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Andrew W.K. Brings His Party to Irving Plaza

Four years ago, when he was serving as the Village Voice’s advice columnist, Andrew W.K. received a message from a reader trying to come to terms with the politics of his right-wing father. It’s hard to remember now, but America in 2014 was a very different place, and Andrew’s words seem to anticipate the current political divide. “The world isn’t being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist — the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world,” he wrote. “Love your dad because he’s your father, because he made you, because he thinks for himself, and most of all because he is a person. Have the strength to doubt and question what you believe as easily as you’re so quick to doubt his beliefs. Live with a truly open mind — the kind of open mind that even questions the idea of an open mind. Don’t feel the need to always pick a side. And if you do pick a side, pick the side of love. It remains our only real hope for survival and has more power to save us than any other belief we could ever cling to.”

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On Friday night, Andrew W.K. brings his message of love, hope, and partying to Irving Plaza, where he first performed almost two decades ago. In the years since he stormed into music fans’ lives like a sweaty, white denim–clad hurricane, the singer has been rock music’s prophet of positivity. In March, he released You’re Not Alone, his first album since 2009. We caught up with the singer to talk politics, music, and the power of positive thinking.

Since Trump came into office, your advice to “Son of A Right-Winger” has continued to resonate with Voice readers. It was almost like you predicted the current state of our politics.

I haven’t read that in a long time, but it was written from a place of common knowledge, things that other people had explained to me, sharing this perspective. It was a plea for my own sanity and my own civility, and a belief in the world’s ability to be humane and restrained while also being convicted and passionate. They’re cycles, it seems, in the human experience that really have the ability to bring out our worst and bring out our best. And, more intensely, bring out our worst disguised as our best. And I’ve been as challenged by this as anyone else.

You’ve also been a motivational speaker, and so much of your music is about seizing the moment and embracing life. How did you settle on rock music as the delivery mechanism for your message?

Being the keyboard player first and foremost — and having my earliest musical education come through the piano — I was very late to the game when it came to rock music in general. It wasn’t until high school, really, that I got into that. And before rock music I had gotten into more, I guess I would say radical music, because that was the most strong departure from the traditional piano lessons I had. So that would be defined as experimental or avant-garde or modern or contemporary. That was, to me, the most exciting thing. And then I looked at the mentality of contemporary rock music as having the potential to combine anything and everything.

How so?

It was the most unrestrained and intense delivery method for the feeling I was trying to conjure up. It’s a very visceral and physical way to access a kind of primal energy and nothing else really works quite like it. All music, I think, is trying to reach a kind of core truth about being alive, a truth that can be physically experienced through our senses beyond our mental consideration into the physical, and so that’s what makes it so undeniable. But for me, almost as though I was born to do it, rock music had a maximalist sensibility that I really clicked with, just that everything was taken further. I feel like others that came before, if I may be so bold, have all been trying to get to that place together. And of course I’m extraordinarily inspired and encouraged by other people, especially those that have been doing it for a long time who are still engaged and still passionate and still determined to make that feeling happen for themselves and for their fellow humans.

So you didn’t blast Queen or Kiss records to get pumped up to make the new record?

You know, I would answer this in two ways in the most respectful way possible. One, I really do try to strip my mind of everything when making a recording, and I hope it doesn’t come off as arrogant or as insincere. Most people who record music are trying — maybe they’re not, but I know there’s other people out there because I’ve talked to them — where they’re trying to say, “OK, what can I do? What can I do? Here’s what’s been done. Here’s my chance. I haven’t existed yet. I’ve never sat down to record a song so what can I do?” And it’s not to say I understand the idea that no one is free of influence and there’s a great chain of inspiration, whether it’s acknowledged or not, but there does seem to be something sacred and respectful about going out into the musical landscape and seeing if you can plant your own seed. That’s the greatest show of respect I can show to the music that I admire: to not try to copy it. I can never be that person no matter how hard I try. Who can I be? Can I get to the place they’re getting to? And I also will say even if there were influences, I would never say them, because I think it’s distracting. People can guess themselves.

 

How challenging is it to find other musicians who have the same drive and mission as you?

