So if you haven’t been following this weeks Chris Brown scandal, the story is this. Will.i.am blatantly stole music from a lesser known band (Arty & Mat Zo), got Chris Brown to rap on it for some reason, got almost instantaneously caught, and now the internet has decided it is the Defenders of the Copyright (especially for songs that they illegally downloaded). For those more skeptical readers I’ll post the two songs here and you can decide for yourself.
Song by Arty & Mat Zo called “Rebound”
Will.i.am feat. Chris Brown song called “Let’s Go” (and honestly, would you expect a song by Will.i.am to be named anything more original than that?)
Actually, on second listening, they not only clearly stole most of the original song, but somehow Will.i.am’s affinity for overproduced garbage has made the song worse.
Will.i.am has been silent on the scandal (probably choosing to talk to his lawyers instead of his fans), but of course Chris Brown leapt to the song’s defense:
A true artist.
On the other side of things, the artists whose work was shamelessly stolen have been pretty cool about the whole thing, focusing on the positive aspect that since this scandal broke their work has been getting more attention then it ever would have gotten had that guy from the Black Eyed Peas not decided their work was his.
But his closing sentence really speaks to what I find so disconcerting about the internet. Whenever an embarrassment like this comes out, the hivemind of the internet goes into hyperdrive producing an ugly feedback loop of increasingly nasty vitriol. It’s like the second we see a public figure being brought low, we feel it is now acceptable to throw all manner of insult and slurs in their direction without fear of consequence. There is a name for that, its called bullying. What’s even more shameful is that most people wait until the target of their scorn is defenseless (such as when they copyright infringe on a song) and the bully knows that his voice will just be a drop in the bucket of the churning sea of rage and aggression. Will.i.am stole a song, terrible artists do that all the time, relax. Chris Brown is in many ways an awful human being, but don’t worry, he already knows everyone hates him. He doesn’t need you throwing more hatred his way, you are not the Who down in Whoville whose voice finally makes an audible sound where before there was silence.
Scarier still, the violence and slurs that come out in times like these are a telling example that we are living in a world that has still not rid itself of implicit -isms, which boil to the surface at the slightest provocation. As another example, Anita Sarkeesian, creator of the Feminist Frequency website and video series, saw this first hand when a Kickstarter project she had started had the nerve to have attracted interest, which misogynistic nerds everywhere took as a personal affront. The dogs of war were unleashed and a torrent of disgusting and violent threats were hurled at Sarkeesian (again, whose only crime was to have created a kickstarter about something she was interested in).
But that appears to be the way it goes now, bullies are attracted to the twin siren songs of anonymity and groupthink, and the internet deals with those in abundance. That isn’t to say things are hopeless. Optimism comes naturally to me, and as I rule, I tend to think things are getting better. The sad upside to this familiar tale is that it no longer is surprising. Like the Europeans surviving the Plague emerging stronger for it, we too live in a world where nasty things on the internet don’t even attract attention. And maybe that’s part of the problem. That’s why it’s important for the people involved, especially the ones the internet thinks they are defending, to keep a cool head and not encourage the behavior. Mat Zo had it exactly right when he said “[the piracy] doesn’t excuse the horrific abuse you’re sending the way of Will I Am and Chris Brown, and it especially doesn’t excuse being racist.” No it doesn’t, and we could all take note of that. For the next time.