Ryan Adams, Fandom, and Tolerating Bad Behavior

Christopher Bradley

Christopher is a lawyer from NEPA, aka, Pennsultucky, He is an avid baseball fan, audiophile, and dog owner. He spends the majority of his free time with his wife and daughters, reading, listening to music, watching baseball (except the Yankees) and writing. If you wish to send him a positive missive, any errata concerning albums, or requests regarding albums: saturdayspins32 at gmail dot com

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41 Responses

  1. Aaron David says:

    How many times have artists not come to a final agreement with a potential management group? Far too many times too count, and that is, without further information, Occam’s Razor; the simplest explanation.

    Was/is Adams a guy who likes sex, is a mercurial artist, and is known for popping off about anything that comes across his head? Yes. Without more information, what we have are accusations. Nothing more, but nothing less. Something to take into account certainly, but nothing to go further with. If we go down the mistaken path of regarding such a thing as a fact, when we don’t actually have any to go from, then we are doing a great disservice to both men and women.

    Cancel culture exists, as opposed to simply not purchasing or listening, because some people want aspects of life to simply not be. We don’t want bad thoughts to be out there, bad deeds to exist, bad words to be heard. So, canceling. And if you liked something once but is troubling now, it is easy in a childish way to wish it never happened. But in the big, bad, scary world that is supposedly banished, all those thoughts and words and deeds still exist, finding new converts.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Aaron David says:

      Without more information, what we have are accusations.

      No, we have actual texts, which conclusively reveal that Adams believed the girl he was sexting with was under 18, texts which Adams himself hasn’t denied. That’s a lot more than an accusation. That’s evidence.Report

      • Do we though? Because Coscarelli didn’t and hasn’t shown his work. He hasn’t followed up either. No charges have been brought, I am wondering if the minor is an inconsistent witness or there are more to the texts than was originally reported. Either way, they are still just allegations. My overall assertion here is, should a fan tolerate these kinds of unproven allegations?Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Christopher Bradley says:

          Well, on the fan side of it, I’ve got about 20 Ryan Adams albums. I see him almost every time he comes through town.

          On the allegation side of it I’m split. The underage sexting thing is serious; the “Ryan manipulated me to the detriment of my career” thing less so. Re: the second, after reading the initial story (expose?) my first reaction to the various female artists complaints was that casting his behavior in the light of #Metoo put the motivations of those women made in the shadows. They wanted something from Ryan, something he promised but failed to deliver. Both parties seemed to be using each other, though admittedly Ryan’s behavior appeared to be (uhhh, struggling to find a word here … ) less than laudable.

          But what should fans do about these allegations? “Should” they “tolerate” them? I don’t mean to diminish what you apparently believe is a complex issue here, but it’s pretty straightforward to me: fans who can tolerate those allegations will keep enjoying his music, and fans who can’t tolerate them won’t. On an individual level, there is no should except in the context of an ideology. “Well, what ideology *should* I adopt then?” Ahh, yes. Exactly. It reminds me of a Sean Penn line from Hurly Burly (I think): “I just don’t know how to FEEL about this.”Report

  2. atomickristin says:

    I enjoyed this article even though I disagree with parts of it (man woman disconnect). Well written and well argued. Thanks for writing.Report

  3. Rufus F. says:

    I’m reading Ronan Farrow’s book Catch and Kill at the moment and it seems like the question of how the fans react is of less importance than how the people around them react. The fans have imperfect knowledge in the best of situations.Report

  4. LeeEsq says:

    I think the stance, and it might have merit, is that we need to take a hard stance against high profile people who engage in sexual harassment and assault in order to really stamp it out. So if your favorite artist has engaged or is even rumored to have engaged in bad behavior, you need to stop listening to them, watching them, or reading their books in order to make this firm stance possible. Hit them where it hurts. Now, defining what bad behavior is might not be immediate obvious when you aren’t dealign with a clear cut case of sexual assault or sexual harassment though. That’s where the problem lies.Report

  5. Hulu is now showing Louis Ck’s self-produced TV series Horace and Pete (One season from 2016). AFAIK, this is the first time it’s been available other than from CK’s web site. It’s very dark and, to the extent it has politics, it’s anti-patriarchy. CK himself aside, it’s well worth watching, but it’s odd to me that Hulu put him aside.Report

  6. Fiona says:

    Thank you for a well written article. I agree with much of what you’ve said.Report

