What is it about natural disasters, political revolts and other life-changing events that make people take leave of their senses with regard to their social networking activity? We've seen it happen with the protests in Egypt, the demonstrations in Wisconsin and now with the tragedy in Japan.
One day after the islands of Japan and its people were devastated by an earthquake and a tsunami, which have since resulted in a nuclear crisis, irreverent funny-man Gilbert Gottfried posted jokes referencing the tragedy to his Twitter account. (Though the offensive posts are no longer visible on Gottfried's Twitter feed, later posts in which he apologized for his "attempt at humor" are still there.) Upon learning of the tweets, Aflac, for which Gottfried voiced the duck in television ads, relieved him of his job.
According to The New York Times, Aflac SVP and Chief Marketing Officer Michael Zuna said in a statement:
Gilbert's recent comments about the crisis in Japan were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac. Aflac Japan - and, by extension, Japan itself - is part of the Aflac family, and there is no place for anything but compassion and concern during these difficult times.
The company invoked a morals clause in Gottfried's contract to affect the termination.
Yes, Gottfried is known for his in-your-face style of comedy, and it's to be expected that he would glean material from current events-what comedian doesn't? But the fact that he did so when the world was still reeling from the events, and that he chose a real-time, global forum in which to share his jokes proved to be the demise of his Aflac voice work. It may seem we can comment with impunity (and sometimes anonymity) when interacting on a social network, but like I've said before, what you say online is there to stay.
We would all do well to learn from Gottfried's mistake.