Introduction

(The following is the introduction to a forthcoming publication.)

Introduction

 This is not a story about Michelle Shocked.

This is a story about…

Let me ask you something. What was the last news story you read? How closely did you read it before you reposted it? Did you even dig down one level to discover the source, or did you just pass it on, hoping that the next person would do your research for you?

If you’re like most folks, you probably just went ahead and shared the link. You figured the next guy could figure it out, especially if it pulled at your heartstrings. Like a firefighter who rescued a cat or a guy who stupidly left his dog in a hot car. There’s one of those guys every summer; they never learn. Or maybe it was an unbelievable expose of racism or homophobia. Some humiliating tale of human fallibility gone viral on YouTube. And it made you mad. Real mad.

So mad you couldn’t even think straight. The headline probably read something like this:

  • Solar Panels Drain the Sun’s Energy! Halliburton Does Own Study.
  • Health care legislation requires that U.S. residents be implanted with Microchips
  • Kansas Restaurant Kicks Gay Man Out, Tells Him “No Gay Eating Here”
  • Drag queen blamed for floods that killed dozens in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia

You know, something incredible and awful.

As if real news like this isn’t enough:

  • Ebola Virus Spreads to Sierra Leone
  • Inmate’s Botched Execution a ‘Horrible Thing to Witness’
  • 300 Schoolgirls Abducted in Nigeria
  • Force-feedings Continue for Guantanamo Bay Detainee

Are you getting the idea? OK, I’ll spin it down even further.

This is a story about hate. Not H8.

Hate.

It isn’t cute, but it sells. Ad farms know that you are more likely to get involved in a story if they can catch you up in a swift current of righteous indignation. You don’t need to read past the headline. You just need to click.

Everybody lies; everybody benefits. Except you.

How do they do this? First off, they get you to fork over all the information they need to figure out what you like to hear. Media analysts harvest your clicks and register your likes and dislikes. They track your favorite music, restaurants, poets and skin-care products. Pregnant? Your search engine knows. Need a new car? Check the sidebar on your Facebook feed.

These metrics experts distill your personality and put you in a room with other people who are exactly like you. It’s handy, sure, but what you give up in privacy ensures that you will only see what you like. And you will only like what you see. You will all sign the same types of petitions and receive the same style of news. You will all get mad about the same thing at the same time.

But look out – because your social media friends with their tabloid torches and pixeled pitchforks can turn on you quickly and randomly. History has spoken on this topic: vigilante justice is rarely just.

The underlying message: Keep your head down.

The darker message: You created it. And now it’s coming after you.

It’s a brain-stem gotcha that doesn’t rely on Nielsen Ratings.

“A click is a click,” Ryan Holiday explains in Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. It doesn’t matter whether you clicked on a well-researched story or a sensational headline that asks, “Is Barack Obama Gay?” Even when the answer is, “Of course not, silly,” it doesn’t matter because… you clicked. And if the analytics did its job, you shared the story as well.

The consequence is obvious: Truth gets smacked down by Reality news every time. And art? Let us speak with reverence of the recently deceased…

Prizefighters, gather round. In this corner of the ring: truth, art, and free speech. In the opposite corner: reality, content, and censorship.

The title of this bout: Truth VS Reality.

It’s a story about what happens to someone who chooses fight over flight. It is, in every sense, a demonstration and an invitation to join Michelle in what she calls her ‘copyfight.’

It’s a story about 10 Indelible Women that Michelle desperately wants to share with you – and why she won’t.

I want to be clear about one thing. While I’m using Michelle’s story as a foundation for my own agenda, defending her decisions and explaining her personal life are not the focus of this book. She follows her own path. All day. Every day. And nobody tells her what to do.

She once told me that she couldn’t explain what was going on because she was too busy living it. I said, you go… I’ll write. But it would be a lot easier if you would Stop Doing Things.

She didn’t stop doing things, and she isn’t even going to slow down long enough to illuminate this path.

Which means I’m gonna answer a few questions for you right off the bat – cause she sure ain’t.

1. Question: Is Michelle gay?

Answer: “I am not now, nor have I ever been, a former lesbian.”