  7. Delaney says:

    I think your article is excellent. I am a Ryan Adam’s fan and have been so since the first Whiskeytown album. I feel the NYT’s article was biased and presented a backlash from his former wife, girlfriends, and wannabe singers. The accusations about his knowing the girl he texted with was underage was never substantiated. And was there really ever a FBI investigation or did the writer of the NY Times article throw that in? I think the article was poorly done and caused unnecessary harm to Mr. Adams. It also totally disrupted and possibly ruined an excellent career. That is not what journalists should do and the NY Times journalist has never faced any consequences. Many fans were very brutal and unforgiving toward Ryan. Innocent until proven guilty and he was never proven guilty. I hope someone supports him in future musical endeavors because the world has certainly lost an outstanding musician. Thank you for a thoughtful and well-written piece.Report

  8. Sonny says:

    To the dilemma of how much toleration do we give bad behavior by artists: Hasn’t American pop culture been tolerating bad behavior since the beginning of rocknroll? How much deviant behavior by rock gods and rap stars has been overlooked solely because of commercial success? I don’t want to minimize what victims go through. I certainly don’t condone mistreatment of women. But I certainly don’t choose the music I love based on the moral code of the artist whom I don’t know personally. Yes, it sucks when hear allegations or even facts about the artists we love. But maybe we shouldn’t have fallen in love in the first place with someone we don’t know.
    I guess if you’re someone who can’t separate the artist from the art, I get it. But fyi, there’s a lot of paintings you can’t look at, a lot of books you can’t read, a lot of movies you can’t watch, and a lot music you can’t listen to if you only accept art from role modelsReport

    • LeeEsq in reply to Sonny says:

      Humans have been tolerating bad behavior in artists for a lot longer than rock existed. It probably goes back all the way to the Renaissance if not earlier. There is a school of thought that believes that bad behavior is something like a tax society needs to accept because artists can’t be conventional people ruled by conventional morality. The art world likes to advance this model a lot.Report

      • CJColucci in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I think a lot depends on the type of “bad behavior” involved. Mick Jagger, for example, does (did?) not have a sex life one would set up as worthy of emulation (envy is another matter), but as far as I know — and I haven’t followed closely — my general impression is that Mick Jagger f****d a lot of women, mostly adults, who wanted to f**k Mick Jagger. We tolerate, maybe even expect, that sort of thing. If it comes out that he knowingly took advantage of underage groupies, or used muscle power rather than star power to get laid, we’d think differently.Report

  9. LTL FTC says:

    I also thought the original NYT piece was very thin re: his supposed manipulation of young women interested in breaking into music. There is a more recent parallel in the American Dirt controversy, and it featured a pile-on fueled largely by Latino writers who thought they owned any story about Mexicans, thus the author’s seven-figure advance was in some ways stolen.

    Like solar and wind, we have an inexhaustible, renewable supply of artists who think they should be more successful than they are.Report

  10. Saul Degraw says:

    Maybe the problem is having idols in general? Humans are humans no matter what they achieve or what they do not achieve. And all humans are capable of a wide-range of behaviors including not great to very bad stuff. The issue with popular music broadly is that a lot of it is still about the appeal of not giving a fuck, being a rebel, and anti-authoritarian regardless of the genre. This has been more or less true since the 1950s. Maybe before. Maybe way before.

    In a similar but not as bad vein, Chrissy Hynde broke the hearts of a bunch of fans last week for saying nice things about bloated bigot Rush Limbaugh: https://www.laweekly.com/chrissie-hyndes-praise-for-limbaugh-puts-her-in-morrisseys-shitty-league/

    Now I like a lot of Pretenders songs but Chrissy Hynde was never a role model to me but it is clear that the author of this article got a great deal personally out of Chrissy Hynde’s bad ass/I don’t give a fuck performances and is heart broken to see that such an attitude lead Chrissy Hynde to a different place than it lead the author politically.Report

  11. Oscar Gordon says:

    Regarding the FBI, a quick Google shows a lot of media reports linking to each other regarding the FBI investigation, but nothing official on FBI.gov.

    So this may be a case of some FBI agent telling the journalist that they would “take a look into it”, and maybe they did look at some things, or make a few calls, but that was about it.Report

  12. Chip Daniels says:

    I’ve mentioned this before, that we as a society don’t have a structure for confession, penance, and reconciliation. There isn’t some sort of path for people to acknowledge wrongdoing, make amends, then work towards earning trust and fellowship among the wider society.

    A sort of accepted ritual for restorative justice would , in its ideal form, blunt the tendency towards mob vigilante justice and also give victims the sense that their voices had been heard.

    I don’t have a handy suggestion for how to create this, because it would require trusted institutions to administer. And our very institutions like churches are now suffering their own crises of trust.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      It’s one of the reasons I have a hard time taking a lot of SJ activists seriously, they can’t agree on some kind of criteria for atonement, and even if they did have one, I wouldn’t trust them stick to it.Report

      • veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        What would that look like, though? And who decides? Would it be a checklist?

        Can others forgive on my behalf? Can I forgive on the behalf of others?

