How to [not] own up to your actions

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How to [not] own up to your actions

Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Mar 05, 2015 6:17 pm

DNL has talked a lot in the past about how to interact with people without creeping/coming off the wrong way, a necessary component of which is 1) recognizing when you have done something to hurt/offend/bother the other person, 2) owning up to that in a mature way, and 3) sincerely apologizing, and seeing what, if anything, you can do to make the situation better. On the other hand, those accused of creepy behavior usually come from a place where they don’t care about the effects of their actions on others, refuse to acknowledge that they’ve done anything wrong, and will not apologize, or will even gaslight the person who has been hurt, saying its all in the victim’s head or the creeper is the real victim here.

I was reading the New York Times this morning and came across an article that I think illustrates the difference between an honest mistake and creepy behavior. Best thing is, its not about dating or meeting people or interpersonal relationships—its about classical music, which I think might be helpful for how to understand this dynamic at a macro level, separate from any individual interaction, and the vast difference between creeping and making a mistake.

It's a short article, but story is this: Jonas Tarm won some wunderkind classical music composer award and was commissioned to write a piece for the New York Youth Symphony to be preformed at Carnegie Hall. He didn’t tell anyone, but the piece included a (fairly long comparatively, as it's a short piece) musical quotation from “Horst Wessel”, the Nazi national anthem. No one was aware of this until it was performed, and an audience member who identified as “a Nazi survivor” wrote a letter of complaint. Tarn refused to discuss what the composition was about, and when the head of the symphony called to ask about it, he refused to explain. Because of this, the piece was pulled. This is the point where Tarm realized he’d hurt and offended some people with his actions Tarm had a total hissy fit. He pulled a “I’m sorry you had to get all offended” and said:


“I was devastated… It’s one thing to have a concert canceled because of weather, or financial issues; that’s kind of like death by natural causes. But canceling because of something that it’s saying — it feels almost like murder to me.”

(Because when people get uncomfortable with you because you seem to be incorporating Nazi propaganda into your work and foisting it off on the public, its totally appropriate to compare their actions to murder.)

Now let me get one thing straight here—I am not unconditionally opposed to Horst Wessel being referenced or performed—I believe it might be appropriate in very specific, limited artistic creations where it has been thoughtfully included to make a point, fully acknowledging the weight of the oppression and violence that the song carries and being forthright about how some may be uncomfortable with it. You can’t just drop it in there for shock value and expect everyone to be okay with that. Except that’s what Tarm did. He expressed continued reluctance to explain his piece, or what Horst Wessel was doing there, saying the music should speak for itself and that:


“I strongly believe in Gustav Mahler’s quote — that if a composer could say what he wanted to say in words, he wouldn’t bother writing the music.”

Finally finally finally he gives a hint at what he was thinking in regards to the piece, saying:


“It’s about conflict, it’s about totalitarianism, it’s about polarizing nationalism.”

Which is great! If only he had said that waaaaayyyyy before, and put context to his work and warned people about it, I think I’d be okay with that! But he didn’t—not at all! (And, you know, its not at all like classical music has a Nazi problem that has historically been swept under the rug or anything… *cough*Wagner*cough*)

So let’s see—this guy deliberately put something offensive and incendiary in a work of art without telling anyone, refused to explain himself and got offended and defensive when called on it, and claimed that those who were hurt by it and those who sided with the people that we hurt were actually the ones in the wrong… Creepers gonna creep.  Disapproving

Finally he ends with this gem:


He cited the old joke that the way to get to Carnegie Hall was to practice, practice, practice, and offered an addition: “Apparently you also have to self-censor.”

Yes, because being told that doing things that make others uncomfortable is not okay and you will not be allowed to continue doing such things in certain spaces is totally censorship. Where have I heard that one before?  innocent

There are many, many ways Tarm could have done this so much better, preferably by giving context and alerting people about it beforehand, but even by sincerely apologizing and explaining when shit went down. That would have been a miscalculation of youth, an honest mistake. But as is, this just reeks of entitled, jerky attitudes.

