Monday, March 29, 2010

context matters: yellow journalism, flame wars, and Amanda Palmer's "Klan" tweets

Flamewars and real ones often erupt over something taken out of context and re-interpreted. I'm reminded of the apocryphal story that artist Frederic Remington telegrammed Hearst to tell him all was quiet in Cuba and 'There will be no war.' Hearst responded 'Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war.'

I've assembled Palmer’s most relevant tweets in chronological order. Though her haters seem to think she was recommending giving money to the Klan as an ironic act, it’s clear to me she was mocking the idea of “ironic product placement.”
finally just watched the gaga/beyonce telephone video. painful product endorsement. amazing colors, visuals & production. terrible song.
4:51 PM Mar 24th via web

@olganunes it has that xerox dance-club feel and no discernible hook or depth. dance music is hard to make actually good. it's an art.
4:55 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to olganunes

@collectdust you can't cash in on irony. it negates it.
4:56 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to collectdust

@chillibbz but this is the whole problem with gaga. you can't cash in on your irony and cry art. (however, warhol would so disagree.)
4:59 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to chillibbz

@olganunes i think taste in dance music is tied specifically to personal teen nostalgia. if i were 33 in 2030, i'd be sighing "lady gaga".
5:00 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to olganunes

@JoanArkham ironic product placement is only ok if you take no money & beyond that give all the income to something ironic. like the Klan.
5:11 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to JoanArkham

@trixiedarko i looked that up. it seems like some were direct endorsements, some were used for fun, and some were relationship builders.
5:52 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to trixiedarko

@HayleyFiasco she's a tsunami in the postmodern ocean. i maintain:
6:04 PM Mar 24th via web

...gaga is a human billboard; an end-times media mash-up. but i see her more as victim, not savior. ask me in 20 years.
6:09 PM Mar 24th via web

@sigilgoat she's smart as shit. still: i'm pretty hypocritical. i might have a different opinion if i thought the song was good. go figure
6:12 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to sigilgoat

@Cillinface i think it's pretty now-centered dance pop music that will not stand the test of time. bowie = different. bowie = good songs.
6:14 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to Cillinface

@trixiedarko i ain't saying the victim of anything but her own cultural bondage.
6:15 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to trixiedarko

and on that note: we are all victims.
6:15 PM Mar 24th via web

best bet for gaga on the next tour: write some fantastic songs and play them on solo piano. it'll cost nothing and shut everybody like me up
6:18 PM Mar 24th via web

@litrock she slays on piano. if she lost the production/stripped it all down NOW, she'd do what no other rising pop star has dared to do.
6:23 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to litrock

@Energist it was totally blatant/on purpose/self-referential/ironic. that's the whole point here. it's just sad we've come to this.
6:29 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to Energist

to all tiy saying "BUT IT WAS IRONIC". yes. i KNOW. but ironic like a gun-safety instructor accidentally shooting a student. you know?
6:31 PM Mar 24th via web

@drauh you took my analogy too far. i meant simply: ironic in a tragic way.
6:37 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to drauh

good blog on the lady gaga product placement that echos most of my thoughts. not pro, not con, just smart:
6:42 PM Mar 24th via web

RT @adistantworld Irony in contemp. mainstream pop music is becoming another marketing device anyway. She's turning into a parody of herself
6:48 PM Mar 24th via web

@Smoph gaga DOES play her own instrument...she's a great pianist and writes much of her own stuff. do some youtube searching.
7:05 PM Mar 24th via web in reply to Smoph

1.mainstream media headlines: "is gaga selling out?!", in defense: "no, it's art/irony!" 3.winner -> virgin mobile
7:14 PM Mar 24th via web

re: the blog @ what resonated most: i was raised to detest product placement & teens now accept it as cool/necessary
7:36 PM Mar 24th via web

for those of you out there who can't bear the thought of the ku klux klan used'll LOVE this!!:
1:03 PM Mar 25th via web


  1. You mean...Amanda Palmer did something borderline offensive? Again? And she's getting tons of attention out of it? Again? And she had no idea people would take it that way? Again?

    The world must be such an amazing and surprising place to Amanda Palmer. Why she's had something like this happen to her literally once a month all year.

    I wonder what happy accident will occur in April.

    who was a big fan for years and actually forgave the upbeat song about rape and abortion that Amanda Palmer had no idea would offend people, but officially lost patience when Amanda Palmer had no idea that if she took her clothes off on the red carpet, people would take her picture.

  2. Where did she suggest she thought no one would notice her changing on the red carpet? So far as I can tell, she's been very honest about what she does, including the blatant bits of self-promotion.

    And I don't see any way she could have referenced the Klan in the hope of stirring up publicity. I think she was just dissing the whole tired hipster irony thing.