2. Question: Is Michelle crazy?

Answer: “I am not crazy.”

3. Question: Is Michelle a Christian?

Answer: “Me? I’m just a garden-variety born-again-anarchist-punk-rock-charismatic-spirit-filled-fire-baptized sinner, but aren’t we all?”

4. Question: Was what she said at Yoshi’s taken out of context?

Answer: “Yes.”

5. Question: Does she use social media to calm the waters?

Answer: “Theoretically, I’ve done the opposite of ‘protecting one’s self’ on social media – been waving a red flag in front of a charging bull.”

6. And one for myself, because I know you want to know.

Question: Perrin, are you gay?

Answer: Yes. And proud. And I’m sick of being misrepresented and exploited by corporate interests and pseudo-queers whose fake indignation fires up real hate towards innocent people – the actual queers on the block.

That being said, let’s strike the first match.

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“Wag the Fag”

 by Perrin Blackman

I didn’t invent the phrase.  But it got your attention!  So before you freak out at the headline, understand that I am exercising my right as a lesbian to speak truth to power.  I support queers.  I’ve campaigned for transgender rights at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.  I’ve screamed at Fred Phelps and reported him for child abuse for forcing his grandkids to hold signs that say “Fags Burn in Hell.” My favorite cartoon as a kid was Underdog!

I gave you a juicy headline because my community is being exploited by corporate America.  Every day there’s another inflammatory story designed to incite anger and generate clicks.  This week it’s: Kansas Restaurant Kicks Gay Man Out, Tells Him “No Gay Eating Here”

Many of these stories are either based on specious facts or completely fabricated, and yet they spread like wildfire.  In this case, it was a poorly written satire piece that people believed.

Meanwhile, the real stories about real queers go unnoticed.  Like this one:

 Amy

 My pal Amy drove all the way from Minnesota with her wife to stand in Topeka’s 15 degree weather to protest the proposed bill 2453 that is so broadly worded that it could allow restaurants and businesses in Kansas to refuse service to gays.

Here’s another unsung hero: Kristie Stremel.

 kristie stremel2

Kristie is a real live Kansan who wrote a beautiful song and illustrated it with pictures of local LGBT couples.  It’s not spit-shined; it’s real.  There is no corporate sponsor.

Sadly, even after asking my 265 Facebook friends to repost Kristie’s video, I got more likes on a picture of some cats in a box.  Why?  Because it isn’t Click Bait.  Not because it isn’t newsworthy. Not because it isn’t good.

You watched the YouTube, now here’s the money shot:  http://kristiestremel.bandcamp.com/track/its-enough

Didja click?  Or do you want to see a picture of some cats in a box? catsinabox

That’s how we vote these days.  But sometimes it all just gets to be a little too much.  How to know what’s legit and what ain’t?  Reality and Truth merge into such a nasty mass of whatthefuckism that I just want to curl up in a fetal position and put a blanket over my head.

Today, a friend posted this question:

cantalope

Actually, according to Ryan Holiday, author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, I already pay for this service.  My pageviews, reposts, likes and comments all fuel the media machine.  I pay for it by allowing myself to be fed a diet of tabloid journalism and stories that are intended to provoke “outrage, self-righteousness, and titillation…”

And yet,

and I’m coming to my main point here….

And yet, I still wasn’t sure for a moment whether the story Kansas Restaurant Kicks Gay Man Out, Tells Him “No Gay Eating Here” was real.

I was pretty sure it wasn’t TRUE, but I couldn’t tell if it was REAL.

Could a journalist really be that stupid? Are news stories really this ungrammatical and poorly researched now?

I dug around a little, but after about 5 minutes, I got lazy and asked for help from one who has a nose for these things.

So here, for your amusement, is an email exchange between Michelle Shocked and Yours Truly.

Hope you enjoy it!

My Initial Email

On Wed, February 26, 2014 4:14 pm, Perrin Blackman wrote:

 Here’s an interesting situation:

 http://topekasnews.com/kansas-restaurant-kicks-gay-man-tells-gay-eating/

 I can’t tell from the story if it’s true or not. I posted a request on my Facebook to see if anyone could identify the diner and see if it’s true. My hunch is that it’s a bunch of crap with a photoshopped image. The reporter only interviewed one person  (the alleged victim).

