Is Social Media Harming Art?

TRENT REZNOR Says Social Media Is Harming Music

“I’ve always said that what Trent really needs is a blanky and a hot chocolate with marshmallows.” —Tori Amos

Industrial music is not science fiction but the linked article is still relevant to it and this blog.

Reznor is actually conflating two unrelated points, one of which I disagree with and one of which I agree with.

The disagreement, unsurprisingly, is with the elitist idea that “people who have never made anything think it’s okay to talk shit about stuff they have no right to talk about. You got a Facebook account? Nobody gives a fuck. You haven’t achieved anything.”

I’m not aware of there being any licensing requirement for reviewing. I think anyone who invests the time, effort, and/or money in experiencing something and further time and effort to articulate their opinions and then puts themselves on the line in public to share those opinions has met all the requirements there are. Different people may do this with different degrees of “success” (however that may be defined) but the axiom that “everyone has a right to their opinion” has had a time-honored, valued place in the society Mr. Reznor and I share. While I understand he took piano lessons as a child, I’m not aware that he graduated from Juilliard so perhaps he didn’t have the right to make music in the first place? No, everyone absolutely has the right to make music, even if all they can do is bang pots and pans together. And choosing or refusing to listen and expressing an opinion on that music once listened to is also everyone’s right.

(Disclaimer, I own two Nine Inch Nails CDs, which I like okay, though I prefer my many Ministry CDs. And feel free to dismiss as self-interested my defense of reviewers. My only “right” to speak, aside from the Constitution, comes from a passion for the subject exemplified by so many years of reading that I won’t specify, so many thousands of stories and novels read that I can’t specify, and so much money spent in the process that I’d shudder to specify if I could.)

In fact, I think the sort of thing he seems to be advocating here would lead to the same problem he’s diagnosing, but in a different way. Science fiction was basically created by teenagers (as was rock and roll) and engineers and other people who had no “right” to write. It was a DIY literature that made other authors and the literary establishment cover their eyes just as Elvis made many musicians and “right-thinking people” cover their ears. I see a lot of authors reviewing each other and more and more science fiction writers who seem to have little understanding of or respect for science fiction but likely encounter it as one slice of their creative writing classes. While these people also have the “right” to write and review and critique, I think it does increase the likelihood of conflicts of interest and tends to produce an echo chamber effect, not to mention that it tends to sand off the fingerprints that uniquely identify science fiction and effectively turn it into “good literature” (i.e., tends to remove the special things science fiction excels at and reduce it to redundant and boring literature better done in other genres).

The agreement comes from seeing a mass of commentators who apparently have no knowledge of or love for the field (which may be at work in the musical field as well) but have a primarily political agenda and are terrorizing everyone into a meek conformity with their opinions. A field of wild-eyed dreams and a respect for exploring every possible idea and which exulted in having “dangerous visions” has been permeated by a vocal social pack mentality in which many thoughts may not be thought and many words may not be spoken and in which free speech, the essence of the very first item of the Bill of Rights, is not valued at all. This does indeed lead to “formulaic, made to please, vegan restaurant patron-type shit” and “an environment where people are too fuckin’ worried about what other people have to say.”

The irony of this is appalling. In realms of music which were populated by the nonconformists and outcasts and in realms of literature which were populated by the “freaks and geeks” and in realms of politics which were populated by people fighting for freedom and the right to speak your mind and do your thing and to free the oppressed… there is an increasingly restrictive prison cell of oppression in which people cannot say and do things which don’t conform to the party line. Thus, the horseshoe theory (or something much like it) is shown to be correct. And, yes, this is leading to an environment of sameness and a lack of challenging and individualistic notions. Few Princes, few Heinleins, few Asimovs, and we are all poorer for it.