Dear Ritzy, Rhydian and Matthew,

One would imagine that, 16 years into the 21st century and over two decades since it was popularised, artists such as yourself would understand the way in which the internet works. Apparently, judging by your recent readiness to throw a perceived critic to the wolves, this is not the case.

Recently a young journalist over at Artrocker gave you a review of your latest album, Hitch. While this is nothing out of the ordinary, the mixed nature of this opinion — which, as with all opinions, is subjective and valid — seemed to rub you the wrong way. You responded in a fashion that, with all due respect, came across as hot-headed and petty.

The reasons why you did this are perfectly valid. You perceived the review as a slight against your work and felt that no writer should have the liberty to critique without being subject to the repercussions. After all, freedom of speech does not defend against the consequences of what is said.

Unfortunately, your response was ill-calculated. What you may have intended as a mocking post was quickly taken to by your fans as a call to arms, who proceeded to abuse both the publication and the writer. You later reiterated your position, neglecting to address the fundamental issue of your own actions: it has led to the victimisation of a young writer still finding her voice.

This is no defense of whether or not the writer is “too young to be accountable for what she writes” as you put it but, rather, that you should be old enough to be held accountable for what you write. Regardless of the age of the writer, opening them up to the abuse of your fanbase — who, like all fans, will leap to your unrequested defense — is wrong. You should know better than to highlight this in such a way in front of an audience of over 100,000 people.

Interestingly, a similarly less-than-positive review from Pitchfork elicited a much different response from you. Is this because Pitchfork is a more reputable publication, therefore with writers less susceptible to cyberbullying behaviour than a fledgling outlet? This does not come across very well for you. Are new music writers, and new music publications such as Artrocker, supposed to live in fear of dishing out honest and negative reviews for fear of artists summoning their fans to dismantle them?

It’s particularly troubling that a band, who appear to be very aware of social issues, would indulge in petty cyberbullying, which is becoming an increasing problem among young generations. Yet, what is even more concerning is that you acknowledge little responsibility for your own actions, choosing instead to call double standards and lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of the publication for inferring your tone incorrectly. In case you hadn’t noticed, tonality is a hard thing to ascertain from emotionless text. It does not come across well, risking turning the most playful of mockings into vindictive behaviour. In the very least you must accept that part of the blame.

Though maybe that is exactly what this behaviour is: vindictive to those who ‘wronged’ your album. After all, a writer not specifically stating that an instrument is a flute is not, as your second post implied, “humiliating” you. Yet you chose to focus on that particular sentence, humiliating her in the process.

Ultimately an open letter will not change your views or your behaviour. I’m not expecting a grand epiphany or an apology to the individual. But perhaps you will be able to see the error of your conduct — not necessarily your point, but the way it was delivered. Instead of publicly inciting ridicule against a critic, perhaps respond in a calm and mature manner. Settle it privately. Request that your PR representative(s) stop sending press copies of releases to that publication. Failing that, you could always respond in a marginally less immature fashion as you did with Pitchfork‘s review.

As an established band, that at a push may be considered a public figure, it is your duty to be responsible in your actions and not ringlead online torment such as this. In an increasingly cynical and miserable world, your fans — one of whom you deeply demoralised with your attack — look to you to be better than this.

Love,
A music journalist

By Tom Roden

Prolific writer, full-time insomniac and caffeine-blooded workaholic. Music deputy editor and quality control officer for VultureHound.