Michelle’s Response

“Topekas News”?!?

You can’t tell if the story is ‘true’ or not? Mon Dieu!

 

The grammar alone should be your first clue. Can you spot the stupidity in

this sentence: “a place where he and Boltzman had occasionally ate over the past 6 years.”

 

Did you look at the other stories on the page? Putin and Snowden in a hot

tub together? People used to enjoy laughing at the rubes who bought the

Sun and the National Enquirer for being such losers. I guess as long as it

has a rainbow on the lead, it’s good enough for those well-educated

erudite progressives…

 

I double dog DARE them to name the actual diner where this alleged

outrage took place.

 

Here’s the bunny trail:

http://themoderatevoice.com/191769/sullivan-arizona-protects-freedom-to-discriminate/

http://www.chiefsplanet.com/BB/showthread.php?t=281650

http://tribuneofthepeople.com/2014/02/21/kansas-restaurant-kicks-gay-man-out-tells-him-no-gay-eating-here-topekas-news/

http://believervsnonbelievers.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/kansas-restaurant-denies-service-to-gay-couple-until-they-find-god-and-the-bible/

 

And the author, Haywood Bynum III?? Puhleeze!

http://topekasnews.com/author/haywoodbynum/ It says he is “leading the charge of faith at Bible Fellowship Church” but when I searched, all I came up with was

http://www.fbctopeka.com/our-leadership He’s nowhere to

be found unless you want a Pennsylvania congregation: http://www.bfc.org

 

Help us, Jesus… I’m telling you, Karl Rove is behind all of this!

karlrove

So, yeah, it’s a fake, and the comments below the article verify the fact, but this little fake article just got 49,000 LIKES!  People believed it.

Here’s the monetary bunny trail:

  • clicks mean pageviews
  • pageviews mean ads
  • ads mean money

It’s that simple.  Right or wrong, truth or retraction, this kind of exploitation seizes our attention and structures our political debates.  And gets us ready for another election year. wag

I read an article in Harper’s magazine once called “The Numbing of the American Mind” in which the author stated that Americans “refuse to believe that reality has become indistinguishable from fabrication.”

Today, I’m a believer.

Vengeance is mined, I will replay Deuteronomy 32:35

By now we’ve all read the memo on cyberbullying…Narcissistic bullies. Impulsive bullies. Physical bullies who may damage or steal a victim’s property or target their livelihood rather than physically confronting their victim. Verbal bullies who start rumors, use sarcastic or demeaning language (monster, psychopath etc) to dominate or humiliate another person while enjoying the advantage of this behavior being difficult to document. Secondary bullies who don’t initiate the bullying but join so they don’t become the victim down the road. Bullies are not interested in working things out. Bullies are not interested in compromise. Bullies are interested in power and domination. They want to feel important and their preferred means is by bringing others down. In case you haven’t read, here’s the link.

With that said, this brief rebuttal to the two most recent entries of the bully hiding anonymously behind the name Anna K, (think Anna Karenina, and don’t picture a femme when you do) using Google’s notorious blogspot platform to conduct a mobbing campaign http://www.shitshockedsays.blogspot.com serves only a small sample of the context that could be offered for the manufactured outrage developed as a work-for-hire to promote NoH8 UK. Before the substance of Anna K’s distortions will ever be addressed, the group aggression that Anna K promotes with these distortions will remain the entire focus and topic of conversation. If the substance of the accusations were ever to be addressed, this is what it would look like:

January 14, 2014

On March 17th, 2013, Michelle Shocked performed at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. Although she was never paid for the performance, it was a priceless, audacious artistic experience for everyone present. She challenged her audience’s most cherished and high-minded conceptions about themselves and since then has provided ample goads on Twitter to remind them that human behavior in groups is decidedly distinct from individual morality. Instincts firing on all cylinders, she presciently identified the existence of a social media lynch mob before the lynching actually occurred. Indelibly preserved by victims of their own self-righteous indignation, here are some examples of the conversation that she invited the audience, at Yoshi’s that evening, and every social media audience since, to join. The monster she truly revealed is the monster within us all.

