Is it a trend?

So what did the late Colonel Gadaffi of Libya never achieve, even as his régime was collapsing all around him and the eyes of the world were on the endgame there? Well, he never managed to ‘trend’ on Twitter. Actually it is likely that the reasons for this absence from the list was due to the large number of competing spellings the international media use for his name. Here I have called him Gadaffi, but other common versions have him as Gadafi, Gadaffy, Ghadafi, Gadhafi, and Qaddafi. Clearly if no two people could agree on the spelling of his name, then he’s not going to pick up the number of mentions in any one version that would allow him to start trending.

But what is trending? How some of the Twitter trends emerge is mysterious. For a few days last week the leading global topic was ‘#dontsupport‘, which allowed people simply to list things they didn’t like and find a global audience for their negative preferences. One person for example urged us all not to support ‘companies that support outsourcing’ (which at any rate is a serious proposition, though probably misguided); but mostly the guidance was rather more trivial. Then yesterday a trending topic was ‘#6HOURS‘, which baffled me until I saw that this was in some way connected with Justin Bieber; and there I have to say that despite my normal desire to be informed about whatever is in fashion, I have managed to avoid knowing anything about the said Mr Bieber except his name.

It probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that Justin Bieber – whatever it is he does – will out-trend Colonel Gadaffi. But then again, popular culture tells us something about ourselves and is itself worth knowing. We don’t need to find out about world events that way – there are other ways of doing that reliably – but we can learn a little more about what is exercising what politicians sometimes describe as ‘ordinary people’. By the way, right now they are concerned about ‘April Pratt’. I must find out who that is.

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10 Comments on “Is it a trend?”

  1. Wendymr Says:

    Okay, thank you very much.

    I made the mistake of Googling April Pratt, and now I wish to delete that information from my head. Brain-bleach, anyone?

    Because one “favour” deserves another, this is who Justin Bieber is (and I wish I didn’t know, but he comes from a town around an hour from where I currently live in South-Western Ontario, so one can’t exactly avoid knowing):

  2. Wendymr Says:

    Hmm, that embed didn’t work. Trying again:


  3. This has been an unexpectedly lively week for Australia in top ten trending topics, mostly caused by the grounding of the Qantas, which put all sorts of otherwise not very well known Australians into a state of trending celebrity, not to mention the Australian government’s least favourite Irish person, the Qantas CEO — in so many ways (including peculiarly youthful appearance) the Justin Bieber of Australian industrial relations.

  4. Vincent Says:

    I would suggest that his achievement was in ejecting the controls of the western powers and keeping them out.
    There was nothing ‘neo’ about the colonial attitude towards Libya or any other oil producer for that matter. It was taken directly out of the manual of Cecil Rhodes. And it also might be remembered that the Vietnam war was at it’s height.
    But to answer your question. What he ‘never’ achieved was in welding a nation from the disparate tribes. His going might just do that. He never achieved a succession that might last. But again his manner of going might just do that also.
    He never achieved that golden ideal of all revolutionaries, dieing young. Or even in battle. He might have achieved being hit by Our Ron’s bomb. So, ended up looking a freakish example against plastic surgery.

  5. anna notaro Says:

    *We don’t need to find out about world events that way – there are other ways of doing that reliably – but we can learn a little more about what is exercising what politicians sometimes describe as ‘ordinary people’.*
    This made me think of the cultural theorist Raymond Williams,
    who in his 1958 essay “Culture is Ordinary”, wrote: Culture is ordinary: that is the first fact. Every human society has its own shape, its own purposes, its own meanings. Every human society expresses these, in institutions, and in arts and learning. The making of a society is the finding of common meanings and directions, and its growth is an active debate and amendment under the pressures of experience, contact, and discovery, writing themselves into the land. The growing society is there, yet it is also made and remade in every individual mind.’

    I happen to believe that reflecting upon what we ‘mean’ by culture today (with its Bieber and viral YouTube videos) will also help us to discover, as you put it in ‘The democratic academy’ post, what we actually want the academy to be.


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