Twittersphere Slams Itself, and CNN, for Godzilla References After Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami

The Top 10 Trending Topics on Twitter This Week

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As I write this late Friday morning, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami have effectively taken over Twitter's Trending Topics list, including the hashtag meme "#prayforjapan," "Fukushima" (Japan has declared a "nuclear emergency" at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant north of Tokyo) and "Text REDCROSS." (Per the American Red Cross, "Customers of participating wireless carriers can text REDCROSS to 9-0-9-9-9 to make a $10 donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund," which is mobilizing to help Japan. But that only works in the U.S., apparently.)

CNN came under fire today from Twitter users saying an anchor made a Godzilla joke during coverage of the earthquake.
CNN came under fire today from Twitter users saying an anchor made a Godzilla joke during coverage of the earthquake. Credit: CNN

Also trending for awhile this morning: "Godzilla." But not, it turns out, because everyone on Twitter was making tasteless Godzilla jokes in response to scenes of devastation in Japan. It would appear that some Twitterers, inevitably, did, which prompted plenty of outrage (e.g., from Twitter user @thatlimabean: "I've already seen and heard far too many Godzilla jokes. If I could reach through this computer and punch people in the throat, I would"). Widespread complaining on Twitter about Godzilla jokes, of course, just helped "Godzilla" surge into the Trending Topics list. And at the moment, Twitter's search engine is showing that the most-retweeted recent tweet mentioning Godzilla is from @maudnewton, literary blogger Maud Newton (full disclosure: years ago I hired her to do a bit of consulting for a media startup I was running), who wrote: "For news of the disaster, you might prefer streaming Al-Jazeera to watching CNN anchor giggle about Godzilla." She then linked to a post by blog pioneer Jason Kottke titled "Al-Jazeera's Coverage of the Japanese Earthquake," in which he wrote,

If you haven't already heard, Al-Jazeera had (and continues to have) some of the best coverage of earthquake and tsunami in Japan ... Contrast with CNN, which was apparently home to giggles and Godzilla jokes as the quake was being reported. In the last three or four big events in the world, Al-Jazeera has had the best coverage ... is this a changing of the guard?

Kottke linked to an outraged tweet from @somebadideas: "Fuck you @CNN your anchor is giggling & talking about monster movies while you're showing waves sweep entire homes away." But no one on Twitter (or YouTube, for that matter) seems to have a link to video of the alleged CNN lapse in judgement. Here's Twitterer @owls_mcgee: "Anyone know if a CNN anchor made a Godzilla joke while showing pictures of people running for their lives? Or was that just Twittersteria?"

I have to say, it's strange to see the Twittersphere shift to a moralistic mood, especially given what was trending during the past seven days. Our weekly Top 10 Trending Topics on Twitter chart -- produced, as always, with our editorial partner What the Trend -- cuts off at midnight Thursday night; the devastation in Japan will almost certainly dominate the Twitter conversation for days, if not weeks and months, to come. But for the seven-day period that just ended, our chart is topped by, yes, a certain unemployed sitcom actor and is closed out by -- I'm not kidding you -- the hashtag meme #ChangeLoveToLubeSongs, in which the Twittersphere amused itself by tweeting song titles with the word "love" changed to "lube" (e.g., "Can You Feel the Lube Tonight"). Speaking of words, I'm suddenly at a loss for them, so without further ado, here's the complete chart:

Trend Peak Position This Week Points Crowdsourced Description
1 Charlie Sheen 3 7,622 Users are retweeting messages from the real as well as fake CharIie Sheen accounts. They are also talking about Sheen's Saturday night Ustream webcast.
See for a complete list of subtrends.
2 Carnival 2 4,075 Carnival was celebrated in many countries around the world but most trends are originating from Brazil. Carnival was marked by parties and parades sponsored by Samba schools, which are broadcast on Brazilian TV.
See for a complete list of subtrends.
3 #DealWithIt 2 3,858 Users are stating things that other people need to deal with.
4 #BlackPeopleMovies 2 3,770 People are offering humorous twists on movie titles. Many users are retweeting jokes from Katt Williams and a fake Charlie Sheen account. Others found this hashtag offensive.
Subtrends include: #blackpeoplemovies, Frying Nemo, Shaniqua, Legally Blonde Starring
5 International Women's Day 1 3,000 Users in many different countries marked the 102th anniversary of International Women's Day on March 8, 2011.
See for a complete list of subtrends.
6 Harry Potter Series 1 2,973 Harry Potter-related trends began to chart on the weekend when "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" was aired on Indonesia Trans TV. This was followed by a debate between Harry Potter and Twilight fans about which book/movie series was superior.
See for a complete list of subtrends.
7 Fraternity/Sorority LIfe 1 2,940 Many of the nine historically black fraternities and sororities hit Twitter's Trending Topics this week.
See for a complete list of subtrends.
8 Notorious B.I.G. 1 2,903 March 9th was the 14th anniversary of the murder of The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace). His murder is still unsolved. People remembered B.I.G. and his music this week.
Subtrends include: #biggieday, Christopher Wallace, Notorious Thugs, Dead Wrong, Everyday Struggle, Life After Death
9 #ThatAintWinning 1 2,650 Things & people that aren't winning.
10 #ChangeLoveToLubeSongs 1 2,512 People are tweeting alternative song titles where the word 'love' is changed to 'lube.'

For more information about What the Trend, visit the WTT FAQ. And check out WTT's Week in Review, compiled by its in-house editors and covering an expanded general list of Top 20 trends (including hashtag trends) here.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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