        If someone is a terrible racist, can I (a white person) forgive them? If someone is a serial sexual abuser, what role do men have in saying that is was really okay?

        People have been getting away with awful sexist and bigoted behavior for ages. In many cases, they still get away with it, because women and minorities tend to have less social power. This remains true, even in the age of #metoo. Nevertheless, people still are very concerned about the potential harm to white men, but evidently less concerned with how women and minorities continue to be hurt.

        Yes, forgiveness should be possible. But how does that work, in a way that won’t give license to continued abuse?Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to veronica d says:

          Its worth noting that even in the most tightly structured and homogenous societies, lets say feudal Europe or Japan, the rituals for assigning honor or shame and the mechanisms for penance and rehabilitation were pretty spotty and enforced rather arbitrarily. And that half the Old Testament seems to be angry prophets denouncing the Hebrews for complying with the letter of the law but hating the heart of it.

          So I’m probably naive to imagine a new form of etiquette and social structure which could properly sort out human behavior in anything but the loosest definition of justice.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            That’s the thing though, justice is imperfect precisely because it varies from person to person, and if we want any kind of justice, we have to be able to accept imperfect justice.

            We can strive for something better than we have now, but after each iteration, we have to be willing to accept that it still won’t be perfect. And there are a lot of people who just can’t seem to accept that.Report

            • veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Sure, but that cuts both ways. “Imperfect justice” might include white men being “canceled” even though they did nothing wrong.

              That’s acceptable, right? After all, we cannot have perfect justice.

              I’m being sarcastic, of course. But still, I hope you see my point. We cannot have perfect justice, but the deck is stacked against women and minorities, and indeed it is. So if that’s the case — well it sure is convenient how “principles” just accidentally align themselves with the powerful at the cost of the less powerful.

              Funny how things work out.

              I’ll ask this: from a libertarian perspective, what is “canceling”? How is it different from free individuals speaking up against injustice, and in turn acting on those beliefs? If we discover some artist is a sexist goon, does your libertarian philosophy allow us to call them out on it, to stop buying their art, etcetera?

              I think so.

              How can they seek forgiveness?

              Well, to start with, they should seek it. There is no “sjw committee.” Each person decides on their own.

              How is it supposed to work?Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                Here’s the thing: Libertarians aren’t upset by people being “cancelled”. They’re upset when they’re told that certain people shouldn’t be cancelled even though they’re doing the things that get other people cancelled. They’re upset when they point out the things that someone is doing and are told that it’s complicated, that there’s a history, that they have to understand, that it’s punching up and not punching down, that it’s important to foreground minority voices.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

                Libertarians are fine with a person choosing to boycott a public figure because of bad behavior. Think Adams is a shitlord and want nothing to do with him, good on you.

                Libertarians are fine you a person telling other people that Adams is a shitlord, and here’s why, you should join my boycott.

                But that isn’t cancel culture. Cancel culture is doxxing Adams, and his agents, and his label execs, and encouraging the mob to go after anyone and everyone who in anyway has a relationship with Adams in order to make him a complete social pariah.

                Cancel culture is not about individuals deciding that Adams will no longer benefit from their attention. Cancel culture is about making sure Adams can not benefit from anyone’s attention. It’s about not just choosing to not listen to Adams, or even simply protesting outside of his events, but actively engaging in behavior to silence Adams and ensure that he CAN NOT be heard. Cancel culture is about leveraging the power of the mob (and/or the legal/emergency systems*) to strip away the choice other people have with regard to whether or not they want to have a relationship with Adams (even if only as a listener).

                It’s forcing their opinions and judgement regarding Adams onto others as much as possible, and then pretending that they are just engaging in a boycott.

                This libertarian has no issue with calling for a boycott, or protesting in order to raise awareness for your boycott. But there is a line between convincing others, and applying leverage against others.

                *e,g, Filing false restraining orders or police reports (because police very rarely bring charges for doing so), or calling in threats.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yeah. One of the things I noted back in the days of the All-American Muslim boycott is that there are two kinds of boycotts and one is a-ok and one is kinda weird and creepy.

                “Stop having policy X or I will refuse to purchase your product!” is 100% fine with me. I will refuse to Brand-X Sandwiches until they recognize the union!

                “Brand-X sandwiches purchased advertising on All-American Muslim and I am going to call them and tell them that I’m going to boycott their stores until they stop advertising on that show!” strikes me as weird and creepy.

                The latter one will create weird incentives and, eventually, corporate antibodies that we’re going to wish that they didn’t have.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

                Telling an advertiser that you object to their financial support of X is still on this side of the boycott/cancel line, if only just.

                Start doxxing the execs at Brand-X, or going after the local store that carries Brand-X, or accosting people who buy Brand-X…Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Part of the issue is that very, very few corporations-that-you-have-heard-of buy advertising on 3rd-tier reality shows. They buy a humungous bloc of advertising and the same Brand X commercial plays on CNN that plays on WWE RAW that plays on Hallmark’s Murder for Christmas Tuesday night movie.

