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Chrissy Teigen should have known better but cancelling her is not the answer

·4-min read
Too late to say sorry? Chrissy Teigen has apologised for online bullying  (PA)
Too late to say sorry? Chrissy Teigen has apologised for online bullying (PA)

Everyone loves a Twitter spat, but the latest, between Chrissy Teigen and Courtney Stodden, is too dark to be viewed as entertainment.

For those who’ve been too absorbed by the pandemic/G7/Euros to catch the finer details, a recap: model Teigen, 35, has been accused by reality TV star Courtney, 26, of sending tweets in 2011 encouraging her to kill herself. “my Friday fantasy. you. dirt nap. Mmmmm baby,” reads one directed at a then-teenaged Courtney. Another reads “go. to sleep. forever.” In an interview with The Daily Beast, Courtney also alleges that Teigen sent her even more disturbing texts via direct message, including one that said “I can’t wait for you to die” - though this is unproven.

Teigen has tweeted a public apology. “Not a lot of people are lucky enough to be held accountable for all their past bullshit in front of the entire world,” she began (erm, is this a typo? Surely she meant “unlucky”?) “I’m mortified and sad at who I used to be. I was an insecure, attention-seeking troll.” She continued that she was “ashamed and completely embarrassed… but that is… nothing compared to how I made Courtney feel. I have worked so hard to give you guys joy and be beloved and the feeling of letting you down is nearly unbearable, truly.”

And now Teigen has written a lengthy blog post apologising, saying she feels a ‘crushing weight of regret for things I’ve said in the past.’ It reads: “There is simply no excuse for my past horrible tweets. My targets didn’t deserve them. No one does. Many of them needed empathy, kindness, understanding and support, not my meanness masquerading as a kind of casual, edgy humour. I was a troll, full stop. And I am so sorry.”

Those are the facts. And now, the judgement - which of course is coming thick and fast. Should Teigen be cancelled? Leading the charge is political commentator Candice Owens, 32, who branded Teigen a “massive, disgusting hypocrite”, citing as evidence another unearthed tweet from 2011 that read “lindsay adds a few more slits to her wrists when she sees emma stone”, in reference to Lindsay Lohan. “She’s literally Regina George,” quoth one user. But others have come to Teigen’s defence, urging her detractors to cut her some slack. “She has apologised and committed to growth,” said one. “What else can she do?”

What we can all do - and what we definitely should do - is think before we post. When children are given lectures at school on how to use social media, they’re told to imagine that what they write gets displayed on a giant poster in the entrance hall. If they’d be embarrassed at it being read, they shouldn’t write it. It’s extremely stressful for young people knowing that they have to make all their mistakes in public: every ill-judged photo, careless comment and bitchy aside is indelible, leaving a digital footprint that their older selves will in many cases live to regret. It’s like giving kids a key to a fast car they’ve no clue how to drive, then wondering why they’ve created so much carnage.

But Chrissy Teigen wasn’t a kid. She was in her twenties. She should have known better. And now, she’s being tried by troll and jury, as the debate rages on about whether to cancel her. I don’t agree with cancel culture. Baying for blood feels too gladiatorial to belong in a civilised world. It’s arguing for sport rather than wanting positive change. Cancelling a troll doesn’t lead to peace and understanding: it only leads to more trolling.

Still, not all trolls are created equal. There’s a difference between slagging off someone’s outfit and inciting them to kill themself. That Teigen was ten years older than 16 year-old Courtney makes it difficult to excuse Teigen on the grounds of immaturity: she was a 25 year-old adult bullying a child. My daughters used to tell each other to “go die in a hole” most evenings, but they were ten and six at the time. You have to ask what was going through Teigen’s head when she wrote and posted such things. Can a bully ever change? Is a bully always a bully? Only Teigen’s staff (the singer John Legend is her husband: they have an estimated net worth of $70million) can answer that.

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Courtney Stodden has accepted Teigen’s apology. Maybe the internet should as well. In a few days, someone else will have tweeted something else that’s dreadful, for if there’s one thing that you can be sure of, it’s that sentient adults shouldn’t be let loose on a keyboard.

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