The Ugly Side of the Net: Online Hate, Trolling and Fandom Wars

Photo: idealog.co.nz
Photo: idealog.co.nz

As a passionate artist, it hurts to see the media and the Internet as it is today. For anyone in the music industry or anyone with any sort of fame, you are promised a rough time; not because you’re going to have to work hard at what you love or because of your crippling schedule and new lifestyle, but because you have the eyes of the world on you now. This means that you are subject to the empty, rootless hate that has become somewhat fashionable in this day and age.

Not to say that hatred never existed before, but hate has grown a new face, a new branch. The Internet today is filled with death threats, ignorant misunderstandings, cruel insults and other nasty and often pointless campaigns of hatred towards a certain person or group. We’re not talking about hate-driven organisations or evil cults, we’re talking about regular people who happen to have a talent of some sort who are sharing their work with anyone who wants to see it or hear it.

One of these people, is someone we have all at least heard of. We might have seen her attend an awards ceremony in the most bizarre outfit you’ve ever seen. You might have heard one of her annoyingly catchy pop-songs on the radio. You might have seen one of her thought-provoking or controversial music videos. Or you might have been exposed to some of the most disgusting displays of hatred thrown at an artist by critics and regular people alike. This woman is Lady Gaga.

Before I get really into this, I want to make it clear that you do not have to like Lady Gaga to read and understand what I’m trying to say here, this post is completely applicable to every single artist out there, I just wanted to use this particular example. The reason being, the abuse she has received in recent years has been made more relevant in her recent album, ARTPOP. I don’t really want to talk about the actual music of this album, that’s an entirely different matter and honestly irrelevant to this issue, I want to talk about the concept and how it directly effects everyone.

We have all heard about how the music industry is today, how manufactured and repetitive it can feel. Why is it that when someone steps forward and literally says no to that and refuses to become a puppet, we bash her? That’s the case with classically trained pianist, Lady Gaga. We all know about the controversies Gaga has caused, whether it’s apparently ripping off Madonna or not keeping to her word sometimes as if she’s a robot. Personally, I think because we haven’t seen anything quite like Gaga in such a long time (maybe never before), we just make up our own minds and refuse to accept her for what she is; a hard-working, extremely talented, intelligent, game-changing, beautiful, young, Italian American woman.

There are endless examples of her qualities online, but no one bothers to look for them. Instead, her YouTube comment page is littered with words such as “flop”, “rip-off” and “attention-seeker”. Firstly, what’s wrong with attention-seeking when you have a very valid reason to be seeking attention? Secondly, the line between “ripping-off” and “referencing” someone/something seems to have been forgotten about. We see this with all sorts of artists. An artist will often reference someone/something to conjure a memory or a past idea or even to pay respect to something that has already been done/said. And thirdly, this whole new trend of artists “flopping” (which means that an artist or their work is not as popular anymore) is complete rubbish, I am not even going to waste typing space on it.

The job of the artist is to hold up a mirror to society, to express their views/feelings and often to raise more questions than answer. ARTPOP in many ways is a very good attempt at this. Not just in the music, but in interviews, online posts and even outfits that Gaga has worn recently. Many consider each artist’s album-cycles as “eras”, and in the ARTPOP era, we have a never-ending flow of statements about the current social-online issue of unnecessary hatred towards other people. Gaga has admitted that she hasn’t been able to execute her visions the way she originally intended, thanks to poor management and lost faith in her and that is one of the issues dealt with in ARTPOP. The artist should own and control their work and tell you about it, not the other way around. And the long list of artists from all fields who have backed this concept, agree.

It is obviously perfectly okay and encouraged that we all have our own opinions and ideas, but the way we express them has become a monumental issue. Instead of saying, “I don’t know, I just don’t understand the song; I don’t really like the sound of it. And, I’m not that into fashion so it all looks a bit ridiculous to me. But hey, that’s just me” we are more likely to see, “This is absolute s! This isn’t real music! And damn, she looks ugly as hell! Her nose is weird and she has small t”. That was a very soft and general example of what you can expect to see on every single female artists’ YouTube comments page in some shape or form. What has that person achieved? Well, they have managed to express their dislike towards whoever they’re commenting on. But, they have also managed to show how annoyingly ignorant and pointless the critiquing system has become today. I’ve always detested the term “real music” and really, when you think about it, I shouldn’t even have to explain why. I mean, seriously.

