Everyone Loses With That Viral Airplane Story

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By now you've probably seen the story of Elan Gale, a producer for ABC's The Bachelor, and his airport hijinks with "Diane" while traveling to see family for Thanksgiving. It's awful, and you should hate it.

Here's the gist: on Gale's flight was this lady, whom he named "Diane," and she was unfairly giving the airline staff a hard time about missing her connecting flight. (The flight they shared was delayed.) Gale bought her a drink and wrote her a little note saying she should be nicer to the staff; it's the holidays and everyone's suffering together. She responded with her own note expressing how unammusing she found the situation. This set off a lengthy back and forth that culminated with, out of nowhere, Gale telling Diane to suck his dick. She slapped him. Now Alec Baldwin's weighing in. This Storify will fill in details: 

Got everything? Excellent. 

Before long, Gale's story was picking upworthy steam online, and before it could finish, Buzzfeed turned it into a post. (Obviously.) That sent Gale's tale over the viral nova, and before long it was clogging up every available social media feed. But now there are questions about its accuracy, and whether or not we should champion a guy who, clearly, was also behaving like a jerk. 

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Melissa Stettons, allegedly one of Gale's friends, asked why more people aren't questioning whether Gale's story has any ring of truth to it. Gale has proof, like pictures of the notes they allegedly passed, but at no point did he take a picture of Diane. He already broadcast to the world her complaints to airline staff, and then live-Tweeted the rest. So why not snap a creepshot? Stettons found two eerily similar times when Gale pulled weird "pranks" online, though they were not as well received. Stettons doesn't question the story's accuracy, she says, but someone should. "We are all just lemmings taught to believe anything we read on the internet," Stettons writes.

Liz Dwyer also challenged Gale's version of events in a post on her Los Angelista blog, titled "" that was also eventually republished on Buzzfeed. She argues, very fairly, that perhaps Diane was wearing a medical mask because she's gravely ill, and perhaps her unreasonable behavior can be explained because this might be the last Thanksgiving she'll get to spend with her family. Surely that detail would go viral too. And why exactly did he tell her to suck his dick? "I can't help but wonder if Diane had been built like the Rock and named Dimitry if Gale would've passed his "eat my dick" note up to seat 7A," she writes. Also, Dwyer notes, Gale's story probably doesn't get shared, is not a win, and doesn't capture our attention if he's anything but a white man:

I also wondered what would’ve happened, and whether the general public would’ve found it hilarious and awesome, if a black man were tweeting about telling a white woman to eat his dick. Yeah, I really wish a black man — or a man who looked Middle Eastern — would pass a note to a white woman on an airplane saying “eat my dick.” I doubt the flight attendants would’ve given a wink and nod, as they appear to have done to Gale. 

A note telling her to be more considerate next time would have sufficed. But he was obnoxious from the beginning, and eventually he crossed a line. Regardless of Diane's possible illness, Gale is just as much of a jerk, if not more so.

That Buzzfeed was able to take advantage of both sides of this story — pushing Gale's original tweets and the ensuing backlash — proves no one wins here. But that's also the tired cycle of the internet publishing: something happens, there's backlash, and then backlash against that backlash. It's a cycle we're all guilty of falling into. That we're for some reason spilling time, ink and HTML code over this story proves how desperate we are to outrage about outrage, to keep the wheels spinning, to talk about something — anything. Even one random guy's airport story that you, under any normal circumstances, wouldn't listen to at a bar.

Flying over the holidays is hard enough without a woman behaving like a jerk to airline staff, a guy telling her to suck his dick as some misguided attempt at nobility, and that story getting posted around the Internet as some kind of #win! Next time everyone should sit down, be quiet, and not celebrate when humans are jerks to each other. Happy holidays. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.