Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

The 31-Day Blog Challenge, Day Twenty-Four: Chilling Effect

Today’s writing prompt:

31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 24: “a difficult time in my life”.

 

Well, everybody’s got ’em.

I’m pleased to say that there are plenty of people whom I know personally, and lots and lots more whom I don’t, who have probably had more difficult Times In Their Lives than I’ve had in mine.

Still, they get your attention.

I don’t know that this is the space for the response to this question. Please accept my apologies, Dear Reader – especially if you are a regular and longtime Dear Reader, and have been around for a few of the difficult Times In My Life in online print. Especially if you watched me take on the Young Singing Sensation Fan Club trolls about five years ago.

Yes, I’ve had ’em, both personally and professionally. Some of those Times In My Life have been the kind that only a few folks know about, and it’s darn well going to stay that way (and those weren’t always of the personal variety). Need-to-know basis, and all that. Others have been a bit more widely understood, in part due to their public nature.

 

For the full story, go back (if you dare) to these two blog posts – one was highly caffeinated snark, and the other was an honest reappraisal of the first one. The second post was inspired by feedback about the first one … feedback which was at worst full of veiled threats of legal action, and at best full of mediocre spelling.

In our current political climate, the slightest online critique of a candidate can attract the ire of online commenters in such a way that the author of the critique starts to wish s/he had never hit “publish” [hey, wait just a damned minute, what the hell ever happened to freedom of speech and the First Amendment and all that great stuff that makes Murrica great? Ohhh, I see; freedom of speech as long as I agree with it. Got it].

Five years ago, I got my own dose of that. At the merest hint that I might not have totally utterly swooned over the vocal performance of this particular golden-tressed, 38-year-old-mezzo-soprano-voiced moppet … the trolls descended. The Singing Sensation Fan Club swept in, bearing their spears and magic helmets. How dare I. This young singer is a gift from God.

(Not making that up. There was talk of singer-as-angel-messenger-from-God. Good Lord.)

I thought I could probably handle online critique of my stuff; I knew I was publishing a blog that anyone with an Internet connection and a pulse could read; so pushback was always possible. But while politics draws fire regularly, surely musical subjects wouldn’t have as big a target on their backs, yes? … Um, I guess no.

Simple disagreement is one thing. A back-and-forth about what strikes you musically that doesn’t so much strike me? Let’s have that conversation. We might learn something, each of us.

This was something else.

In the comment section of that blog post, it got pretty heated.

 

Meantime, on the online fan forum devoted to the Young Singing Sensation, one commenter suggested that because I said such horrible things about this singing youngster, then logically that made me a Bad Person, and definitely a Bad Music Teacher. Who would want such a horrible person to be teaching music to delicate children? And this person suggested that it might be a good idea to send someone to investigate this Bad Music Teacher. To contact the school where he taught music, and perhaps to alert the administration therein to the presence of such a Bad Music Teacher.

In support of that, one other commenter posted this:

…if the downside became quite nasty, then who can be blamed for that outcome. Obviously the person who was nasty to begin with. If there were/are negative ramifications, then they fall on the person who needs to take responsibility for making it negative in the first place. I don’t worry for his job. He should. I’ll offer the same sort of mercy for his outcomes as he has for [the Singer’s].”

One of my blog commenters played the part of the mole in the organization and quietly pointed me toward that forum comment thread.

Bad enough that, upon reading this, I considered contacting a lawyer friend of mine and putting him on standby alert. Worse that I considered contacting my school’s principal and putting her on standby alert – because you never know what utter whack job might think that carrying out a Bad Music Teacher Investigation might require visiting a school while carrying a concealed weapon, or something. Principals really enjoy that spectre, lurking out there.

But go back a few paragraphs, to the other commenter who replied to the initial suggestion. Did you notice that I didn’t say he/she, or him/her? I said “she”.

Because the identity of the Other Commenter is very specific, is very important in this, and ought not be downplayed.

This Other Commenter was not anonymous. And therefore she was quite publicly making these accusations and insinuations and, whether she knew it or not, was quite publicly taking the chance of inciting some other person, some potential utter whack job (for all she knew) to go ahead and pull a “Guy Noir, Private Eye” routine on me.

This Other Commenter was no mere fan.

She was the Young Singing Sensation’s mother.

Let that rattle around in your head for a minute.

In that moment, I both did and did not know exactly what I was dealing with.

 

As it turned out, the firestorm subsided relatively quickly. If our current political circus wasn’t happening, I’d say something like “this is always the case. There’s a lot of shouting (real or virtual), and then the short attention span kicks in and it’s off to the next crisis, the current one entirely forgotten.”

But – partly because of that political circus which has turned the scary-invective-and-utter-whack-job volume control up to eleven – and partly because I’ve made it a habit not to “poke the bear” when I really don’t need to – which was not the lesson I wanted to learn, five years ago, but there it is anyway – I’ve consistently avoided naming this Young Singing Sensation.

Her fans made my life pretty crazy, there, for about two weeks in 2011.

The sad part of all that was: thanks to those two weeks of crazy, generated solely by her fans, she’s lost me as a potential admirer for good, no matter what happens. In my head, her name is a synonym for back away slowly so as not to startle.

Singers aren’t the only public figures whose supporters make them look bad, whose fans’ behavior causes other possible new fans to turn away from them. And it’s a pity.

So I’d love to tell her that I’m sorry about all that. Her schtick, through no fault of her own, only laid the groundwork for the creation of a difficult Time In My Life.

Her mother, though?

In the words of a great philosopher, that Other Commenter needed to go home and re-think her life.

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May 24, 2016 - Posted by | blogging, celebrity, Famous Persons, Internet, music | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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