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How long will Piers Morgan keep attacking Naomi Osaka & other athletes whenever he feels the need for attention?

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Naomi Osaka at the 2021 US Open
Musab Abid
EXPERT COLUMNIST

A few years ago, Maria Sharapova inspired a chain of outraged reactions by claiming she didn't know who Sachin Tendulkar was. At the time I wondered whether social media had single-handedly unmasked the ugliness of the human race, revealing just how nasty and stupid the world's population could be.

I eventually came to the sorry realization that internet trolls are an unfortunate but unavoidable little cancer we all have to live with. But when we give one of those trolls a blue tick, an 8-million fan following and a platform to inflict mass hurt, can we continue to brush it off as something "to live with"?

As you are probably aware, Piers Morgan is famous for being famous on Twitter, and has no honorable accomplishments to speak of. But the reach of social media has spiraled to such an extent that even if his influence is confined to Twitter, it can still cause huge damage and destruction.

Morgan spent most of his early career working with tabloids like News of the World and Daily Mirror, and currently earns his living by being UK's version of Arnab Goswami on television. It is also pertinent to note that during his time at Daily Mirror - as the Editor, no less - the newspaper was involved in one of the largest phone hacking scandals ever seen in media history.

Morgan was eventually fired from the newspaper for falling prey to a hoax and publishing it as fact. And that is more or less what he continues to do to this day.

But to hear the man speak on Twitter, you'd think he had the CV of Nelson Mandela. It's not just that Piers Morgan frequently talks about things outside his scope of knowledge and understanding; it is that he always does so with the air of someone who is a proven authority on the subject.

Imagine your three-year-old cousin telling you that three plus two is nine, and acting as though he is unequivocally right. That's a bit like what reading Morgan's tweets feels - except that you know how dangerous it is to laugh them off as the unimportant babbling of a toddler.

For years now, Piers Morgan has used his Twitter handle and his journalistic platforms (Daily Mail and ITV's Good Morning Britain, among others) to voice toxic takes on things like racism, feminism and mental health. He also claims to be a sports fan, so athletes routinely face his wrath for simply failing to perform as per the expectations.

But Morgan's recent takes on sport are not just damaging to the athletes themselves. They are also damaging to scores of people around the world grappling with low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.

Piers Morgan's current target of choice is Naomi Osaka, but it's not just about her

Naomi Osaka at one of her press conferences
Naomi Osaka at one of her press conferences

When Naomi Osaka decided to skip her press conferences at Roland Garros and subsequently pulled out of the tournament citing depression, she earned both plaudits and brickbats. On one hand there were people who commended Osaka for prioritizing her mental health over adherence to traditional rules, while on the other people condemned her for trying to forego her duties as a professional.

Piers Morgan, of course, went in a different direction altogether. Not only did he dismiss Naomi Osaka's concerns - thereby implying she was flat out lying - he also accused her of "trivializing" mental illness. In other words, Morgan's first reaction to someone claiming they are dealing with inner demons is to call them a liar and a hazard to mental health awareness.

Keep aside for a moment your thoughts about Naomi Osaka's press conference move, and ask yourself this: if everyone reacted to mental health complaints the way Piers Morgan did, would anyone ever speak up about it?

Maybe Morgan accused Osaka of trivializing mental health issues out of a guilty conscience. Maybe he knows that he has been guilty of doing exactly what he accused Osaka of, by repeatedly dismissing the concerns of people speaking up about mental health.

But who are we kidding? Expecting self-awareness from a troll is expecting too much.

For a while now, Piers Morgan has been intentionally or unintentionally silencing people who are on the precipice of voicing their mental health concerns. And who knows, he might even have blood on his hands.

Morgan has publicly and derisively questioned people's suicidal tendencies in the past, presumably because he thinks someone with money and material comforts can't suffer from depression. Is it so hard to imagine that someone with mental health issues could get so disturbed by the Brit's ruthless diatribes against "snowflakes" that they are pushed to self-harm?

During his now infamous essay on Naomi Osaka's media decision, where he called her "narcissistic" and a "spoiled brat," Piers Morgan drew parallels between the Japanese and Meghan Markle. Like Osaka, Markle is a black woman who has publicly spoken about her mental health issues. And like Osaka, Markle has become the pet punching bag of the 56-year-old white man.

What's particularly egregious about Morgan's remorseless attacks on women of color is how he seems to think that whatever he says is fact. While describing Naomi Osaka's decision to skip press conferences, the Brit very confidently declared "this has got nothing to do with mental health".

Similarly, while denouncing Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez in his latest essay, Morgan claimed "the only conversation about the Met Gala today is what a flaming hypocrite she is." Never mind the fact that there are several articles - which surely qualify as a conversation? - that commend the politican / activist for the statement she made at the event.

Meghan Markle, Naomi Osaka, Emma Raducanu: Which successful woman of color will Piers Morgan go after next?

Emma Raducanu with the 2021 US Open trophy
Emma Raducanu with the 2021 US Open trophy

Piers Morgan's latest article also landed fresh blows on Naomi Osaka, once again without provocation. The Brit claimed Osaka spent most of the year "blaming the media for her poor form," when anyone with an iota of knowledge would tell you she never did that.

Morgan also judged Osaka's expressions at the gala - calling her 'sulky faced' - before insinuating that the Japanese-Haitian inspired outfit she sported was solely intended to garner attention.

In the same breath, Piers Morgan showered praise on Emma Raducanu and her outfit. The 56-year-old claimed Raducanu "wore a fun, glamorous black-and-white Chanel ensemble that was entirely appropriate for a girl of 18". I want to believe for his sake that he wrote this with both of his hands on the keyboard.

Think of the situation for a minute. Here is a man in his 50s, eagerly judging the appearance and outfit of a woman who is less than 1/3rd his age. That creepy old uncle in your family Whatsapp group doesn't sound so creepy anymore, does he?

But lest we forget, Piers Morgan hasn't always been complimentary of Emma Raducanu. Just two months ago, when Raducanu was first getting acquainted with the pressure of the spotlight - she had reached the fourth round of Wimbledon in her very first Major appearance - Morgan accused her of "quitting when she was losing badly."

Again, think of the situation objectively. An 18-year-old, playing in front of a rabid audience desperate for home glory, retires because of dizziness and shortness of breath. And a 56-year-old comes along and derides her for not being tough enough.

It's easy for Piers Morgan - or anyone, really - to dismiss a real issue as an imagined mental struggle (which apparently doesn't qualify as a reason to stop). That's what gets the clicks and retweets, after all. "18-year-old retires because of dizziness" doesn't sell; "18-year-old retires because the spotlight got too bright" makes for a much more "viral" story.

But Morgan and the rest of his 'mental health isn't real' brigade have likely never studied how anxiety can manifest itself in the form of physical issues. Last year, Dominic Thiem talked about how he was so "tense" during the 2020 US Open final that he ended up having physical cramps. The Austrian could barely run towards the end of that match, and nobody would have blamed him for losing or retiring.

Emma Raducanu's dizziness could have also been a product of pressure / stress (although there is no evidence to suggest it was). But even if it was, would that have made her reason for retirement any less real?

Raducanu was always tough enough, and she proved it last week by winning the US Open without dropping a set. Morgan took that as an opportunity to claim she had "taken his advice," without realizing that no sane person would ever ask for his advice. He also sounded completely oblivious to the fact that by lauding Raducanu's mental toughness, he was effectively backtracking on his earlier comments.

"Thank God she’s made of tougher stuff & realized that winners don’t quit & have to learn how to handle the pressure," Morgan wrote in one of his tweets. Yes, this is the same player he alleged had "quit" two months ago.

Morgan also said in another tweet that Raducanu went "from Wimbledon choker to US Open champion in 3 months", which according to him was a "a brilliant illustration of mental strength & resilience". So let me get this straight: he thinks Raducanu is a choker and also a symbol of resilience? If the 18-year-old has the misfortune of being forced to retire again at any time in the future, will she no longer have mental strength?

The absurdly nonsensical nature of Piers Morgan's comments sometimes makes you want to pity him. The man clearly has an obsessive need for attention, and it is perhaps understandable that he throws mindless tantrums when he doesn't get it.

You could even give Morgan the benefit of the doubt at some level, and assume that he doesn't actually believe half the vile things he says. Maybe he only comes up with such 'hot takes' under instructions from his employers, so that he can attract the most eyeballs possible.

