Russia Vs. Ukraine Vs. Smith Vs. Rock

It's been dubbed the slap heard around the world. And if Twitter can be used as a proxy for the world, then it's true, according to an analysis of two major conflicts people have been tweeting about: Smith/Rock vs. Russia/Ukraine.

Sadly, Will Smith's shocking physical assault of Oscar presenter Chris Rock during the live telecast was enough to blow the magnitudes-greater tragedy of Russia's assault on Ukraine off the twittersphere, according to an analysis that social-media analytics company ListenFirst did for "Red, White & Blog."

While the military conflict in Ukraine has been trending consistently on Twitter since Russia's invasion, it declined 10% in the three days following Smith's slap vs. the three days prior.

There were zero tweets referencing Smith and Rock together in the days before the Oscars, but the number surged to nearly 4 million in the days following the slap.



Frankly, I'm not sure what this says about the attention spans and engagement levels of social-media users, but in a way it is one of the most wag-the-dog moments of the past month.

Sure, there's plenty to debate about the televised Oscars assault (for the record, I don't think people should make fun of alopecia, but I also don't think people should physically assault people who do), but given the relative scale of human tragedy, it's a sad testament to the Twitter cycle, if not the news cycle overall.

While I don't have access to the same sophisticated analytics for news coverage, I did queries for the keywords "Will Smith" and "Chris Rock" vs. "Russia" and "Ukraine" on Google News for the past week and found the actual war still dominated coverage vs. the Hollywood social outrage war, by a margin of more than two-to-one.

Still, it says something that so much of our attention can be occupied by a movie star going berserk and smacking a comedian for telling a joke when something far more serious is going on simultaneously.

But sticking with the wag-the-dog aspect of media and social media, it's probably also worth noting that the clear winner of media conflicts the past few days has been Smith, followed by Rock, followed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, followed by Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky in terms of tweets garnered the past few days in ListenFirst's analysis.

I say "winner" in the old Madison Avenue adage of "say whatever you want, just spell my name right," which in the case of Zelensky -- or Zelenskyy -- may not always be the case.

And while Zelensky may no longer be an entertainment industry personality, I did ask an expert on how his recognition and reputation would be playing if he was evaluated as one.

"We don’t measure political personalities," Henry Schafer, executive vice president of the Q Scores Company reminded me, adding, "Based on my experience, the fact that Zelensky has stepped up to the plate from the get go and in view of his traditional media and social media savvy, I believe he has made significant positive engagement with populations all over the world - especially here in the US.

"Hence, if we were to take Q Score measurements of him, I believe the scores would be very high and well above average. There was no hesitation on his part to do all of the above to lead and support the people of Ukraine in a very positive way and getting worldwide support at the same time.  All good things that create high likability."

In terms of the actual show biz personalities referenced in this column, Schafer said it's likely the "immediate consumer reaction to both of them will have some negative effect on their likeability.

"However, as I’ve seen through the years, the more the celeb responds with timely statements, the less the negative reaction is over time.

"Since Will Smith apologized immediately and has done so more often publicly with various emotionally charged statements over the past few days, this will serve to mitigate the negatives and the public will most likely be more forgiving by the time we update his Q Scores this summer.  Since the media coverage from Chris Rock’s point of view appears to be limited, the negative impact on his likeability could be more pronounced in our next measurement, although he may benefit from being the 'victim.'"

Schafer had no opinion to offer on the "likeability" of the other personality referenced in his column, Putin, but if you ask me, the only Q ratings he'd score well in are QAnon's.

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