Protestor in Ukraine holds mirror up to cop

Protestor in Ukraine holds mirror up to cop

 

Michelle Shocked’s self diagnosis

Here are a few posts Michelle puckishly sent a few days before her account was targeted by the lynch mob again. It’s common knowledge she doesn’t regard the opinions of others who are lacking in self-awareness of their own role in group mobbing, and her opinion of someone caught up in the mobbing is only of note to the bully driving this bloodsport. The context for these tweets is, by now, so completely convoluted, that to determine why on earth you would spend your precious time interpreting or caring about this tedious backstory is more a reflection on your own anxieties about being a potential target for this type of social media mobbing. Regardless, try to focus on the substance of the opinion she is expressing and not the context, which will be quite distracting.

 

Blaming the Victim

Queering the Smear

 

It is a good time to review the source for this post, Anna K (not a real name, in fact a reference to Anna Karenina) Operating under cover of anonymity for 10 months, exposed as a liar for claiming another identity and justifying every known behavior identified as bullying, Anna K is delirious with anticipation that ‘Twitter has finally dealt a permanent suspension for @MShocked. Anna K does not indicate that the previous two accounts operating as @AnnaInYourPants and @AlphaWhorePants were permanently suspended for abusive cyberbullying and currently operates a ‘protected’ Twitter account, @NotShockedAtAll that is devoted to directing other accounts to do ‘the dirty work’ of harassment and abuse, including the account above. Proving how ‘whacked out and full of hate” Michelle has become is something of an obsession for Anna K. In fact, it’s a job. One that Anna K is compensated for. Anna K’s concern for “the best thing that could have happened” to Michelle is contradicted by the bloodsport of “opportunities to prove” how justified Anna K’s bullying is.  Every time Michelle opens her mouth or posts on Twitter (and since Twitter is her only communication, that’s a redundancy) it adds fuel to the fire that she started for her art project that triumphant night in San Francisco. Anna K’s interest in knowing “what it would take to heal” Michelle’s personal problems need not look any further than Anna K’s interest in targeting Michelle for mobbing on social media. Michelle’s chances of rebuilding a career are beside the point.  Anna K has no inside information as to Michelle’s career direction or goals. Encouraging Michelle to “avoid making public statements” smacks less of concern or compassion for Michelle’s healing than simple, good-old-fashioned censorship by intimidation. In the meantime, Anna K has inadvertently created an excellent template for a summary of the premise of Michelle’s Truth Vs Reality art project. Michelle is operating as a true artist at the peak of her prowess, in the intersecting crosshairs of social media and disruption of the social contract.

If Michelle Shocked is right and the entire rest of the world is wrong…  what would it mean?

To begin with, it would mean there is a powerful and massive conspiracy among the engineers and founders of Google, ruthless LGBT partisans and mainstream media. This vast conspiracy is, in fact, designed to ‘rule Metropolis’, collapse world economies and kill bonds of trust in our social compact. While it is understandable that powerful interests like Google can and will attempt to dominate using their monopoly power and while recent protests bear witness to the outrage of their abuses, it is less easily perceived that an oppressed minority of organized LGBTs would conspire to dominate and abuse a mostly-tolerant majority. As for the conspiracy to kill bonds of trust in our social compact, Michelle Shocked is neither the first nor the last person, public or otherwise, to be targeted by mobbing actions of cyberbullies. It is an obvious endgame of NSA’s data mining efforts.

For Michelle to be right, the following needed to take place prior to her concert at Yoshi’s:

  • Older archives of Michelle’s affirmations of affinity (ie. pro-gay statements) emerged only after the mobbing, such as this interview.
  •  Two, perhaps three NO H8 activists had to buy tickets to attend Michelle’s concert and at an opportune time during the encore, instigate and escalate a shouting confrontation, in spite of audience’s efforts to deescalate.
  •  Twitter’s network of tweeting bloggers would, in real time, contact opportunistic tabloid journalists specializing in sensation, celebrity gossip and whisper campaigns who understand the metrics of both user-generated content and fan-engagement for online advertisers with little regard for fact-checking or libelous smear.

