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Tweeting Japan: Can celebs be sensitive in real-time?

A woman views the remains of her home in the devastated city of Ofunato on March 15, 2011. Rescue teams from the US, Britain and China began assisting in the search for survivors following the devasting earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

NICHOLAS KAMM

Terrifying morning. Nuclear catastrophe looms. Making a cup of tea, slicing a golden lemon, cooking one perfect araucana egg. Breathing.

Food writer Ruth Reichl has joined a small but eclectic group of celebrities whose tweets regarding the catastrophe in Japan have left many scratching their heads.

Ms. Reichl, the last editor-in-chief of the now defunct Gourmet Magazine, was skewered for her stream-of-consciousness-style posts, which blend her thoughts on the terror in Japan with foodie drooling.

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Another sample: Gray sky. Scary news. Back in NY. Toasted bagel, thick cream cheese, sliced Nova. Fresh orange juice. Check to Doctors Without Borders.



Bloggers have taken Ms. Reichl to task and the writer responded by leaving the tweets up - a move that can actually work better as crisis management than sweeping offensive tweets under the rug - and issuing a mea culpa on her personal blog.

"In the face of ongoing disaster, it is also our moral responsibility to appreciate what we have," she wrote.

Far less forgivable was the increasingly grating 50 Cent.

Not content with insulting the tsunami victims, the rapper's Twitter slur also offended women and grammarians: "Look this is very serious people I had to evacuate all my hoe's from LA, Hawaii and Japan. I had to do it. Lol."

Worse was 50 Cent's apology, which came after he scrubbed his account clean of the bad jokes, which were plentiful: "Some of my tweets are ignorant. I do it for shock value. Hate it or love it. I'm cool either way."

Worst of the lot was comedian and has-been Gilbert Gottfried, who seized the opportunity to tweet several profoundly sinister jokes, including, "I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, 'There'll by another one floating by any minute now.' "

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Mr. Gottfried was quickly fired by Aflac, an insurance company that does 75 per cent of its business in Japan and had employed the comedian as the voice of its annoying duck mascot. (He's since apologized, sheepishly.)



Celebrities have long been tempted to over share their thoughts, no matter how idiotic.

Remember Kenneth Cole and Egypt?



"Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online," the designer tweeted as the uprisings in Egypt swelled last month.

(Mr. Cole was condemned and then further crucified on a fake Twitter account that belched unsavoury jokes on his behalf for days.)



While Twitter-bombs happen to celebs and regular folks alike, is there something about the immediacy of Twitter that invites a stunning lack of discretion? Or should those caught babbling try to practice a little more self-control, and empathy?

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