An unusual incident occured in an Istanbul record shop this past Friday, where a number of loud and opinionated individuals, assumed to be young men in their 20's, 30's, 40's, or 50's, caused a disturbance during a listening party for Radiohead's newest album.
Major media outlets were quick to condemn their behaviour as a violent attack by "Islamists". The event even captured the attention of the members of Radiohead, who were quick to criticize the incident by labeling it as an "act of violent intolerance" and stating that "our hearts go out to those attacked". Fortunately, not every media outlet fell into the far too easy trap of blaming "Islamists" for the incident,but the overall journalistic trend was still, as a whole, somewhat disturbing.
In the immediate aftermath of such episodes, we have come to expect the usual gamut of reflexive, ill-thought out reactions, which often tend towards outright prejudice toward those accused of perpetrating the event. But more recently, careful and reasoned analysis is becoming more common. Following the horrible mass shooting in Orlando one week ago, many commentators were correct to discount the purported influence of the shooter's religion. It is now widely seen as a purely homegrown American type of crime, seeing how it was carried out by a hateful, racist thug obsessed with guns and violence -- values that have become all too prevalent in American society. Likewise, the recent mass shooting in Tel Aviv can be best explained via similarly relatable concepts that have become quotable buzzwords among the enlightened -- "frustration", "justice", "occupation", etc. -- instead of resorting to attacks on the suspects' ideologies or religion.
That is why the reporting on the incident in Istanbul represents a disappointing step backwards in journalistic ethics. Reporters were quick to condemn the actions of "Islamists" rather than a far more obvious culprit -- indie music fans. Much like the discourse surrounding the Pulse nightclub shooting was quickly steered away from allegations of radicalism and toward the never more essential debate on gun laws in America, discussion about the Radiohead listening party incident has veered toward a condemnation of "Islamists" rather than a more timely debate about behaviour of entitled indie music fans.
It is no secret that indie music fans have been known to express their opinions often in a rude, condescending, and even forceful manner. In the same way that mass shootings have become as American as apple pie and college football, heated objection to the musical tastes of the "other" are as indie as ironic "I hate Pink Floyd" t-shirts and pretending to have lived in Brooklyn before it was cool. Property damage, screamed threats, and broken merchandise at Istanbul's Velvet IndieGround shop should not be taken lightly, although one must keep in mind that the video footage available on the internet is of low quality and makes it difficult to discern exactly who or what instigated the incident. This is not to excuse the means of expression by certain indie music fans, which can undoubtedly be boorish and annoying at times, and possibly even threatening. But one should also appreciate that incidents like these are a natural reaction by an often marginalized sector of indie fans, born out of the frustration of seeing yet another overrated Radiohead album get fawned over by an adoring and insufficiently critical mainstream music press.
The situation is complex, with plenty of blame to be placed on both sides. It is true that the rhetoric spread by some indie fans is not conducive to constructive discourse, and can, on occasion, result in destructive behaviour that nonetheless recalls the DIY smash-the-system punk roots of many strains of indie rock. However, we also cannot ignore the blatant provocations of indie music shops, with their listening parties dedicated to horrifically boring musical sacred cows who were never any good to begin with, who divert needed attention from more deserving artists.