Against my own best intentions, the saga continues.
While some interesting but sprawling discussion continues to happen on the cumbia worlds post, my more recent entry, detailing an exchange with Barbès’ Olivier Conan, was derailed late Friday evening by a classic bit of trolling:
just goes to show that a musicologist, journalist, bedroom blogger, cultural critic can never really understand what someone as brave and ballsy like olivier, not to mention inspired and inevitably broke, is living. mec’s in peru following up on his passion that inevitably is positive for music while wayne constructs opinions from the interwebs and industry press releases. at least give him a minute to respond before writing.
zziiinng! jace jizzed his pants from all the internet hating and bating, now he applauds. cant wait to see his followup from the musical enterprises of soot/duttyartz.
And even though I know I’m not supposed to feed the trolls, they’re so relatively (and mercifully) rare here, that I couldn’t resist responding to what, even without knowing who the poster was, clearly was discordant with the tenor of the conversation and, in many ways, rather wrong in its assessments:
I dunno, “tom,” you seem pretty out of tune with the whole discussion to me, but maybe that’s just a result of your falsetto.
My sympathy and appreciation for what Olivier does, now that I better understand all that he does, has grown, but I still stand by my critique of the PR. & I don’t try to pretend, as you seem to want to do, that any of what we do can be extricated from internet & industry. I also find it ironic that in your own glee over what you smear as baseless snark, you present a really uncharitable and unfair profile of yours truly. I’ve got balls too, buddy, unlike an anonymous troll/sockpuppet like you. & I’ve done a lot more than push words around in my life, including a lot of things you praise Olivier for — traveling to foreign lands, meeting musicians and collaborating with them, going totally broke in the process, trying to do positive things. so check your own ignant self.
also, i blog from my living room.
But I couldn’t stop there. You see, I’m not nearly as thick-skinned as I’d like to be, despite knowingly projecting my voice (and hence inviting all manner of responses). Anonymous swipes can still sting, even when off-key and off-base. (I don’t want you to get me wrong any more than I want to be wrong in actuality.) So I did what I always do when I encounter such a comment, I clicked on the IP address to see where in the world it was coming from. To my surprise, WordPress revealed that I had received another comment from the same IP just the day before:
If Grant Dull, aka El G, of ZZK was actually behind this sockpuppetry, I told myself, I’m going to be pretty disappointed. This is the same guy, after all, who I had just hosted at Beat Research and at my home (where we dined on homecooked Boston Baked Beans & consumed a couple bottles of our homemade wine) — a guy that I picked up at the airport (after removing our two carseats), drove around Boston, spent social & cultural capital on to get him & his label local press coverage, & spent actual, out-of-pocket capital on to offer up a little more cash than our modest Monday stipend from the club (which was still less than we would have liked to give — to their credit, the ZZK guys knew Boston would be a loss for them and still came thru; then again, they did say we turned out maybe the vibiest, dancingest crowd all tour).
It was galling to think my generosity would be so repaid. I couldn’t resist, so I confronted him over email. As I think my last post demonstrated, I prefer to be civil and sensitive in my interactions with people — and that’s something I prize about the conversations on this blog (which gives me pause as I write this, knowing I’m fanning a flame war) — but treat me like this, and I won’t mince words. I’ll tell you exactly what I think of you. The exchange went like this –
can you explain the coincidence in IP address on these two comments? (see attached)
plz tell me you wouldn’t pose as an asshole sockpuppet on my blog. i thought i did you (& knew you) better than that.
To which Grant responded, apparently with no sense of irony:
you got me! get tired of all the hating in the music circles, dudes need more support.
At this point, my so-called lack of support became a lot realer:
that’s really wack, man. i’m disappointed. i think i’ve offered you & zzk lots of support, if occasionally in the context of some criticism; same goes for barbes. that’s just what i do — that’s me trying to be honest. (no “hating” involved.) in the future, it’s gonna be a lot harder for me to support you, knowing you could pull some shit like this. the whole point of the last few posts is that we need more honesty in this biz.
i’m gonna sleep on this for now. but i’m sorely tempted to keep the call for transparency going by outing your lame ass.
Grant’s immediate reply went like this, once again brimming with irony:
youre right, i know, i shouldnt have hit send. i wasnt attacking you but internet/journalism culture in general. this kind of post opens it up for haters, and those who love to criticize via the internet. we’ve been criticized plenty by people who have had minimal contact ie rupture with what we’re doing. and in major news publications! that’s whack.
i shouldnt have sent it but nobody stands up for anybody in these circumstances, and hiding behind anonymity keeps me directly out of the argument, where id prefer not to be. if u wanna call me out you have every right.
