Front page news… Justin Bieber (again)

Bieber the MealJustin Bieber told a racist joke five years ago. A video of this was recently made public, and it immediately went viral.

Going viral around the same time was every other new video of Justin Bieber, vision of a cat attacking a dog, and the common cold.

The story here is that a fifteen-year-old boy said a very poor taste joke. That young man is now five years older, and in contrast to the recent complete disdain he’s shown for the law, his fans and his neighbours, Bieber immediately and eloquently expressed his immense regret for reciting this joke.

“I’m very sorry,” Bieber said in a statement. “I take all my friendships with people of all cultures very seriously and I apologise for offending or hurting anyone with my childish and inexcusable behaviour.”

Eddie McGuire could definitely learn a few things from Justin Bieber.

Both McGuire and Bieber could actually put an effort where their words are, by backing up whatever claims they’ve made against racism by becoming anti-racism campaigners themselves. Without any such action, it all feels a lot like they’re just saying sorry, without acting or being sorry.Bieber Meme_3

Regardless, it’s extremely disappointing that a person so many admire said something so racist. I’m talking about Bieber here, and certainly not McGuire.

What’s even more disappointing, however, is that so many people care so very much.

In other news, there were far more interesting things happening at every level of society in every other place on earth that were ignored in order to cover this story.

For example, on the morning that this story broke there was politics, wars and sport. In particular football.

Also, I saw a cat fall off a coffee table. Unfortunately for the world, I wasn’t recording. Making me possibly the only person in the world who’s still able to see a cat in a precarious position and not grab a camera.

Bieber’s a super, mega, whatever-star, with more twitter followers than grains of sand I’ve ever removed from my board shorts, who likely spends more on hair products in a day than I’ve earned in my entire life. Which wouldn’t be difficult.

So I understand why this was all worth mentioning. What I don’t get is why it was worth mentioning so often, and at such length.

Bieber Meme_4Morning news programs spent almost the entire morning on it, newspaper front pages were dedicated to it, and a procession of apparent experts proceeded to analyse this issue from more angles than there are words in the original very poor taste joke.

A joke which was then made widely available by many of the news sources reporting on this story. Which nobody questioned at all.

There is more to this story only if Bieber is punished by the music profession, he’s condemned by any of the many groups he’s offended, or there’s some sort of Bieber boycott.

However, the newsmakers know there is an audience for anything Bieber. So in the absence of any real news, they create it. A stream of opinions, speculation, graphics, replays, banter and then it’s time for an ad break and we’re all still watching because of the promise of some actual information that never arrives. All filling Bieber eager airspace with what effectively amounts to nothing.

One source told a UK paper: “This video is Justin Bieber and his camp’s worst nightmare. Even after the year he’s had — when he’s never been far from controversy, this tops the lot.”

The ‘source’ could be anyone. It’s without context, evidence and meaning. So it is meaningless.

At this point the entire news machine has begun to devour itself, and it’s happened countless times before.Bieber Meme_2

Recent examples include the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight, Rolf Harris and anything to do with sport.

So instead of what’s happening in the world dictating what we’re told, it’s the audience who decides. Then if there’s nothing new on the subjects we’re most interested in, well that stopped mattering a long time ago, and it certainly doesn’t stop those subjects being news.

This article was first published via WA Today, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Canberra Times and Brisbane Times:

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.

Performing in Melbourne at The Butterfly Club Tue June 17 & Wed June 18 at 8pm.

His debut non-fiction book, ‘Mining My Own Business’ is available now.