That’s Joe Bonamassa. By my estimation, he’s a great guitarist. I’m not his biggest fan, by any means, but I absolutely appreciate his talent. He has a clean and aggressive style of playing that sort of knocks you back in your seat. The most remarkable thing about him is actually his business acumen. He has built a massively successful career in music without the aid of a record label, radio airplay, or much in the way of promotion at all.
He has played Carnegie Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, and sold out thousands of shows all over the world. He represents the dream of every independent musician grinding it out on the road. And yet, he is one of the most hated men in the world within the Blues community.
Search for his name on Facebook or Twitter, and you’ll find scorching comments by the thousands. This is a guy who has a charity foundation that invests a great deal of money and resources in helping kids get started with music. By all accounts, he’s a nice guy. But the hatred directed towards him on social media platforms is constant and poisonous. Why?
There is something about the anonymity of social media that empowers people in a strange way. Sitting behind a keyboard, a lot of folks seem to feel comfortable hurling expletives and insults at just about anyone. It doesn’t stop at the bounds of celebrity, either. There has recently been a huge spike in hate groups and messages on social media, according to the USA Today.
I hear many lament how “PC culture” has taken over, resulting in free speech being restricted. I don’t really see that at all. The irony is that it’s really the opposite; the internet has become one giant free-for-all, with people feeling empowered to spread insults and hatred in disturbingly common fashion.
My concern is the hatred spilling off of the screen and into “real life.” Maybe it starts with criticizing a musician you don’t like, but it’s a slippery slope. As a society, we seem to be more divided than ever. It’s way easier to surround yourself with people who are like you than it is to seek out others who come from a different background or culture. In fact, many of us go to great efforts to keep “others” away from us, sometimes without even realizing it.
Heineken recently took all of this on in a beautiful YouTube video that should give pause to all of us. I encourage you to watch it, because it greatly impacted me.
I write this blog post partially in hopes of pointing out some of these issues, and partially to hold myself accountable. The truth is, I think we’ve all been one of those haters at some point. I know I certainly have, and I’m not proud of it. But, I would hope that I’ll always be willing to sit down and have a coffee or a beer with someone who thinks differently than I do. That’s ultimately the kind of world I think we all want to live in.
Despite the best efforts of the internet warriors, Joe Bonamassa is still out there playing guitar. It would seem that hatred seldom ever solves anything, particularly the 140 character version.
Kindness matters. Open your world. Discuss. Think. Learn. I’ll be trying my best from here on out.