Take a breath, Internet. Justin Bieber didn’t diss Prince.
Last week, Bieber was attacked online by Prince fans and slammed by media outlets after it was thought that the Canadian left an insensitive comment about the music legend at an Instagram tribute the day that the 57-year-old megastar died.
However, Bieber’s rep has since told Billboard that the Instagram comment in question wasn’t made by the singer and was “fake.”
By which, the rep means the remark wasn’t an authentic post from Justin Bieber’s Instagram account. The rep also told the watchdog website Gossip Cop that the comment attribution was “totally fabricated.”
On Thursday, amid an outpouring of social media condolences and tributes from fans and celebrities around the world, the rock guitarist Andrew Watt posted an emotional ode to Prince on Instagram, praising the “Purple Rain” singer as “the last of the greatest living performers.”
A user alleging to be Bieber replied in the comments section, writing, “Well not the last greatest living performer.” The remark was subsequently deleted.
Cue a flood of Prince fans posting outraged responses at Watt’s page. That reaction blew up after the fan Twitter account Shady Music Facts posted a screen grab of the fake comment.
Readers may not be aware that past examples show it is remarkably easy to fake identities online, photoshop a celebrity or public figures’ profile photo, and pass off statements and pictures as a famous person’s posts. With the modern practice of social media-propelled news reporting, which sees any source — even a shade account’s opinions and claims as infallible — more mistakes can and will be made.
On the subject of fake online users posing as others and the misrepresentation which is common on the Internet, technology website The Wire quoted Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, a professor of Internet law at the Oxford Internet Institute in England. “We’re in a Foucauldian postmodern world where we can’t tell the truth from fakery,” Mayer-Schönberger said.
Also in the U.K., Brit journalist, Jon Ronson, who authored the 2015 book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed? writes of the lynch mob mentality that sparks the moment a celebrity makes a — perceived — blunder on social media. The book claims social media has reversed our evolution and revived the medieval pitchforks-at-dawn attitude.
To reiterate: The Inquisitr notes that Bieber’s rep told Billboard that the Instagram comment was not written by the singer and was “fake.”
— billboard (@billboard) April 23, 2016
Even so, some media outlets have pointed out that Bieber hasn’t commented on Prince’s death at his official social media accounts. To be fair, it’s likely that the singer’s team feel that would be counter-productive amid the sniping media coverage. Almost every report, including the gossips, took cues from Shady Music Facts and presumed the fake Instagram comment was a sign of offense taken.
But, even taking the deleted comment at face value, it’s worth noting that some fans at Watt’s post and elsewhere online suggested that “Well not the last greatest living performer” isn’t an insult at all. Instead, many said it was a badly-timed but logical view that there are still great living performers to enjoy, even after Prince’s death.
Consider artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, Barbara Streisand, Aretha Franklin, John Legend, Sir Elton John, and others on that level (not to mention upcoming artists), and it is entirely probable that Prince isn’t the “last greatest living performer,” although he is indisputably one of the greats.
Ironically, after Beyoncé premiered her latest surprise album Lemonade on HBO on Saturday, critics have been — rightly — falling over themselves to officially crown her as Prince’s successor, but with feminist, political, and more visual dimensions.
— SPIN (@SPINmagazine) April 28, 2016
In Rolling Stone magazine, Rob Sheffield writes, “What does it mean for Beyoncé to drop a new surprise album on the world within days of a giant like Prince leaving us? It’s a welcome reminder that giants still walk among us.”
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) April 25, 2016
So, will the recently reignited Biebs-bashing fade now after the singer’s rep denial? Probably. But, in truth, it’s been an ugly past few days regardless. While it’s understandable that emotions continue to run high in the wake of the untimely death of a beloved and supremely talented music icon, endlessly ripping a 22-year-old is a spectacularly unworthy way to honor an artist who was latterly known for his commitment to peace and humanitarianism.
Great living performers are still here and still creating, and inspiring them is just one of the many achievements of Prince’s outstanding legacy.
[Images via Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images]