The ABC’s youth network being the subject of protest, ridicule and pontificating from people who never listen to it and who couldn’t find it on their radios? Because of decisions made around a listener poll? That’s stupid isn’t it? Ha! It didn’t start with moving from Australia Day.
Wind Back Wednesday goes back a lifetime of controversy ago (or two years in the real world) to another time when triple j could be earnest and the righteous could be stupid and everyone got satisfactorily worked up.
SWIFT JUSTICE GIVEN A FAIR SHAKE
If there could be further twists in a story that overstayed its welcome within a few hours of its creation (in the under-used/overtaxed minds of a couple of workers at online listmaker/budding media conglomerate Buzzfeed) the almost literally last minute announcement by triple j that Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off was not eligible for the Hottest 100 gave it a good try to find them.
Eight serious and semi-serious reasons were offered an hour before the roll call of songs began, posted appropriately enough in a “listicle” online rather than anything like a press release. They ranged from the poll in theory is based on songs the station has played in the past year and Swift didn’t get played once, to if we let this happen they’ll come back every year with something even more stupid.
Cue more outrage. Cue more ho hum from even more people. Even when triple j asserted that the votes gathered for Shake It Off would have taken it no further than 12 on the list.
You could almost hear the apparatchiks of triple j’s Harris Street Socialist Workers’ Collective of Anti-Music yell gleefully “troll that running dog critics of the capitalist class!”
Claiming something special about a listener poll, as triple j do, may provoke Buzzfeed into legitimate mockery of the process and an attempt to game it. Claiming some kind of purity in the process and the result, and therefore legitimacy in blocking “inappropriate" entries, may invite legitimate mockery of triple j from the rest of us.
But you know what? It's their party/poll and they can cry/structure it to suit them if they want to. It’s not Egypt under the generals or a Republican Southern state with a produce-a-licence-to-vote; it’s a what’s your favourite song poll.
The activists who wanted to piss off hipsters were fundamentally stupid. Triple j? Hipsters? Proper hipsters know it is far far cooler to trash triple j for perceived sins of which there are many. Such as its narrow playlists. Or its adherence to an Australian-first policy instead of quality-first. Or a focus on “yoof”, aka teenage, audiences instead of young adults or the ancient 35+ demographic.
Or alternatively and simultaneously its appeal to just those older audiences who persist in listening when they should be listening to Mix or the racing station or pensioners’ hour or whatever. Or for getting rid of George Wayne 25 years ago. (Who? Ask your parents.)
Those who defended triple j on the basis of a supposed policy of providing an alternative to the hits radio available elsewhere weren’t much better really. Alternative? There are any number of examples of the flaws in that line, which could start with Hilltop Hoods’ Cosby Sweater and flow on, but you could settle on just two words: Foo Fighters.
One of the biggest bands in the world and not unknown to commercial radio audiences, Foo Fighters got played on triple j and made the Hottest 100 with nary a whine from the “we don’t need your stinkin’ badges and hits” crowd.
While we’re at it, if you really cared that much about the Hottest 100 and want Taylor Swift given a fair run at the top, can you name another 10 songs which figured in the poll?
Some of the silliest commentary in the past week or so came from those who needed to get either serious or pontifical, or both, about a campaign that had nothing to do with music, democracy, taste, pop v rock, the relevance of triple j or the irrelevance of a piece of fried chicken advertising.
The kind of people who suddenly had an opinion on a station they don’t listen to, a poll they’ve not bothered with for a decade and an artist who didn’t need their help to sell or raise her profile.
Demands that triple j allow the song because it was the will of the people – even though 90 per cent of the public don’t listen to it - were as comical as demands that it ban it because it traduced the sanctity of the Hottest 100 – a listener poll which has thrown up nonsensical, scatological, scabrous and just plain rubbish songs alongside gems, one-off hits and in one celebrated year, a band which didn’t exist outside the comic minds of the station’s breakfast announcers.
A poll based on online votes, that bastion of free speech that is about as free from manipulation as an Eddie Obeid mining licence and as secure as a cabinet secret when Joe Jockey and Tony Abbott are looking for a budget scapegoat.
Equally asinine were those wanting to know why triple j management weren’t out there arguing the case against the Swiftian assault.
Why would they? The debate was happening anyway, the prospect of success were small, the ridiculousness of the arguments meant any attempt to engage would see you sink to the same level and since when does everyone have to say something because the media wants another story?
It’s something we in the media don’t every really get, even, or especially when it involves another arm of the media: just because we say it’s important, doesn’t make it so.
So what began as a joke, became a troll, morphed into faux media outrage and climaxed with those leeches on all manner of sporting and cultural matters these days – the appalling betting agencies – being given yet more airspace and column inches, ended as a troll, or counter-troll.
A counter-troll which at one point on Australia Day looked like it had been trumped by the ultimate prodding of the easily provoked, the surely joking announcement of a knighthood for a prince/duke/baron/knight, Philip, the ‘im indoors of the Queen. Boy, watch them light up social media’s electronic graffiti walls with that gag.
Except of course that turned out to be serious. Deadly serious. Something which could never be said about the Hottest 100, with or without Taylor Swift.