Friday, September 21, 2007

It's a sad, sad situation ....

This won't be a very popular blog with some Clayfans, however it is the one of the few places I can use my voice. It is a blog that will probably be of no interest to anyone other THAN fans (or perhaps a stray hater or two). It's not even a blog that will interest ALL the fans. If you're left scratching your head, consider yourself lucky. But here it is anyway.

I have not blogged in months.

I had said what I needed to for awhile, and saw no advantage at that point in time to continue to poke the hornet's nest. This is not to say that the usual demented few weren't doing their thing as usual, but they were doing a good enough job of making themselves appear hateful, ridiculous, and just plain crazy without any interference from me. In fact both of the major hate blogs seemed to be on the decline -- no one was much interested in their inane ramblings, negative Google alerts were down, and therefore I decided to keep my eyes open but let "sleeping dogs lie," so to speak. I took Clay's advice to "ignore."

Through all of this, one of the biggest dangers I could see for Clay was in the attempt of these haters, and others, to fracture Clay's fanbase. How ironic, then, as I came back to the boards after a bit of a hiatus, and while looking around this week to see the fans were doing a pretty good job of that all by themselves.

I've been wracking my brain trying to come up with a good description of my impressions, and nothing quite works. The phrases "McCarthyism," "lynch mob," "vigilante," and "witch-hunt" have all been used, but none are quite right (even though, from my perception, the tenor of the actions they convey is pretty accurate). Perhaps saying something about the "fan police" might be another way of getting at what I want to express ... but that's not quite right either. Maybe I could say something about the "red scares" in American history wherein dire voices warned a frightened public about a "cancer" growing in their schools, their workplaces, maybe even next-door .. further frightening people and causing them to look upon their neighbors with fear and suspicion.

Perhaps I could talk about Communist China, and a socio-political obligation to inform on each other, which could then lead to accusations, public shaming, and re-education. Or maybe I could use, as an example, a radical, fundamentalist church (of any religion) in which failure to follow the accepted dogma leads to shunning, ostracizing, and excommunicating. The human impulses behind each of these kinds of coercive group thoughts and actions are what I am trying to describe. Abuse of power; promotion of fear and suspicion; intimidation; single mindedness; peer pressure; guilt-tripping; self-righteousness; arrogance of point of view; determination to act without full knowledge.

But here's the thing. We are talking about a fan community for a singer! We are not talking about the government, or religion, or real life-and-death matters ... yet for some it's being treated as such. Not only that, but we see a few fans who have set themselves up as the "leaders" in an attempt to "out" people that they feel have violated one of the fandom's "ten commandments": Clay would never talk to a fan, and thou shalt not believe any who say otherwise.. Yes, that's the big sin -- believing one has talked to him or believing someone who said they had. Yes, an eye-roll moment. First of all, I have to wonder if whoever "wrote" that commandment ever discussed it with Clay, or if it's only based on an assumption.

Second, every celebrity in the world probably has impostors, and they are no doubt out there, but it is not the end of the world. Also, while it is no doubt stupid and perhaps pathological to actually impersonate said celebrity or an acquaintance of said celebrity, and sad if someone falls for it, rather than cause havoc in a fandom already having some difficulties, it is definitely an issue that could be rectified without blaring trumpets, posturing, and chest beating. Do we put those (many) fans who claim to have befriended Clay's mother or one of his family members under the same microscope, or do they get a pass because everyone wants to believe their "insider info" ... which is often wrong.

Rather than handle this quietly, informing people who need to know that they may have been "duped," it has been blown out of proportion, placed on the Internet, and taken on a proportion that far exceeds its danger ... possibly hurting innocent people in the process.

So, anyway, here's how it works, as far as I can see. Fans are directed to "confess" their involvement to an individual who has placed herself on a pedestal as the chief crusader and inquisitor (I will not be naming any names). She will then get it to the "proper authorities." If they do not confess they are interrogated, shunned and shamed ... at least if anyone assumes they were "part of," or an "unconfessed" victim of, this "evil scheme" to delude the gullible with "fake Clays." (I know -- it sounds insane.)

Anyone who dares to question the wisdom of this inquisitor or her minions is humiliated and harassed, while peer pressure puts on the thumbscrews to force that desired confession. They do not see the crazy in what they are doing, in fact they are very sure of the righteousness of their position. Which makes it so sad. Because I do believe they feel they are acting in Clay's best interest, or in the best interests of the fandom. But in my opinion they are not. They are causing fractures and grief. Not to mention the fact that if these fan investigations expose even one minor truthful contact, then they have butted into Clay's personal life.

Furthermore, do they not even bother to question hidden agendas and possible motives of those doing the "accusing?" Using the Salem witch trials as a model, and looking at it from a distance in time, we can see that it was those who supported a certain minister that did the accusing-- those who supported a different minister were the accused; the East half of the town stood in opposition to the West, one accusing the other; accusations were made against unpopular women; long standing jealousies were given a voice; people lied. Yet at the time the courts thought they were acting in the community's best interest, and didn't fully question the testimony they heard. It tore the community apart and resulted in several unnecessary deaths. Ironically, the only way to escape death one's self was to confess and name others in the process. Granted, we are talking about issues vastly different in scale and effect, but the underlying human behaviors are the same, in my opinion.

To be clear, I have no objections to letting people know about "impostors," if and when they exist. I have no problem with clearing up misconceptions about Clay that a "fake Clay" may have helped to spread. I do object to the methodology, to one small group of fans setting themselves up as the judges and juries of the fandom, for acting unilaterally without the "authority" of either the fandom at large, or of the person they claim to be defending. (Didn't he say IGNORE IGNORE IGNORE?) I also object to making it a public spectacle, especially with the intent to injure others, without respect to what the reality of those other lives may be, and upon "knowledge" that is not complete.

Wrong pictures of fans have already been publicly posted and wrong identifications and accusations made, and yet it's glossed over or not discussed. There are so many uncertainties. What if there are multiple "fake Clays?" And what if one or more fans actually do know or talk to Clay? Do any of you know Clay personally, to make that determination? If you do, then .. oops .. catch 22, huh?. Maybe it's not an either/or situation. Does anybody really know? Or are they basing so much of their outrage on assumptions, gossip, and partial truths? When a mob mentality exists, many believe and act without truly thinking. What is at the root of this obsession? How is this good for the fandom? How is this fun? Is this crusade worth abandoning reason, compassion, and objectivity for? Many questions, I know, but I have them.

In a final irony, I believe these vendettas play right into the haters' hands and wishes. They provide the obssessive fan stereotype for the for the obsessive haters to mock and the fans to defend, and the beat goes on ... the audience grows, the potential damage to Clay worsens.

To conclude, there is one verse I know that keeps coming to mind. First, this core group of individuals exposed the real-life identities of some of the "haters." Some objected, but many cheered. I confess to being one. They then exposed the real-life identities of people they determined were "bad fans." More people began to object, but still many cheered. Now they are exposing identities of people they claim have said they talked to, or know, Clay. Now only a few are cheering. Who's next .. anyone who doesn't subscribe to their image of what a fan should be? A fan who doesn't observe Clay Aiken with proper reverence (his real-life humanity be damned)? Any fan who disagrees with their dogma? Yes, more questions, but I believe they need to be considered.

And so I'll leave with this verse, written about something far more serious, but it seems apropos somehow:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

I feel the need to speak out.