Of course, Michelle is infamous for her consistency in stream-of-consciousness ad hoc commentary on stage. While Jennifer Lawrence may fan the fires with references to ‘armpit vaginas,’ Michelle’s de rigueur social activism will inevitably find her commenting on topics ranging from foreclosure fraud to whistleblower prosecutions. Not once in 25 years has Michelle ever consented to “shut up and sing.” To consider whether this a flaw or great art is obviously in the eye of the beholder. There will always be someone able to take offense at something she says. To suggest that she begin to do so now only provokes a very troubling consideration of a late-stage fascist cancer in the culture. More to the point, not once in 25 years has she ever invited or given permission for anyone in her audience to tape/record/bootleg her performances. Michelle framed the performance at Yoshi’s that evening with a stage presentation of “Truth Vs. Reality.”  The banner to the left read “Truth.” The banner in the center, “Vs” included the invitation “@MShocked – Join the Conversation.” The banner on the right read “Reality” The events that followed are nothing less than a masterful demonstration of that artistic concept.

Yes, the success of the conspiracy depended on Michelle Shocked walking on to a stage in a tech friendly (live-streaming, social media promoted) club in a tech friendly city and subversively attacking Google-owned YouTube. Michelle Shocked planned, in advance, a structure for the performance that allowed the audience to ‘get what they asked for.’ When the audience requested ‘Truth’ she gave them songs, short, sweet and simple. When the audience requested ‘Reality’ she gave them a sanitized version of the conversation that is alive and well outside their PC comfort zone. The request from the audience to include ‘gospel’ in that reality was all the invitation she needed. The gospel according to Michelle Shocked is that the audience members who were bootlegging the entire show were the truly offensive ones. There was nothing she could say that would come anywhere near the scale of offense that is the violence of stealing someone else’s property .

The clever part is when the stolen property (ie. bootleg) was published by the media in a further violation (ie. bootlegging the bootleg) and caused outrage by the very people that Michelle had targeted for outrage. NOT lesbians and gays – that was clear and self-evident from her statements – but the culture of content theft and permissionless innovation that is incubated and generated out of Silicon Valley. The Twitter medium that she had set up from the onset (recall the center banner, “@MShocked, join the conversation”) proved to be the pitch perfect medium she had anticipated it would be. Microblogging is an extreme sport best deployed by poets, comedians and those with a penchant for short, sharp shocks.

The demand for ‘explanations’ following the outrage was the laugh riot Michelle had anticipated from the start. A veteran guerilla fighter of the squatting movement and more recently the Occupy movement, she understood all too well that there was no implicit desire to understand her agenda. Her demonstrations, not her words, would be her only opportunity to articulate the point she was making. The banter she engaged in on Twitter was nothing less than epic. Taunt for taunt, gnats at bat would swing and whiff. They were following a time-honored mobbing formula but their target kept laughing at them. Their target kept moving and the mob were driven to more outrageous lies that drifted further from the original ‘hate speech’ and ‘homophobe’ meme until the mob stood glaringly exposed by their own base motivations. Group behavior revises people’s social identities and rewrites their histories, creating ever-more-spectacular accusations as it gains momentum. Group behavior just gets weirder and weirder until no one involved has any idea what really happened, but they just want the problem gone.

When she discovered that the ‘journalist’ who targeted her was deleting his incriminating tweets, she understood that the mobs tactics had escalated to bloodsport. She responded in kind, causing further distortion of the reality which – lest we forget – was her premise to begin with. Social media distortion is the premise behind the meme she created. Truth Vs Reality. Only Lenny Bruce, first tried for obscenity in New York, then in San Francisco – you know, those liberal towns – could truly appreciate the irony of de facto censorship for rubbing people’s noses in their own shitty hypocrisy. The mobbing that he endured in the 50’s is no different from what a target of mobbing endures today. The only change is the degree of pride that people believe they take in their tolerance of dissent.