Also, in this new hate-sharing trend, internet trolls tend to bring in irrelevant points to justify their hate. The example above is perfect, they are commenting on an artist/band’s song they don’t like (but they still searched for it online to listen to…) and bring in something like “they’re ugly” into their comment. Again, I shouldn’t have to explain this. Sometimes I just want to grab people’s shoulders and shake them so hard because the stupidity and ridiculousness is so real.

The way the media tells their stories now also contributes to how people act online when abusing artists. Rumours are almost always believed, negative incidents are always focused on more than positive ones and situations are made up to start these online wars. Did you know, for the first few years of her career, Gaga was rumoured to be a man? In fact, people still suggest that she’s a man, even after a video of her practicing a meditation method completely naked was posted on YouTube for everyone to see. Do your research! Some of you may have heard that Gaga smoked weed on stage last year. That, indeed, did happen, on her last world tour. Gaga, (who was at the time being criticised for having put on some weight) smoked weed on stage… in Holland… where it’s actually legal… But, did you know Lady Gaga payed for one of her fans to have life-changing surgery to her back? Did you know Gaga regularly comments on posts made on her own social networking site for her fans telling them to never give up or to put the blade down or to stop crying because she loves them? You probably don’t.

We have forgotten that we are allowed to make mistakes. Look at your own life, have you never broken a promise or messed something important up or upset someone, for example? If you haven’t, you’re lying and you know it. We demand perfection and unrealistic standards from people who actually give in and try to make you happy when they really shouldn’t. You may not like Gaga or U2 or Metallica or Jay-Z, but there are people who do, and that’s okay. And, it’s okay that you may not like them, but go and not like them over there and listen to who you like or read books you like or admire paintings you like. Your empty hate is not needed; you may think you’re cool and awesome for saying horrible things to/about people, but guess what? You’re actually not. It may be funny to you, but if you, like me, care about society, you will see the damage your one small comment can do and is doing.

I feel like the things I have said here have been said so many times by so many different people, but it’s never listened to, and that’s sad. You may be completely dismissive to everything I have just spent time writing about but it’s something I passionately believe is crucial and will, in the long run, effect people in so many more ways. It sounds super cheesy and preachy when people say things like “spread love, kindness and peace” or “respect each other” or “be yourself”, but why is that? We are giving you the answer to the question “why is life so hard”. It won’t happen tomorrow, but the gradual chain reaction of kindness could completely change life as it is. I’m a firm believer that this online hate trend is not “human nature”, as some people have argued. Although it is natural to hate or to disagree etc with something/someone, it is not human to hide behind a keyboard and dress up your “opinion” in unnecessary language and metaphorically throw it in someone’s face.

There is a song on ARTPOP called “Venus”, which is about the famous The Birth of Venus painting by Sandro Botticelli. Venus, as we all know, is the goddess of love. One of the things Gaga is trying to do with this song is say that we must give birth to a new age of love with each other, be it online or offline. That, to me, is art within pop music. If you disagree, that’s perfectly okay, but the concept is still there and still very relevant, we still need to spread love and kindness amongst each other, regardless of whether you like the song or not. She has even stepped out dressed as Venus many times and referenced the painting many times. She, as an artist, is doing her job. She is holding that mirror to society and telling a story and that’s what ARTPOP is really all about. I have managed to write all of this about one single issue, there are another 14 songs on ARTPOP, all with their own story to tell and mirror to look at. I’ll leave it to you whether you want to gaze into the mirror or not.

This online culture of “trolling” and “fandom wars” has to end. My goal with this piece is not to convince or brainwash you to act a certain way. As an artist myself, I could have posted a song online about this, but I chose to literally spell it all out for you and be direct. I hope that we can inject some humanity back into the world and regain the empathy and respect I believe we have lost by taking part in this new trend. I have used the word “trend” throughout this piece because I hope this issue, like all trends, will eventually end and become a part of history. I truly care about us and about our future generations and about pop-culture. I urge anyone who has read this to spread it online and hopefully take something from it. As the progressive generation we claim to be, it would only be right that we progress from this and make pop-culture and the wider world a happier and safer place to enjoy.

 

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Sunil Gangarh

Artist/Musician/Writer at 4YE
Artist/human being thing
Sunil Gangarh
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