It’s a sad and funny truth that the heavily over-hyped fake news media, lampooned as an institution in general by those who so often fall victim to its nuanced ways, can skewer an artist so deftly.
Kirin J Callinan may not be everybody’s cup of tea. In fact, the two people writing this article have very different opinions on his music. Brash, brazen and filled with a deliberately unrefined machismo, his music is both laughable and deadly serious. Some love it. Others despise it. Most are just left confused.
Callinan was slated to appear alongside Mac DeMarco, Father John Misty, Client Liaison and many, many others at Laneway Festival across Australia next week until organisers silently removed him from the bill. The reason? Safe Space coordinator and Trans/Queer performer Missy Blanks pressured festival organisers to axe his act, because according to her, “His long and recent history of reckless and insensitive actions reinforces an entitlement which permits Kirin and others like him to dismiss valid issues, and normalises racism, ableism and sexual assault”.
Let’s break that down.
Sexual assault? He whipped his dick out at the ARIAs, an ostensibly tactless move, but one which hardly constitutes sexual assault. His lyrics certainly don’t offer any insight into this apparent ableism or acceptance for sexual misconduct. There is absolutely no evidence that any of these claims hold water--not that that’s required in a blatant trial-by-media. Calling somebody a racist is apparently conviction enough.
Which brings us to our point on how this equates to the power of fake news: How Kirin J Callinan became known to readers of Junkee and the aptly named Pedestrian TV for his penchant for blackface, even though he never did it.
As an inclusion in the sleeve of the 45” vinyl edition of his latest album Bravado, Callinan included a poster of him in a deliberately excessive amount of fake tan, posing nude on a couch of exactly the same orangey hue; like a Fanta-drenched bronze statue, and a clear pisstake of 80’s bodybuilding muscle-man culture. Not only is it not intended to be blackface: it just isn’t.
If orange-face is all of a sudden racist then somebody should let Queensland know pronto.
This very obvious fact didn’t stop Gusher Magazine editor Isabella Trimboli from calling him out in June last year via Twitter, labelling his poster as blackface.
The Tweet along with the offending image, in all its, erm... glory.
This then led to her accusation getting pride of place in an article by Jared Richards in Junkee, three months later, which didn’t question this misguided conflation of using bronzer and sitting on a tan lounge with being a racist, but proffered it as a reason to further vilify the musician.
Then in November, Shaad D’Souza penned a rather sad takedown and cited the poster as blackface without any attempt at understanding or explanation, in a weak effort to further sully Kirin’s name, literally referring to him in the headline as a “Huge Dickhead”. Constructive.
With precious few sensible voices coming to his defense on Twitter regarding the image, which, for the 100th time, is not blackface, Pedestrian TV published this wishy-washy piece about the whole affair, which is very non-committal and basically suggests that if it isn’t racist, maybe he could still be wrong. Somehow.
Oh, and guess who Laneway festival’s major media partners are: Triple J and, you won’t believe it, Pedestrian TV.
So from one tweet in June that laid false accusations from a bored individual looking to take offence at anything offered, to his silent removal from a huge festival in December, and myriad articles in between calling him out for something that just doesn’t exist, this is the fake news machine doing what it does best.
Now back to Laneway.
Miss Blanks is wrong. Callinan may be guilty of being unorthodox, and a proud merchant of shock-value, but he’s not a racist, sexist or any other -ist. The issue is one artist censoring another because they don’t like what they see. This is one person telling the rest of us what is acceptable in a public space and what is not.
The festival organisers know this. Clearly anticipating a backlash, they removed Callinan in the dead of night, deleting his name from the poster with no public statement and no explanation to ticket holders.
You don’t have to like his music. You don’t have to like his videos. You don’t even have to like the fact that he exists. But like everything else you don’t like, you can choose to ignore him.
Perhaps the greatest irony in this whole affair lies in Miss Blanks’ thoroughly dim statement, where she says: “I feel good knowing that Laneway Festival are working hard with their artists, including myself, to create a more inclusive and safe space for its talent, staff, and patrons…”
More inclusive, by systematically campaigning to exclude somebody that you don’t like would almost be comical, if it wasn’t so unfortunately effective.
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