STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
The Psychopathology of Pop Hatred
By Staff News & Analysis - April 04, 2011

Rebecca Black's (left) 'Friday' YouTube fame isn't always so 'fun fun fun fun' "We don't hate you because you're famous. You're famous because we hate you." So went one of countless tweets about Rebecca Black, the eighth-grader whose music video "Friday" — a robotic ditty about waking up in the morning and enduring the drudgery of the school week before reaching exalted Friday — has become a surprise hit on YouTube. On Tuesday night, Black performed on Jay Leno, and as of Wednesday, "Friday" had been streamed more than 35 million times on YouTube, and hit No. 19 on the iTunes bestselling singles list. The song almost immediately took a back seat to tens of thousands of Internet comments, many of them downright cruel. It wasn't just the material that provoked such invective — "the worst song ever" has been a refrain — it was Black herself. "I hope you cut yourself," someone wrote. "I hope you'll get an eating disorder so you'll look pretty, and I hope you go cut and die." There are plenty more where that came from, none of which can be printed here. – Digital Life

Dominant Social Theme: These guys are great. Genius, which comes in small packages, is often misunderstood.

Free-Market Analysis: One need only go on Youtube to be educated about the latest Anglo-American eruption of psychopathology, which is the almost insane hatred directed at "tween" pop stars. Of course the mainstream media has its own take. The reaction seems to be, generally, that in the modern day and age "social media" makes frank commentary on successful people and projects inevitable – and that people have always had mixed emotions about others' success. The other popular analysis, especially when it comes to suddenly-famous singer Rebecca Black, is simply that she has made a terrible song and deserves what she gets.

We think it is a wee-bit more complicated than that. How anyone can think that the white-hot rage evident in Youtube commentaries below Black's "Friday" video are in any sense normal is beyond us. (They're not all from the US by any means, but from around the world.) We first noticed the phenomenon with Justin Bieber, a young man who has made several hit records and is the current heartthrob of many young girls. The mainstream press for the most part ignored it. The fire-hose-strength vituperation aimed at Black has been so noticeable that it virtually demands explanation.

Black herself has said that the unexpected tenor and volume of harsh comments on Youtube "made [her] cry." Of course the grief of a 13-year-old who has a hit song and is unexpectedly making money on a large number of downloads (the amount of downloads is in question) is surely not a tragedy, given the horrible things that happen to people every day in this sometimes-miserable world. But the larger trend is itself both notable and disturbing, we would submit. It says something about the larger health of Anglo-American culture; what it says is not good.

While a number of the comments are very obviously from young people, there are certainly comments from older ones as well. Generally there are a number of obscene (obviously male) comments. As with Bieber, she's received a number of farily negative comments from the "chattering classes" (music and fashion blogs) and she's been the subject of much commentary on mainstream TV and radio programs.

Why does a 13-year old with a three-minute, basically homemade, song get so much attention? Perhaps, the amount of attention paid to her is inverse to how fearful people are about commenting on significant issues facing their lives. We would suggest what is going on is what Sigmund Freud called "displacement."

People are angry at how their lives are turning out, worried about their futures and generally feel helpless and increasingly furious because of the collapsing economy. Young men, especially, may be worried about seemingly dwindling employment opportunties. No one is going to get into trouble for criticizing Justin Bieber, even harshly. But make the wrong comment in the wrong chat room about, say, Barack Obama and the police may show up at your door.

So much attention and vituperation. (One comment suggests that Black will cut an album in 2012 and that its release will be predictive of the apocolypse.) Black's song has garnered 1.5 million "dislikes" and a similar amount of comments. It's not a new phenomenon. Bieber (pehaps others?) has been the focus of the same syndrome for a while: one obscene Youtube commentary after another denigrating his sexuality, hair, musicianship and generally anything associated with his personal or professional life.

Because of the out-of-proportion rage aimed at Black, the mainstream media has been scrambling to explain it. Most posts have, predictably, focused on the insipid nature of the song itself. The article with which we opened this analysis – from "Digital Life" – is a good example of this. The article claims that Black's hit is a "confusing song" because it uses many venerable pop techniques but juxtaposes them with extremely insipid lyrics. These lyrics "earnestly remind us that Sunday comes after Saturday and describe the dilemma of choosing which seat to take in a car full of friends who are ‘kickin' in the front seat' and ‘sittin' in the back seat'."

Black didn't write the song. Both the song and video were supported by Ark Music Factory, out of LA. For US$2,000, Black was able to record both; a posting on Youtube did the rest. Then the video "went viral." In aggregate, in only a few days, it's been viewed some 80 million times. To begin with, the shock of this sort of recognition must have produced a kind of euphoria – one that soon gave way to a different emotion as the comments poured in. "I could have killed a few people," Black's mother reportedly said in an interview on "Good Morning America."

Black's mother apparently is not the fame-seeking type for herself or her daughter. The idea of releasing a song on Youtube was a gift she gave to young Rebecca. Probably the hope was that the song would garner a few thousands views and the young woman could show the posted video and (presumably positive) reactions to her friends at school. A miscalculation? Here's how Digital Life interprets the aftermath:

What she apparently didn't realize is that attention and fame these days are as much about hate as about love. To do anything in a public arena is to invite an insta-response that will echo just as loudly with harsh critics as with fans. It means having as many "dislikes" as "likes," as many people making fun of you as embracing you and, when it comes to the Internet, as many scathing, borderline abusive comments as supportive ones (and often many more). It means understanding — or learning the hard way — that being extremely popular is now basically the same thing as being extremely unpopular. Whereas it used to be that the forum for anonymous public opinion was the high school bathroom wall, now the whole world is essentially a bathroom wall.

And how's the young songstress herself coping? "Sure, [the reaction] made her cry at first, she said, but when given the chance to take the video down, she left it up. ‘I think that's an accomplishment, you know. Even a person that doesn't like it. It's gonna be stuck in their heads, so that's the point of it.'" Of course, that's probably not the "point of it." Ms. Black didn't post a song to "stick it in people's heads." She wanted to make a song that people would like and acknowledge as something with artistic merit. Instead, 70 million views later, she's the talk of late night TV and has comment queue with messages that are more vicious than anything aimed Colonel Qaddafi.

Western society is in decline. The Anglosphere elite, in its determination to create ever-closer global governance has been busy tearing down Western culture for at least a century now, in our view. The result is serial socioeconomic ruin and, increasingly, a militarized, authoritarian culture that is repressive domestically and aggressively militant abroad. People are well aware – deep down anyway – what's going on. But because of society's larger sickness, their anger and frustration is being channeled into unusual venues and finds its expression in places where it might not be expected.

After Thoughts

The explosive fury aimed at Bieber and Black could be seen as just one more sign of the West's current unhealthiness. The mainstream media, unfortunately, does not seem to recognize it; indeed the articles we have read on the topic are resolutely focused on Black's insipid material as a reason for the outcry. Yet throughout its brief history, pop music has too-often been insipid and its young singers were surely never worldly icons. Something else is going on, we suggest.

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