My column from last week ("Summer Vacation, the Black Bag, and a Mini-Tirade (Or Two)") received more response than any other column in the near-year I've been doing this thing for Seattle Weekly. In my "mini-tirade," I quickly took a swipe at those who make comments on blogs, articles, and fansites without using a real name, therefore sidestepping any real responsibility for their often accusatory and mean-spirited script.
Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb.
We have reached an age when information and opinions can be shared widely with a simple finger's touch. This is a very cool thing for sure. With these articles, opinions, and fansites online, we are experiencing a sort of letters-to-the-editor-on-steroids phenomenon.Text-messaging on phones also has taken away some of the personality that an audible voice will parlay. If I have shitty news or am pissed off, I myself will often text instead of call. It is often easier and less confrontational to e-mail or text a tirade, and we can worry about the fallout of said tirade at a later point . . . putting it off. Is this better? No. Is it easier? Well, for the time being, and we ARE becoming a point-and-click, path-of-least-resistance society.
Newspapers have their Op/Ed sections and letters to the editor to provide a community voice in return. With these letters, though, comes the person's first and last name and hometown. If someone writes to a newspaper in response to something they feel strongly enough about, there seems to be pride in owning up to who you are . . . maybe that's old-school, but at least there is discourse with identity.
People say you could track back anyone on the computer if you tried hard enough. The comments section on YouTube videos and columns like this one have at times included nasty and unkind comments with some wacky made-up moniker attached. I would never have the interest to track down someone unless they'd somehow done irreparable damage to someone I love, but that is not what I am talking about. Who really cares to track someone down? What I am talking about is this: What does that say about us as a society when we say something online that we would never even dream of saying face-to-face? I am not sure. I am just asking the question, and from last week's response, so too are many of you.
When I was talking to my wife earlier today about some of this, she said that, especially with celebrities, some people just get fed up with all the nonsense and want to rail back, and the Internet supplies that forum. Fair enough. But doesn't the Internet also provide a forum to identify yourself when railing at a celebrity--like "That's right. I said it. What you gonna do about it?" Hiding behind pseudonyms seems to me like something an 11-year-old would do . . . and that brings up another point.
Back in 2004, when Velvet Revolver put out our first record, a great fansite popped up with our tour dates, recent photos, birthdays, and a fan forum (a place where fans could write in). Back then, I would read everything fans had to say, and certain veins of conversation did turn VERY opinionated, if not downright vitriolic. I would find myself taking some of this stuff to heart, until one day on tour, I met one of these people who often railed in the forum. He was 14 YEARS OLD!!! I realized then and there that KIDS were the ones mostly responsible for the maddening text. I was letting little kids get into my head, and they were just testing their boundaries as many teenagers do. I felt instantly enlightened and foolish, and I no longer read that kind of thing.
P.S., Punk Rock
Also last week, I commented that Green Day had somehow maintained a punk ethic well into their mainstream success. The term "punk rock" indeed means different things to different people, and I was glad to hear some of those differing opinions.
Brad Cox, a recent reader of my column, wrote a profound explanation of what "punk rock" means to him. His band plays metal and hard rock, but he felt that the way they live their lives, write their music, and put themselves out there was indeed punk rock. If you get a chance to scroll back to his comment on last week's column, please do.
Some people really feel a need to explain what punk rock is, and that it is their own private box of specialness that is not to be touched by anyone else. If that is what punk rock is to them, more power to them. But I think it is a much bigger and more powerful paradigm. Johnny Cash is punk rock, and so too in many ways is Katy Perry. Anyone who writes their own music and portrays it the way that they want--damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead--is in my opinion punk rock. That includes Charles Bukowski, Mastodon, and the Dalai Lama.
To conclude: I am punk rock and sign my name to this column week in and week out. If you are just commenting and have a cool and fun viewpoint or addition, sign under any name you like. The rest of you, don't bother.