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This Week in Internet Firestorms!

t’s been a particularly crazy week on the world wide web. Three stories in particular have blown up online, and the reactions to them have…

It’s been a particularly crazy week on the world wide web. Three stories in particular have blown up online, and the reactions to them have been quick and severe.

Rick Perry’s Flub Causes Major Damage

Rick Perry’s presidential campaign may have taken a major hit Wednesday, November 9th, when, during the Republican Party debate in Michigan, he was unable to name the three agencies of government he would eliminate if elected, a major campaign point of his. He hemmed and hawed when he was pushed by the debate moderator, and he eventually said, “The third agency of government I would do away with – the education, the uh, the commerce, and, let’s see. I can’t — the third one. I can’t. Sorry. Oops.” The audience laughed nervously, and eventually the debate moved forward, but the damage was done. In only twelve hours, the YouTube clip of the mistake had over 500,000 hits, with over 3,000 (mostly snarky) comments. That kind of massive negative attention could derail the Perry campaign, and he’ll need to rebound with a strong effort in upcoming debates to get over this. But even if he manages to regroup and somehow win the Republican nomination, his mistake will permanently live on on YouTube, and will be an easy reference point for anyone that wants to knock Perry in the future.

Joe Paterno’s Firing Erases a Sixty Year Legacy

Joe Paterno, the head coach of Penn State’s football team for 46 years and a coach at the university since 1950, was fired by the Penn State Board of Trustees on Wednesday night, along with the president of Penn State, Graham Spanier. The events came about as a result of Pennsylvania attorney general Linda Kelly’s releasing of the grand jury’s findings last Saturday that Paterno’s longtime assistant and defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, had sexually abused eight children in the last 15 years. Sandusky was immediately arrested and barred from the Penn State campus, but the wheels kept on turning. If Sandusky was Paterno’s closest confidant at Penn State, how much did Paterno know? It was then discovered that a graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, saw Sandusky with one of the young children in the Penn State showers together, and told Paterno. Paterno passed that information along to the vice president of the school, but didn’t contact law enforcement and didn’t do anything else about it.

As the grand jury findings were put on the Internet, the anger started to rise. When Penn State cancelled Paterno’s press conference on Tuesday morning, and Twitter erupted in anger. Penn State-related topics trended all week, and many called for Paterno’s resignation. Paterno tried to get ahead of the story on Wednesday morning by announcing that he’d be retiring at the end of the season, that he was "absolutely devastated by the developments in this case,” and that he was grieving for the children and their families. The Penn State board of trustees met afterwards on Wednesday and moved to immediately fire Paterno and Spanier.

After the firing, tensions didn’t subside. As Penn State students rioted in support of Paterno, people that voiced their support of Paterno on Twitter were lambasted. No one was more prominent than Twitter superstar and recent General Assembly inhabitant Ashton Kutcher, who stepped in a mess he should have wanted to avoid. After the firing, Kutcher tweeted, "How do you fire Jo Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste." The response to Kutcher’s tweet was fast and brutal, with responses like “Ashton Kutcher: Against child trafficking unless it involves college football.” Kutcher apologized quickly, saying that he hadn’t read all of the information before tweeting. He then wrote, “As an advocate in the fight against child sexual exploitation, I could not be more remorseful for all involved in the Penn St. case,” then stopped tweeting until he could “find a way to properly manage this (his) feed.” He then wrote a long blog post (which would make a third grade grammar teacher blush) about the issue this morning. It seems that in this case, people weren’t looking for a healthy debate. Just about everyone was disgusted by Paterno’s lack of action, and anyone that disagreed was in the wrong.

Brett Ratner Slurs His Way Off The Oscars

Brett Ratner, director of the Rush Hour movies and the recent Tower Heist, signed on a few months ago to produce the Oscars, and brought his Tower Heist star, Eddie Murphy, with him to host. But this week, the notoriously loudmouthed and boorish Ratner (Google some stories involving him and Olivia Munn) dropped the F-word, the really bad one, when asked about how he prepares a scene with his actors at a Q-and-A session. He said that “rehearsing is for f-gs,” and someone in the audience tweeted his answer. From there, the story blew up, leading to Monday’s angry essay by Mark Harris calling for Ratner to be fired. As the controversy swirled, Ratner resigned on Tuesday from the telecast, apologizing for his remarks in a statement. Murphy quit on Wednesday, since he didn’t want to host without having his producer on board. While Murphy will likely get away from this issue unscathed, Ratner’s reputation was once again ripped apart.

All three of these stories may have been swept under the rug in a previous generation. We don’t have the old Lincoln-Douglas debates on YouTube, so it’s very possible that even the great debaters of the past messed up what they wanted to say on occasion. Before the age of Twitter and instant information, perhaps Paterno could’ve swept the Sandusky scandal under the rug, no matter how horrifying and disgusting it was. Ratner likely could’ve gotten away with making an insensitive remark, too. But in this day and age, slip-ups like Perry’s have become fodder for jokes in an instant, and mistakes like Paterno made ruin a legacy that took half a century to build. Nobody can afford to make errors like these. The world is always watching.

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