Musician and artist Amanda Palmer celebrated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ inauguration with a tweet read ‘round the world. “Just walked into a coffeeshop here in Aotearoa, New Zealand,” it says, “and everybody behind the counter, not really knowing me but knowing I was American, erupted in spontaneous applause.”
In its view of the world as a sequence of unlikely but dramatically-pleasing moments and sense of blinkered self-importance, this is a kind of platonic example of a Palmer (and certain brand of American) tweet. Likely because of how effortlessly irritating the message is, and a follow-up claim that “Kiwis feel an intense affection for Americans,” it soon became the focus of intense scrutiny by New Zealanders—so much so that Hayden Donnell from The Spinoff decided to investigate Palmer’s story for himself.
The article says that Palmer’s tweet “didn’t mesh with the Aotearoa New Zealand many of us thought we knew, where any achievement, from getting an ‘A’ on an assignment to winning the Rugby World Cup, is met with a grim nod and a stern reminder not to get too full of yourself.” Still, Donnell is a journalist and understands that anecdotal evidence only takes you so far. The rigorous investigation he then embarked upon led him to uncover the likely coffee shop Palmer would have visited—Hawthorne Coffee Roastery And Espresso Bar—and to contact manager Chris Coleman.
“Yeah, it happened,” Coleman said.
Apparently Palmer actually is a regular at the shop and had been discussing American politics with Coleman the day before the inauguration—specifically the likelihood of violence. “When Palmer arrived the following day, Coleman clapped and said congratulations as she walked in,” the story continues. “’I don’t recall it being a major thing … It was kind of like good for you. Way to go. Glad that there’s a change.’”
The Spinoff, maybe surprised as we are that Palmer’s convenient coffee shop celebration actually happened, runs down each claim from the original tweet, finding them “mostly true,” “true,” and “mostly false.” For example, “everybody behind the counter” did clap, but “everybody” was just Coleman, the only person working at the time.
“[The tweet] contains selective telling of the truth, and some exaggeration,” Donnell writes. “However, the overarching impression the tweet left is that New Zealanders are a kind, generous and publicly effusive people. That idea has been proven false by the backlash to the tweet, among many other things.”
For her part, Palmer’s responded to The Spinoff’s story by tweeting that it will (big sigh) “definitely be rewarded the Whittaker’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Slab Award For Investigative Journalism in 2021.”
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