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Re: How to [not] own up to your actions

Post by PintsizeBro on Fri Mar 06, 2015 8:55 pm

Prajnaparamita wrote:
Which is great! If only he had said that waaaaayyyyy before, and put context to his work and warned people about it, I think I’d be okay with that! But he didn’t—not at all! (And, you know, its not at all like classical music has a Nazi problem that has historically been swept under the rug or anything… *cough*Wagner*cough*)
Totally latching on to this because I was thinking about Wagner reading your whole summary, and then you mentioned him, which makes me happy.

Speaking as one (1!) technically-Jewish person, I don't think Wagner was that big a deal. Yes, he was anti-Semitic. But I'm not convinced that he was any more anti-Semitic than any of his contemporaries. His attitudes toward Jews are pretty in-line with the rest of the country during his lifetime. Was he the best person ever? No. But I don't think liking his music makes someone a bad person. I like his music on its own merits.

As to Hitler... yes, he was a fan of Wagner's. But Wagner died six years before Hitler was born. I don't think it's really fair to hold artists responsible for the actions of their fans (provided those works don't involve a direct call to commit hate crimes) even in their lifetimes, let alone after their death. Was it JD Salinger's fault that Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon?

Compare to Jonas Tarm, who made a conscious choice to quote the Nazi national anthem knowing full well what it was and what it meant, then refused to talk about it and tried to play the victim when people took exception to that. He knew what he was doing, but he wanted to be cool and edgy. I might even choose to consume Nazi media because I'm interested in the history, but that's not something I would want to be blindsided with when I was just expecting a nice classical music concert.

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Re:How to [not] own up to your actions

Post by Prajnaparamita on Fri Mar 06, 2015 9:17 pm

PintsizeBro wrote:
Speaking as one (1!) technically-Jewish person, I don't think Wagner was that big a deal. Yes, he was anti-Semitic. But I'm not convinced that he was any more anti-Semitic than any of his contemporaries. His attitudes toward Jews are pretty in-line with the rest of the country during his lifetime. Was he the best person ever? No. But I don't think liking his music makes someone a bad person. I like his music on its own merits.

Oh goodness no I don't think liking Wagner makes you a bad person! I know plenty of people, Jews included, who enjoy Wagner and appreciate his creative genius, and while I don't love opera or classical music, I was very impressed by what of the Ring Cycle I have listened to.

I just mentioned it in an attempt to make an indirect comparison to nerd/tech culture, and those that would be oblivious to the fact that there has been a sexism problem. Discussion of Wagner's political views, while not something people have just recently realized, were actually not talked about for awhile, and there weren't the same qualifiers around discussion of his greatness.

So I was just imaging that someone suddenly hearing the Nazi anthem at Carnegie Hall might be reminded of how previously people were willing to excuse or overlook the anti-Semitism of many great figures, and wondering if that white-washing had returned.

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Re: How to [not] own up to your actions

Post by eselle28 on Fri Mar 06, 2015 11:56 pm

<mod>I split off the side topics - and unfortunately caught one of your posts in the crossfire, Prajna. Sorry about that. Everyone, please stick to the stated topic here. Discussion of free speech can be continued in the Off Topic forum.</mod>
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Re: How to [not] own up to your actions

Post by Prajnaparamita on Fri Mar 06, 2015 11:58 pm

eselle28 wrote:<mod>I split off the side topics - and unfortunately caught one of your posts in the crossfire, Prajna. Sorry about that. Everyone, please stick to the stated topic here. Discussion of free speech can be continued in the Off Topic forum.</mod>

Ooops, sorry, just PM'd Enail about that--is there any way that could be restored? (Because that was a conversation I was actually interested in having.) Or should I just post it again?

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Re: How to [not] own up to your actions

Post by Enail on Sat Mar 07, 2015 12:01 am

I'm on it! ETA: Okay, it's back.

