Over on Substack, journalist Sophie Ross just penned the perfect headline. “We Need to Talk About Tinx’s Old Tweets,” she titled a brief post about influencer Christina Najjar, the woman behind @itsmetinx (and “It’s Me, Tinx” on Sirius XM).
The headline is perfect because it so concisely captures the shoddy logic that fuels cancel culture. No, we actually don’t have to talk about Tinx’s old tweets. We really, really don’t.
Why? First, none of the tweets in question are all that offensive. They involve a 21-year-old calling a few celebrities fat and ugly 10 years ago. Even worse, some of the more recent tweets Ross included in her roundup are merely conservative, like criticizing Hillary Clinton, Silicon Valley, and the “liberal echo chamber.”
Najjar, according to Ross, also liked and retweeted posts in 2020 from Eric Trump, Elon Musk, Clay Travis, and Eric Weinstein, along with some tweets that directed harsh language at journalist Ken Klippenstein. I know people often blur the line between what is and what is not offensive to suit their politics at any given point in time so, please, review the posts yourself.
They basically amount to happy hour talk and mainstream conservatism.
For better or worse, tweets about celebrities she posted as a 21-year-old don’t necessarily reflect one bit on Najjar’s character as a grown woman in 2022. If she seems like a different person now, that’s probably because she changed, and she probably changed because she’s a human being who grows with age.
While we’re on the subject, it’s also somewhat amusing that our media is only debating the morality of Tinx’s TikTok account in light of old tweets and not, say, because TikTok is addictive and unhealthy and likely under the control of an adversarial government that obfuscated critical information in the early days of a pandemic.
Tinx, like Libs of TikTok, wields some cultural power. Influencers and anonymous accounts may seem silly, but they’re fair game for journalists when they deserve to be held accountable. This is not one of those times. (Nor was the weird occasion on which Taylor Lorenz creepily wrote about Libs of TikTok.)
If Najjar had been caught racking up followers with body positivity content while secretly or recently calling people fat or ugly, that would warrant some questions. Instead, she’s being questioned for sending mean tweets at rich people as a 21-year-old leaning right.
The many corporate media outlets that amplified Ross’s story zeroed in on the alleged hypocrisy of Najjar, TikTok’s “big sister,” criticizing people’s appearances. After Tinx apologized, E! News wrote, “The TikTok star, who has been dubbed the ‘older sister’ on the platform by fans due to her posts centered around positivity and self-love, concluded: ‘If you’ve been following me for a little bit, you know they are not representative of who I am. I am very sorry. I am a work in progress.’”
This is the crux of the problem. Of course tweets she sent as a 21-year-old aren’t “representative” of who she is as a woman in her 30s. This entire controversy is silly precisely because it’s predicated on the argument that they are “representative.”
It’s also predicated on the argument that Najjar’s right-leaning views are objectionable or somehow out of alignment with her affable persona. What actually seems to have happened is that a lot of center-left women discovered someone they really like holds views they don’t like. That might not have been shocking in years past, but when people have been conditioned by the media to see dissent from liberal dogma as bigotry and extremism, it makes more sense that Tinx’s followers feel disoriented.
Importantly, the apology Najjar posted makes no mention of her politics. If those tweets sincerely represent her views, she was right not to grovel or feign regret.
And if Najjar was more careful about vocalizing her views after getting famous, that decision wouldn’t have been dishonest or even unreasonable in this unforgiving climate. She might not have wanted to alienate sensitive fans or subject herself to the kinds of unserious, damaging questions and accusations she’s fielding now.
As Ross wrapped up her expose on Tinx, much of which seemed to originate on Reddit, she wrote, “I do believe people grow, and are worthy of forgiveness and redemption. I promise I’m not writing her off or attempting to ‘cancel’ someone for things they said in their youth, or problematic political beliefs of the past. Again, people can change. I just think, alongside her loyal fans, I’m simply interested in seeing her acknowledge them.”
I actually think it’s great Ross felt compelled to clarify she didn’t want to “cancel” Najjar. It’s a sign our incentives are shifting. People don’t want to be seen participating in “cancel culture.” But Ross’s post remains a sad symptom of a deeply unhealthy society. An influencer’s conservative politics are not newsworthy and neither are mean tweets she posted as a 21-year-old, whether a journalist is “interested” in an acknowledgment or not.
This is why Ross’s headline — which explicitly said we “need” to talk about Tinx’s tweets — is so perfect. Plenty of major outlets followed her lead, granting the story newsworthiness in a cynical bid for clicks and a reflexive need to produce formulaic apology porn.
The latter is most concerning. We’ve become so accustomed to this rhythm of habitual struggle sessions that we hardly even pause to consider whether something is actually — to borrow a phrase — “needed.” Is it newsworthy? Is it fair? Is it doing your readers a service? Or are we just going through the motions?
In this case, the answer seems clear.