not in our stars, but in ourselves
This was originally posted on my Tumblr, because I’m a whiny millennial loser, but what the hell – I’ll post it here, too.
Like clockwork, the social justice buzzards started swarming around news of Bowie’s death almost as soon as it broke on Monday. First, there was the “he was a fascist and had Nazi paraphernalia!!!!!!” stuff. It’s true: when Bowie was generally high out of his mind on cocaine and god knows what else in the 1970s, he went tooling around Europe with Nazi memorabilia and he said some dumb things. Later, when he’d recovered his good senses, he expressed regret for being high out of his mind and saying dumb things.
Second, there have been the more stubborn “he was a rapist/abuser” accusations. These have been the ones that have really gotten under my skin, because – as often happens – they seem to exist solely in the internet echo chamber.
I’m not saying the accusations couldn’t possibly be true.
One seems to have been confirmed by the woman in question – that he took her virginity when she was all of 13 – although she’s never used the word “rape” to describe it. That doesn’t mean it’s not fucked up or wrong if it did in fact happen. Of course it’s fucked up. LA in the 1970s was a fucked up place: according to this ex-groupie, she was part of a group of barely teenage girls who hung around rock stars, doing drugs and getting drunk and having very illegal sex – statutory rape, in short. And also the basis for Almost Famous, by-the-bye. Anyway, the only source I could find for this story was a Thrillist post “written” by the lady in question. Her mother was supposedly aware of her sexual involvement with these grown-ass men, and delighted about it. Mother of the year. I don’t intend to excuse the predatory behavior of these men, or to accept at face value the ex-groupie’s assertion that it was all consensual and just plain fine. It was a fucked up situation – and it was the only one for which I could find a basically reliable source (the ex-groupie herself) saying that it had happened.
The other, though, has been harder to track down – except for a newspaper article indicating that Bowie had been cleared of sexual assault charges brought against him by a woman in Dallas (I think). Does that mean he didn’t do it? No, of course not. but there’s almost no actual information about the case, about the details, about any follow-through, about ANYTHING.
And yet! That’s never stopped the Internet Outrage Machine. Your newsfeeds, your timelines, your dashboards, are probably all peppered with articles (blog entries, more like) – from sites that accept contributions from basically anyone without paying them a goddamn cent – screaming that we’re all wrong to love Bowie because he was a RAPIST and an ABUSER. Those posts might, if their authors were really diligent, include links to the aforementioned account of the ex-groupie and to the Dallas newspaper article about his acquittal, but those are the only attempts any of them make to ground their stories in reality. Any other citations they include are from other blog posts. Those other blog posts never contain any proper sources, either. And on and on it goes, a positive feedback loop of SJW points-scoring.
Listen. I’m not one to give someone a pass on things like this, if it’s well documented and demonstrably true. The groupie thing is gross, and I’m not going to try to gloss over that. The sexual assault thing is one that was deemed untrue, and then that was the end of it – in 1987, at least. Fast forward to 2016, and it’s its own Lazarus.
However, that’s the key: if you’re going to bandy about accusations against someone who just died, you’d better have some real sources to back that shit up. If you’re getting all your information from other avenging furies on the internet – NOT from any primary sources, not from any legal documents, not from any reasonably well-researched books or newspaper articles or whatever – then you should really shut the fuck up until the body is cold, at least. While you’re shutting the fuck up, do some research. Discredit anything and everything that originates in a personal blog unless it’s the personal blog of a primary actor in the event in question – and even then, retain your critical faculties while you read. If you come up with actual evidence, let people know.
It just infuriates me that there are people – strangers – so obsessed with smearing shit all over anyone and everyone who hasn’t been a perfect saint all their life that they’ll start at it as soon as that person is dead. Where was all this outrage during his life? Where were the rumors?
Besides. Bowie seemed to regret a lot of the personal decisions he made back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Good people do bad things. I’m trying to think of a better word than “repent,” but basically, if they do that, and don’t repeat the bad things, and if they grow and improve as human beings – that’s the best you can hope for.
Anyway, I’m mad about this, and I’ll continue to be, and I’ll continue to feel like I can’t really yell at people about it, so here is my one opportunity to yell. If you find actual receipts proving any of the above, let me know, but otherwise – don’t @ me.