The Justine Sacco Story: How A PR Exec. Caused Her Own Bad Publicity!

The Justine Sacco Story: How A PR Exec. Caused Her Own Bad Publicity!

A Life Lesson On Why You Should “Think Before You Tweet.”
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Imagine this scenario, you are flying from New York to South Africa in order to visit your family. It is December 20th, 2013 and you have landed in London for a layover. Right before you board, you have decided to tweet a funny joke to your 170 followers. Before the flight takes off, you see no new notifications. After 11 hours in the air, you have finally landed. Once you have turned your phone back on, you have discovered that you are the #1 trending topic on Twitter, worldwide. Also, fired from your Senior Director of Corporate Communications job at InterActive Corporation. If you are Justine Sacco, this is your story.

Justine Sacco’s original tweet, which has since been deleted.

Before the Twitterstorm, Justine Sacco was a PR executive for InterActive Corporation (IAC). Her job involved helping major companies, like College Humor and Match.com, with public reactions work. She was only 30 years old and had one of the greatest jobs of all time. While she worked in New York, her father was living in South Africa. Justine decided to visit her family during the holiday season. Sacco has made questionable tweets before, but none of them has landed her in trouble before. Some include “I had a sex dream about an autistic kid last night. #fml” and “I can’t be fired for things I say while intoxicated right?”

One of Justine Sacco’s followers was finally shocked to see the offensive tweet. The follower sent the tweet to a Gawker journalist with 15,000 followers. The journalist, Sam Biddle, retweeted the offensive comment. Thus, a Twitterstorm was born. Buzzfeed first shared the tweet to millions of people. Soon, The NYTimes, Daily Mail, ABCNews, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Washington Post, and more were writing about the story.

During the Twitterstorm, when people Googled her name, British Airways Flight 43’s flight tracker appeared. This was the exact flight that Justine Sacco was on. Many people were tracking Justine’s arrival time. Since Justine had an 11-hour flight with no wifi, people knew she did not realize the fiasco she created. The people of Twitter were anxiously waiting to see what Justine would do after her realization that her racist tweet went viral. Because of the long wait, people began tweeting #HasJustineLandedYet, which was the exact hashtag that trended number one, worldwide.

A map showing where Justine’s tweet became the most viral.

The people of South Africa began boycotting Justine’s arrival. Many people wanted Justine to be sent on a flight back home. Others were tweeting InterActive Corp. to fire Justine. Others were trying to spread awareness to the issue of AIDs. Most people were tweeting to Justine about her ignorance on the issue. Justine is the white woman in the header. What is most upsetting about her tweet, is how she knows how lucky she is to be white. While AIDs can affect many kinds of people, it mostly affects people in Africa. Instead of Justine realizing how lucky she is to be a white woman in America, she mocks those who are less fortunate than her. This is why her tweet went viral, people were upset about how ungrateful she was to be living an AIDs free life.

Once Justine Sacco landed and discovered everything, she did not issue an apology. Instead, she began to delete her Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. Days later, she finally apologized but it was too late to say sorry for her racist tweet.

Justine Sacco explained herself years later to the journalist. In his book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed, Ronson shares what Justine meant with her tweet. She explained to Jon Ronson, “Living in America puts us in a bit of a bubble when it comes to what is going on in the Third World. I was making fun of that bubble.” If this was true, that does not explain her previous racist tweets that are down below. Her previous racist tweets do not “make fun of that bubble” in any way.

Other racist tweets that Justine tweeted the night before her AIDs tweet.

An African man named Zac was at the airport where Justine Sacco landed. He was able to find her father and explain the tweet to him. Justine’s father explained that Justine was born in South Africa, but in 1994, he moved the family to New York so that they would not witness the racism at the time. South Africa's apartheid regime ended in 1994, but there was still a major issue of white Africans murdering black Africans for superiority. Justine’s father told Zac that he disapproved of Justine’s tweet and called her an “idiot.” You can see Zac’s tweets below.

Zac’s tweets about Justine’s father’s comments.

Justine Sacco’s company said “This is an outrageous, offensive comment. The employee in question currently unreachable on an into flight.” IAC then revealed to firing her during her flight to Africa. Other major companies and celebrities began tweeting about Justine’s racist tweet. Gogo is an airline that provides wireless internet access. Gogo’s tweet became very popular during the Twitterstorm. Also, Donald Trump (not president at the time) made a “You’re Fired” joke about her. Also, Kerry Washington and Steve Martin made their own jokes on Justine’s tweet.

One of the greatest things to come out of this racist tweet was donations. That night, in disgust of Justine Sacco’s racist tweet, people began to donate to organizations like Care Org., ONE Campaign, and Aid for Africa. These organizations help victims of AIDs in Africa. Aid for Africa even bought the url “www.justinesacco.com” to help create PR for their charity.

The website for “www.justinesacco.com” where you can donate to help victims of AIDs in Africa.

More stories here:

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Cover Image Credit: Justine Sacco

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?

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This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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