Whenever anyone says anything, they have made a message. That message, depending upon its content, has some concrete properties that were imbued into it by the speaker. Unfortunately, human communication often suffers from a disconnect between the speaker's intent and the audience's understanding. Anything from impaired hearing to overly complex rhetoric can be the culprit for this disconnect, but it frequently finds a way of happening.
It's important to remember this when you speak or otherwise communicate within the world, because communication has the potential to cause great harm when used in certain ways. This is not only true of the message, but also of the message's interpretation. Take for example, Friedrich Nietzsche's works influencing Adolf Hitler's decision to try his hand at ethnic cleansing. Now, anyone who knows much about Nietzsche would probably know that his works are far from an endorsement for antisemitism, but Hitler derived from them his radical views nonetheless. A misguided interpretation of a message can obviously cause great harm, given this example.
Harmful rhetoric is more straightforward. Political propaganda, death threats, encouragement to commit crimes, even extortion are all forms of communication being used to harm people. Either way, it's obvious that communication is a dangerous thing if put in the right context.
The question I want to pose with this post is this: Should we be responsible for how people interpret our words? If you say something that you think is innocuous but someone is inspired to kill someone because of your words, what are the implications for you? Do you think that if a creator of media knows that people are using their media to justify atrocities, that they should make a point to disavow those individuals who would misuse their content?
Interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.
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Jared, have you seen “The Fisher King”?
I haven't. Care to enlighten me?
In a wee nut shell...It’s a movie about a shock jock who ‘inspires’ someone to go on a killing spree. He later meets a man who lost his wife in that killing spree and has gone insane because of it. Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams. Not the highest rated film...but imo, fuck ratings. It speaks to your OP and is thought provoking (if one lets it be so).
If you have said or written something innocuous then by definition it cannot inspire a bad act.
If you have communicated an idea that YOU (the communicator) thinks is innocuous but in fact can be misinterpreted to inspire an act of violence than, as the originator of this communication you must bear some responsibility for your lack of clarity for your message was not 'innocuous".
They should not only remove the offending messages, disavow those who committed the acts but be put ontrial for incitement. The media are professionals. They should be (and are) held at a higher standard than the general public.
Accurate transmission of a message is the responsibility of those directly involved in the production of the segment, and ultimately those in charge of the editorial oversight and policy of the organisation.
Sadly these standards have been eroded to the point that the mainstream media are now considered to be totally unreliable (and in the case of much of it that is true due to concentration of ownership and interest)
I agree with what you've said here when in reference to things like news outlets and such, but I'm curious if you hold the same opinion about things like artists or musicians. If for example, white supremacists tend to like a particular music artist and play their music at KKK rallies or whatever, do you think the musician should disavow those white supremacists?
Because a section of the population like a particular style of music does not make the musician/writer/lyricist responsible for the behavior of those listening.
However if explicit lyrics are used that unequivocally incite the listener to specific violent acts or anti social behaviour such as vandalism or riot then yes, those writers should be held responsible as any other utterer of hate speech or incitement to violence should be held responsible.
As a professional muso for thirty years I can say that that was the policy of the MU when I was a member regarding legal fees..
It is within my memory when both the German and French Anthems were changed to be a) less Martial, b) less jingoistic and c) less offensive to neighbouring nations.
Funnily enough, the reason that I mentioned musicians and white supremacists specifically is because there is a certain rock band whose name I forget that became quite popular among alt-right nut jobs for whatever reason. The band's lead singer caught wind of this and then their next album had a song that basically flat out said fuck Nazis. I was kind of curious if this was just a good act on their part that goes above expectation or if it should be the standard.
That is entirely up to the artists conscience.
ENGLISH 101: The writer is responsible for writing clearly. I never believed Lewis Carol when he stated that his Poem, The Walrus and the Carpenter, had nothing to do with religion. (The very reason for its popularity.) Still he denied it. Problem with the human mind is that it is pattern seeking. It will find a pattern where there is none. Take the constellation for example. Not only did we create patterns in the sky out of random stars but we developed mythologies go go along with them. If something is not clearly stated, you can bet we can make up a story to connect the dots. When something is clearly stated, you can bet we can find a metaphor or analogy demonstrating it is not what it seems to be.
