In the shadow of this week’s Phil Robertson GQ controversy, another scandal involving a celebrity and homophobic comments has come to a very sudden and suitably bizarre end. This one involves veteran freelance journalist Chris Willman, singer Michelle Shocked and her disastrous on-stage comments during a March 17 concert-tour kickoff performance at Yoshi’s in San Francisco.
In March and April, the Los Angeles-based Willman wrote extensively for Yahoo and The Hollywood Reporter about Shocked “Dixie Chick-ing herself.” His coverage sparked a nine-month Twitter war, with Shocked mercilessly targeting both the reporter and those having social media conversations with him. Finally, earlier this week, Willman informed his Facebook followers of the following:
Michelle Shocked just succeeded in her months-long campaign to get me suspended from Twitter. She is down to 32 followers and I have (had?) 16,500, but I guess numbers don’t matter when someone is determined to bring someone down with countless phony abuse reports…
Look at her Twitter account if you want to see her posting a photo of herself smiling, saying, “Ask not for whom the punk smirks. She smirks for Yahoo!” – meaning me, since she’s been out to get revenge on me ever since my first Yahoo story about her career-ending SF gig.
Willman tells FishbowlNY that when this all started, he tried to respond to Shocked’s barbs with humor, even when she dubbed him a “Willbilly.” But it gradually went from bad to worse. At one point for example, Shocked responded to Willman sharing the news of his father’s passing with a snarky, ‘Can I write the eulogy?’
Willman says Shocked would insert herself into conversations he was having on Twitter with fans of NCIS, a show he covers for TV Guide, or Taylor Swift, another topic he regularly reports on. NCIS fans would respond with things like, ‘Who is this crazy lady who’s writing to me?’
It stopped being funny when Shocked tweeted Willman’s home phone number and email address, and then refused to delete that information. The journalist felt he had no choice but to report the violation to Twitter; Shocked was suspended for a couple of days and more recently, she blocked more than 2,000 of her Twitter followers, whittling her account down to a minuscule social media imprint.
At several points along the way, Shocked has been able to get other Twitter users suspended. Most notably, from a media point of view,
@FakeBrianWilliams @FakeBriWilliams, an account that spoofed the NBC Nightly News anchor.
When Willman was suspended this week, he received support from Aimee Mann and Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers. USA TODAY reporter Brian Mansfield meanwhile hatched the Twitter hashtag #freechriswillman.
Friday morning, Willman emailed Twitter a letter making his case for reinstatement. Friday night, he was back on the platform that is lifeblood for anyone covering pop culture. Not long after, Shocked pulled the plug on @MShocked.
It all ranks as one of the strangest 2013 episodes involving the social media network. And that’s saying a lot.
Update (December 23):
About 24 hours after deleting her Twitter account, Shocked appears to have restored it (Twitter gives users a window of one month from deletion to change their mind). At one point, Shocked sent out her first post-deletion tweet December 21, then deleted that.
At press time, it also seems as if Twitter still cannot fully load Shocked’s rescued stream. Only a pair of December 20 tweets have been appearing for many, including this reporter. Stay tuned.
Update (December 25):
Shocked’s Twitter account has once again been suspended. A source tells us that this happened shortly after the account holder started mass-tweeting in the middle of the night of December 24, to various other users, a link to her blog.