The conspiracy was instigated by the bootleg video posted on YouTube. It was always the conceptual framework for Michelle’s intended exposé. The video was of the first 15 seconds of Michelle’s Tampa show a few months earlier, in November 2012. (Don’t mind that Anna K tries to manipulate facts by stating it was ‘between songs’ and ‘a few years ago’) What you should focus on is the fact that the bootleg was posted with the description “This is all I got before she asked us not to record”) The impunity! The sheer, unmitigated gall! The blatant content theft model of Google on full blown display! Efforts to have the bootleg taken down – you know there were many – only resulted in the bootleg being renamed “someone i used to like”

And now, what can be said about Anna K’s intellect, that no generous effort to help this person connect the dots between what was said and done has ever been sufficient — because the effort is NOT to understand. It is to justify the mobbing and indemnify that “Michelle asked for it.” Not only did Michelle ask for it, she predicted it and has maintained artistic integrity during ten months of abuse to expose it.

 

Steal This Bootleg: The Night Michelle Shocked Pointed at You

 

by Perrin Blackman

 Image

Sometimes you notice something that catches your attention.  Your attention.  Other people keep walking, tuned in to their lunch plans or their iPod.  They part like a cold mountain stream around you: the rock in their way.

So it was when my eyes landed on this headline from the San Francisco Bay Guardian: Alt-folk singer Michelle Shocked goes on homophobic rant, Yoshi’s says she won’t be back.

My radar went off.  My heart sank.  I know who Michelle Shocked is – I’d seen her in concert back in the 90’s.  I loved her song “Anchorage,” and every so often I’d search out the video from “Come a Long Way.”  I knew that the juxtaposition of her name with the words “homophobic rant” was most likely just designed to get my attention.

But I did what everyone else did.  I clicked.

Somebody sold another ad for I don’t know what… but I didn’t care.  I just wanted to know.

The article included a bootleg audio of the encore of her March 17, 2013 show at Yoshi’s in San Francisco.  I listened and heard her struggling within a framework she called Truth vs. Reality.

I heard the beginnings of a dialogue, but soon the conversation went south – something about a prayer meeting and Prop 8 and whether or not she was saying that God hated faggots.  It wasn’t pretty.

I heard a female heckler becoming more and more vociferous during the 23-minute audio.  I found out later that she had actually shoved a woman who asked her to be quiet.  I heard audience members gather closer to Michelle as Yoshi’s management took her microphone away.

Audience:  [referring to the heckler] Get her out of here –

Yoshi: Yeah, we’re…I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for joining us tonight at Yoshi’s.

Michelle: You’re pulling the plug? They’re giving me the hook, y’all.

Audience: Hell no! No! Hell no!

Michelle: I still got game.  I still got game.

Audience: You don’t need no amplifier –

Michelle: Shall we lose the mic?

Yoshi: Yeah…

Audience: Continue!
Michelle: Alright.  I will (scattered applause, stage sounds).  Let’s move closer.  When they take away the microphone, you wanna stay close…

And that’s exactly what I did.  Incensed, I drew closer.  I wanted to hear her side of the story, but due to the media spin, there was now a thick layer of digital dross to scrape away.  And unfortunately, she wasn’t answering any questions.  At least not yet.

She went on Nicole Sandler’s podcast via Twitter.

She covered her mouth with tape and played her guitar outside Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz.

She sent out an “apology” written by her buddy Roger.

Image

Now I was really listening.  Now, I was the rock in the stream.  The only reliable source became the primary source, and it was surprisingly simple to access.  I just tuned into Twitter every day from 8-11 PST.

That’s right: Twitter.

The medium WAS the message.

God did not hate faggots.

Jesus and Basquiat both died for your sins.

Marshall MacLuhan wrote the eulogy.

On Twitter, her words were truly confounding, but as the days and weeks went by, a layering process occurred.  While I was still struck by the shiny distraction of gay rights Vs. Christian dogma, Michelle treated these concerns as a joke, instead posting layer after layer of information about artists’ rights, internet piracy, and the insidious role of Big Data.