As a songwriter/musician myself I must admit that some songs are written intentionally vague so that it can be interpreted in many ways and reach a bigger audience. It has never crossed my mind if they could have a negative impact, never having seen that possibility before now. Based on some of my lyrics It would take a big stretch of the imagination to do so, nevertheless a possibility.
I do recall my first stage performance. the crowd starting singing the chorus on it's second run and screaming out "Say it like it is' (which are not part of the lyrics) with fists raised in the air, with passion and emotion and dancing to the song. It was an anti establishment song. From that point on I understood the responsibility I had as a front man singer/performer. I did not want to be a creator of violence.
As for myself if someone would use my songs for negative reasons I would reply back in some way, perhaps even via a new song.
I don't know if we can ask artists to write clearly as that would take away from the moments of inspiration and creation of the art. None the less, the artist should be honest and respond clearly if asked about it.
At the same time, nothing is as moronic as an artist explaining the meaning of his or her work prior to presenting it. It's pathetic. If the meaning is not contained in the work itself, the artist has done a really piss poor job of expressing him/her self. Nothing is as boring as listening to some artist attempting to justify or explain his or her work prior to a performance. NOTHING. If the meaning is not there, it is not there. If the artist has not communicated clearly even though the work may prove successful, the artist has failed at communicating his or her intent.
That does not mean everything an artist does has to have meaning. Not all songs, poems, artwork, or whatever, needs to have some deeper meaning. Let the audience believe what they may.
In the example above. Walrus and the Carpenter. Lewis Carroll spent his career denying that the poem had religious overtones because that is how the general public read it. The Walrus was a representation of Eastern religions and the Carpenter (should be self explanatory). In regards to his intent, the poem was a failure and yet it is extremely popular, especially among secularists for the religious metaphor and overtones that are not there, according to Carroll. The poem was a success. The meaning, an utter failure.
"At the same time, nothing is as moronic as an artist explaining the meaning of his or her work prior to presenting it. It's pathetic.
Amen brother, a-fucking-men.....almost as bad as listening to a creative explain their latest piece after one has read/seen/heard it....
" If the meaning is not contained in the work itself, the artist has done a really piss poor job of expressing him/her self."
I am in full agreement with that statement. I am willing to admit that in some songs in which I did want a specific point to be understood that I have clearly failed to get that point across. That is also part of the learning curve.
People would even ask me what my music style is and I have to admit that strangely enough, I would tell them that I don't know. I would only go as far as telling them what others suggested. I could never write an original by starting off by deciding what genre it will be. I have heard people naming different genres for the same songs. I don't create in those terms.
If you recall the 60's and 70 rock bands and all the conspiracy theories based on their songs, which gave some artists more notoriety than they deserved by allowing the public to spread the rumors, lies and alleged secret messages. Many took advantage of that as a marketing ploy and quite often to the detriment of their fans. Only a few had the integrity to respond to those lies. Does this make you think of any books out there?...lol
"At the same time, nothing is as moronic as an artist explaining the meaning of his or her work prior to presenting it. It's pathetic."
Yes!! My favorite response when someone would ask me what I would be playing would be...".You tell me after you hear it"
This is how I learn if I am getting better or worse at this craft.
"The poem was a success. The meaning, an utter failure."
Thanks for the note on The Walrus and the Carpenter. I had never heard about that poem. I wish I had not read about it's alleged meaning beforehand because as I was reading it it was like falling into a trap.It is a real shame that the author would not respond. I would guess he was more interested in it's sales than clarifying it for everyone and risking sales.
Artists should take on more responsibilities than they are willing to admit. I had vowed in my younger years that if I was successful and was asked crazy questions about the meaning of life I would refuse to respond. Who am I to lead people in my direction and beliefs?
In Spirit, for whom do you create your music?
It always starts to please me. I write them for myself. Did so for many years and still do to this day. Sometimes it is my outlet for stress. Other times it's an outlet of my emotions and experiences. Sometimes, inspiration gets creative juices flowing and I start writing.
25 years ago some friends heard me for the first time and asked me to join their band. I did not like the idea but did so anyways. It's not the type of environment I would recommend for just anybody. It is a cut throat business and even had a few songs stolen. I ended the band right after our double CD recording 20 years ago. I am planning to do a solo show this year or next year mainly for the following. I have panic attacks and anxiety in crowds so I don't go to shows unless I am on the outskirts but when I am on stage I feel like I am in full control and at peace with myself. I miss that part.
