Lessons in Damage Control from Callum McSwiggan’s Guilty Plea

Prominent LGBT+ vlogger Callum McSwiggan has recently pleaded guilty to a felony count of vandalism exceeding $400. In addition to three years’ probation, McSwiggan was sentenced to 52 anger-management sessions and a $7,000 restitution fee. Fortunately for him, the YouTuber is still flying high on his channel—so how can you escape a high-profile controversy unscathed?

According to the YouTube star, McSwiggan was attacked by three men upon leaving a West Hollywood gay club during his visit for VidCon last June. After the attack, McSwiggan damaged the bumper and mirror of the car belonging to one of the men. Upon calling the police, McSwiggan was apprehended for vandalism, and a lack of visible injury put his hate crime allegations under scrutiny by both the police and social media commenters.

Suspicion arose that McSwiggan made the hate crime up damaged the star’s reputation and credibility. When McSwiggan posted a hospital selfie after the incident, one of the alleged attackers Damien Nichols—who’s also gay—commented to discredit McSwiggan’s side of the story, describing the YouTuber’s “crazy” behavior after having had too much to drink. The selfie has since been deleted, per Advocate, who quotes the text of Nichol’s comment.

Per the plea deal, the misdemeanor charge for falsifying a police report was dropped, clearing his name on that count.

The First Steps of Reputation Protection

Warren Buffet famously said “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five years to ruin it.” While large corporations may recover from an embarrassing misstep, individual and independent content producers can have a much more difficult time getting through a controversy unscathed.

If you find yourself in a snafu—very public legal trouble is only one example—you’ll need to exercise some serious damage control. The best and obvious first step is to stop talking, at least initially. Attention quickly diverts from one topic to another online. So while you collect your thoughts to pull together a statement, see if the situation might blow over. While preparing a statement is a good idea, it’s important that you don’t argue or fuel the fire with trolls online. If your issue is a legal battle, don’t speak to media unless you receive counsel first.

Don’t Throw Community Under the Bus

Beware invoking a wider community or speaking for others, as this might fan the flames. Shortly after the June incident occurred, McSwiggan cited the recent Pulse nightclub massacre—resulting in the death of 49 and injury of 44—while discussing his own victimhood. Considering many were suspicious, and continue to be, of McSwiggan’s hate crime allegations, invoking the bloodbath perhaps wasn’t wise; a quick glance at the comments section of the Advocate writeup detailing case—a publication focused on gay issues—presents many LGBT+ commenters disavowing the YouTuber, casting him as a bad example of their community who belittles “real” attack victims by exploiting the massacre for his own gain.

In the midst of a controversy, it’s important to identify your own responsibilities in the situation. It’s saddening that someone would be attacked for their sexuality, though one also can’t blame homophobia for their vandalizing property. Be conscious of how your defense can cast blame on others, or in some way damage their reputation.

Act with Grace to Protect Your Reputation

I’s also important to consider your audience, as well as your responsibilities as an influential platform. In McSwiggan’s case, he is a prominent vlogger who’s committed to issues in the LGBT+ community. This makes him a role model for LGBT+ youth, as well as a prominent member in community. With such a platform, it’s important to apologize with grace and humility to set a good example: McSwiggan did a good job of this when he issued a statement via Twitter that described the situation. He noted that he was cleared of the misdemeanor charge, but owned up to his damaging the car with regret.

Dealing with the Social Media Noise

When there’s juicy drama, everyone has something to say—and sometimes what they say can be hateful or damaging to your mental health. Imagine if you were in McSwiggan’s situation and were cast into suspicion after a traumatic episode. What’s worse, what if the feedback you received was filled with slurs that further attacked you?

If you have more angry voices calling on you than a Greek chorus, you’ll need to monitor your social media comments to avoid such attacks on your character. It’s important that everyone can express themselves, but there’s no place for rudeness or abuse—and while services like Instagram and YouTube have native automated comment moderation tools, each are quite lacking. Relying on keyword blacklists and shoddy algorithmic methods, these filters are easily bypassed and just not enough.

For one, it only takes a little bit of creative spelling and spacing for foul language to fool a keyword blacklist. These tools don’t work in real time either, often requiring you to sift through the abuse later to check for false-positives.

Smart Moderation is a great solution to this. It’s an artificial intelligence-based comment moderation tool that will erase profanity and abuse from your comments within a minute of posting, without your having to see it. You can connect it to the social media profiles you love like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, so you can shake off the haters and focus on what you need to do to get your reputation back on track. If you want to try Smart Moderation out, go ahead—it’s free!

122 comments

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  25. ハイジさん、こんにちは。子宮外妊娠、大変でしたね。まだ半年くらいしかたっておられないとのこと、ホルモンの関係もあってしんどい思いをされているのかなとも思いました。私は多のう胞、無月経の体質だったため、不妊治療で子供を授かりました。人工受精は8回くらい、体外受精は採卵が2回、胚移植は3回でした。治療中は流産を2回経験しています。ハイジさんと同様、治療に専念するため退職しました。今振り返ってみると、一番気持ちが落ち込んでいたのは、最初の胚移植の直前でした。OHSSを避けるために1クール空けて、胚盤胞での移植だったのですがその間本当にブルーになって。ちょうど母親が入院していたこともあり、とてもとても落ち込んでいました。周りから見ても様子がおかしかったのか、いろんな人から「治療をお休みしたら出来るかも」とか「病院をやめたら授かった人がいるよ」などと励ましてもらったのですが、自分は自然妊娠を望めない体だったのでさらにズドーーンと落ち込み、、、、頑張って治療しているのを否定されたような気持ちになってしまっていました。今思えば、みんな良かれと思って言ってくれていたのはわかるのですが、半端ない精神状態でした。その時は結局、着床はしたけれど流産してしまいました。次のチャレンジのとき、凍結胚だったので採卵がなく、排卵誘発の注射はせずに、卵胞ホルモンの補充(貼り薬)だけで済んだのですがえっ、すごいラク!!と思って。一気にモチベーションが上がったんです。やっぱり自分は注射に疲れていたんだ、、、としみじみ自覚しました。ストレスがかからないように心がけていたつもりでしたが、やっぱり負担になっていたようです。その後、少し周りを見る気持ちの余裕が出来てきて自分よりも長く治療している人もいるし、辛い手術を受けた人もいる。卵がとれなかった人もいる。原因の全くわからない人もいる。多のう胞がハッキリしていて、薬で排卵できるなんて私は恵まれている、と気づきました。それと、自分が治療をしているのは自分の幸せのためで、今日も病院に幸せを掴みに行くのだ!と考えられるようになりました。病院に行った帰りにはカフェで休憩したり、図書館に行ったりして、働かなくても食べていけることにすごく感謝できるようになりました。私は治療を経て子どもを授かることができましたが、40代ですので、周りには頑張っても授からなかった方がたくさんいます。私も、お友達も、ずーっと頑張り続けたわけではなく時々落ち込んだり、お休みしたり、家族に当たり散らしたり、山あり谷ありです。33歳なら、私の感覚ではまだまだお若いです。続けるのも、お休みされるのも、ゆっくり考えてくださいね。ハイジさんに、力が湧いてきますように。お祈りしています。1f46

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  31. Sì Lorenza, so che la Gabbanelli ha fatto qualche anno fa un servizio sulla fusione fredda (ma non l'ho visto), probabilmente però non intervistando i laboratori di Bologna ma quelli di Frascati, che esprimono l'eccellenza italiana nel campo della ricerca sulla fusione fredda… nel campo dell'applicazione l'eccellenza sembrerebbe invece in mano a Rossi e Focardi.A schermo o stampato, quel che conta è leggere… e diffondere. Buona domenica anche a te.

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