She repeatedly drew attention to a seemingly innocuous YouTube video taken at her November 2012 concert in Tampa, FL as an illustration of the problem.  A ‘fan’ had recorded her chat with the audience at the beginning of the show and uploaded it on YouTube, saying, “This is all I got before she asked us not to record.”  The user refused to take the video down.  Michelle filed a DMCA notice, but YouTube refused to remove the unauthorized content.

Why such a big deal about a little video?

Because this video represents a process that is eating art alive. The artist creates.  The content produced is distributed, bought, loved and – immediately uploaded onto Internet sites that act as ad farms. Many of those sites steal the content they provide.  Some servers, like Google, give lip-service to copyright, but end up defining the nature of art by making a judgment call regarding intellectual property and, subsequently, the ownership of that property.

According to Google, if you’re a performer who ‘talks’ during your show, your ‘talk’ is not art.  So the video remained up even though Michelle filed a DMCA notification.  Even though she owns all rights to all her own content.

Let’s get back to that night at Yoshi’s.  Michelle set the stage for an explosion of sorts, or perhaps an implosion.  Trapped by the reality of piracy that prevents her from recording new material and angry with the fact that she could not have an authentic conversation about it with her audience without a bootlegger swiping the process away from her, she chose to give the audience a dose of Truth.

You steal my stuff, you get no value-added content.  I sing but I don’t talk.  This is Truth.  Face the music.  It’s like those times when the teacher made the whole class write lines because one kid was talking out of turn.

If you know Michelle Shocked’s history, this shouldn’t surprise you.  She is  the Bootleg Poster Child. Her  debut,  the Texas Campfire Tapes, was released without her knowledge or permission in 1986. She’s also a punk activist, mouthy and unrepentant, scrappy and ready to take on a challenge at the drop of a hat.  She also can sing your baby to sleep or turn your tears into liquid prayers.  The audience perhaps  expected the latter, but they got the former.  Only this time, the finger was pointed at them.

The stage was set.  Three portraits created by David Willardson faced the audience: Frida Kahlo, Michelle Shocked, and Georgia O’Keefe.  On Michelle’s portrait were the words “@MShocked” and “Join the conversation.”  When Michelle came out, she turned each portrait around, and with the women’s faces turned away, the audience saw only the words Truth (on the left), Vs. (in the middle) and Reality (on the right).  The performance had begun.

Image

Michelle gave the audience a choice, Truth or Reality. They could vote by Twitter, no F2F interaction. They voted for Truth. In response, she sang all 10 songs from Short Sharp Shocked with little discussion. She did not explain what “Truth” meant, but she realized that by demonstration it would become evident that she was not delivering her trademark conversational performance style with the music.

Truth never changes. Within this frame, the show could then be repeated over and over with little variety and no complications with takedown notices for the inevitable bootlegs.

She was relieved that the audience chose Truth because if they had asked for Reality, she had planned to do the whole show from behind her portrait until they complained and then come out to explain that they were at the epicenter of the problem, that these Silicon Valley denizens had sold their collective creative souls for a few Bitcoins in exchange for an abuser-generated, content theft convenience economy.

Image

After singing the 10 songs, she told the audience that she was done, but if they were still there when she returned, she would sing a few more songs.  It was during this encore that Reality hit the fan.

Again, turning to Twitter as her platform, she asked what they wanted.

The tweet, “Reality could include some Gospel,” sent a now-very-authentic conversation in that direction.  Michelle was ready to talk about anything, but she knew that this portion of the show was not considered copyright protected.  Regardless, she allowed the conversation to turn to a topic that has been a red herring for many years: God Vs. Gays.

She mentioned that she had been at a prayer meeting the night before and asked the audience to understand how scared people on that side of the fence were.  She corrected herself at one point to add that “they” included her, but didn’t clarify that their political opinions were not her own.

This is when the sound bites hit the fan:

Michelle: “…and from our vantage point, we’re gonna be, uh [facetiously], I think maybe Chinese water torture is gonna be the means, the method—[off-handed, flippantly] once Prop 8 gets instated, and once preachers are held at gunpoint, and forced to marry [in a character voice] the homosexuals. I’m pretty sure that will be the signal for Jesus to come on back.”

