Recently, Jack White of The White Stripes was said to have slammed Lady Gaga in an interview. According to White’s recent statements, this never happened. The “journalist” who quoted him in Esquire added a few choice words to his quote — a couple of important ones, namely “Lady Gaga.” White was talking about culture in general. Apparently Esquire thought they’d just, you know, pinch-hit for him. White clarified on his website, and even has laudatory comments for Gaga over her passionate advocacy for gay rights and sexual freedoms. If there is or ever has been a feud between the two, then it does not derive from what White said to Esquire.
What troubles me most, however, is this MTV article, which is how I found out about the controversy. When one bookmarks or shares the article in question, supposedly about White’s “clarification” — it retains the original inflammatory headline as a header, even though the headline itself has been corrected. (Sadly, the MTV author also hasn’t bothered to rewrite the early paragraphs enough to convey with any degree of accuracy what White “clarified,” but that’s another issue.)
The metatag problem is a common error when using blogging or other publishing software. Sometimes it derives from the software (for instance, WordPress) or its plugins. I have no idea what platform MTV publishes on, and I don’t have time to go digging for it, but there’s an important journalistic lesson here, as I see it, one that “real” journalists and “real” news editors, insofar as they still exist, often get wrong.
LEARN YOUR BLOGGING SKILLS, PEOPLE! CHANGE THE METAS WHEN YOU PRINT A CLARIFICATION!
Yes, that means that you have to learn technology. I don’t like it any better than anyone…I’m not a tech guy and I prefer to write for a living and have somebody else
That means, if you don’t know what metatags are, LOOK THEM THE FUCK UP.
Or, hell, what do I care? If you don’t work for MTV, and you’re just blogging on your own, then don’t look them up, and don’t understand metatags…you are certainly under no obligation to do so.
However, as a not-quite-a-journalist with a little journalistic training, and one who respects that dying profession, I must insist that if you are not going to check your metatags, you don’t then publish intentionally inflammatory stuff that you made up.
If you are blogging your poetry, recipes for margaritas or your thoughts about Firefly, you are unlikely to encounter this as a serious and potentially damaging issue. The great thing about blogging is that anyone can be a writer, anyone can publish, anyone can be read, anyone can reach thousands or even millions of readers, or just a few important ones. It cuts out the vast divide between “writers” and “normal people,” a divide that never really existed and never should have existed.
However, the adaptation of the blog format by news media has carried with it a few pitfalls, and this is one of them. It’s partly complicated by the ability to check real-time stats, which means that editors at some major sites are more prone than ever to change headlines to be inflammatory. Not like this didn’t happen in the days of yellow journalism (the Spanish American War, anyone?) Often if/when the headlines change back after public outcry (or someone in-house pointing out that the headline is now inaccurate), they forget to change the metas.
This has happened before my very eyes at places like the UK Bonehead Repository, aka the always inflammatory The Daily Mail. I even wrote an article about Occupy New York for Tiny Nibbles that addressed this issue briefly.
I simply cannot emphasize enough how irresponsible this is when one is publishing a post with a highly inflammatory headline. It means when a story like the one about Jack White’s comments on Lady Gaga is published and then corrected or clarified, and the user “shares” the piece on Facebook or Twitter or another social media platform, the original, incorrect, information is disseminated, because oftentimes all that people see or remember on social media are headlines.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s GREAT that major news corporations can get rid of all those pesky writers, editors, fact checkers, typesetters, print monkeys, etc. I understand it really improves their bottom line, and if there’s one thing I want out of both journalism and social media, it’s greater profits for enormous corporations.
I mean, if MTV turns out to have editorial, quality-control and fact-checking standards roughly on par with Thomasroche.com, which I publish in my underwear between lengthy sessions of lighting my farts and singing “Waiting for the Man” to my dog in a Pepe Le Pew voice, that’s kind of a sad statement.
I also do not like this article on strictly esthetic grounds (the writing is wide-eyed, gooey and amateurish). But what also bugs me is that the author was too lazy to rewrite the first few paragraphs to clarify that the thing is, Jack White did not attack Lady Gaga…he most specifically did NOT attack Lady Gaga. The opening paragraphs still state, in part:
In a new interview with the British edition of Esquire, White takes a swipe at Gaga over what he perceives to be her lack of authenticity.
“I don’t think she lives it, because it’s all artifice,” White says. “It’s all image with no meaning behind it. You can’t sink your teeth into it. It’s a sound bite. It’s very of this age, because that’s what people want.”
