After Joyce Carol Oates sent an outraged tweet about the "barbaric" killing of an animal this week, a debate emerged: Was the author, 77, slipping? The question was prompted by the image accompanying Oates' tweet, of a triceratops and a smiling Steven Spielberg.
"So barbaric that this should still be allowed," Oates wrote. "No conservation laws in effect wherever this is?"
The photo was, of course, a memento of Spielberg's Jurassic Park. And Oates' comment was attached to a tweet from Chris Tilly, the movie editor at the website IGN, who had written, "this guy thinks it's cool to kill defenseless animals then take a selfie. Jerk."
Oates' message has been retweeted more than 3,000 times; it has sparked jokes and jabs. But as Oates tells Newsweek about the response, "many of my tweets are meant to be funny; but I guess that is not always a good idea."
She confirmed that the dinosaur tweet was meant as a joke. And it's far from the first time Oates has cracked wise on Twitter. If you haven't checked out her feed, she's as prolific as you'd expect (more than 13,000 tweets).
For instance, on Wednesday, she pined for the "silenced" power tools that the New York prison escapees are rumored to have used.
But for hours after the dinosaur tweet, the jokes rolled in. Some said that if the hunting continued, the animals could face extinction. One person called Oates a tree-hugger from prehistoric times. Another consoled her for "losing your first childhood pet."
But the tone of the tweets gradually shifted – and many people began responding to the jokers (and to earnest messages such as "You do realize dinosaurs are extinct, right?") with dismissive notes.
One read, "so many people just got trolled by an 80 year old author."
After his initial tweet set off an avalanche of responses on both Twitter and Instagram, Tilly wrote that he was unsure "if I'm being trolled, if people are in on the joke, if it's causing genuine anger, or if society is simply doomed."