What Is The Social Responsibility Of A Music Blog During Times Of Conflict?
As I followed the situation in Ferguson, Missouri on Wednesday night, I sat in stunned silence. American citizens were being treated like enemies of the state by police officers. A situation that initially began as protests against racial profiling and the tragic killing of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer had evolved into a warzone. Protesters were being threatened at gunpoint, shot with rubber bullets, and teargassed. Even tanks were being driven around. Rather than try and steer the Ferguson protests towards being a relatively peaceful ordeal, it's been reported that police officers insisted on escalating the situation by using brute force. The lack of awareness and compassion practiced by the Ferguson Police Department was shocking. They evolved into a militarized force right before our eyes. The cops ended Wednesday night by arresting two journalists, Wesley Lowery of Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of Huffington Post, at a McDonald's that was being used by the media as an off-site staging area.
Although it's admittedly a selfish thought, I wondered, "What could I possibly do to help?" EDM.com has a rapidly growing readership, and I seriously considered penning an op-ed about the situation on Wednesday night. Dance music has long been considered a place where PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect) reigns supreme. What they need in Ferguson right now is precisely that: peace, love, unity, and respect. However, I thought about the implications of covering the Ferguson injustices and concluded that it would be too "off brand" for EDM.com to publish an article. I began questioning my decision when Pigeons & Planes bravely published a thought-provoking article yesterday titled "The Role of a Music Blog During a Time Like This." Their conclusion was that they shouldn't be viewed as a source on the Ferguson situation. They wrote, "It feels wrong for Pigeons & Planes to be publishing stories and essays on what’s happening in Ferguson. It’s not part of what we do. We are not experts. We have nobody reporting from the scene. We don’t have anything profound to add to this discussion."
They're completely right. Music blogs should not be viewed as your news source on situations like this. There are people on the ground, like Lowery and Reilly, who you should be directing your attention towards. Unfortunately, that's not happening. People are not paying attention to this social injustice like they should be. Before going any further, I’d like to direct you to numerous articles that have provided great coverage of the situation in Ferguson.
As a music blog, it's not our place to randomly cover news events. However, as human beings, we feel that it's necessary to bring attention to the issue at hand. We are fully cognizant of the atrocities happening in the Gaza Strip, North Korea, and other parts of the world, and we completely sympathize with all victims of social injustice. But as a United States-based editorial with a large American readership, we want our readers to realize that people are being dehumanized and stripped of their rights in our own backyard. At a certain point, it becomes too difficult to separate your goals as a music blog from your responsibilities as a member of society. We know this may alienate some of our readers, but we feel it is our social responsibility to bring more awareness to this situation.
In a country where so many issues are contingent on which political party you're affiliated with, this is one of the rare non-partisan issues. Rand Paul, odds-maker's current favorite to be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee, has come out and denounced the acts carried out by the Ferguson Police Department. On the flip side, Democrats have been extremely vocal about what's been happening in Ferguson. This is not an issue solely for political parties or news outlets to address—this is simply caring for your fellow human beings.
Pigeons & Planes wrote, "But over the past few days, it started to feel wrong to not speak on this. It started to feel weird to be directing people’s attention to a new Arcade Fire music video during a time like this, simply because we are a music blog and that is what we do." It does feel weird, and we could no longer stand by idly as we pushed Skrillex and music festival articles to our audience.
As we all know, music can help people cope in difficult situations. Additionally, music can be a catalyst for change. Musicians have the ability to bring awareness to the reality of unjust situations, and they can create songs in support of the people being treated unfairly. If any producers are reading this now, I'd like you to think about the emotions your music evokes in your fans—especially during difficult times. As an example, following the tragic Kent State shootings, Neil Young rushed to write and produce the song “Ohio,” which was recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The song supported the students of Kent State and helped spread word of the tragedy across the United States. It depicted the absolute horror and outrage of the shocking situation, which I'd imagine Young felt was his social responsibility. In some cases, music has the potential to be just as impactful as any political or physical action.
During this unfortunate period in time, we’re overjoyed to see some of our favorite producers speak out on the situation. Tommie Sunshine went the extra mile and joined a solidarity protest in New York City last night. NYC is a city that’s had its fair share of police brutality incidents, including the recent death of Eric Garner.
Diplo has been under fire for his recent kandi ban at Mad Decent Block Party, but his tweet showed how ridiculous a kandi ban can seem when compared to an actual social injustice.
Moby compared the situation to one of the 20th century's worst atrocities, and Yasmine of Krewella tweeted a sad, but true, tweet about people’s priorities.
Luminox tweeted Business Insider’s article about the militarization of the police in Ferguson.
Kastle pulled a quote from one of the top graphic novels of all time, which is actually a question that’s been extremely relevant recently.
It’s great to see some big names in EDM tweet about the situation to their large fan bases. They realize the importance of the situation, and their status as musicians grants them the ability to be agents of social change.
Although the situation in Ferguson currently has people talking about the actions of police officers, too many people are unfamiliar with the overarching issue of the militarization of our police force. By giving the police—the very people who are suppose to serve and protect us—tanks, machine guns, and crowd-dispersing explosives, society has given them the ability to act like soldiers instead of peace officers. The Ferguson situation is absolutely terrible, and we hope it leads to a conversation among media outlets and policy makers about the unfortunate reality of police officers abusing their power. Luckily, the atmosphere in Ferguson has vastly improved since Missouri’s Highway Patrol took control of the situation from the Ferguson Police Department The highway patrol realizes the importance of peacefully working with protesters rather than antagonizing them, which was personified when Captain Ronald Johnson was seen hugging protesters. We hope the community of Ferguson is able to persevere and achieve social change.
We’d like to say thank you to Pigeons & Planes for having the courage to publish an article about Ferguson. If we’re able to inform just one person about the injustice taking place, then we have accomplished what we set out to do. We encourage you to become further informed by seeking out additional coverage from reporters on the ground in Ferguson.
[H/T: Pigeons & Planes]
Cover photo credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni