Saturday, November 23, 2019

A sense of entitlement

Ever since a memorable encounter with The Dresden Dolls at Glastonbury in 2005, I've kept half an eye on Amanda Palmer's career. Regardless of what I or anyone else think of her, though, it's fair to say that she's seriously embarrassed herself (at best) in the last few days.

It started with her very public complaint that the Guardian had refused to cover her new album and tour. She later claimed that her point was more about how she responded by exploring alternatives to mainstream media coverage - but Guardian music editor Ben Beaumont-Thomas and his deputy Laura Snapes weren't about to take false talk of a ban lying down. Snapes subsequently revealed her previous interactions and exchanges with Palmer, describing the musician's behaviour as harassment.

Under fire from all sides, Palmer tried to backtrack, expressing her unconditional love of the Guardian and respect for music journalists in general and asking her diehard devotees not to pile on Snapes. But Snapes was, rightly, having none of it - no doubt riled by being gaslighted by Palmer's claim that "I understand she felt harassed and targeted". She criticised Palmer for attempting "to take the moral high ground", lamented "her total lack of compunction or understanding" and, most damningly, made the following acid observation: "It is v interesting how the language of 'accountability' and 'growth' and 'learning' has become so mainstream and sort of ... unimpeachable that charlatans routinely use it to excuse their very obvious fuckups, and get away with it."

Let's unpick it all, shall we?

For a start, "harassment" might be a strong word - but make no mistake, it's one that's Snapes' prerogative to use in reference to behaviour that is at very least weird and creepy.

Second, musicians who claim that there's some sort of media vendetta against them only succeed in making themselves look like paranoid brats. As Snapes and Beaumont-Thomas patiently explained, there were very good reasons why Palmer's endeavours weren't covered - which included the fact that the paper had given her plenty of coverage in the past. (Take this Jon Ronson feature from 2013, for instance, the title of which asks pointedly "visionary or egotist?") There are all sorts of pressures and factors involved, and anyone who moans about not being featured comes across as pathetically self-entitled.

Palmer dug herself an even bigger hole by denying that she expected coverage and yet arguing that the paper, given its political leanings, should really be giving exposure to the efforts of a "known feminist". This provoked even more ire and criticism (not least because harassing a woman in the name of feminism is not a good look) - and when she complained about the insinuation that "my entire album and tour is a blatantly cynical attempt at leveraging feminism and progressive politics for money", many people mockingly noted that she might finally have arrived at a modicum of self-awareness.

Perhaps most bizarre is Palmer's claim that paying a freelance journalist and photographer to produce a long-form puff piece about her tour is a major history-making media innovation rather than merely a self-aggrandising PR exercise. This might be an extreme example, but in fairness she isn't the only musician apparently unable to distinguish between genuine journalism and PR. If you want to guarantee positive promotion of your new album, just take out an advert.

Palmer has previous form, for thinking it was acceptable to raise over $1 million through crowdfunding and then offer to pay her musicians in beer and hugs. It remains to be seen whether those she's alienated within her own fanbase will forgive her for this latest episode.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for mentioning the gaslighting that fueled a fair portion of this "kerfluffle." It was incredibly disturbing.