I did not expect to have to run a disclaimer first, but perhaps I should have done.
“If the following does not apply to you then do not take it personally,” or similar. That would have cut out at least a thousand of the responses on The Guardian blog I filed yesterday. The entire portion of this response can be summed up neatly by the following exchange, left within seconds of the blog being posted.
Another typical response ran as follows:
… and so forth. This was a very popular reponse; a two-pronged attack on the author along the lines of a) I have not witnessed this happening so it cannot have happened therefore it has been entirely made up, and b) if it has happened (not that I have seen it happening) then there is a simple explanation. The author’s friends are a bunch of insensitive dicks (whereas me, me and my friends, we are not like that at all). OK. Couple of points here.
- They are not necessarily my ‘friends’, not by any stretch of the imagination. My Facebook page is public, anyone can read it and most anyone can leave comments.
- I am followed by several thousands people on Facebook, most, if not all, music fans. This following is split broadly across America, Australia and the UK, plus (of course) many many others. Opinions and taste and what is considered appropriate behaviour varies greatly from place to place, subculture to subculture. Many of the comments on The Guardian article referred to the fact that not only had they not witnessed anyone mocking Glenn Frey’s death, neither had they noticed anyone upset by it. This may well be true. This was not true on my Facebook feed: the Bowie grief (no mocking) was – and continues to be – overwhelming. The Frey grief (and mocking) quite noticeable. All this suggests is that I have a wider circle of followers than many, and hence a wider range of tastes. The phenomenon (Bowie mourned, Frey mocked) was also witnessed by several of my journalist friends, most based in the US, all with an accordingly wide range of followers.
Some of the responses were on the money, though…
And some had interesting perspectives…
If nothing else, this goes to show the problem involved in using Facebook or social network feeds as a microcosm of society – too localised, too specific to the individual user, too divergent. What often feels like general consensus actually exists within a tiny bubble. It is very difficult to credibly extract data relevant to society as a whole using social networking sites; there again, it is very difficult credibly extracting data about society, full stop.While typing in words on a social network page we exist in a bubble of isolation; on social network pages we are mostly interacting with likeminded peers and friends (love Bowie, do not love Eagles). It is natural to use humour among friends to express feelings. Once on social network pages however, our words are open to however many strangers wish to view them, and whatever interpretation they choose to place upon them. It is easy enough to forget that, while existing in our indiidual bubbles and buoyed by our support networks, these dissenting views do not exist.
And to all those who do not believe this mockery took place? Try this NY Daily News article for starters, published within a few days of Frey’s death. None of your liberal crap about ‘appropriate periods of mourning’ here. Man up, Eagles fans and swallow it. (Unlike…um…Bowie fans, who are – what? – more justified to mourn their hero and complain if anything negative is written about the star?)
Blame The Dude. Man, I fucking LOVE that film.
“I had a rough night and I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man” – The Dude, The Big Lebowski
Blame the Dude (Frey did), but blame punk and Bowie and the music press too. The Eagles are figures of scorn among a significant minority of music ‘fans’. One is partly defined in relation to the next. One almost needs to feel superior to the next. It is part of their enjoyment of music. Natural enemies, as it were. Not to everyone, but to a significant minority. Taste informs social distinction. For a significant minority of Bowie fans, a hatred of The Eagles would have been tied up in their love for Bowie. To them, it would have felt natural to mock Frey while mourning Bowie. It goes beyond notions of musicianship. It goes into taste and notions of cool and authenticity.
There was a fair amount of this.
And a fair amount of that. (This was one of the far more polite versions of this particular riff.)
In place, this particular response reminded me of a scene in the new Tarantino movie: the part where Samuel L Jackson’s character tries to goad the confederate general into disproportionate response. The column unwittingly served that purpose. A significant minority of anti-Eagles fans were moved to come forward and reveal themselves, reveal their hatred and disgust for any music that is not ‘Bowie’.
Occasionally, the response was measured and even and of interest…
But mainly it was like this.
A larger than significant minority of responses from fans of The Eagles and/or music were like “thank God someone has said this”. Many of them on Twitter. Feeling isolated in their communal grief, knowing that they have been scorned over the decades for loving one type of music – scorn and bullying is difficult to evidence sometimes.
And so it goes on…