Well, I would like to say with all due acknowledgment to every band member I’ve ever had, because every band member has gotten us to where we are now, but this is the best the band has ever been. And I really say that because of the practice we’ve put in at this point. You hope that doing something longer enables you to improve doing it, and this band is the best that we’ve ever been and that’s just from time. Every other band member I’ve had has been incredible and irreplaceable and unique, but as things have come and gone, and people have come and gone and come back again, we are just at a level of focus and excitement and determination. I wish I could find another word for it, but there’s a lot of plain old-fashioned gratitude that we’ve gotten to do any of this in the first place, and that we’re still getting to do it. So I’d like to think that people would be able to feel our excitement for our playing this and playing for them.

How long, exactly, have you guys been playing together?

Well, the bass player, Gregg Roberts, and one of the guitar players, Erik Payne — they’ve been in the band since the beginning, since our first show we ever played, in 2001. They probably joined the band in 2000. Then there’s new members that have only been in the band for about a year.

Isn’t it a struggle to put out that much energy onstage, especially after all this time?

In some ways it feels completely surprising and baffling and quite confusing and thrilling, and then in other ways it feels completely unavoidable, like it was preordained and all that kind of feeling. I can’t imagine it being any other way. But then I can let my mind wander into all the other possibilities. It’s one of those kinds of projects where there’s many ways to look at it, and they’re all quite intense, for me at least. I can easily see it as, “How did I wind up so lucky as to be doing this?” and then I can also, at other times, see it as, “Wow, this is why all those people warned me not to do this!” So it’s continuously rewarding and challenging.

Does always looking on the bright side ever get tiring?

Well, as someone who’s a negative person by default, this party quest is about having a reason, a purpose to focus on the positive, to be more positive, to be a more strong and capable person, because that’s not how I felt already. So I had to have some kind of mission that was about those feelings, that gave me a way to experience those emotions that I could apply myself to. So not only is it not a burden to try to stay in that mind-set of motivated optimism, it’s crucial. And this is what gives me the chance to do it. So this work is what’s saving my life, basically. It’s very encouraging for one another to realize that this is a journey we can go on with comrades, with brothers and sisters, and it’s a great chain of humanity that is encouraging us and cheering us on from beyond the grave, or from heaven, or however you want to look at it. I just feel like my message is, “How can we find the meaning to life?” And that’s nothing that I possess. I’m just one of the people trying to get there myself, and do it in a profound way that hopefully resonates with more than just myself.

Andrew W.K. plays Irving Plaza on Friday, May 18.

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Body of Missing Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison Is Discovered

On Thursday night, police in Edinburgh, Scotland, announced that they’d found a body in the search for Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison, who had been missing since early Wednesday morning. Hutchison, 36, was last seen leaving the Dakota Hotel in South Queensferry, at 1 a.m., after posting a series of messages that left his family and bandmates concerned for his well-being.

“Be so good to everyone you love,” the first tweet said. “It’s not a given. I’m so annoyed that it’s not. I didn’t live by that standard and it kills me. Please, hug your loved ones.” Several minutes later, he posted a second tweet: “I’m away now. Thanks.”

According to the Guardian, police discovered the body at 8:30 p.m. on May 10 in Port Edgar. His family were notified, and released a statement that they were “utterly devastated” by the loss.

Since he began performing as Frightened Rabbit in 2003, Hutchison has consistently written about his struggles with anxiety and depression, endearing him to a generation of indie-rock fans. This spring the band toured in celebration of the tenth anniversary of their seminal album The Midnight Organ Fight, which Hutchison discussed with the Voice.

“People started to come to me and talking about really personal, emotional subjects that they may not have told their closest friends, but they were telling me about them,” said Hutchison. “I didn’t know how to deal with it at all. Due to the personal nature of that record, an expectation of me had been built up in the listener’s head a lot of the time and I was very keen not to disappoint.”

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On May 9, Frightened Rabbit posted a message on the band’s social media accounts asking for help in finding Hutchison: “We are worried about Scott, who has been missing for a little while now. He may be in a fragile state and may not be making the best decisions for himself right now.”

In their statement Friday, Hutchison’s family wrote, “We are utterly devastated with the tragic loss of our beloved Scott. Despite his disappearance, and the recent concerns over his mental health, we had all remained positive and hopeful that he would walk back through the door.”

“He was passionate, articulate, and charismatic, as well as being one of the funniest and kindest people we knew. In addition to his musical success, Scott was a wonderful son, brother, uncle, and friend. Despite whatever else was going on in his life he always had time for those he cared for.”