Twelve hours later, when I still had not replied (and though no longer “sleeping” on it was still thinking about it quite a bit), Grant sent a follow-up:
wayne im very regretful about what i did. im sorry, it was foolish of me. please dont out me, i posted under a psydenum for a reason. i know, it was dumb. i feel ashamed. i respect you and your friendship however briefly it was and feel like a big asshole for goating a situation i obvioulsy know little about. i live in my own world and should stay there. again my apologies for being such a douche. i respect rupture too, obviously. shouldnt have thought that my stirring up the pot/defending the little guy would do any good for this whole scene.
Plainly, I’ve decided not to respect Grant’s request to keep this under wraps. It does little in the way of sympathy that he can’t resist, even when appearing contrite, to position himself as a “little guy” beset by “haters” (ah, post-Diddy parlance). Having weighed it for several days, I’ve decided — against the take-the-high-road advice of my bean-baking better-half — that a proper airing-out is what is best. I hope the ensuing conversation ends up more productive than, say, like this. I sure don’t want to keep stirring the pot if all we’ve got cooking is crabs in a barrel. (And I will not necessarily be indulging sockpuppets and other trolls below.)
I’m not sure who the “little guy” is in all of this — or who’s littler than whom. Whether or not Grant’s a little guy, though, he did show himself to be somewhat small (and a bit of an internet amateur).
My decision to make all this public is not primarily vindictive. Rather, I want to take the opportunity to respond to what I think may be an underlying (incoherent but emergent) theme in Grant’s two comments: namely, that all of this music hype biz is a series of hustles, including what he does, what PR folks do, & what bloggers and journalists and academics do. In that sense, I’m part of this networked hustle too, grabbing page views by producing stuff about other people producing stuff.
I agree that we’re all imbricated. That’s why, when I began exploring the nu whirled world, my initial focus was on bloggers. (And indeed, the post preceding the cumbia critique once again scrutinized the role that blogs play in all of this.) But I have to admit I bristle a bit in calling this blog a hustle. As playful and pomo and sometimes cynical as I can get in this space, it strikes me as far too disingenuous to think of what I do here in that way. Perhaps I’m still too grounded in certain norms of academic exchange, but generally I like to think of the discourse on this blog — by myself and from commenters — as conforming to Paul Gilroy’s wonderfully succinct description, in Postcolonial Melancholia, of what makes the academy a special place insofar as
contentious and heterodox arguments will be politely heard with patience and in good faith before being refuted in a public culture for which we all assume responsibility. (9)
I try to assume that very responsibility as keeper of this blog, and I think of my posts as attempting something similar across the various, wider public spheres in which this relatively small corner of music chatter circulates. This makes my blog different from the average enthusiast “music blog,” and I can only assume — and hope — that whoever puts me on a promo list would understand all of this before pushing their wares my way.
But I am as often an enthusiast as a critic. And one of the things that makes me throw a lot more confetti than darts these days is what I’ve been conceiving as the turn to “music industry 2.0,” a world in which, thanks especially to the advent of professional-grade digital tools, bringing the costs of production and circulation down close to zero, ordinary people engage more than ever before in everyday acts of media creation and curation, assuming a certain responsibility for co-producing our public, participatory culture. (The “2.0″ part, which I know is horribly trendy, not to mention creepy, is intended on the one hand to bear witness to the — often insidious and unstable — role that so-called web 2.0 platforms are playing in all of this, and on the other, to signal a new regime in the mode of production of popular music.)
Among other effects, the global diffusion of such technologies and practices, and the networking of it all, may also be producing something akin to “world music 2.0,” a peer-leveled planet of musical interplay which finally lives up to the name — even as it undermines any coherence such a term could have. This is a world in which neither Chicago nor Paris nor Luanda nor Lima are more obviously (or unmarkedly) central or peripheral than anywhere else. A world where difference need not disappear, so much as appear a little more mundane. A worldly world! A world in which, to quote Gilroy again, one
finds civic and ethical value in the process of exposure to otherness … in the ordinary virtues and ironies — listening, looking, discretion, friendship — that can be cultivated when mundane encounters with difference become rewarding. (67)
Notably, as we consider this brave new world of music industry with so many possibilities and so little money, the one thing that’s not nearly as cost-free as production and distribution, and thus not yet so democratized, is promotion — guaranteed placement in the hype machine. Access to promo dough is, hence, what still separates the (relative) big wigs from the little people.
Is it really any surprise, then, that I would turn my attention to PR? Especially to PR which seems to address itself to, if not issue from, a world — in other words, a public culture — so different from the one in which I would like to live?