I woke up way too early this morning . . . after falling asleep in my big comfy recliner . . . way too late.
I got up and half-stumbled into the kitchen, opened the fridge door, reached down and grabbed a beer. I just stood there for a few seconds with the bottle in my hand, frozen in confused thought: [“What the hell am I doing?”] I put the beer back in the fridge and instead made a cup of coffee.
It took another couple of hours before I realized it’s not Saturday, and then initiated some of my typical weekday morning routine.
I’m not cracking up — yet — but yesterday I broke one of my cardinal rules. I challenged a popular figurehead in the local music scene on one of his personal Facebook postings, in which he was publishing incomplete data on the spread and body count of COVID-19 here in the US, and basically ‘celebrating’ that our country is now “leading the world” in confirmed cases . . . as a direct failure of the Trump administration, of course.
Before I go any further with this story — and it’s a shame I have to do this — but if I don’t, I’ll be variously accused of either siding with or attacking Trump by the “so-what-you’re-saying-is” crowd. So, here’s a brief disclaimer:
I’ve not written either direct criticism or praise of the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis, (yet), precisely because it would only be opinion based in incomplete and contradictory data. It’s simply too soon to play that game — one being played every day, all day, by major media pundits and party politicians. I have no need to retread my 2016 opposition to Trump, nor my commitment to fairly judge his presidency on an issue-by-issue basis once he became our President. At present, I would prefer a different strategy than is being recommended at the federal level and implemented by governors and mayors, but time will tell. I may be right. I may be wrong. So this tale is neither a defense of the president, or a criticism.
Back to the story . . .
The “figurehead” to which I referred is a local journalist, and until very recently was the longterm music and entertainment critic for Raleigh’s largest newspaper, The News & Observer. After two or three decades there, his job was eliminated as a casualty of that industry’s ongoing death spiral. Since being ‘made redundant,’ he’s been freelancing with other, smaller publications and trying to fire up his own blog. Like most everyone who works or worked for that uber-leftwing rag, he himself is utterly myopic in his leftist worldview.
Interestingly, as with any music critic, nearly 100% of what they write is purely opinion, subjective to the unique development of their own musical palates, and their own presuppositions of what makes for good or bad music. Sure, there’s the occasional hard news story — like the closing of an historic venue, or maybe a tragic lightening strike at an outdoor festival — in which they should obviously just report the facts of the situation. Unlike the weatherman, who gets to keep his job no matter how often his predictions are wrong, the music critic is technically never “wrong.” He either liked your show, or didn’t . . . or was forced to feign niceties because the promoter spent a lot of money in print ads. Nevertheless, it’s pure opinion.
Apart from his stock-in-trade in music journalism, he’s also never held back his political views on his personal Facebook feed, and since the coming of Trump . . . well . . . there’s never been an iota of objective effort outside his political myopia. It’s pure, unbridled, anti-Trumpisms . . . before, during, and after whatever issue is dominating the current news cycle. His public hyper-partisanship and open disdain for the president has always puzzled me, for one specific reason:
The alienation of at least half of his potential audience.
This was particularly intriguing to me when the N&O was pressuring all their writers to generate more “click-throughs” from their personal social media and blog pages. As newspaper sales and ad revenues were in free fall, and newsrooms were filled with the daily fear of who would be the next layoff, they were desperately trying to retain eyeballs on their online platforms. Columnists themselves were forced to become online ‘marketers.’ They had to build their social media presence and “promote-promote-promote” to drive those eyeballs to the newspaper’s web version of each story and column.
Even forced into that new paradigm, this guy could not resist, on a daily basis, pissing off and driving half his potential audience away. I’ve often wondered why he could not see that he was actually self-sabotaging his own position at the paper by so doing? Even now, at time he’s probably stressing over how he will replace that lost paycheck, he continues to put up an ideological force-field against his own future success and income potential. Does he really think that only progressives and democratic socialists listen to music — that only Democrats can read? (We may have a Democrat as Governor, but both chambers of the legislature are owned by the GOP. That should offer some clue to the make-up of his potential audience. Hmmm?)
He once interviewed me for a story during North Carolina’s Great Bathroom Battle of 2016. Once big name acts such as Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Ringo Starr, and many others decided to cancel shows and boycott the state, I wrote a story from the perspective of how those elitist artists were actually punishing the thousands of low-income workers who provide the backbone support for all those shows. The car parkers, ticket-takers, concession vendors, stagehands, etc., etc., all losing their income, while, “Eddie Vedder sits in his five-star hotel room, drinking a $200 bottle of wine — his lifestyle unaffected.” (Pearl Jam cancelled their show the day it was scheduled, causing thousands of fans to lose money on hotel rooms, airline tickets, and other travel expenses.) Anyway, somehow my opinions got back to the music journalist in question, and he asked me for an interview.
As it happened, this particular byline of his was given front page placement in the N&O — so dominant the brouhaha was in the daily news cycle at the time — as were my own comments . . . which he didn’t entirely offer up as they were given. I openly interjected my opinions on the entire state of affairs from a ‘libertarian’ point of view. A political philosophy for which he also holds back none of his trademark disdain or condescending snark. While he did use words I actually said, it was those he left out that made me come across somewhat less favorably in the presentation of my views. Oh well. I knew the potential for those tricks going in, and I knew on which side of the debate he’d already pitched his tent.
So . . . yesterday . . . I didn’t snap, but I did politely and evenly call him out on his “less than thorough” presentation of the facts — as he cited only raw numbers, rather than including population ratios, percentage of population tested, etc. I took no side politically, nor did I mention the the celebratory Trump Hate-Fest he and his followers were having in the comment thread. When he responded, he literally began with the “So what you’re saying is . . .” fallacy. Of course, what followed was not what I said, at all.
Modern “journalism.” I knew better. Shouldn’t have wasted my time.
Today is in fact Friday. There should be hundreds of live music events happening tonight throughout the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill metro area. There will be none. He won’t be working, and neither will I. Not something to celebrate . . . whether it brings down the Trump presidency, or not.