Photo via Duff Watson's Twitter
On Sunday afternoon, when Duff Watson, a middle-aged father of two, was getting on a flight, he had some kind of argument with the lady working at the gate. He then tweeted about it in a really aggressive, although not overtly threatening, way, and the airline made him delete the tweet before they would fly him to his destination.
Obviously it's no shocker that someone had a fight with the lady at an airport gate. But it is kind of surprising that the internet is rushing to the side of this middle-aged spoiled brat for perpetuating the notion that the internet is all hissy fits and drama.
Watson, a member of an airline loyalty program called the A-List, was entitled to board his flight from Denver to Minneapolis early. His nine- and six-year-old daughters weren't official A-Listers, however, meaning they didn't get his early boarding privilege. Past attempts to finagle a temporary A-List spot for his daughters had worked out, but this time, they weren't letting his kids piggyback on his membership to their really important club for special people. He pushed a little, and—none of this was recorded, so I'm speculating—the woman at the gate got snippy and told him to wait, which made him feel like he was on the B or even C list, like the rest of us. Boo-hoo.
So Watson did what all Americans have the right to do: tweet that she was rude. The problem is, for someone whose Twitter bio reads, "Social | Cloud | Marketing," Watson is a social media dipshit. He (a) told her in advance he was going to tweet about it, and (b) included her name and exact location, with the declaration that she was "the rudest agent" at the airline, which, again, was his right, even though he probably hadn't met every agent in order to rank their rudeness authoritatively.
He boarded, having just lobbed a social media grenade, and patiently waited for the plane to take off. He hasn't said so, but the subtext of his tweet was, "Hello, Airline? It's me, Duff, your favorite A-List passenger, and all-around sweet guy. This employee of yours was mean to me, so I'm sure you'll do the right thing and fire her."
Instead, when they saw the tweet they probably found it creepy and aggressive, because it was, and they got on the intercom and told him and his daughters to get their shit, and step off the plane. They'd seen the extremely public condemnation of their employee by name, didn't like it, and decided to construe it as a threat. The woman from the counter said if he didn't delete the tweet, they wouldn't let him back on the plane, and that she'd call the cops.
Overreaction? Absolutely. We're all savvy internet people here. If it were you or I, this tweet would roll off our back. But for all Watson knew, the lady might have recently seen one of those ill-informed Nightline stories about Anonymous and become worried she was about to have the full force of the Internet Hate Machine brought down on her. And when you work around passenger airplanes, saying you feel threatened by something is a great trump card that makes it easy to get your way.
So naturally, the guy's daughters "became scared and started crying." While Watson is probably the kind of stubborn person who would've stuck to his guns any other day, he acquiesced, deleted the tweet, and got on the plane. Undoubtedly he sat there and stewed about his defeat, vowing that he would have his revenge.
His revenge is attempting to create a PR nightmare for the airline, which, you may have noticed, I'm not naming in this article (although you can look it up). I'd prefer to have nothing to do with the Airline's PR situation one way or the other.
Instead, I'd like to be bad PR for Duff Watson's social media prowess. There's decorum for trashing people on Twitter, and Watson didn't follow it. For instance, leaving off a famous person's @handle when you tweet about them means you don't expect them to engage with your criticism, and if they engage with you anyway, it means they're kind of a loser. If you're trashing someone who follows you, and you don't want them to know, you subtweet.
A good tweet about shitty airline service would be, "Ugh, the lady working the desk at this airport just told six uncle jokes," or "They usually let me count my cello as carry-on, but this asshole says it's too big." Shoehorning this lady's name and exact location into a tweet, on the other hand, is an even more pointed and personal violation than tweeting "@justinbieber sucks dead dog dick lol."
And again, that's your call to make, Duff, but tweets have consequences. Katherine Heigl sued Duane Reade over a tweet, and Marc Lamont got called a bitch on TV by Big Boi over a tweet. If you exercise your freedom of speech by getting personal when you talk shit on Twitter, and scaring some lady from Denver, an airline can exercise its freedom to kick you off its plane.
And most important of all, he would have avoided all this if he'd just waited until he got home to be a passive-aggressive douche.
Follow Mike Pearl on Twitter.