Carry on with the OT, y'all!
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Re: How to [not] own up to your actions

Post by JP McBride on Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:33 pm

Prajnaparamita wrote:DNL has talked a lot in the past about how to interact with people without creeping/coming off the wrong way, a necessary component of which is 1) recognizing when you have done something to hurt/offend/bother the other person, 2) owning up to that in a mature way, and 3) sincerely apologizing, and seeing what, if anything, you can do to make the situation better. On the other hand, those accused of creepy behavior usually come from a place where they don’t care about the effects of their actions on others, refuse to acknowledge that they’ve done anything wrong, and will not apologize, or will even gaslight the person who has been hurt, saying its all in the victim’s head or the creeper is the real victim here.

I was reading the New York Times this morning and came across an article that I think illustrates the difference between an honest mistake and creepy behavior. Best thing is, its not about dating or meeting people or interpersonal relationships—its about classical music, which I think might be helpful for how to understand this dynamic at a macro level, separate from any individual interaction, and the vast difference between creeping and making a mistake.

I'm not seeing how this is comparable to creepy behavior. Creepy behavior carries with it a very real threat of immediate physical violence, which doesn't seem to be present here.

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Re: How to [not] own up to your actions

Post by UristMcBunny on Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:41 pm

I don't think (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, Prajna) that the point was to argue this is an example of creepy behaviour.  But that the point was to indicate an example of the sort of behaviour people are referring to when they talk about creeper's doubling down on their bad choices and blaming others for them. Basically, this sort of doubling-down and refusing to meet others halfway, refusing to apologise and shifting blame, is not behaviour exclusive to creepers. All sorts of shitty people engage in it for all sorts of reasons. But this does feel like a very illustrative example of the behaviour in general, which makes it useful.

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Re: How to [not] own up to your actions

Post by Prajnaparamita on Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:51 pm

JP McBride wrote:
Prajnaparamita wrote:DNL has talked a lot in the past about how to interact with people without creeping/coming off the wrong way, a necessary component of which is 1) recognizing when you have done something to hurt/offend/bother the other person, 2) owning up to that in a mature way, and 3) sincerely apologizing, and seeing what, if anything, you can do to make the situation better. On the other hand, those accused of creepy behavior usually come from a place where they don’t care about the effects of their actions on others, refuse to acknowledge that they’ve done anything wrong, and will not apologize, or will even gaslight the person who has been hurt, saying its all in the victim’s head or the creeper is the real victim here.

I was reading the New York Times this morning and came across an article that I think illustrates the difference between an honest mistake and creepy behavior. Best thing is, its not about dating or meeting people or interpersonal relationships—its about classical music, which I think might be helpful for how to understand this dynamic at a macro level, separate from any individual interaction, and the vast difference between creeping and making a mistake.

I'm not seeing how this is comparable to creepy behavior. Creepy behavior carries with it a very real threat of immediate physical violence, which doesn't seem to be present here.

No, no, and no, it doesn't, and to say that's the only context in which we can find things creepy is seriously denying a lot of people their real experiences. For instance, here's an example of a creep I ran into a couple weeks ago. I commute to school everyday on the bus, and I always try to sit in the seat next to the window, rather than the aisle to try and not get so carsick on the ride. I was riding home, and this older man came and sat down next to me and stretched out his arm so it was draping over the back of my seat. All while this was happening he was smoothly talking to me quietly about how he has three older sisters and has nothing but respect for women and he would never dare disrespect a lady he just needs to spread out his arms, you know, so don't mind at all, he's just going to rest them here. Anyway, his arm increasingly lowered, until it was draped over my shoulder and I was absolutely frozen because telling him off would mean saying to a stranger "you're lying to my face" and I didn't know how to do that. I was deeply uncomfortable with his behavior, but I didn't feel afraid of immediate physical violence, just shocked and uncertain as to what to do.

(By the way, I've seen him on the bus since, sitting next to men and he's never once said anything about needing to spread his arms out or tried to touch them.)