“Depression is a horrendous illness that does not give you any alert or indication as to when it will take hold of you,” the statement said. “Scott battled bravely with his own issues for many years and we are immensely proud of him for being so open with his struggles. His willingness to discuss these matters in the public domain undoubtedly raised awareness of mental health issues and gave others confidence and belief to discuss their own issues.”

UPDATE – 5/12/11, 10:145 AM: Hutchison’s bandmates in Frightened Rabbit issued the following statement:

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bio9HWXnN7a/?taken-by=frabbits

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On the Front Lines in the Fight Against Fake News

According to a poll released earlier this month by Monmouth University, over three-quarters of Americans believe major news outlets report “fake news.” Gone are the days when Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America. In this strange new reality the news media has been forced to ask itself: How do you fight the proliferation of fake news in a world where bad actors are actively pushing it, unregulated social media platforms are promoting it, unwitting users are sharing it, and the president of the United States can’t stop talking about it?

On Saturday, the PEN World Voices Festival hosted a conversation to discuss this crisis of confidence in the media, moderated by PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel and featuring Yamiche Alcindor, the White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour and a contributor for NBC News and MSNBC; William Kristol, founder and editor at large of the Weekly Standard; John Daniszewski, vice president and editor at large for standards at the Associated Press; and Peter Barbey, president and CEO of the Village Voice as well as the Reading Eagle Company in Reading, Pennsylvania. In a lively discussion at the Cooper Union’s Rose Auditorium, the panel discussed the challenges facing the news media as it fights the spread of fake news, even as it is accused of spreading it every day.

Last year, PEN America released the report Faking News: Fraudulent News and the Fight for Truthin which fraudulent news was defined as “demonstrably false information that is being presented as a factual news report with the intention to deceive the public, and the related erosion of public faith in traditional journalism.” The problem, as Saturday’s discussion made clear, is that not everyone shares that definition: To the president, “fake news” seems to be anything that he disagrees with or that calls into question his legitimacy; to his opponents, it’s anything he says or promotes.

For Kristol, who has been outspoken as a conservative voice in the anti-Trump chorus, the rise of fake news is inextricably tied to the president’s shaky relationship with the truth. “The presidency is a bully pulpit, and the president is using it to be a bully,” said Kristol, noting that this one-sidedness is only reinforced by outlets like Fox News. Daniszewski pointed out that Trump’s actions mirror that of autocrats around the world who have weaponized fake news, using it as a cudgel to attack a free press.

Peter Barbey and Yamiche Alcindor

But the problems facing journalism are also playing out on the local level. Barbey, whose family has run newspapers in Reading for eight generations, pointed to the importance of a free press in helping communities define themselves. With Google and Facebook deciding what counts as news, he noted, there’s less and less accountability. “Now it’s these platforms deciding what’s news,” he said. “It used to be that the local paper was the platform.” Barbey addressed some of these issues in a Hollywood Reporter editorial last week. “Unable to prevent digital platforms from aggregating their stories into free news alternatives supported by programmatic advertising, legitimate publishers have seen almost two decades of plummeting revenues and shrinking (or, in some cases, vanishing) newsrooms,” he wrote of the unintended effects that Facebook and Google have had on local news. “Meanwhile, hyper-partisan and fake news aggregators…have flourished. In an instance of unintended consequences of monumental proportions, the [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] precipitated a situation in which professional writers, rigorously trained to report facts and truth, find it next to impossible to make a living.”

As Alcindor noted, the importance of local news extends to sources that cater to sectors of society with less of a voice, like the African American community. While everyone onstage seemed to agree that the mainstream news media is facing an existential crisis, there was no shortage of ideas as to how the tide might be turned, from a Consumer Reports–like service to monitor the news, to a university model where editorships might be endowed like professorships, to a “journalism Peace Corps” to get young Americans involved and invested. What’s clear is that legitimate news sources have never been more important, and that if America is going to get through this chapter of our history, it’s incumbent upon the press to do its job. “Real journalists,” said Alcindor, “shouldn’t change anything.”

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Sean Penn, A Man of Many Trades

This year’s PEN World Voices Festival features dozens of writers from around the globe, including bestselling novelists, war correspondents, Hollywood screenwriters, and globe-trotting activists. Sean Penn, whose debut novel, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuffwas released last monthis likely the only speaker who ticks off each and every one of those boxes. And he’s definitely the only writer whose résumé boasts all of the above bona fides plus a couple of Oscars for Best Actor. On Tuesday night, the 57-year-old sits down for what is sure to be a wide-ranging conversation with New Yorker writer Jon Lee Anderson at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn.