                So finding out that this commercial ran on All-American Muslim, wouldn’t surprise me… but Brand X sandwiches getting boycotted for financial support of All-American Muslim would come as a surprise to Brand X sandwiches.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

                PS Yes, I know the system is stacked against women and minorities, but mob justice is not justice, it’s just the mob.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                mob justice is not justice, it’s just the mob.

                I don’t think that can be right, can it? A mob is just a collection of people. Does being a member of a like minded group make the demand for justice somehow illegitimate? Eg., I was a member of a mob who thought the executives responsible for the ’07 economic collapse/bailout should go to jail. I still think they should have.

                IOW, the problem with what you’re calling ‘mob justice’ isn’t the mob, but that in your view what they demand isn’t justice.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                There is a difference in demanding justice, and deciding that you will get a measure of justice, system be damned.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Sure there is. But noting that distinction doesn’t inform either part of your critique of mob justice: the mob part or the justice part.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Let me put it this way. When faced with injustice, you have two choices:

                1) Engage the justice system, such as it is, warts and all, and hope you get some measure of justice from it.

                2) Decide you are going to get justice on your own terms.

                The mob calling for responsible parties to be held to account is a mob that is engaging the system as it is.

                The mob that decides to start doxxing people and harassing them and what not is trying to get their own brand of justice.

                And, of course, the problem with the mob getting their own brand of justice is that it’s not a stretch to the more violent forms of individual justice. And thanks to our overzealous LE agents, you can even get the state to perform your violence for you, as long as you are willing to stretch the truth a bit.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I’m not sure if you can have a structure for confession, penance, and reconciliation in a diverse society with tens or hundreds of millions of people. It assumes general agreement over what needs to be confessed to and what is fine, acceptable behavior, what is appropriate penance, and what reconciliation should look like. When ever we have a conversation about sexual harassment, we always end up in an enormous fight over what is and what is not sexual harassment. Should it be broadly or narrowly defined? Does context matter or does it not matter? Things get progressively more complicated from there.Report

    • Aaron David in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      That might be due to not having a universally accepted idea of what a proper atonement for any given offense is. It is hard to move on to an reconciliation phase when you haven’t moved past the punishment phase.

      I generally think this is due to not having a universal set of proscribed politics. As we are bifurcated in that way as a country, much energy is spent trying to convince people that your moral institutions and leaders are the correct ones. Until there is a concordance in this, it is going to cause problems.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      The Pharisees were the original Social Justice Warriors, and the Apostles the original Chapo Trap House.Report

    • Jesse in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      If close to half the population basically believed everything short of shooting somebody in full view of dozens of witnesses while screaming, “I want to kill this person for x reason,” wasn’t really murder, we’d probably have issues when it comes to things like punishing murder and we’d have disparate consequences for that in society as well.

      Which is basically the position we have with racism and sexism, where anything short of burning a cross and/or raping somebody in public is seen as “identity politics.”Report

  13. Betty Crocker says:

    Thank you for writing the article I’ve wanted to write for the last several month. It’s my belief that Moore had an axe to grind, her gal pals followed along, and the NYT reports bit hook line and sinker on a story served up by a current TV star. Fame, salacious behavior, and #metoo. From a semi-ethical journalist’s perspective, what’s not to love? Are there so elements of truth in this hit piece? Probably. But being a jerk to your spouse and recreational sex are no reasons for “cancellation.” I have in the past and will into the future continue to stand with Adams, not only because I love his music but because he’s a human being who was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion with little evidence to support the case against him. Frighteningly, it can happen to anyone.Report

  14. Jaybird says:

    A cancel culture comic making the rounds.

    I just want to pre-emptively make the point that I’m not posting this because I agree with it, but because I think it’s awful and we need to keep our eyes open for this kind of well-poisoning.


  15. Shudhanshu Shekhar Mishra says:

    Man, im not reading even a word of these comments. I have stopped doing that since 2019. But you should have disabled comments. That’s a brave move from your side (and very democratic too) but sometimes its just better to stay away from negativity.

    Regarding the text, i can add 1000 (and im not joking) more sentences to add to this post to justify that Ryan is nothing more than a jerk/asshole but donkeys won’t understand letters and in this case, they are further blindfolded. I know, i’m getting a lot of replies and abuses just like you got but i’ve got something for those who said bad to you – 🖕 and for those who said bad to me – I don’t care.Report

  1. December 30, 2020

    […] discussed my feelings on fandom and separating the art from the artist earlier this year on this here website. In that piece , I expressed hope he would be cleared of the more serious allegations and that he […]Report