Recently a 16-year-old said something stupid. This in itself isn’t anything new: 16-year-olds have been saying stupid things forever. It is pretty much part of the package that comes with spots, frustration and taking too long in the shower.
But in this case the 16-year old in question is Nash Grier, the most famous person on video sharing platform Vine, and the stupid thing he said was hateful, nasty and downright dangerous.
Grier, whose Vine following is over 8million, posted a Vine showing him screaming ‘Yes it is. Fag!’ in response to a HIV awareness ad that stated ‘Get tested for HIV. It’s not a gay thing.’
The devout Christian micro-vlogger from North Carolina has said plenty of anti-gay things before, including tweeting ‘Retweet this if you’re against gay marriage’ and ‘Gay rights? Naahhh’ which, as the personal opinions of a deep south teen who’s just found his first big-boy hairs, I’m more than happy for him to spout as much as he likes.
This latest rant isn’t just stupid; it’s dangerous. By spewing the kind of ignorance that equates HIV with homosexuality, Grier is endangering lives in a very real way.
While medical science continues to make headway in the treatment and eventual cure for this awful virus, it’s education and awareness that are key to beating it in the long term. Annoyingly, that’s what the advert was saying. But Grier’s teen fans will lose that message. All they will remember is the image of his red-faced screaming and his smug, self-satisfied smile.
Grier has since deleted the Vine and the anti-gay tweets, and has apologised on Twitter, saying: ‘I have nothing against anyone or anything that promotes equality. Sorry again.’
If I were feeling cynical, I’d suggest that this about-face has less to do with a change in his fundamental beliefs and more to do with the stick he’s received as a result, and probably the threat to his enormous fanbase as those who disagree start to unfollow him in their droves.
But let’s give the twitchy little bag of hormones the benefit of the doubt here and say that yes, he’s changed his mind and then apologised for saying things against ‘equality’. That’s fine, right? Well, no. In fact, not at all. Because he’s missed the point entirely.
I don’t care that he doesn’t think gays should have equal rights, or that he’s against gay marriage. In fact, I’d defend vehemently his right to say those things if he wants. Apologizing for having an opinion that isn’t in line with mine in unnecessary.
The problem here is that propagation and dissemination of an ignorance that encourages young people to engage in risky sexual practices safe in an unfounded belief that they can’t get HIV because they’re not ‘fags’. That’s not to do with social equality, it’s to do with a basic understanding of medicine and science, and a trite little apology is nowhere near enough to undo the damage already done.
You want to apologize for being loud and ignorant about HIV, Nash? Promote a HIV awareness campaign to your 8 million followers.
Want to undo the damage? Educate some people, maybe even save some of the lives that your stupid mouth may have endangered in the first place. Vine yourself having a HIV test to show how easy and painless it is.
Want to feel more like an adult? Act like one. Don’t apologize for stupidity; help wipe it out.
Everything else is just words.