View From The Side: Dumb Djs And The Performance Of Outrage
What a couple of weeks it’s been for dance music producers to prove that they’re just as stupid as everyone else. Things kicked off to a low key start with some entry level immigrant bashing from Boddika. From a now deleted tweet:
“If you work in a shop/restaurant or whatever in the UK and you can’t speak English … FUCK OFF!”
There are two things the internet does excellently; 1) air offensive opinions that rarely get voiced in public, and 2) gather mobs of keyboard warriors itching to take offense at said opinions. So it’s little surprise that Boddika swiftly found himself at the business end of a minor shitstorm. Alongside the more shrill chants of YU RACIS, there were fairly reasoned and pissed off responses from Elijah Butterz and Alex ‘BokBok’ Sushon, both of whom noted the contribution immigrants have made to the bass scene that pays Boddika’s bills. Meanwhile Boddika’s DJ mates, including Zed Bias and Eats Everything were quick to defend him. Writing that is a bit depressing; immigrants, or the children of immigrants found the tweet off key, whilst some white English guys rushed to tell them they were wrong. Hey ho. Still, on the topic of whether Boddika is racist? I’ve no idea. Probably not in any explicit way, like I doubt he’s out on Britain First marches dribbling on about Muslimic rape gangs. Is he a bit fucking trigger happy on social media, especially considering four million+ people have just voted in favour of a nationalist party with numerous links to the far right? Yes, no doubt.
Still, no bookings were lost, no careers were scuppered, and everyone was friends (sort of) by tea time. In fact, the whole thing proved to be merely a cheeky entrée for the orgy of insult and outrage that followed: Ten Walls
You know what happened with Ten Walls by now. His name has become shorthand for all that is wicked and wrong in dance music, like a Serato savvy Josef Mengele. In honesty, I struggle to feel sorry for him. It’s not like he posted a jokey status about John Travolta or something – he went on a 3 paragraph long dissection of why gay men are a breed of paedo bum fucker animals who deserve to be fixed. I mean, dude. Really? Why you care so much? The thing that gets me about his comments are the sheer stupidity of them. Trust me, Mr Walls, you are not alone in thinking your thoughts. Statistically, there are almost certainly hordes of other bro’s out there who make big room house, have zero connection to or respect of the scene’s origins, and would be happy to drone on about faggots quicker than you can say closeted. But few of them are idiotic enough to share those opinions online. Fair play, free speech is a fine thing. But so is the freedom to decide that someone who’s opinions are so dramatically at odds with the heritage of the scene they’re involved shouldn’t be representing it. Ten Walls is no doubt reflecting on that at this very moment. I hear he’s got plenty of free time on his hands.
This was then followed by a final course – some dumbass from PC Music saying something on Vice that was probably meant to be ironic but ended up just seeming ugly and actually racist. I find nearly all of PC Music and their sarcky haircut rave such a tiresome proposition that I have literally no fucks to give about this. There will be no lasting backlash. The fans of PC Music will defend the statements because irony, the people who don’t like them will continue not to like them, and so on. The artist in question has responded: “I know I push buttons, but I've gone too far this time. I was being really naive, and for that I take full responsibility.” I don’t really know what full responsibility means in this case, but whatever it is, she takes it.
I think the only thing that can be taken from all of this offense and outrage is a curiosity at how the world is trying to reshape itself through social media – or how it tells itself it is. There’s a belief that we live in a new age of outrage and activism, a time when wrong doers will be called to account for any opinions that fall outside what the liberal mind believes to be right and true (and vice versa, witness Bahar Mustafa facing an online, largely right wing hate mob after stupidly/jokingly tweeting #killallwhitemen).
In reality, whilst the presence of social media allows everyone a chance to express how disgusted they are when DJ X turns out to be a massive fan of culling dolphins whilst kicking dwarves, the end results are no different now than they were 30 years ago. There’s just an added scoopful of self-righteousness. Take Donna Summer – in the early 80s she allegedly made some remarks about homosexuality being evil, with AIDS being God’s revenge. She soon found out about more earthly retaliation – her music was banned from being played in Heaven and there was a call for a total boycott of her in the English press. Her later requests to play an AIDS benefit were turned down, and Bronski Beat, who had covered I Feel Love on their debut album, were quoted as saying “Donna Summer is dead.” There were no hashtags, no online petitions and no memes, She just got shut out.
The point is, the activism in the 80s was international, effective, focused, and far less of a performance playground for numb Generation Y-ers to prove how much they actually feel. It’s hard not to note that the almost negligent energy involved in posting a statement saying how disgusting Ten Walls, or whoever is, requires way less effort than actually engaging with what you think is wrong in the world, and trying to alter that. Outrage becomes a quick fix commodity, just another weapon in the never-ending battle for retweets and notifications. And for those not directly affected by the thing they’re protesting – say, straight people calling out Ten Walls – this outrage is often a convenient way to show the desirable position that they care, without them actually ever having to engage with the people they’re being outraged on behalf of.
Of all the status updates in the wake of Ten Walls, the one that I feel had the most resonance came from Niall O'Conghaile, head of UK vogue label CVNT TRAXX:
“While I appreciate the outpouring of anti-homophobia over Ten Wally, it would be great if people could invest the same passion into supporting (living) queer dance artists.”
And I think he’s onto something. For sure, we should call out arseholes who spread hate online, and I can’t think of any reason why people who have been historically oppressed shouldn’t take joy in having a wider platform for their voice. Anything that can redress the balance in our skewed top heavy society is a winner. But as important as it is to be outraged, it is to celebrate what’s good. Life’s too short to waste on hate.