In the age of Internet fame, it is easy to become popular over night. Ali “Ziggy” Mosslmani has become an Internet sensation in an instant. An Australian native, this 18 year old was partying and dancing with a girl. His friends took a photo of him dancing at an 18th birthday party in July of 2015. Jeremy Nool was the name of the friend that posted his photo. He is on Facebook under the name “J-Noodles”. [1] The photo became a stream of endless memes, becoming an accurate representation of the Internet. The photos consisted of everything from his face photo shopped on a horse to Mount Rushmore.

A meme is defined as: “a cultural item transmitted a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition and replication in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes. Or, a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way.” [2]

Mosslmani bears a mullet in the famous photo, so the Internet took to making fun of him. His unusual hairstyle was perfect meme material some may say. The Facebook page with the original memes have to date generated over 1450 likes. It gained traction with nearly 2000 comments, with story views more than 1.7 million times.

After the pictures were published in the press, Mosslmani took legal action. He attempted to sue Daily Mail Australia, as well as the Daily Telegraph Australia. In terms of radio coverage, he also attempted to sue Australian Radio Network. [3]

He wanted to sue on basis of defamation, which is a legal term defined as: the action of damaging a reputation of a person. A Mashable article quotes:

“Judge Judith Gibson said the content made the point that: ‘The plaintiff’s striking mullet haircut has generated a great deal of interest on the internet, most of it humorous, and some of it in the form of clever observations, such as the ‘Pythagoras’ direction [digitally added to the plaintiff’s head] in one of the memes.’”[4]

On November 17th 2015, Judge Gibson threw out defamation case, on the basis of belief that most of the comments were solely humourous in nature. Mosslmani said that the coverage on the three outlets gave implications that he was a “ridiculous person.” The pleas by the defendant include: the plaintiff is a ridiculous person because he wears a controversial haircut.

A Dazed Digital article outlines that no one may be taking him seriously. [5] This piece outlines the case in its entirety, as the reporter writes how the district court judge seems empathetic. This article also features specific links to the memes aforementioned. Journalists seem to be unanimous in terms of their decision that this case is not as serious as its made out to be.

Alex Huls weighs in on this ethical dilemma. Huls has recently written for the New York Times, as well as The National Post and Toronto Life. He currently writes his own website, updating his journalistic endeavors regularly. His clients include (but are not limited to) Dish, Ponds, and Shutterstock. This case is pertinent to Huls due to the fact that he deals with journalism related dilemmas in his job.

He believes it is reflective of the current media. He gives his opinion in a phone interview on December 9th, 2016. He questions Australian news outlet’s ability to humanize the story. He notes it is interesting that he is only suing Australian media outlets. Huls argues, “giving the meme a broader platform is not necessarily unethical.” He believes this is reflective of a click-driven media culture, based on a popular “click-bait” mentality. In other words, Mosslmani’s case is interesting, and flavour of the week.

Huls says: “I wish an outlet would think of further implications, what it could mean for a person.” But he knows how important it may be to humanize a story. He believes there are so many shades of memes, making it hard to police them.

Also consulted for this case was Bruce Woolley. Woolley is currently a lecturer at School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland in Australia. He is an international journalist, broadcaster, and academic with 35 years of experience. He has published work for academic publications such as Asia Pacific Media Educator, as well as the Walkley Foundation Website. This case is relevant to Woolley because he currently lives in Australia, and has been written for international publications. This trait makes Woolley well rounded in terms of ethical dilemmas. He agrees with the ruling to have the case thrown out of court.

“The fact that the photograph went viral could not be anticipated but is not really a surprise, given the way social media works. The memes that I saw played up the humour and were not disparaging or rude about his appearance. I also suspect the court case was also an attempt to draw attention to himself.” Woolley comments in an email interview on December 13th, 2016.

The social media sphere was not ridiculing Mosslmani. The nature of social media includes room for joking and fun, and users who put themselves out there should accept fate that it may go viral. The culture associated in the 21st century with mobile phones should prepare citizens to be subject to social media ridicule. They were simply laughing along with his comical appearance. It is also imperative to note that the photographer did not over step any boundaries in terms of photographing his friend. Woolley believed there are no major ethical dilemmas at stake in this case.

The differing opinions between Huls and Woolley are noteworthy due to the fact that they are both journalists in the field. Their juxtaposed opinions show the complexity of the state of ethical cases. The fact that his friend took the picture made these specific circumstances a citizen journalism piece. This is hard to judge because it blurs the lines between who can and cannot be a professional journalist. In this day and age, anyone with a phone is a journalist. The particular case of Ali Ziggi Mosslmani is controversial depending on the person’s viewpoint on the blurred lines between public and private.

Sources Cited

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/meme

Mandybur, Jerico. (October 2016). A teenager is suing websites for making fun of his mullet with memes. Mashable. Retrieved on November 24th 2016 from: http://mashable.com/2016/10/26/mullet-memes-lead-to-australian-defamation-case/#gVlAIYfknmq1

McLellan, Ben. (July 2015). Sydney teen Ziggy Mosslmani’s mullet breaks the internet with more than two million views in a week. The Daily Telegraphy. Retrieved on November 24th 2016 from: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/sydney-teen-ziggy-mosslmanis-mullet-breaks-the-internet-with-more-than-two-million-views-in-a-week/news-story/26aa410b84480b1b3abcac6c0e702250

Nool, Jeremy. (July 2015) J Noodles Photography. Facebook. Retrieved on November 24th 2016 from: https://www.facebook.com/pg/JnoodlesPhotography/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1254837174557307

Sisley, Dominic. (November, 2016). Australian teenager sues the media after becoming a meme. Dazed Digital. Retrieved on November 24th from 2016 from: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/33483/1/australian-teenager-sues-the-media-after-becoming-a-meme

 http://www.uncoached.com/social-media/mullet-meme-teen-ali-mosslmani-aka-ziggy-pissed-media

[1]Nool, Jeremy. (July 2015) J Noodles Photography. Facebook. Retrieved on November 24th 2016 from, https://www.facebook.com/pg/JnoodlesPhotography/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1254837174557307

[2] http://www.dictionary.com/browse/meme

[3] McLellan, Ben. (July 2015). Sydney teen Ziggy Mosslmani’s mullet breaks the internet with more than two million views in a week. The Daily Telegraphy. Retrieved on November 24th 2016 from: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/sydney-teen-ziggy-mosslmanis-mullet-breaks-the-internet-with-more-than-two-million-views-in-a-week/news-story/26aa410b84480b1b3abcac6c0e702250

[4] Mandybur, Jerico. (October 2016). A teenager is suing websites for making fun of his mullet with memes. Mashable. Retrieved on November 24th 2016 from: http://mashable.com/2016/10/26/mullet-memes-lead-to-australian-defamation-case/#gVlAIYfknmq1

[5] Sisley, Dominic. (November, 2016). Australian teenager sues the media after becoming a meme. Dazed Digital. Retrieved on November 24th from 2016 from: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/33483/1/australian-teenager-sues-the-media-after-becoming-a-meme

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