“I think the fact that Sean is out there, offstage, and has a very private parallel life — as in Haiti and other places he is drawn to, curious about, or involved in — is the very thing that would surprise most people,” says Anderson, who interviewed Penn for a New Yorker feature about Haiti’s recovery from 2010’s devastating earthquake. “Also perhaps, beyond all the Hollywood bad boy glamour and gossip, that he has a very practical bent, which he deploys in order to make basic things work for people going through hard times. As in Haiti.”

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For anyone who’s been paying attention, the fact that Penn should turn to writing isn’t especially surprising. Since 1991, when he turned his own screenplay into his feature directorial debut, The Indian Runner, Penn has shown an affinity for letters, and an eye for America’s dark heart. He’s written op-eds in major newspapers, befriended celebrated authors, and scored one of the biggest scoops in recent magazine history when Rolling Stone published his exclusive interview with Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Archivaldo Guzmán Loera.

“The Chapo scoop was quite something, and he got a lot of stick for it, paradoxically,” says Anderson. “He made himself vulnerable by overly exposing the process he underwent for the story he wrote, but I appreciated the fact that he went and did it at all, which takes moxie.”

When you add a lifetime of experiences — from starring as Jeff Spicoli to marrying Madonna to helping rebuild earthquake-ravaged Haiti or hurricane-ravaged New Orleans — the guy clearly has plenty to write about. So why not kick off his publishing career with something a bit less challenging, not to mention more commercially promising, like, say, a memoir? “At this point in my life,” says Penn, “fiction served my participation more strongly.”

That’s not to say there aren’t any similarities between author and protagonist. Sean Penn is a fiftysomething divorcé from California with left-leaning politics and a smoking habit. Bob Honey is also a fiftysomething divorcé from California with left-leaning politics and a smoking habit. But where Penn is regularly photographed with the world’s most beautiful women and is recognized as one of his generation’s finest actors, Honey is a “man of many trades,” as Penn writes. “Sewage specialist, purveyor of pyrotechnics, contract killer for a mysterious government agency that pays in small bills.”

Penn began Bob Honey as an audiobook, a rush job aimed at getting a rough version of his vision out before Election Day 2016. No stranger to controversy, he’s received some criticism for the way the book alludes to recent news, including the #MeToo movement (“Is this a toddlers’ crusade? Reducing rape, slut-shaming, and suffrage to reckless child’s play? A platform for accusation impunity?”), Hillary Clinton’s loss (“Was she the worst possible candidate or are you the most arrogant, ill, and unqualified electorate in the history of the Western world?”), and Donald Trump’s win (“You are not simply a president of impeachment, you are a man in need of an intervention. We are not simply a people in need of an intervention, we are a nation in need of an assassin”).

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While the specter of the election hangs darkly over the book, in the real world Penn sees some light on the horizon, embodied by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “ ‘Hope’ is a term some seem to lean on as a predetermined life preserver,” he says. “I don’t want to promote the denial of imminent threat. I find teenagers who fall under horrifying murderous gunfire on one day, and testify with grace, intelligence, and humor the next, a strong sign of hope.”

For his part, Penn shows no signs of slowing down, even if he plans to spend more time with a pen in his hand than in front of a movie camera. “Any movie is a collaborative effort,” says Penn, who frequently notes that he no longer plays too well with others. “My book…is mine.”

‘Sean Penn in Conversation With Jon Lee Anderson’
PEN World Voices Festival
St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church
157 Montague Street, Brooklyn
April 17 at 7 p.m.

 

Find a full schedule of events and tickets at worldvoices.pen.org.

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How Trump’s Hair Works

With its overwhelming accumulation of WTF moments, Michael Wolff”s Fire and Fury has dominated the national discourse since it was rushed into bookstores last week. But beyond the dysfunction, backbiting, and general chaos it describes, one passage seems utterly believable, no matter how many times POTUS tweets about the fake newsiness of it all. That passage can be found on page 79, in which Wolff describes the relationship between Donald and Ivanka Trump. “She treated her father with a degree of detachment, even irony, going so far as to make fun of his comb-over to others,” writes Wolff. “She often described the mechanics behind it to friends.” So what’s the secret? Read on.