In comparison to this situation, if I can be sure of anything its that this man came from a place not of wanting his arms to be comfortable but from a place of wanting to make others, especially young women, uncomfortable. And in order to do so engaged in a great deal of gaslighting, and I'm sure if I had called him out on it he'd try to convince others that it was all in my head and I was just being hysterical and picking on an old man who just wanted to stretch out his arms. The mixture of not caring about how others might be hurt/bothered/offended and trying to convince them that they're in the wrong for feeling those things is the comparison between the composer and my interaction with the creep on the bus.


Last edited by Prajnaparamita on Sat Mar 07, 2015 8:08 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling. i can totes spell things)

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Re: How to [not] own up to your actions

Post by Prajnaparamita on Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:55 pm

UristMcBunny wrote:I don't think (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, Prajna) that the point was to argue this is an example of creepy behaviour.  But that the point was to indicate an example of the sort of behaviour people are referring to when they talk about creeper's doubling down on their bad choices and blaming others for them.  Basically, this sort of doubling-down and refusing to meet others halfway, refusing to apologise and shifting blame, is not behaviour exclusive to creepers.  All sorts of shitty people engage in it for all sorts of reasons.  But this does feel like a very illustrative example of the behaviour in general, which makes it useful.

Right, this is more of what I meant. I think creepy is a good term for interactions at the individual level, around things like meeting people and dating, but the techniques creeps use to get what they want are used by all sorts of shitty people to do the same thing, in different areas. Gaslighting and denial might be tools of the creep, but so many other people have used them in different contexts, and what I was trying to illustrate here is how they work in a different context then what we usually discuss here.

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Re: How to [not] own up to your actions

Post by JP McBride on Sun Mar 08, 2015 12:44 am

UristMcBunny wrote:I don't think (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, Prajna) that the point was to argue this is an example of creepy behaviour.  But that the point was to indicate an example of the sort of behaviour people are referring to when they talk about creeper's doubling down on their bad choices and blaming others for them.  Basically, this sort of doubling-down and refusing to meet others halfway, refusing to apologise and shifting blame, is not behaviour exclusive to creepers.  All sorts of shitty people engage in it for all sorts of reasons.  But this does feel like a very illustrative example of the behaviour in general, which makes it useful.

It's not clear why anything he did was any worse than Andres Serrano making Piss Christ, or Salman Rushdie writing The Satanic Verses.

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Re: How to [not] own up to your actions

Post by LadyLuck on Sun Mar 08, 2015 2:14 am

It's not clear why anything he did was any worse than Andres Serrano making Piss Christ, or Salman Rushdie writing The Satanic Verses.

A big difference is that he refused to offer any explanation or context for the offending piece. Furthermore, he refused to come out and admit that his piece at least had the potential to be offensive. I think if you asked Rushdie about the Satanic Verses, he'd step right up and say "Yeah this offends fundamentalist Muslims, but its kind of supposed to, so they need to get the fuck over themselves." This guy is trying to play the schroedinger's offense game, of sorts. His work is offensive to some people; that fact is indisputable. He's not claiming this as the intent of the work, but neither is he taking steps to make it less offensive. His position seems to be "What do you mean people are offended by my work? HOW DARE THEY".

Also, what got his piece pulled was at least partially a lack of communication with the organization hosting him (NYYS). I'm 80-90% sure both of the artists you mentioned had a long conversation about the nature of their works with their publishers long before the public had ever heard of them. I highly doubt anyone publishing the Satanic Verses has any confusion about what kind of material they're printing at this point. But even if they did, and even if they pulled it, that would be their right to do so.

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Re: How to [not] own up to your actions

Post by kath on Sun Mar 08, 2015 2:53 am

I posted a big response and then realised it should probably go in the other thread. JP, if you'd consider reading it over there, it's at http://nerdlounge.canadian-forum.com/t515p45-free-speech-and-censorship#11691
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