On Sunday a comment appeared on our piece "Then We Could Stop" which is, in and of itself, a comment on a request for Article19 to change the way we do things around here.
"If you were good writers then the acrid sarcasm and bitchiness might be excusable. There is plenty of space for a cynical voice, but you don't even seem to give thorough well researched information about the things you sling mud-in-the-form-of-bad-writing. In this piece you act like you are champions of the underdog but you've been known to say petty and nasty things about journalists praising those underdog companies and performers. The content on this site is a bit thin and shoddy to endure your taking this manifesto-like high road."
As comments go it's nothing new. We don't like you, you suck, blah blah blah. All written by an individual with the courage to throw some online punches but not leave a name.
Now, we don't mind that the commenter is anonymous, we allow that because sometimes it's important.
The problem with a comment like that though is the argument is not framed with any context. No specifics are given, no mention of the fact free mud-slinging the commenter alleges we are a engaged in or anything else for that matter. We asked for specifics in our response but, as we expected, none came.
You can remain anonymous whilst still giving some details about who you are and what you do and we could frame our response more easily if we knew where the commenter was coming from. It would certainly be easier to frame a response given some specific examples to defend. That's how a discussion works.
We get the feeling the person is a writer, and we have some idea which writer, but it's all speculation on our part.
The Wider Problem
If nothing else that particular comment illustrates a maddening issue with so many discussions in dance and culture in general. Far too much of it is specifically unspecific.
Arts Council England's "State of the Arts" conference, which was a stripped down affair this year, is/was famous for it. Lots of wooly discussion about anything other than real issues or specific problems facing the arts.
How many times have you, our dear readers, attended some conference or seminar only to find your very life essence being sucked out of your body by the whole sorry affair as somebody on the stage waffled on about "parallel marketing strategies"?
As for dance journalists, the ones "praising the underdog"? Well, the vast majority of their published work is reviews. Those writers might blame their editors for not allowing a broader range of writing to appear in the newspapers (online or otherwise) but there are plenty of avenues for them to express themselves away from the constraints of the narrow minded editorial decisions of the broad-sheets.
If those writers feel so terribly constrained by the iron fist of their bosses then what the hell, you can have a blog right here on Article19. As long as we know who you are you can even write under a pseudonym if you wish. Come hither and let loose your pointed insight into the wacky world of dance that has, for so long, been tempered by the mighty sword of your editors.
None will come of course. It's easier to say you're a rebel than to actually be one.
Article19 exists for many reasons but one of the most important is to provoke people. Jabbing folk with sticks would be more fun but we prefer to use facts (as presented in our piece about the National Funding Scheme for example) to prod people with because facts are often more difficult to fend off.
The very fact that Mr/Ms anonymous up there posted that comment means we must be doing something right. We got under that person's skin, rattled their cage and other metaphors we can't remember right now.
We want people to talk about real issues that actually exist and have a debate about those issues. You don't need to like us or how we do things, you just need to have a coherent point of view.
Also, if all you can muster is the type of comment we've highlighted above then you're not having a enough fun in show business, and for that, you have our sympathy.