1. An absolutely clean pate — a contained island after scalp-reduction surgery — surrounded by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front

What we know: In the May 2016 article “Is Donald Trump’s Hair a $60,000 Weave? A Gawker Investigation,” the now-shuttered media and gossip site claimed the the folliculo-nimbus cloud surrounding the president’s head was the result of “microcylinder intervention.” The article prompted a complaint from Hulk Hogan’s lawyer, citing “nineteen false and defamatory statements,” and — if Wolff (and Ivanka) is to be believed — Hogan’s camp may have been right. In fact, microcylinder intervention sounds far less medieval and invasive than scalp reduction, which involves stretching flaps of hair-bearing scalp up over the top of the skull and then sewing it all together like an old sock with a hole in the toe. The procedure was popular in the Eighties but is now mostly used to treat severe burn victims. Trump has always claimed the hair we see is his own, and with scalp reduction surgery that may in fact be true. Plausible deniability for the win!

2. “All ends are drawn up to meet in the center…

What we know: The problem with this alleged procedure was that it left that “contained island” of bare scalp, which still called for a comb-over. According to Wolff’s theory, Donald would gather up the fringe surrounding his bald spot, as if he was going to put it in a high pony.

3. …and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray.

What we know: The structural dynamics of Trump’s coif have long baffled observers, but according to a 2011 interview the president gave to Rolling Stone, he whips it into its final, frothy form with a comb, after having let it air-dry:

Do I comb it forward? No, I don’t comb it forward.” He pushes the leading edge of the flying wing of his hair back, to show where the hairline is. “I actually don’t have a bad hairline. When you think about it, it’s not bad. I mean, I get a lot of credit for comb-overs. But it’s not really a comb-over. It’s sort of a little bit forward and back. I’ve combed it the same way for years. Same thing, every time.

(It’s a comb-over.)

4. The color, she would point out to comical effect, was from a product called Just for Men — the longer it was left on, the darker it got.

What we know: The color of the presidential pompadour has been likened to everything from patriotic “amber waves of grain” to “an Aperol spritz aperitif.” According to Ivanka, though, it’s regular, old Just for Men.

5. Impatience resulted in Trump’s orange-blond hair color.

What we know: Trump? Impatient? Fake news!

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Carrie Boretz’s Street Scenes: ‘A Second of Humanity in the Midst of the Chaos’

In an age when every New Yorker has a camera in his pocket, there’s something about the captured-in-amber magic of street photography that endures. For Carrie Boretz, whose professional career kicked off in 1975 with a photo internship at the Voice, an iPhone is no substitute for film. “Shooting film is more a visceral, intuitive process and really allows you to feel more a part of the moment you just captured,” says Boretz, whose new book of photography, Street: New York City 70s, 80s, 90s (powerHouse Books), is out this fall. Boretz, who grew up in Long Island, taking day-trips into the city, learned the ropes of street photography under the tutelage of Voice staff photographer Fred McDarrah. “Fred taught me how to stand up for myself out on the streets, how to fight for every nickel and dime I was owed, how to curse and be tough when I had to beHe was the greatest teacher I could have ever had,” says Boretz. “I shot on assignments with him immediately, a portrait of Smokey Robinson the second day out, protests, marches, parades, theater — learning how to navigate, moving about with a camera. After three months, I was on my own.” In the Nineties, Boretz would go on to shoot daily street scenes for the New York Times, braving the elements to document the fleeting, everyday moments that make New York what it is: “people out and about celebrating, getting to where they have to be, living their lives.” For Boretz, a single, evanescent instant captured for eternity was always the goal: “one of those wonderful, unexpected, simple moments that just appear — a second of humanity in the midst of the chaos.”

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At Least Eight Dead After Truck Crashes Into Pedestrians In New York Terror Attack

At least eight people are reported dead and more than a dozen injured after a man in a rented pickup truck drove twenty blocks down the bike lane along the West Side Highway in downtown Manhattan. After crashing the truck, the driver reportedly exited with fake guns drawn, before being shot in the abdomen by the NYPD. According to law enforcement, the incident is being investigated as an “act of terror”; when he emerged from the truck, the driver reportedly yelled “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is Good.”

“Based on information we have at this moment, this was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at a news conference after the attack. The driver, identified by police as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, who came to the United States from Uzbekistan in 2010, is being treated at a nearby hospital for his injuries. At least fifteen people are being treated for their injuries, though that number may rise.

The scene on the west side of Lower Manhattan was chaos after the incident. Victims’ bodies and mangled bicycles littered the street, and hundreds of police and ATF, bomb squad, and counterterrorism officials were on the scene. Stuyvesant High School, which was just letting out for the day when the bloodshed unfolded around 3:15 p.m., was placed on lockdown.

