Chris Brown is in the news again, and this time his drama affects me personally. Well, third personally. One of my favorite tweeters, Jenny Johnson, whom I have long admired for her frank delivery has been involved in a dispute -- or as I believe it’s known in lawyer jargon, “Twitter beef” -- with the recording artist and his fans.
On her Twitter bio, Jenny calls herself a "writer, wife, asshole and owner of 2 dogs." She's also a bona fide Twitter star with almost 350,000 followers (myself included -- and she just started following me a month ago, which I have to be honest, was unexpectedly awesome).
On Sunday, Jenny used the joke format of retweeting a celebrity's tweet with a slam of her own in front (other masters of this are Rob Delaney and Joe Mande). When Brown tweeted: “I look old as fuck! I’m only 23 …" Jenny added: "Being a worthless piece of shit can really age a person.”
That's when Brown lost it. Keep in mind, Jenny has been making these cracks against him for quite a while. The Daily Beast counted 97 since 2011. And obviously we all know where it's coming from. Brown was convicted of assault on his then (and it appears now) girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. It made an impression.
Jenny is not the only one who thinks his lack of remorse should never be forgotten. Comedian Nikki Glaser's top tweet on Favstar.fm is a link to the stunning-to-read-again assault report, and has received more than 1,300 retweets.
Brown's responses to Jenny were considered by Elisabeth Hasselbeck on “The View” as “verbal rape” and included: “take them teeth out when u Sucking my dick HOE.”
Then: “I should fart while ur giving me top.”
“mom says hello… She told me not to shart in ur mouth, wanted me to shit right on the retina.”
“Diaries of a thirsty bitch…Ur life sucks so much ass…Don’t run for support now… Lol."
"Ur a comedic writer!!! If u can take a dick, u can take a joke.”
The final riposte before he (or more presumably his publicists or record label) shut down the account?: "Just ask Rihanna if she mad??????"
Then the death threats from Team Breezy started. One woman (@NinaBreezy16) wrote: "@JennyJohnsonHi5 whore bitch. if chris kill you i will have more respect of him .." Another (@NellyBreezy_) wrote this before deactivating her own account: "Do u wanna know what im gonna do now ? Im gonna kill that Jenny Johnson for making Chris delete his twitter."
And perhaps the most disgusting from @rockykane9: "@JennyJohnsonHi5 I'M GONNA FUCKING RAPE & KILL YOU OLD WHORE FUCK."
Jenny concluded at the end of the verbal lashing from Brown: “Okay. I’m done. All I got from that exchange with Chris Brown is that he wants to shit and fart on me… I have zero respect for a person who seems unapologetic for the terrible crime he committed and shows no signs of changing.”
As a black woman and a comedian, I was paying attention to this entire blowup. I saw that comic Julie Klausner called her friend a hero and expressed concern for Jenny’s safety because of the death threats from Brown’s fans. I retweeted Julie, which spurred a reply from my buddy Erica Watson, who felt that he had been provoked. The three of us are all comedians. We’re all women. Two of us are black (THESE ARE THE FACTS). So who’s right?
As someone who frequently uses Twitter, I know that no one is immune to trolling -- receiving or spewing. It comes with the territory of having opinions. We are all protected by freedom of speech, or as those fancy lawyers put it, “I do me.” Online antagonism can certainly get out of hand. I mean I’m like you; when I first saw Reddit, I cried blood. We all have a responsibility not to put out what we don’t want back.
Would I have confronted Chris Brown? No, but that’s why I am constantly disappointed in restaurants. If the wrong order comes, I would rather eat something gross than complain about it. Besides, if you don’t take a strong position, you don’t ever have to eat crow. Just cold scrambled eggs.
Deciding when joking crosses the line and becomes “Aw hellnaw” (sorry for the legalese) is up to the audience. In performance terms, Chris Brown’s fans threw a bunch of tomatoes at Johnson. But as a comedian, all she should be concerned with is who enjoys her work -- not those who walk out in protest of the show. Besides, how else is she going to express her disgust over his lack of remorse? Using humor is the main tool in her arsenal.
I pointed out I'm black in the beginning because my mom taught me to say it loud, but this is not about race, so don't even go there. If you want to find out who's bigoted on Twitter, try the hashtag test. Create a game that will trend by putting a benign word like "dinosaurs" or "carnival rides" after the word "black." Slap a hashtag on it, and look for the people who leap to their favorite stereotypes and offer waaaay too many examples (See: "Black Parent Quotes.")
My friend Erica, in her assessment of Jenny, said that her time could have been better spent helping out in a shelter. But I think that Jenny spurred the argument and revealed some ugly truths that are now being discussed. I would say: there’s no wrong way to help women. Even if you only do it 140 characters at a time.