There has been an influx of posts lately seeking to raise hackles, garner hate-clicks, and just in general appear to be subversive. These posts are mainly centered around taking a band that is well-liked or beloved by a specific demographic of culture and berating both the band and their fans with a series of unintelligible insults and jeers. The majority of these posts are literally written to make people feel angry. Imagine, something on the Internet designed to hurt others? How could it be?!
But seriously, part of the problem here is that music criticism was established to help people get inside of the music they love, to excavate and examine the inner-workings of an album, the back story of the artist and minutia that the casual listener might miss. Different publications built up reputations because honest, thoughtful journalism—whether it be negative or positive—truly reflected the perspective of the writer while maintaining a sense of decorum regarding the artists themselves.
This time has passed.
As print journalism moults its feathers and dons the coat of the digital age, the entire structure and focus of music writing has shifted to a model of polarization. The consumer has changed too, with the wealth of information flooding through laptops, smart phones, endless social media channels and more, what will catch someone’s attention long enough to read and react? Turns out, very little, unless it is geared as highly offensive or The Best Thing Ever.
Take a band like the Dirty Projectors, for instance. To many, this band was a herald of goodness and blessing in 2012, a relatively bleak techno and rap-heavy year. But for many others, they were simply another indie rock band in the vein of Arcade Fire using a lot of people onstage and some instruments most of us will never be smart or skilled enough to play. Is there a real reason to hate this band? Is there a real reason to hate any band that isn’t actively making god-awful sounds? Call me old-fashioned but I rarely encounter a band that is bad enough to actually waste my energy actively hating, much less, one that a large swathe of the population enjoy. Which is also, probably, the case for the journalists that are writing these pieces about how a popular band is terrible or why insert-thing-here sucks so much.
As sad as it is, the prurient urges of human nature make us eager to see what criticism someone has written—even about a topic we love—even if to just disagree and wallow in our own knowledge and self-righteousness. This idea, then, of a “hate-click” stems from our interest in being part of a conversation that we inherently disagree with, or that promotes an opinion created simply to anger others. This isn’t journalism. Neither is the declaration that a band, performance, or singer is unanimously the best thing on earth, although spreading that kind of love surely creates more overall positivity for the world than a bitter, snarky takedown does. Hate-clicks are turning the Internet into a place populated with extreme perspective on music and art that aren’t helpful to anyone and are purely motivated by greed, instead of desire to spread knowledge or music.
Well here at Pigeons and Planes, we’re taking a stand. HATE CLICKS ARE THE WORST THING EVER. No, but seriously, we all deserve better. Journalism was born out of a desire to inform and educate, to share perspective and promote worthwhile causes. Let’s not debase the practice of writing — and ourselves — by helping perpetuate hateful, unintelligent pieces predicated on a digital economic model that barely works. (Oh, and also, the Dirty Projectors do not suck. They just don’t.)