ABSTRACT

In May 2017, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai posted a three-minute video on YouTube reenacting the well-known segment “Mean Tweets” from Jimmy Kimmel’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! 1 In the video, Pai read “Mean Tweets” directed toward his Twitter account (@AjitPaiFCC) with humor and short responses. Posted just weeks after he announced FCC intentions to eliminate network neutrality policies, Pai’s video was one of the first digital public interactions between the Chairman and audiences. Using the style, layout and even the same backdrop as Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets” segment, Pai adopted humor to respond to the largely negative public backlash following his network neutrality announcement. Tweets ranged topically, including references to Pai’s physique, ego and political leanings. One user wrote, “Ajit Pai is the bad boy wrestler of truthiness that nobody loves to hate. He’s a legend in his own mind.” Pai responded, while laughing, “yeah” before moving on to the next mean tweet. Throughout the entire segment, Pai used sarcasm to coyly respond to each user and criticism. For example, one user posted with all capitalization: “A. Pai is the Uncle Tom of the Indian people. He is an embarrassment for all non whites. His psychopathic behavior kissing white a** is gross.” Pai sarcastically responded, “As a conflicted brown man, I was on the fence, but when you put it in all caps, you persuaded me.” Pai’s sarcasm serves to degrade the user’s concerns and illustrate the innate racism at the core of posts like this one.