The scene in lower Manhattan, after the attack

A portion of the West Side Highway stretching from Soho south toward the World Trade Center was shut down. The annual Village Halloween Parade will proceed with increased security.

“We have been tested before as a city,” said de Blasio. “New Yorkers do not give in in the face of these kinds of actions. We will respond as we always do. We will be undeterred.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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Scenes From a Bloody Weekend in Charlottesville

For Deandre Harris, the details of the attack are fuzzy. One moment, the twenty-year-old aspiring rapper and special-education worker was protesting last weekend’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The next, he was on the concrete floor of a parking garage, being pummeled by a group of white men wielding poles, wearing helmets, and carrying shields. “I just came out here to voice my opinion and stand up for what I believe in,” he said the next day, after a photo of the attack went viral. “I don’t believe in that KKK and Nazi shit, man. I’m Black Lives Matter, you know what I’m saying?”

A black man beaten by white racists for standing up for his beliefs. In the half-century since the race riots of the long hot summer of 1967 erupted across America, it seems as if not much has changed. But there are differences. In 2017, emboldened by a president they claim as their own, white supremacists no longer feel the need to hide their faces beneath hoods.

On Friday night, beneath the banner “Unite the Right,” hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen, and members of other hate groups — along with assorted garden-variety racists — began gathering in Charlottesville. Some dressed for battle (military fatigues), others for a hunting trip (trucker caps, camo) or a round of golf (President Trump’s eighteen-hole uniform of white polo, black belt, and khakis). Ostensibly, they were there to protest the city’s removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. The violence that erupted resulted in at least nineteen people being hospitalized; in two state troopers being killed in a helicopter crash; and in the death of thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer after a car barreled through a mass of counterprotesters — an incident that even son of the South Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general, has labeled an act of “domestic terrorism.” (At press time, a twenty-year-old Ohio man, James Alex Fields Jr., was being held by police on suspicion of second-degree murder.)

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Photographer Zach Roberts had come from his home in upstate New York to document the rally; on Saturday, when he spotted the group of marchers attacking Harris, he had his camera ready. “I saw Deandre run into the parking garage, and I followed him,” Roberts told the Voice. “He’d obviously already been at least hit once because he fell to the ground, and the white nationalists used poles, shields, and their feet to beat him while he was down. He wasn’t even trying to defend himself. He was just literally trying to get up so he might be able to run away.”

In the photo of Roberts’s that later went viral, five men surround Harris as he struggles to escape. The attackers’ weapons blur as the blows rain down.

“I was just fading in and out. I get up again and I try to run, and I fall back down to the ground,” Harris recalled the next day. “I keep hearing all this chaos going around me and I feel myself getting hit, so I try to get up and run but I can’t. Every time I try to get up I just lose consciousness and fall back out.”

Roberts said that the attack happened no more than twenty to thirty feet from the police station but that the authorities “were just nowhere to be found.”

Once Harris found safety in a nearby stairwell, a friend called an ambulance. A gash in his head required eight staples.His wrist had been broken, his tooth chipped, his lip busted, and he had sustained numerous cuts and bruises. “The police didn’t show up until I already got rescued by my friends,” Harris confirmed.

As of Monday, he said that no one from the city of Charlottesville or the police had contacted him about the assault. But thanks to the photo Roberts tweeted Saturday night, Harris’s attackers may yet face justice.

At 3:17 p.m. on Sunday, New York Daily News columnist Shaun King retweeted a post by Yesha Callahan of The Root in which she included the Roberts photo and linked to an interview with Harris. “We must identify these bigots right away. Every person there needs to be arrested. Deandre was brutally beaten by them,” King wrote. His more than 700,000 followers were soon on the case.

King is just one of a number of activists hoping to unmask members of the Charlottesville mob. The Yes, You’re Racist account has been seeking to identify white supremacists since 2012 and gained heightened attention when it began to ID those who had gathered on the University of Virginia campus on Friday might — among them University of Nevada, Reno, student Peter Cvjetanovic, who became the unwitting face of intolerance when a photo of him appearing to angrily shout during the Unite the Right rally went viral. (In an interview with CBS affiliate KTNV in Nevada, Cvjetanovic later described himself as a “white nationalist” who had come to Charlottesville to “preserve what we have.” “I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture,” he said. A petition has begun to circulate on change.org calling for Cvjetanovic’s expulsion from the school.) Other participants have lost their jobs or been disowned by their families after being identified. But sometimes, the amateur sleuths get it wrong: When Kyle Quinn, an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas, was mistakenly identified as a marcher, he and his wife were forced to flee their home.