I don't know how to upload my songs on this site if there is any interest or if it is even appropriate.
CyberLN. Sometimes I tend to talk to much so if I went over and beyond your question I apologize. If you catch me doing this just tell me to shut up and I will understand it coming from you....lol
In Spirit, Your response was fine...I found it generous, actually.
I asked because this conversation about ‘explaining’ one’s art is interesting. I was a painter, now a fiber artist. I’ve done some pieces that are perfect. Others look at them and make that wtf face. It doesn’t matter. The pieces are still perfect. They are perfect because they exactly reflect what I had in my head. I do my artwork for me. Do I try to explain them? No. That someone else may appreciate one because it reflects something in their head is a bonus.
" I’ve done some pieces that are perfect. Others look at them and make that wtf face. It doesn’t matter. "
Works the other way around to. I've done some songs I would say are kitschy that even tick me off after having played them for some time and yet some of those are what people ask me to sing.....I dread those moments...lol
I agree..."it doesn't matter "....what others think.
I googled fiber art and find it quite interesting. An art I never dabbled in before. Seems like it takes the dedication, patience and artistic needs as pretty much any other art form. Art is a healthy pass time !!
Well, when it comes to music and poetry I guess we are in agreement. I am a licensed psychotherapist and am in complete agreement with your position on leading people in any direction. (I like to be surprised by the amazing way people resolve their problems.)
"I am a licensed psychotherapist"
@Watchman TC: Seeing things as terrifying would be really scary to any person who wanted to cling to bullshit ideas., I completely understand why you would feel that way. First you get Santa Clause ripped from your life and then it is God. It must be ghastly, horrid and grim for you. Would you like a little fluffy teddy bear to keep you company while you go through this transition. I could send you one. It's hard admitting you have been conned and made a fool of your entire life but we are here to help. You just hang in there and keep posting your bullshit. Let it all out. You will feel better.
I must point out that WTC claims to have been a rational, well educated person until he reached 43 years old.
Then he fell into bad company and joined a cult.
One can only speculate that a mid life crisis precipitated a mild mental disorder that turned into a fully blown delusional episode which he is relating to us here.
So, by posting his BS here it will help with the trauma and start to be able to think rationally once more. Poor love.
Music may help....
"Then he fell into bad company and joined a cult."
You make poor assumptions. I didn't know a single Christian when I was saved -- all my friends were atheists, New Agers and Satanists.
"mid life crisis"
I felt like I was at the top of my game when it happened.
Earlier you seemed to imply Satanists are atheists.
The Satanic Temple is an atheist organization -- they use the concept just to be provocative -- but some people actually believe in the Christian worldview and favor Satan's humanist perspective. Those friends of mine who I referenced as Satanists were of the latter sort. I used to play in metal bands, so I made friends in these circles.
But let me clarify that some New Agers do identify as atheists, as you suggested, but these types would have a much more difficult time denying their spiritual faith -- because they forthrightly acknowledge it. They're an interesting breed, and my OP isn't really directed toward them. I'd like to talk to any of them, however, since their worldview is on even shakier ground than yours (as if foundations of quicksand can be rationally compared).
Seems like you are back to assigning us worldviews again.
"Didn't know a single christian" now your lies are exposed. You say you live in the US and you never knew one christian?
Excuse me while I laugh my self sick at your ridiculous assertion.
Just look up the stats..where were you living? A gay Satanist commune in Yacqui country.? Lol...you just blew your cover...
yeah, skeptic alarm at 9 on that one
@Watchman TC: Not to worry..... we all make mistakes. Not all of us drink the cool-aid but we certainly understand your mistake. Loads of lonely, untalented, people with nothing important going on in their lives turn to religion. They are probably happy to have an individual such as yourself joining them. We are all happy you have come to this site for help and support. Just keep posting your idiotic assertions and we will keep knocking them down. At some point it is our hope that you can return to your previous happy life. The one you had before you fell under the delusion of religion and faith. Hang in there and keep those posts coming.
On a good note, songs like "Respect" (about a real interpersonal relationship) by Aretha Franklin were incorporated into the bigger picture of the civil rights movement in a positive way.
Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing....