An international incident was narrowly avoided last week after Dustin the Turkey's lack of deference was brought to the attention of the worldwide One Direction fandom. A clip of Niall Horan from Comic Relief went (somewhat belatedly) viral last week, as thousands of fans tweeted RTE and Ray D'Arcy and anyone else they could think of, to demand respect for Niall Horan.
A misunderstanding of Shakespearean proportions, the clip appeared to show Niall interrupted mid-flow to be upbraided for not being Harry Styles. It was perhaps an inflammatory joke that isn't a joke for a fandom very protective of the man they have long felt to be overlooked and under-appreciated by the mainstream Harry-fixated media.
As #RespectNiallHoran trended worldwide, plaintive tweets such as, ''Niall is a really talented musician and he deserves respect so don't dare say that you didn't want to hear his music and that you prefer Harry's, like can you just shut the hell up! He performed a really beautiful song and they just interrupted him," provided endless smug entertainment for Ireland - because if there's anything we like more than laughing at teenagers, it's laughing at Yanks and their incredible capacity to miss the joke.
But let's face it, assuming the moral and intellectual high ground for finding an abusive turkey puppet funny is probably a low point as a country.
The Irish contingent of the fandom swung into action, reassuring their devoted peers that Niall was in on the joke - and indeed, that it was a joke in the first place.
The whole affair spoke to the dual identity of Niall Horan, and the Irish millennial abroad in general. Our Niall is not their Niall. There's the internationally beloved pop-hunk messiah-figure, and then there's the chancer from Mullingar who somehow ended up in the biggest boyband since The Beatles - which is pretty funny, as far as we're all concerned. And it's okay because he's in on the joke with us - or at least we think he is.
(Niall understands the danger of alienating Ireland with notions, or any hint that he believes he deserves his success).
Niall Horan is your nephew back for Mammy's birthday from his big bank job in New York - having the piss taken out of him is his penance for leaving. We know how to communicate with Niall, and Niall knows how to communicate with us.
But Niall is also fluent in Fandom, and the sweet sincerity that characterises One Direction fans' internet presence. It must be awkward for him - that feeling of your separate friendship groups mixing at your birthday drinks and discovering that you're basically at least two different people depending on the company.
The embarrassment wasn't in the fans' misunderstanding of the joke - but in the clash of Niall's two communities, both of which feel a certain ownership of him.
And in fairness, for all our self-satisfied lols at the Yanks not appreciating context correctly, it's possible that we were missing some vital context too. Because for the 1D fandom, making #RespectNiallHoran trend worldwide isn't actually as big a deal as we think it is.
They didn't necessarily overreact, this is just what they do - making worldwide trends of 1D non-events is the fandom's bread and butter. The fandom basically owns the internet: they can make anything trend at any time they want by barely lifting a finger. There's a whole masters thesis out of the University of Nevada on "The One Direction Fandom's Ability to Influence and Dominate Worldwide Twitter Trends".
This time five years ago, #ArianaRESPECTLouis trended worldwide after a rumoured slight against Niall's former bandmate Louis Tomlinson by Ariana Grande. Respect is very important to the One Direction fandom. But that summer they also successfully decided to make "appreciation days" for each of the boys' trend five days in a row - a coup the highest-paid PR and marketing gurus could only dream of achieving.
We're the bigger fools getting excited about it.
Since brands began, all we've asked of them is to sell us stuff. And sell us stuff they did. They sold us all of the stuff!
Now, all of a sudden, they're being asked to not be racist about it. Not only this, we're expecting them to be actively anti-racist too.
It's a difficult time for brands, trying to extricate themselves from their fundamentally racist history, supply chain and business practices in order to make us buy stuff.
Because stopping-being-racist is expensive, and with a pandemic on the loose many brands don't have cash to spare: it's a predicament. Pinched multinationals discovered the StopHateForProfit campaign, which represented a no-brainer of a win-win: huge multinationals got to pull their advertising from Facebook for a bit, saving them a fair chunk of their marketing budget at the same time as being worth at least that much again in good PR.
The campaign group itself seeks to pressure Facebook into clamping down on dangerous content, which runs rampant on their site in a way that Twitter categorically does not allow.
Brands know you just can't put a price on a good public statement in this climate. Obviously, it's not an actual ''boycott'' - seeing as most of the bigger brands especially didn't actually demand any concrete changes from Facebook as a condition of their return (Patagonia announced they'd stay away at least until the end of July; Unilever, until the end of the year).
It's difficult to see how Facebook will back down: Zuckerberg has made it very clear that he considers it a moral imperative to accept money from politicians who wish to pay to lie to voters. Facebook argues that this is how public discourse happens - but between cynical micro-targeting of susceptible individuals and an algorithm that keeps you inside your own political echo chamber, inflammatory lies run rampant and unchecked - paid for and not.
If it sounds awful, it's because it is awful: it feels irredeemable. But Facebook will be fine, for now. Boomers will continue to be radicalised on it, and Patagonia-clad millennials will keep secretly guiltily logging on to cry over holiday photos from 12 years ago whilst protesting that we don't need to delete it because we never use it anyway.
Luckily, Gen Z find Facebook cringe and vaguely desperate, so we can look forward to a slow suffocation of the social media giant over the next 40 years or so. That's if TikTok's next update doesn't just delete the Facebook app from your phone at the same time as sending all your nudes to Xi Jinping.