Audience: (laughter) Whaaat?

Michelle: You just said you wanted reality (laughs). If someone would be so gracious as to please tweet out, “Michelle Shocked just said, from stage, ‘God hates faggots’” (laughter). Would you do it now? (laughter)

Woman’s Voice: You can have your [muffled], Michelle! I think some people got it [undetermined]

Michelle: (adjusting strap) Just adjusting my bra strap. Nothing worth getting in a froth about.

Audience: What?

Michelle: You’re confounded! Matt, you might need to get back up here.

Matt (@TheGuapo): There’s gonna be aloooot of talkin’ about that.

Michelle: I ain’t scared. I ain’t scared. This is not a tribunal. This is one woman’s opinion. And…it’s fun. It’s a lotta fun. I am so committed to loving each and every soul in this room tonight, that I could not come here and ignore you. I could not come here and pretend that I was above the conversation, and I couldn’t pretend that I was beneath it either. I had to join it. Thank you for that one handclap – I do that all the time.  Matter of fact, I was in church a couple of…you know it’s come to a bad point when the white girl is sitting in a Black church, I’m clappin’ (claps) and the man in front of me turns around and goes, ‘That’s irritatin’.’ (audience laughter) Hallelujah. I’d like to play you some songs, but –

Woman: I hope you get wise, Michelle, and realize that there’s nothing to fear. There’s nothing to fear. Everybody is deserving of your, whoever your God is, His love.

Michelle: Can I respond to that, off the microphone?

Woman: You can respond to that ON the microphone.

Stepping away from the microphone, Michelle shouted, “I AM SICK OF CHRISTIANS, FILLED WITH HYPOCRISY, HIDING BEHIND THE SYMBOL OF A CROSS!”

There is a moment of quiet just after a demolition artist presses the plunger. If you’ve ever watched an implosion you know this; you wait, everyone waits, and you think for a minute that nothing is going to happen, and then from within the building you hear heavy explosions laden with brick and stone, you see dust starting to puff out of windows, walls begin to crumble, and if you’re the little jackrabbit who hutches in that condemned building, you feel the ground shake under your paws and you high-tail it out of there as fast as you can.

If you know her music, now is the time to think “Jump Little Rabbit.” 

But she didn’t jump. In an attempt to work the conversation around to content theft (and the audience’s role in the process via user-generated content), Michelle ignored the 3 or 4 hecklers and continued conversing with the audience.  She recited John 3:16 in Spanish.  She played another song.  The emotions wound down a bit, but there was no getting back to an explanation now.

Did she intend to blow up not only her fans’ complacency but her own celebrity status?  Did she expect such fallout?  Did she come to San Francisco with a message of hate?

She said she loved everyone in the room.

But somehow these words were lost.

The show ended sadly, and there were tears of frustration on all sides.  Michelle drove home, relieved that she had begun the conversation, thanking God for giving her the courage to challenge their hypocrisy, heading back to LA with her sweetheart, David, not yet aware of how much fallout there would be.

Within 48 hours Michelle had lost all her bookings.

Within 48 hours, Yahoo! Entertainment had picked up the story and respun the headlines from the Bay Guardian.

Within 48 hours, Michelle Shocked, 25-year social justice activist and punk provocateur for the Occupy Movement, was now the pariah of the PC community.

Six months and one heartbreak later, the conversation that Michelle has been longing to have has begun, but many questions remain.  Why such a roundabout approach?  What does she hope will come of all this?  You decide.

The badass says, “If I’d just told them they were fascists, they never would have believed me.”

The poet says:

I truly believe, with all my heart, that when Truth wills out on all of
this that the terrible revelation will be thus:

“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only
they knew they were slaves” – Harriet Tubman

In other words, this ‘celebrity,’ ‘fame,’ ‘verified blue tic status,’ etc. …is simply
a status update on how thickly the chains of our collective bondage have
been forged.

When the Great Deceiver is never again, and the bandages removed from our
blinded eyes, we will see that freedom was just a wade across the water to
Canaan Land; although desert wandering was all we ever imagined this life
could be…

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