On Monday night, a terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, killed at least 22 people and injured more than 59. While senseless murder is never easy to cope with or comprehend, the attack was made all the more heartbreaking in light of the targeted demographic: pop music fans who were predominately young girls. Victims included Georgina Bethany Callander, 18, and Saffie Rose Roussos, 8.
As news continues to spread and details are quickly uncovered, a tragedy like the Manchester bombing begets smaller acts of cruelty as well as instances of great humanity and kindness. The people of Manchester immediately stepped up in the wake of the attack, banding together to offer medical assistance, aid, and hospitality. On social media, a global outpouring of support flooded the internet, with politicians and celebrities racing to send out messages of love and condolence to their millions of followers. Grande, who is currently taking time off from her tour in the wake of the attack, tweeted, “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don't have words.”
“Tearing up imagining innocent concert goers losing their lives.. praying for everyone and all #arianators,” tweeted Demi Lovato. “My prayers are with you Manchester.” Even Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, who are famously at odds, were united in their sentiments, with Swift tweeting out her “thoughts, prayers, and tears,” and Perry “praying for everyone at @ArianaGrande’s show.” While mourning the victims, some tweeters and journalists also took the time to pay homage to the specific experience that was under attack—the pop concert. People shared memories of their first concerts: how it felt to dress up, ditch their parents, and join fellow fan girls shouting out lyrics and dancing all night. Ariana Grande is the leader of a particularly ardent and girl-centric fandom—girls that she has taught to own their bodies, stand up for themselves, and proudly identify as feminists.
Unfortunately, articles that celebrated these young women and described the beauty and energy of the concert that turned into a tragedy weren’t the only takes on the internet. Respectful and thoughtful coverage inevitably gave way to strange and/or downright offensive commentary. Cruel and unusual death hoaxes have been making the rounds on social media, and have even gotten as far as Fox News. Then there are the bad jokes, like the tweets from one Boston journalist who quipped, “MULTIPLE CONFIRMED FATALITIES at Manchester Arena…The last time I listened to Ariana Grande I almost died too.”
While the good tweets doubtlessly outnumbered the trolls, the notion that there are people out there who would literally use the death of children to go viral is, to say the least, disturbing. Of course, the existence of the internet can serve to amplify every single opinion, particularly the awful ones. For example, we have the internet to thank for Milo Yiannopoulos, an abhorrent person who unsurprisingly saw the Manchester attack as another opportunity to extend his rapidly waning 15 minutes of fame. On Tuesday, Yiannopoulos used social media to baselessly attack Ariana Grande, calling the grieving pop singer “pro-Islam and anti-America.”
“Sadly, Ariana Grande is too stupid to wise up and warn her European fans about the real threats to their freedom and their lives,” the hebephilia apologist opined. “Makes you wonder whether they bombed to attack her or in solidarity.” Milo’s remarks were so gross that they even offended his fans (which, if you’re familiar with Yiannopoulos’ previous statements/worldview, is really saying something). “I usually appreciate your posts, and especially your insight and your delivery. But this is a bit much in a bit too soon,” Facebook user John Jones wrote. “Ariana Grande is simply a singer. Nothing more. To suggest anything else, or that she had anything to do with this is just crazy. And you know this.” Reader, he does not.
Perhaps even more confusingly, bad opinion-havers have honed in on a different celebrity in the wake of the attack. Pro-Trump fake news outlets like “America’s Freedom Fighters” and “Truthfeed” have launched full offensives on Katy Perry for the objectively well-meaning and innocuous statements she made post-Manchester. In the wake of the terrorist attack, the singer gave an interview in which she called for “unity.” “Whatever we say behind people’s backs—because the internet can be a little bit ruthless as far as fanbases go—but I think the greatest thing we can do is just unite, and love on each other,” Perry told radio presenter Elvis Duran. “No barriers, no borders, we all need to just coexist.” She added, “Ari’s fans are my fans and my fans are Ari’s fans, and we are all loving on each other and we should just stay loving on each other.”
Extremists on the right somehow extrapolated from this interview that Perry believes that, “We’re supposed to ‘love’ the very people who set out to murder little girls,” calling the remarks “stunningly ignorant” and labeling Perry an “idiot” who “thinks life is a bumper sticker” (also, a “half-brained celebrity” and “idiot Molotov cocktail” whose “importance rivals that of a tree frog’s”). Say what you will about these pro-Trump paranoia purveyors, but their insults are just as original as their outlandishly fake news.
Unfortunately, critics of Perry’s cry for unity were not contained within the ugliest corners of the internet. Fox News addressed the radio interview on multiple occasions, with segments dedicated to decrying Perry’s sentiments as if they were genuine policy suggestions. Contributor Michelle Malkin went on the air to blast Perry for her “Limousine gulf-stream liberal mindset,” adding that, “The next time we welcome Muslim refugees from Syria or Yemen into this country, we should send them to her house.”