It looks like Bay area shoegaze group (and notorious instigators) Whirr have finally shit-talked themselves into a situation with some meaningful consequences. Alternative Press reported overnight that the band have placed themselves into the line of fire after a string of casually insensitive tweets, mostly aimed towards Olympia, WA punk band G.L.O.S.S., who feature multiple trans members (and released a vicious as fuck demo earlier this year). You can read the tweets (as well as some pretty sick burns in response from G.L.O.S.S.’s vocalist) over at AP, but they’re pretty much as stupid and immature as you would expect. I don’t really want to harp on what they said specifically too much because it was so clearly thoughtless and generic that it doesn’t warrant further reprinting.
What I do want to talk about though is how Boston indie label Run For Cover, who have worked with Whirr to distribute several of their recent releases, responded to the whole thing because it should become the gold standard and model for how other labels — small and large — should respond to hate speech perpetrated by bands they carry.
In three tweets Run For Cover said everything they needed to in order to defend G.L.O.S.S. and make it clear that this kind of behavior was not something they were at all interested in doing business with.
We as individuals and as a label are accepting of all people and require the same from the bands and people we work with…
— Run For Cover (@rfcrecords) October 20, 2015
We will not be working with Whirr from this point on and do not support that behavior in anyway. We will post a full statement tomorrow.
— Run For Cover (@rfcrecords) October 20, 2015
G.L.O.S.S. is awesome and crucially important and we need more bands like them. — Run For Cover (@rfcrecords) October 20, 2015
Without calling more attention to the situation than was necessary, the label swiftly reacted to the situation upon it being brought to their attention. They state that they will not work with anyone who does not uphold the values they hold as a business, that Whirr have not upheld that, and therefore they will not do any further business with Whirr. They even went the extra mile and made a point in defending G.L.O.S.S. and their right to exist without stupid and hateful things being thrown at them.
What I love about this is that Run For Cover 1) did all of this so quickly without being pressured for days by fans and outside sources, and 2) handled it in such a way that it makes the entire situation seem like a simple no-brainer. No grandstanding or big, long statements about the need for acceptance and hate-free spaces or self-congratulatory back-patting (though they do allude to an official statement coming sometime soon, so it’s possible that could still come). Just a simple statement of We do not condone this and choose not to associate with it. More labels should be doing exactly that when their artists perpetrate acts of hate and poor taste such as this. As businesses who profit and bring in money off of the artists in their roster, it’s incredibly important to not be financially attached to bands who are actively committing acts of hate speech or prejudice towards persecuted minorities. That is, unless of course if the label itself has no problem with these sorts of acts, in which case fans will likely want to think twice about supporting any of the products they put out.
As for Whirr, look, we already just tackled the whole art vs. artist thing yesterday, and ultimately it’s a personal decision whether to support a band and/or their music in the face of controversy. But I do want to address a couple of things I think are vitally important in regards to this situation and similar ones. First off, in a recent update to the story, Whirr bassist Nick Bassett (also a member of Nothing) took to the band’s Twitter account in an attempt to “clarify” the issue, stating that a friend of the band has managed their social media profiles for a long time and it wasn’t any of them personally who said those things.
— Whirr (@free_whirl) October 20, 2015
I think blaming the whole thing on the person controlling your Twitter account is a total bullshit cop-out, especially when Bassett acknowledges that the band has been long aware of the controversial things this friend has put out in their name in the past (saying that they think most of what he’s written has been funny). The truth is though that the band’s social media accounts have been combative, demeaning, and just generally shitty to trolls and fans alike for a long time. It’s just that this is the first time they’ve been caught focusing that vitriol towards a group of people who are already heavily persecuted against and elicit strong defensive reactions from communities and people worldwide.
Which brings me to my second point, which is never punch downward. It’s easier to brush off stupidly insensitive comments when they’re directed towards people or institutions with power or privilege, or even just average people like yourself. It’s when you start directing that towards individuals and groups who already face frequent to daily acts of persecution, hate speech, micro aggressions, etc. that these kinds of “jokes” go from simply lame or relatively harmless to actively perpetuating and contributing to a harmful environment for those people. The transgender community has made some pretty significant strides in recent years, but the fact is that many, if not nearly all, transgender individuals still face frequent to daily harassment and prejudice simply for existing and living.
So it doesn’t really matter if what this idiot friend of Whirr said about trans folk was meant to be serious or not. It comes off as bullying, and it comes off as actively contributing to an intolerant culture towards them, and it’s not attractive or something that any of us should simply accept. And a simple apology and passing of the blame is not enough to make up for it. Run For Cover were absolutely right to cut ties from them. I hope other labels who work with them and other bands who pull this kind of behavior do the same.