But that doesn't excuse his utter disregard for the fallout of those comments.

The cost of Piers Morgan's Twitter tantrums is higher than any of us should be okay with

Piers Morgan at the BMW PGA Championship
Piers Morgan at the BMW PGA Championship

Naomi Osaka has repeatedly talked about how she gets unduly affected by Twitter trolls, and she has made a habit of blocking those who abuse her. But how can she escape the words of someone with 8 million followers, and whose every acidic tweet makes headlines in the media?

The Japanese, of course, has long since blocked Piers Morgan on Twitter, as anyone in their right mind would. But we don't know whether Emma Raducanu has done the same, and that is worrying because it's tough to predict when Piers Morgan will decide to go after her again.

Raducanu is, after all, a young and successful woman of mixed heritage. That falls squarely within Morgan's target area, so he will likely jump at the slightest opportunity to bash her.

A day after Raducanu won the US Open, a tweet started doing the rounds claiming that the 18-year-old said "Sorry, I don't know who she is" in response to a question about Piers Morgan. The quote sounded so apt that scores of Twitter users - including Andy Roddick - retweeted it.

Morgan himself was forced to check whether it was authentic - in what he claimed was "an uncomfortable few minutes" - before announcing to the world that it was fake.

The comments on the tweet - coupled with Morgan's publicly revealed guilty conscience - made it clear that a lot of people believed the quote to be true. And why wouldn't they? The man - who once stormed off a TV show because he was unable to respond to questions leveled at him - repeatedly questioned the ability of an 18-year-old to handle the pressure of the big stage.

"Sorry, I don't know who she is" is actually a lot milder than what many of us would have (justifiably) wanted to say about him.

Piers Morgan has been fired for failing to do his job properly; he has overseen a publication where illegal phone hacking was rampant. And yet he finds it okay to criticize and bully athletes and personalities who are the best in the world at what they do.

The man supposedly believes everyone is entitled to their opinion, so he regularly champions the cause of freedom of speech. And yet he has no qualms about trying to pass off his opinion as fact, and bullying anyone who disagrees with him.

A popular adage goes something like this: "If your take about something is opposite to that of Piers Morgan, it means you are on the right track." But who will break that to him?

Piers Morgan is the kind of person who jokes about how the people criticizing him are "damaging" his mental health. He is also the kind of wannabe dudebro who responds to racism allegations by posting pictures of himself with Serena Williams.

Morgan seems like a lot of different things - racist one day, sexist another day, and denier of the existence of mental health whenever he feels like it. But when you stumble upon the deeply uncomfortable idea that he could be all of those things, you wonder whether he's any better than the likes of Donald Trump (who, incidentally, was often praised by Morgan during his presidency).

You also question why Twitter is allowing him to have a platform at all.

For too long now Piers Morgan has been spewing toxicity against anyone he personally dislikes. There have been several reports about how he turned against Meghan Markle only after she "cut him off", and his vendetta against women and people of color has also been well-documented. But how long will it be before his vitriol ends up causing more than just tears?

Morgan doesn't put out his toxic comments in isolation, after all. Social media is not a bubble; in fact, it is the opposite of one. And by using the platform to attack everyone who shows any kind of vulnerability, the Brit is spreading the tentacles of his inner monster far and wide, giving rise to an army of people just as small-minded as him.

In a world already full of bullies, Piers Morgan is creating more every minute.

The 56-year-old has often lambasted the 'cancel culture' among 'woke liberals'. He keeps insisting that it is wrong to socially outlaw (and therefore affect the livelihood of) people who supposedly just have a difference of opinion. But the fact that Morgan still has such a huge platform is evidence that cancel culture doesn't work at all.

There are thousands of people who think Piers Morgan is garbage in the shape of a human, and are outraged by the very mention of his name. But that hasn't affected his livelihood in the slightest.

But his livelihood is not even relevant here. What's more important - and more dangerous - is that he continues to wield considerable influence on social media. That can only spell disaster for people of color, for women, and for those struggling with their mental health.

In the case of people like Piers Morgan, cancel culture is absolutely necessary. And mere words aren't enough; there needs to be direct action of some kind, before it gets too late.

Let's hope Twitter doesn't wait for the cost of Morgan's tantrums to run into dozens of lives before it does something about this.


Edited by Musab Abid

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