James Fell doesn’t think Elan Gale had any right to be abusive to the rude passenger on his delayed Thanksgiving weekend flight.
“There is generally more than one side to a story.”
This is a quote from Corwin in The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny. I’ve read those books a few times, and consider Zelazny a primary influence on my writing.
It is at the end of the five-book series that the main character spoke this. Another character accused him of being a jerk for something he did, and rather than defend his actions, which were justified, Corwin chose to be axiomatic.
There is another side to this “Diane, the Thanksgiving air traveler that Elan made fun of” story that broke the Internet over the weekend. Probably.
And we don’t know what it is. We don’t know Diane’s story. We don’t know if it went down the way Elan said it did. We don’t know if it happened at all.
There is a rumor that Diane is suffering from terminal lung cancer, and that this was her last chance to see these relatives. Probably not true, but who knows?
There is a possibility that Elan, whose career is to produce train wreck reality TV like The Bachelor, told a warped version of a story in a misguided effort to make himself appear the hero.
What’s more, it looks like Elan has made stories up to post on Twitter before, so maybe this entire tale is a fantasy.
To repeat all the maybes in this story:
- Maybe it never happened.
- Maybe it didn’t happen the way Elan Tweeted.
- Maybe there is a side to Diane’s story that provides additional perspective.
Or maybe it happened just like Elan said it did, in which case, this still does not make him a “hero,” as the Huffington Post proclaimed him to be.
I’ll admit that when I started reading this post I laughed, because I’ve seen people be mean to service workers, and it bugs me. Elan wrote on his blog about his motivations for his actions, saying it was because he has worked in the service industry and knows what it’s like. Yeah, I was a busboy, waiter and bartender too. It doesn’t make Elan special that he had to put up with some assholes in his younger years.
Elan wrote that “I had a great time antagonizing her…” and here is the problem. He’s proclaiming himself defender of those in service positions, while at the same time having a “great time” crossing the line with another human being who probably has the same human feelings as others do.
Again, maybe it went down the way Elan said. If that’s the case, he could have done a better job of handling the situation. Yes, bullies should be stood up to, especially by bystanders, because they are often the ones who can have the most positive effect. I wish some people had intervened when I was being bullied as a teen. It can often be hard to stand up for yourself in such situations. For service workers, they can’t fight back because their job is at stake.
And it’s okay to have fun with people if they’re really being jerks, because humor can help diffuse a situation. The problem is that Elan crossed the line from poking fun and went over into abuse. He became as bad and worse as the person he was claiming to do battle with.
If you read his tweets you’ll see that he begins by describing the situation with much sarcasm, and although he’s not confronting Diane, he’s actually doing a good thing here, because we’re reading along and laughing, and at the same time we’re being reminded not to be asshats to service people. Some of us were perhaps thinking, Yeah, I’ve kinda done crap like that before. My bad. I’ll commit to being nicer in the future. So, yes, the beginning part describing the situation was actually a good thing.
Again, we’re working on the assumption that everything he wrote was true. Suspend your disbelief.
Then he sent her a glass of wine with a note, and that’s where it went off the rails. No, I’m not saying sending her the wine was a bad idea – it was actually creative and could have been used to make a point with Diane about being nice to people – but it was the content of the note that went too far. Specially, the ending where he wrote, “Hopefully if you drink it you won’t be able to use your mouth to talk.”
See, that’s where he lost me the first time. I’ll offer an alternative ending that I think would have been better: “We all need to band together in these troubling times where things don’t go exactly as we’d planned.”
The previous parts of the note were all sarcastic, and then he basically says you need to shut the hell up. I can’t fathom Diane’s alleged mental state, but I think sticking with the sarcasm through to the end would have been the way to go, rather than taking a turn towards outright aggression.
And then he should have stopped. Completely. His point was made.
If his goal was to communicate the need be nice to service workers via Twitter, then he accomplished that. If his goal was also to let Diane know she was being silly, then he accomplished that too (although, again, it would have been far better if he’d left the shut-your-mouth part out of it).
But he didn’t stop. He went from defender of service workers to abusive. Read it and judge for yourself. He repeatedly told her to “eat my dick.”
Now saying that to your trash-talking buddy who just dissed your football team is one thing. I’m not going all language police here. But circumstances matter. This was a woman he told this to – a woman who is a stranger to him – and women are victims of sexual violence in America every two minutes. What’s more, she was on an airplane – she couldn’t even get away from him. Also, it’s clear she was in a distressed state. Sure, if Elan’s story is all true then she wasn’t being a nice person at all, but this went so far over the line into threatening and misogynistic I felt compelled to speak out.
Elan sank to Diane’s level then kept right on sinking.
But then again, he’s a producer for The Bachelor, so I guess this is just Elan staying in character. His job is all about creating train wrecks.
The world will be a better place if more of us choose to band together to defend those who can’t defend themselves. There is nothing wrong with standing up to a bully, especially if you’re the bystander. You can be more helpful than you know.
But there is a right way and a wrong way to stand up to a bully. Elan chose the wrong way.
But since live tweeting making bad choices is apparently a thing now, I decided to give it a try myself. Here is the result.
UPDATE: So, as I suspected, Elan is now saying the whole story is fake because Diane doesn’t exist. Bravo, Elan. You were able to promote sexual harassment via false tweeting. #SlowClap #Sarcasm
The lesson here is to take care with what kind of behavior you would call heroic.
A version of this post first appeared at sixpackabs.com
Photo: Flickr/David Ensor