Of course, serval outlets picked up the quote, which led White to issue a statement Wednesday (December 5) afternoon that took the media to task for its “tabloidesque drama baiting,” and said that his quotes were taken out of context.
“I never said anything about her music, or questioned the authenticity of her songs in any way. I was in a conversation about the drawbacks of image for the sake of image, and that it is popular nowadays to not question an image in front of you, but only to label it as ‘cool’ or ‘weird’ quickly and dispose of it,” the statement read in part. “I don’t like my comments about Lady Gaga’s presentation being changed into some sort of negative critique of her music. If you’re going to try to cause drama, at least get the quotes right. I think journalists should also be held accountable for what they say. Especially publications like the NME who put whatever words they feel like between two quotation marks and play it off as a quote.”
While I may have implied above that the article itself is not the problem, in fact, it is. The metatags are just a symptom of not giving a shit enough to actually “clarify” rather than just tossing a bone to accuracy.
For the record, from the little I know of Jack White, I find it far more likely that White would have slammed Charlie Musselwhite or B.B. King than that he would have attacked Lady Gaga. In any event, I give White the benefit of the doubt, because there’s a documentary out there that features him building a diddley bow from scratch, and then playing it. I think that is pretty bad-ass. The fucker knows his blues, and that gets him mileage aplenty in my book.
And for the record — this one’s important to me — I do not hate Lady Gaga. In fact, I am amazed and horrified by all you assholes who do. The amount of vitriol I see spewing at her from friends on social media is actually upsetting to me. It makes me sick to my stomach.
According to comments voiced in social media by friends of mine whose opinions I usually respect, Gaga is “a Madonna retread,” “hasn’t done anything Alice Cooper didn’t do,” “doesn’t do it as well as Iggy Pop,” is ugly, is skanky, is stupid, is pretentious, is not a “real” queer, dropped out of Tisch because she is unintelligent… need I go on?
Look, I’m not making these sentiments up…I’ve actually read them from people I know, and I just don’t fucking get it. Why the hell pick on Gaga? Who in the living hell gives a damn?
Or maybe I do get it…look, I’m sorry to have to say it, but to my eyes, nose and ears the Gaga-hating looks, smells and quacks like flat-out misogyny. It’s got a different flavor to the hatred aimed at Justin Bieber. But that flavor, to me, is terrifying because it’s blatant anti-female overtones. Too often, people don’t realize just how vicious they’re being toward media figures.
For what it’s worth, I do not generally like the general genre of music that Gaga engages in. All that Autotuned dance music stuff is pretty dull to me. It’s not to my taste.
But I don’t need to slam Gaga for being vapid, and I don’t understand why anyone feels the need to do so. She’s certainly not any more “superficial” than any other pop star, and she’s far less vapid and superficial than most Broadway musicals, which often layer on the schmaltz only disguise their ultimate lack of complexity. And as White said, she’s been out there as an openly bi pop star and taken a stand for queer rights. Um…sorry, friends, how did she suddenly become our enemy because she wears costumes and she’s not David Bowie?
There is an artistry to pop, and it’s never really encompassed concept albums about Anne Frank, oh-so-deep insights into Jung, or deaf, dumb & blind kids who sure play a mean pinball. Those things exist despite, not because of, the pop esthetic; those authors who can meld the two are in my view either overpretentious or brilliant, depending on how they handle it and on my particular mood. (Jeff Mangum, for the record, is ALWAYS brilliant.)
The only thing that bugs me about Gaga is how much the media hopped on the pro-Gaga bandwagon. Before I stopped reading CNN (about a year or two ago), on any given week they would publish on their front page maybe a dozen headlines about any genre of music. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that three-fourths of them were always about Lady Gaga. But there’s nothing wrong with Gaga that I blame on Gaga.
It’s no surprise that there’s a huge anti-Gaga backlash. People want Jack White to pile on, because they want “rock ‘n’ roll” to stand in opposition to pop. But that’s bullshit. Rock ‘n’ roll is a big umbrella. So’s pop. Neither one can be defined with any accuracy. Trying to perceive a feud between White (rock) and Gaga (pop) is like trying to use rock and pop as stand-ins for some kind of culture war…maybe even the war of the sexes. And it pains me to have to repeat this, but I just can’t say this enough times: 90% of the anti-Gaga backlash is misogyny.
From a music journalism perspective, that’s almost as lame as forgetting to check your metatags when you republish an article.