A stalker once told me, as though it validated his abhorrent behavior, “You can pick your nose, and you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your friends’ friends.” Admittedly, that’s partly true.
I mean, you’re welcome to pick your nose, if you’d like to be ostracized from society and make everyone sick at the same time. You can pick your friends, provided they’re in the same socio-economic class as you are, and they don’t consort with a better version of your identity. And you can’t pick your friends’ friends, who, for all you know, could be royalty, or morally repugnant wasted orgasms.
If you create art and/or entertainment, you don’t get to pick and choose who likes it.
Let’s paint a picture, and say you wrote a best-selling book. You’re seated at a signing table with a line of fans waiting for autographed copies. You feel giddy after the first fifty signatures, and the glowing faces just keep coming. Then:
Time seems to slow down as the next fan greets your gaze. He looks like a typical punker; leather jacket, gauged ears, half-shaved scalp. He tells you he loves your work, and as he leans in closer, you see what looks like a tattoo of a swastika, just above the collarbone.
What is your reaction?
“Thank you very much! [signs book] I appreciate it! [hands book to fan] NEXT!”
The relationship of fan to creator is not legally binding. It’s based in the awareness and appreciation of a created work. Unless a fan has crossed the line, and made intimations that they intend to menace or mutilate you, there is no reason to know anything about them. They are they. Them.
There’s a moment in The Who’s Tommy (“We’re Not Gonna Take It”) where the titular new messiah and pinball wizard turns on his worshipers. Tommy upbraids everyone in the audience, from stoners to normies:
Hey you gettin’ drunk-
I got you sussed!
Hey you smokin’ Mother Nature!
This is a bust!
Hey old hung-up, Mr. Normal,
Don’t try to gain my trust.
The chorus mounts as Tommy’s followers revolt and tell him to go fuck himself. And rightly so; who the fuck is he, anyway? Tommy’s mother was getting plowed by Oliver Reed, and his dad returned after being presumed dead in WWI. Old Oliver killed Captain Walker, in full view of young Tommy. Mom and Ollie proceeded to scream at Tommy that NOTHING HAPPENED, until the tyke went “deaf, dumb and blind” as a result.
Tommy’s mom and new stepdad tried everything to reverse the damage; a proper doctor, a disturbed and violent cousin as a babysitter, a molesting uncle, and even Tina Turner on LSD. The only thing that works is pinball, yesteryear’s Pokemon. Tommy Walker becomes a hippie messiah once his mysterious aptitude with the silver ball begins to captivate a populace that craves spirituality and inspiration. I mean shit, it was this, or Godspell.
Once Tommy gets his senses back, he insists that his devotees wear blinders, earplugs and corks, and play pinball in full deprivation as he did while horrifically traumatized. He says, in essence, “Fuck whatever inspired you about me. Time to become me! To truly worship me!” The dude’s creepy uncle set up a camp, for crying out loud! How else did anyone expect things to work out?!
The core message here is, if someone is a fan of yours, respect the balance of the relationship. A real fan doesn’t want to be singled out and identified. A real fan wants to be part of the audience. A group of people is called an audience when there’s too many to individually focus on, and their focus is on something singular and outside of themselves. People within an audience can be people, the true plural form. They are a part of an informal shared mind.
Think of a traditional family unit; mother, father, son, daughter, baby. A strong family thinks as a shared mind. There is an ambassador within the family who deals with outside stimulus, such as entertainment and Internet. If the parents know less about these things than the children, then a child becomes the ambassador, with the lack of experience that this entails. If the parents know more, one or both of them controls the media of the household. If no one in the family is wise about social media and entertainment, the family implodes. Natural familial divisions morph into horrific estrangements. Family members tune out on their technological crutch of choice, until the next trauma emerges, or a better enabler enters the environment.
An audience is a group of people unified in the admiration of a particular creative endeavor; a play, movie, live show, or even a website. Generally these people have paid a fee to attend or belong. That means as a creator, you don’t get to tell them shit. They showed up. Their sexual proclivities and political affiliations are of no importance, unless they run afoul of the law, which is still not your business. A creator who spotlights members of their audience who might be criminals is a narc. A snitch.
Do I have any fans who call themselves “white nationalists”? No idea. Not my business. Do I have any “Nazi” fans? No idea. Not my business. It’s not my business to do anything but point out that “white nationalist” is a convenient way for network executives to cancel shows and blacklist people in the mainstream media. You could connect via Twitter to someone who calls themselves a “white nationalist”, and lose your job. End your career.
That’s exactly the same as calling a white guy with a shaved head a “Nazi”. Nazis are universally known as bad; in the past, they often shaved their heads. Ergo, a white man with a shaved head must be a Nazi. Meanwhile, Michael Jordan could sport a literal Hitler mustache, in an advertisement, and no one dared point a finger. The mental flip-flops required to explain it would give Einstein an aneurysm.*
(*Einstein; easily recognizable by a broad range of people as a symbol of “genius”. See what I did there?)
The truth is that people have allowed themselves to be conditioned by symbols. When you do this, you instantly and willfully dehumanize someone. Oh, that person has a Hitler mustache; they must be an unrepentant Nazi. That person has tattoos with symbols that are socially disputed and often incendiary; Nazi. That person is carrying a book I hate. They must be evil.
And evil is wholly up to your own personal interpretation. If you’re an impressionable child, it’s pretty fucking powerful. It has power over your entire existence, until it can be rationalized and overcome.
Your real enemies are using this exploit to control you. They create an “evil” to frighten you, and little by little, you fall under their control as you strive for security. They create mobs and push them into each other to scare you with riots and destruction. They tell you that your strengths are actually weaknesses. They empower the “They”.
You have been programmed that “They” can only be destructive, that people coming together in harmony is for corny old churchgoers. You see it every day. Mobs run amok by pop zealotry and corporate war games. You witness people bickering over which mob is terrorism, and which is civil protest. You see all this on television or Internet, just like you’re supposed to. Eventually you become destructive. You become “Them”. Just like they want you to.
This is why, as a creator, you never concern yourself with your fans. You create. That is the extent of your obligation. You don’t mine for buddies and ersatz soul mates. You don’t turn double agent and rat out the “bad apples”. You create, while everyone else runs around in hysterics. If people like what you’ve made, be grateful for the experience. It’s as eternal as your ability to create output that your fans enjoy. You’re still the boss. They didn’t change your style with their opinions (at least, not if you’re a worthwhile creator). They’re not your slaves, or your personal army. They are people with whom you share a unique and precious bond. Your fans.
If you’re gonna judge ’em, you’re gonna lose ’em. Guaranteed.