Here are some things you can do in fourteen seconds.
• Watch this, nearly twice! Or any of the dozens of other films like it.
• Say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” just under nine times.
• Regret something a little.
• Eat a banana, probably.
• Defrost something.
• Give yourself a bad haircut.
• Tweet, then delete, something that gets you fired from your job as a spokesman for Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho).
Few good things happen in under fourteen seconds.
During the Super Bowl ads, evidently addled by the suggestive (and, frankly, pretty insultingly terrible ad featuring the stars of “Two Broke Girls”), the spokesman, Phil Hardy, mistakenly tweeted “me likey Broke Girls” from the congressman’s account instead of his own. He realized his mistake fourteen seconds later and deleted the errant tweet. But by then it was too late. The Internet had already graven it in stone, as the Internet is so prone to do. If you want to be sure that something will outlive you, just try to delete it from the Internet a single time. If you are really concerned about leaving a legacy that will last until the earth is swallowed by the sun, tweet it from the account of a political figure, then delete it. It lives on forever on the site where deleted political tweets go to die.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t delete anything from the Internet. Even Beyonce’s publicist couldn’t succeed in that. And she’s Beyonce. What hope is there for mortals whose worst angles are several darn sights worse than these?
But maybe this is a tipping point.
My first law of talking is that anyone, given a microphone and sufficient time, will make a career-ending gaffe. There is a corollary to this: Anyone famed for his or her relaxed, engaging, real social media presence will inevitably cross the line at some point, in earnest or in error. That is the price of talking all the time. A joke will go too far. You will hit “Send” by mistake. A photo intended as a direct message will go out to thousands of bewildered New Yorkers.
But is it, as my colleague Karen Tumulty asked on Twitter, a firing offense?
Fourteen seconds of mistake is nothing. Public life is full of people who have made fourteen years of mistake. Fourteen seconds to correction is pretty good, in my book. Those are some serious reflexes! And he tweeted it out immediately from his private account afterwards. Is there no mercy? Surely this is the extreme example. If this is worth firing over, then there’s little hope for anyone.