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While many of these images depicted marchers who could claim to be exercising their First Amendment rights — however racist and objectionable their views might be — Roberts’s photo appeared to capture a felony assault, and the online crime fighters of Twitter rapidly mobilized to crowdsource justice for Deandre Harris. One of the men alleged to be among the attackers, Daniel Borden of Mason, Ohio, was identified on social media by those describing themselves as classmates; they said they’d made the ID thanks to a number of telltale moles on the attacker’s neck.

In the background of Roberts’s photo looms a tall older man with long gray hair and a white goatee. In fact, he turns up in many photos taken over the course of the weekend. On Sunday, King tweeted his image, writing: “We believe THIS MAN is the ring leader [sic] of the violence. We see him ordering it on video. What’s his name? ALL HANDS ON DECK. SHARE!!” Within hours, the man had been tentatively identified as Michael Tubbs, a former Green Beret who, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, served a four-year prison sentence for planning to bomb Jewish- and black-owned businesses in Florida. Today he is the chairman of the Florida state branch of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate “ethno-nationalist” organization that advocates for Southern secession.

By Monday afternoon, President Trump — whose equivocal remarks on Saturday describing the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides” drew an avalanche of criticism from those who saw them as further evidence of his attempts to appeal to, rather than repudiate, white nationalist representation among his base — bowed to the pressure by offering a more detailed statement: “Racism is evil,” Trump said, “and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

For Harris, there is some consolation in the possibility that his assailants could eventually be caught. On Monday, King announced a “$10,000 reward for identifying information that leads to the arrests of the men who assaulted Deandre Harris.” And a GoFundMe page to help with Harris’s medical expenses stopped accepting donations after raising over $100,000 in less than 24 hours. But the scars, both physical and emotional, will linger.

“I don’t even know if I’m safe in this town anymore,” Harris said. “My face is all over the internet. What if some KKK people that live in the town see me walking around in the mall or something and attack me there? I could have lost my life yesterday.”

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MUSIC ARCHIVES

In New Statement, PWR BTTM Contest Allegations Of Sexual Assault

Last week, the Village Voice published a profile of the queer punk duo PWR BTTM. In the following days, allegations of sexual assault were leveled at guitarist and singer Ben Hopkins on Facebook, and in an interview with an anonymous accuser on Jezebel. PWR BTTM were dropped from their label, a summer tour was canceled, and the band’s music was removed from streaming services. The response from the band’s fan base was swift and severe, and the incident sparked conversations about accountability, community, and restorative justice. Today, the band issued the following statement:

From Ben:

What has transpired over the past several days has been emotionally overwhelming and difficult to comprehend. Last Thursday, I learned that an anonymous individual had made an allegation of sexual assault against me. This allegation was devastating to me as it is contrary to the intentional way I seek to interact with those around me. As I digested the allegations, I tried to figure out who the individual might be so that I could try to reconcile what I had read with my memory of any particular sexual interaction. I’ve waited to respond to the Jezebel article because the statements made about me by the anonymous source did not line up with any sexual experience I have ever had.

Over the past several days, I was able to figure out who the individual was based on what I was reading and my subsequent conversations with Liv. I am not going to breach the anonymity of the person interviewed in the Jezebel article, but given the serious nature of what was published and its impact, I have to unpack the claims and provide perspective on the details within. We met the night before a show in March of 2016 and spent most of the following day together. After the show, she invited me back to her house and we eventually engaged in sex. Based on the nature of our communications and our interactions with one another, I understood our interactions to be fully consensual. We stayed in touch over the course of several weeks by exchanging texts and pictures. Later, she asked if she could stay with me at my home, where we had sex several more times over the course of those days. Again, I understood these interactions to be fully consensual, especially since our ongoing communications continued to be mutual, positive, and reciprocal in nature. We did not see each other much after that but when we did it was entirely pleasant and we continued to exchange texts, including as recently as March of this year. I had no indication before last week that she had any concerns about our interaction.

