Gee you’re dumb

90615p2_mayer_b-gr_03No, John Mayer is not dumb. He may be a douchebag — for a couple of years now, that’s been a cool thing to say (“John Mayer is a douchebag,” just like that), and he himself has publicly wrestled with the issue. But I think he is of above-average intelligence. Can’t really say that about everyone in the celebrity-news echo chamber. I was just perusing the usual gossip sites for the blog I write at playboy.com and found this in the links section at pretty-good celeb blog TheSuperficial.com:

“John Mayer brags about getting laid at Comic-Con. Wow. Seriously? Even Pauly Shore walked out with two Supergirls and a Darth Vader.”

I took the bait — if this Mayer fellow is truly the douchebag people say, then I’m game to read about this no-doubt-moronic bragging. The story, at less-good celeb blog In Case You Didn’t Know has the headline and SEO’ed URL “John Mayer brags about his Comic-Con conquests.” Sweet. Total douchiness coming up here — I was on the edge of my seat. Yet the lede was immediately disappointing: “John Mayer ‘slept’ with nine science-fiction geeks at a comic book convention last weekend.”

Hmm. There is a big difference between sleeping with someone and “sleeping” with someone.

The story is based on a Tweet, which solves the mystery right there. Anyone familiar with celebrity Tweeters knows that a) John Mayer is addicted to Twitter, and sends out many Tweets daily, and b) he is rarely ever serious. He’s usually just cracking jokes. Track down the original Tweet and here’s what it reads:

“This weekend at Comic-Con I slept with nine Sailor Moons. Not an easy task when you’re dressed like a Stormtrooper. #rimshotplease”

This could not be more obviously a joke. And perhaps ICYDK author Jocelyn is in on it. After the misleading, sensationalist headline, she did put quotation marks around “slept” and then in the following sentence said “The ‘Gravity’ singer joked he seduced several women…” So Jocelyn knows it’s a joke, and she is actually a knowing person in general because she twice tags Mayer’s words with “(sic).” Newspapers use (sic) — a Latin word that looks better in square brackets, but let’s not pick nits — to indicate a strange spelling or usage that originated with the source. In other words “there is an error here, but it’s not my error; it’s John Mayer’s and I am merely quoting it.” Yet “[sic]” is usually used derogatorily, to ridicule the subject’s poor spelling or grammar. I will always associate “[sic]” with the dickwads [sic] who ran the conservative magazine at my college; any time they quoted someone they didn’t like they would pepper his or her words with “[sic]”s. I was an English major and not a terrible grammarian, yet I was often puzzled as to exactly what the speaker’s offense was.

But where were we. Poster Jocelyn knows Mayer was joking — end of story, right? Not really, because the sixth paragraph reads “It’s not the first time the singer has bragged about his sexual conquests on the internet.”

Hold on, was he joking about fictional sexual conquests, or was he bragging about real ones? What is the point of this stupid post? (You may be asking yourself the same question about this post.)

Jocelyn isn’t a reporter — and I don’t say that to kick sand in her face. She is probably a nice lady (31, mother of two) and she runs a blog that repackages celebrity news and gossip from other sources. In this case, the source is ContactMusic, a music-news site on which I have read numerous inane stories over the years. ContactMusic is essentially a repackager, too — stories there cite secondary sources like newspapers, magazines, TV, and celebrity or corporate spokespeople.

Contactmusic’s story has a marginally-less misleading headline, “JOHN MAYER’S COMIC CONVENTION CONQUESTS,” and the body text looks pretty much the same as that of ICYDK. So how widespread is this inane story? Google “John Mayer” and “Sailor Moon” and you get quite a few hits. Apparently a lot of people found this newsworthy. Worthy at least of a cut-and-paste. Some versions have misleading headlines, others don’t. Some have the “sic”s. All seem to acknowledge that Mayer was joking but still have the annoying “It’s not the first time the singer has bragged …” line.

Original source: John Mayer Jokes He Slept With Nine Sailor Moons at AllHeadlineNews.com. Kudos to writer Anne Lu for admitting right there in the headline that this is a story about nothing more than a guy making a joke, it’s a pity those who reblogged the story didn’t retain her honest headline. It’s also a pity the “It’s not the first time the singer has bragged …” line is in there.

And a pity the “(sic)”s are in there as well. Because the “(sic)”s come after the words “Stormtrooper” and “gangbangs.” Um, there is nothing wrong with either of those words. Maybe “dressed as a Stormtrooper” would have been more correct than “dressed like a Stormtrooper,” and maybe “This makes them major letdowns at gangbangs” would have demonstrated better agreement than “This makes them a major letdown at gangbangs.” Neither is a [sic]-worthy offense, if offense at all (you would not write that “This makes the New York Jets the feel-good stories of the current football season,” would you?).

Besides, it’s a post in a Twitter feed. People should not be [sic]-ed for their Twitter feeds unless their words are truly incomprehensible — like, say, Courtney Love’s. And Twitter feeds should not be news unless there is something newsworthy in them.

I’m not a John Mayer fan. I don’t care for his music, but I do think he’s entertaining, and often funny, on Twitter. I’m also not really a journalist — I’m not coming down on anyone with a grizzled, hard-assed order to “get your facts straight!” or “do the research!” Celebrity blogging is a tawdry and voyeuristic way of making a little money. Look no further than my own work for plenty of evidence; tawdry-and-voyeuristic is my middle name. (Not true: It’s actually Dunbar.) But there’s no need to stretch some guy’s joke tweet into a news story, especially if you have to pretend it wasn’t a joke to make the story seem more like news.

And I think it might be time to give John Mayer a break. The whole internet thinks he’s a douchebag, when he’s really just a pop singer who says silly things. His douchebaggery doesn’t even come close to that of a Kanye West, who just yesterday declared he would be the new King of Pop in Michael Jackson’s absence.

Typical Kanye garbage — except he didn’t say it. Source for the quotes is ScrapeTV, a parody news site. The Superficial and the hundreds, maybe thousands of blogs who’ve reported this story might want to give Kanye a break.

And get your facts straight! Sorry, couldn’t resist.

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