  3. I didn't say that she thought no one would notice, I said she was surprised that people took her picture. She wrote on her blog that she had changed dresses and the photographers wanted some shots of her in the first dress so she changed on the red carpet and pictures of her "ended up on the net," which suggests she's trying to portray her behavior as far less purposeful than one would normally associate with someone who is taking off her clothes in front of photographers.

    For someone who doesn't do things to get publicity, she sure does get a lot of it. By total accident, of course. Every. Single. Time.

    Tiger Beatdown's post on the subject is titled "Your Daily Amanda Palmer Outrage" and someone in the comments says "I don’t think I have gone from liking someone so much to liking someone so little, with a famous person, like ever before. Or will again."

    As someone who still has some of Palmer's stuff on her iphone, I agree with both. It's like being a fan of 1980's-era-Mel Gibson.


  4. CC, that sounds like a simple explanation of how the photos came to be. She didn't plan to change clothes. She just did. She's been a living statue. Physical modesty isn't one of her hangups.

  5. Were the taking off her clothes incident the only one, I wouldn't think much of it. But it was the second incident in a pattern of at least four just like it.

    Do you seriously think this is the last time she's going to do something that seems calculated to make a fuss and make a public show of her surprise when there's a fuss?

    If it isn't, how many more times do you think she is going to have to do that before people get that it is simply what she does?


  6. No one who isn't a racist wants to be charged with racism. Hell, most racists don't want to be charged with it. I've seen nothing to suggest she's racist--that sentence out of context sure doesn't suggest it.

    Now, if people are hating on her opposition to "ironic" product placement, that's cool by me. But that's not what they're saying. Well, some are hating on her dissing anything that Lady Gaga does.

    If you don't like Palmer's attitude toward nudity, that's also cool, of course.

    Her music is calculated. Changing on the runway doesn't appear to have been planned, but it may have been "calculated" in the sense that she thought it would be amusing to change on the street. Didn't she change in public when she was a living statue?

  7. Shrug. To be perfectly clear as far as March's and January's drama goes, I don't think Palmer's a racist, her nudity doesn't shock me, I'm just wondering how many times she expects her fans to jump to her defense after she has provoked something like this.

    As for February's drama, I'd say given some of the jokes she cheerfully played along and participated in on Australian TV, the charge that she just plain doesn't get why talking about disabled people in an "OMG, can you imagine if disabled people had sex? Wouldn't that be both gross and hilarious?"* sort of way is legitimately offensive or at least irritating. (Sigh. I should clarify that I don't think making fun of disabled people should be illegal or any other "logical consequences" you may extrapolate from this opinion.) So, yeah, I'd say the disabled folks had a point about her. That alone probably wouldn't have been enough to completely cheese me off, but again, this is a pattern we're talking about here.

    If it helps, I first heard about March's drama on Tiger Beatdown, and there the primary charge wasn't racism (though that she could be seen to be trivializing some serious things was touched on) it was trying to hard to be edgy and "Being a fool in the public square. Again."


    *Not a direct quote, but I'd say a reasonable interpretation of:

    Claire Hooper: Oh, can you imagine if you were two sets of conjoined twins, that met on a dating site, went on a date, and then you realised that the left guy loved the left girl, and the right – and you couldn’t, you couldn’t – [makes awkward hand motions] kiss, they just wouldn’t match up!

    Amanda Palmer: Not at the same time! Not at the same time!

    Claire: Can you imagine? Cos that’s – that’s –

    Eddit: [shouts] DOGGY STYLE!

    Amanda Palmer puts her head on the desk, laughing, then throws her head back, still laughing.

  8. I haven't seen that. Maybe they were laughing in relief that a solution existed?

    But if she was really laughing at the way disabled folks have sex, yeah, I'd say she should apologize.

  9. I just checked the transcript. It's extremely biased. For example:

    [smirks, waits for laughter]

    could as easily be:

    [smiles embarrassedly, waiting for a reply}

  10. Hmm. In fact, it's exactly what Hearst would do to sell papers.

  11. Is your version yellow journalism? It seems just as biased and to my reading it makes a lot less sense. Your take seems to be that forty seconds into the video she's joking about disabled people having sex, at a minute and thirty seconds in she's embarrassed that she said something that offended a group of disabled people, then literally three seconds later she's laughing at that same group?

    Even if you assume she had that momentary change of heart (which looks a lot more like the transcript's version when I watch the video), then she still spent a lot of time laughing at the group and the video shows that the transcript records her words accurately.

    If she ever apologizes in any non-I'm-sorry-you-don't-understand-my-art sort of way, then she will be losing her role as the victim of the politically correct establishment. And so far at least a decent number of her fans are taking that bait over and over.


  12. My version also imposes a meaning that may or may not be there. An unbiased version would say things like:




    But people do make awkward and unintentional jokes. Did you ever hear Bill Cosby's joke about asking Ray Charles why he was shaving in the dark?

    I haven't watched the video. I tried one link, and it said I was in the wrong country, but obviously, you got it to work.