Last week I learned that, in February of this year, this person had expressed concerns to others about what had transpired between us. I fully embrace and respect this individual’s right to speak out in any manner or forum they choose, including in a Facebook post or anonymously to a Jezebel reporter. It does not diminish that person’s experience or perception. After the initial shock of learning about her concerns, I have tried to understand her experience of our interactions. It would be antithetical to my values to attack, blame, or shame someone who is using the power of callout culture to name their experience and hold others accountable, even when — or especially if — the individual they seek to hold accountable is me. I fully appreciate that someone’s views about the dynamics of intimate interactions can change and are not always apparent in the moment. While I am open to understanding this person’s perspective, I strongly contest the account put forth in Jezebel. I am firmly committed to consent, to communication, and to mutual expression of sexual interest. The accusations in Jezebel directly conflict with my experience, as it is not my practice to engage in sexual contact without protection, without discussing the issue with my partner, or to engage in the other conduct alleged in the Jezebel article. That being said, in keeping with my commitment to my principles, I believe it is my responsibility to be accountable to this individual’s perspective and to honor it accordingly.

One more thing. I have seen posts about people raising concerns about having their boundaries crossed when I have greeted our fans after our shows, something Liv and I do after every performance, taking selfies and thanking folks for coming. This is, again, incredibly shocking news to me, as the safety and well-being of PWR BTTM fans is the most paramount concern I have as a member of this band on and off stage. If my physical contact has made anyone feel uncomfortable, I sincerely apologize and will work hard to have an increased awareness of boundaries moving forward consistent with our commitment to our fans.

From Liv:

In February, I made contact with the anonymous individual interviewed by Jezebel, someone I knew casually, after hearing that she had made inflammatory accusations about Ben in a private online forum. My intent in reaching out was to learn more and to make myself available in the event that I could be of any help. Our conversation was friendly, but it ended without a plan for any specific next steps. Based upon our discussion, my understanding was that she did not want me to share her identity with Ben unless I had her explicit permission to do so, and I assured her that I would not do so.

After our conversation, I wanted to discuss with Ben the issues she had raised but I quickly realized that doing so would inevitably reveal her identity. I did not know how to proceed nor did I know where to seek advice about how to move forward.

After Ben ascertained the individual’s identity on Friday I decided that my withholding information was no longer protecting her privacy and I told Ben about the conversation she and I had.

From PWR BTTM:

As some of you know, we set up a separate email address back in mid-May so that anyone with information relevant to the situation that was then unfolding could privately share what they knew. At the time we thought it was the right thing to do. We now see that we were putting the onus on others to do something that only works if it is what they want. We have concluded that there is no viable way to do what we were trying to accomplish, with the result that we are going to shut that email address down (we have not and will not look at any emails that may have been sent there to date).

Finally, to our fans, our friends, our family, and those who have supported us unfailingly and who continue to support us unfailingly: Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Having enjoyed the enthusiastic support of so many incredible people throughout our music careers has been a blessing. We love playing music, we love sharing music with others, and we want nothing more than to be back performing together soon.

Categories
ART ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES

Sixteen Artists Take “Pledges Of Allegiance”

In the 240 years since it was officially adopted, the American flag has served artists well. Jasper Johns rendered it all in white. Claes Oldenburg reimagined it as driftwood. Keith Haring turned it into a dance party, while Barbara Kruger turned it into a statement, literally. The flag, in other words, is a remarkably adaptable medium. So when the public art foundation Creative Time wanted to make a statement, they raised a flag. Sixteen of them, actually, designed by artists including Yoko Ono, Robert Longo, and Marilyn Minter.

“We wanted to give artists a chance to create, from scratch, flags that rewrite history from each artist’s perspective,” says Katie Hollander, Creative Time’s executive director. “It’s a chance to call attention around an issue they are passionate about. While some flags have dark themes, there’s hope here too: They want us to recognize these issues as ours collectively.” Starting June 14 (Flag Day), the Pledges of Allegiance initiative will go into effect, with the flags appearing around New York. Creative Time has also teamed with Opening Ceremony for a line of T-shirts featuring the designs. Several, including Josephine Meckseper’s, shown here, riff on Old Glory herself.

“I think each artist saw these flags as a very serious opportunity to symbolically relay what’s important to them,” says Hollander, who points to Ahmet Ögüt’s as a particular favorite. “It’s in black-and-white, and says, ‘If you’d like to see this flag in colors, burn it.’ Ahmet is asking us plainly to question this reverence, or to at least know what a flag stands for, and why we’re protecting it. It’s a sharp critique. And a welcome one.”