, you have insults, censorship, and a potential case of blackmail. On the right, you have a complete embrace of the celebrity’s personality, even against personal or proclaimed values; what happened to celebrities staying out of politics?. While one may believe that such actions are an exaggerated response to a string of words, this is just the nature of the Internet.
What this event does highlight is a discussion of the role of a celebrity or public figure in modern discourse. Because they are widely known, public figures have the power to influence large swaths of the population. As a result, these public figures have a responsibility to act morally and with decency. For example, the widespread use of Photoshop and plastic surgery by celebrities has cultivated widespread body dysmorphia among this generation. This responsibility isn’t necessarily to act better than the average person, only to maintain certain moral standards. Promoting hostile actions, slandering opponents, or spreading misinformation are a few examples of unethical behaviors in the public eye that have a chance of influencing the behaviors of others.
While this framework is applicable in the modern day, the culture has become so divided that different people will see the same incident in different lenses. In the “Red” lens, Nicki was just advising caution when making risky decisions based on reliable testimony. This is opposed to the “Blue” lens in which Nicki deserves ridicule from her belief in her friend’s absurd and unreliable testimony. Each lens uses the framework discussed earlier in order to make a judgement. However, the conflict lies in the perceived facts; in this case, regarding the vaccine. The blue lens sees it as good and universal, while the red lens applies a more cautious view. While some differences may be resolved through means such as persuasion or compromise, this difference lies in opposing fact claims. One could claim that this is an issue of education or being informed; however, the Internet has made access to information free and widely accessible. Moreover, both of these lenses use evidence to back up their claims about the vaccine. The problem is not celebrity behavior or access to information; the problem is being able to understand reality in the context of several conflicting views of reality.
It’s clear from this discussion that not only are online conflicts or divergent actions, such as Ballgate, normalized, but inevitable in the near future. While not the most politically active celebrity, Nicki Minaj has placed herself at the center of politics with one controversial tweet. While Nicki still appears to be in good health, the same could not be said about society.