You know them, but they don’t know you

To have access to the toughts and inner workings of someone you admire is a privilege made to look trivial in the age of social media. It used to require patience and luck getting to hear about their process and opinions through interviews and magazines, but now you can get them immediately and raw, straight from the source and regardless of how niche or obscure your interest is. It’s so easy to look into their lives, to learn what they read, what they eat, and where they travel. The color of their pet’s collar and their old shoes. It will make you feel like you know them, because they address you in such a personal and friendly way. But to them, you’re a stranger. They don’t know your motives, they don’t know your thoughts. They don’t know your dreams or whether or not these dreams feature them and in what way.

If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that I’m a fan of the band Moonspell and hold their work, and that of its individual members, in very high regard. I was very excited when their frontman, Fernando Ribeiro, joined WordPress and started blogging again after a while. Though his new posts I had a special window into Portuguese and European politics, learned history, had my own opinions challenged, and could follow the band’s process for writing their latest album, 1755. I didn’t always agree with what I read, but it lead to reflection and questioning my own convictions, a habit I believe no one should ever abandon. I also felt like it was a place where I could converge with other readers and learn about points of view different from my own. After all, Moonspell’s fans are a wide assortment of people. But that’s all we are: fans.

On September 13th, Fernando announced that he would quit blogging, following a rather acid reception of his previous post about the arrest of Polish band Decapitated in the US. I admit it took me by surprise, because I only follow the blog directly through WordPress and the post had a single comment. Since I rarely open Twitter, and I don’t use Facebook anymore, I missed the horrible comments that flooded in. It took some time to put my thoughts in order and I feel the only way to address this is publicly, because it goes beyond a blog that closes down, a band that is arrested, and a fan that feels wronged. It’s scary, though, to go into this. I have the feeling I might get burnt.

The selfish statement: I was SAD. I felt robbed of a window into a mind that I admire. I only ever saw generosity and honesty in Fernando’s post and his replies to the readers’ comments. It makes me angry and disappointed to the that generosity forced off the board. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and we don’t always have to agree even after a discussion. But there’s no place for that when we start by calling names, convincing others that discussing is not worth the trouble. Then screamocracy takes over.

About the tragic unfolding of events: Only those present on the tour bus really know what happened that night in Spokane. And since the versions are different, one party must be lying. I’m a woman, a metal fan, and a concert-goer. It goes without saying that this situation has me very conflicted. On the one hand I want to side with a fellow fan and female metalhead. On the other hand I want to look at facts and unravel the confusing story.

I found an article that raises questions regarding the claim. I understand they want the accusation clarified and to give it context. Some questions, though, only feed the flames and do female fans a disservice. It only exposes the ugly habit of turning the blame on the victim instead of focusing on the facts. Among other things, they ask (in bold):

Who was this woman? Unless some background of serious motive for harming the band comes up, who she is shouldn’t matter for the investigation as long as she was involved in the events. And if she was attacked, it’s only humane and safe to keep her anonymous.

Why had she attended the concert? Because she was a fan of the music and band? Went with friends? Why is this important?

Had she attended the concert alone? I almost expected the article to ask “Was she provocatively dressed?” next. Everyone has the right to feel safe at public events and to be respected. I know in practice this can be wishful thinking sometimes, and that the world can be a scary place. But going alone to a concert doesn’t give anyone a free card to abuse. And at least from my own experience I can say that there are few places where I feel safer alone than at metal concerts.

Why would she have stayed alone with the band after the performance? Because she wanted to have fun? To get to know them better and ask for an autograph? Maybe even (gasp!) to try her luck? They ask as if this never happened before and it were a true mystery that a fan would want to get in the tour bus…

That said, has anyone thought about how implausible this sounds? What would Decapitated gain if they indeed had forced anyone to do anything they didn’t want, in a foreign country famous for its tough fall on anyone they don’t like for whatever reason, AND in the middle of their tour risking cancellation and ostracization? I don’t personally know them, but just appealing to their sense of self-preservation, I’d take the accusations with a grain of salt. Or two. Or many. It just seems utterly stupid that 4 adult men who’ve been on the road before and know what’s at stake would even attempt something like this.

But all this brings me back to the fact that we know them but they don’t know us. By this I mean, we know details of their lives. We can recognize them in the street. We maybe recognize their voices, or their words, or their movements. They may recognize a handful of fans that they meet often or have a special relationship with. But they can’t possibly know all of us.

Fernando closed his post about the events saying “Fans can be crazy and can hurt us if one doesn’t take notice. We are not their friends. Not their families. It’s just music and should be kept like this.” We will always argue that it’s more than just music. It’s comfort, it’s company, it’s light when our lives get dark. We don’t have the right to take it for granted, as we don’t have the right to take insights for granted. Maybe this is the lesson: it can go away anytime. They might not be so open and welcoming next time. There might be suspicion in their eyes.

Dear Fernando, I will miss your blog, as will many others. Thank you for what you shared when you shared it. I don’t think I’m wrong by saying that most of us respect this decision, and will try to win your trust back.

Until then, I’ll keep going to concerts alone, trying to meet with the artists that I admire, with an interest that is purely professional and full of gratitude. You give us so much, and it feels like we can’t give as much in return.