When activists plastered Chris Brown albums with the warning “This Man Beats Women,” the Internet (rightfully) cheered. But now that John Lennon albums are also getting stickered, the online response is a lot more conflicted.
…Instead of denouncing Lennon’s abusive history, an NME editor remarked that the stickers were merely “interesting” (it’s an awkward story for the music publication to have to deal with on the same day they crowned Lennon their Ultimate Icon).
Sigh. Now, lest you misinterpret that sigh, let me remind you that I established my bonafides on this particular topic many moons ago. I’ve never raised my hand in anger to anyone but my brother (and c’mon, siblings, I mean, do they ever not deserve a good beating? You know how it is), and I have no respect for the Chris Browns of the world. But, you know, if his music moved me, I’d buy it. If I felt guilty about it, I’d make an equal-or-greater donation to a domestic abuse charity to make up for it. No, I just like that line that begins “Instead of denouncing…” Because what could be more timely or relevant than denouncing a man who’s been dead for three decades? I mean, what if some fence-sitters on the whole abuse issue take our silence to imply consent?
Wagner, you may remember, is the tosser we encountered last month displaying a similar affection for symbolic, vaguely political gestures that amount to nothing of practical worth, so I’m not surprised to find him on the case. To be fair, there is a hint of a valid point there — perhaps we can wonder why brutalizing women is a capital crime when done by a thuggish young black singer but merely a peccadillo when done by a hippie icon (though, again: timeliness, relevance). To forget about fairness for a moment, we can suggest that lack of media attention to the Brown/Rihanna saga is hardly the problem and therefore an album-stickering campaign is just more insignificant white noise in the news cycle, and we can also remind everyone that art has a way of transcending the all-too-human failings of the wretched creatures that create and consume it. Don’t confuse feel-good symbolism with activism.