Social Media Fail #7: Chick Fail – A

25 Dec

Abby Farle Shutterstock pictureA very quick blog today, since it’s Christmas.  What made me promise to do this every day until new year I’ll never know.

There are probably plenty of folks who remember the Chick-fil-A social media meltdown that was kicked off in June this year when President and COO of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, was interviewed on the talk radio ”Ken Coleman Show’.

During the course of the interview, Cathy said “I think we are inviting God’s judgement on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘We know better than you what constitutes a marriage’.  I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about”.

This and other statements by Cathy provoked a furious backlash from the LGBT community, politicians, and indeed a significant chunk of the general population.  And of course another significant chunk of the population defended either his position or his right to express such a position.

I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of this, but there was a particularly interesting element to this particular furore.

Jim Henson, a well known supporter of gay rights, made the decision that in light of Chick-fil-A’s stance, he could no longer in good conscience continue the commercial relationship that had seen Pajanimals toys given away with kids meals since 2011.  Chick-fil-A withdrew the toys claiming safety concerns.  Strange coincidence, but whatever.

ChrisThe really interesting bit was when a character called ‘Chris’ posted the following to Chick-fil-A’s Facebook page: “Admit it Chick-fil-A: You stopped carrying Jim Henson’s puppets as kids meal toys because you got dumped for being bigots, not because some kids “got their fingers stuck”.

Out of the blue, a response came from someone called Abby Farle: “it was taken back weeks before any of this…check your info Chris…John 3:16.”

RobertA brief exchange with Chris then ensued but then, two hours later, in stepped Robert.  Robert had clicked on Abby’s profile.  Robert had found out that Abby had only joined Facebook that day and suggested that Abby Farle was the nom de plume of a Chick-fil-A PR.  Robert then noticed that Abby’s profile image had a ‘Shutterstock’ watermark on it.  Robert went to shutter stock, found the image titled “Pretty Redhead Teenager” and linked it to the Facebook post with a comment that said “FYI:  Busted.  You f****** moron.

One of the things we know about sharks is that they tend to gather where there is blood in the water, and this single Facebook post became a feeding frenzy.  It was carried across multiple media, was the subject of some very funny memes and became almost as big a story as Dan Cathy’s original statement.

OfferChick-fil-A of course denied having anything to do with Abby Farle and, to my knowledge, she has never been proved to be a PR plant. On the other hand it has never been proved that she wasn’t either.

Now, people will speculate as they see fit, but in amongst all the memes was one little nugget of a comment that seems to add veracity to the suspicion that she was a plant.  Buried among all the comments following Chick-fil-A’s denial on their Facebook page was a comment suggesting that Chick-fil-A reward her if she comes forward to prove she’s a real person.

We’re still waiting.

Douglas Adams

Adams – truth is stranger than fiction

Lesson:  In his book ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, Douglas Adams tells us that “Space is big.  Really big.  You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.  I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s but that’s just peanuts to space.”

And the same is true of the internet.  Never think, even for a second, if you tell a little white lie, that there isn’t someone out there among the millions and millions of interwebbers that doesn’t have the time, the knowledge, the inclination or the sheer bloody mindedness to trip you up.  In public.  With highly embarrassing consequences.

Merry Christmas everybody.


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