As a young man, it was easy to fall for Adams' me-against-the-world act. But we should all be vigilant about how art can conceal abuseby Caspar Salmon / February 15, 2019 / Leave a comment
This week has brought a fresh round of revelations of abusive behaviour by men, like an overspilling bucket drawn from a bottomless well. From the French media figures who participated in the self-described “Ligue du LOL,” a Facebook group dedicated to the sport of online harassment, to the article in the New York Times about Ryan Adams’ alleged coercive and controlling behaviour towards a child and several exes, these new stories are helping to extend and modulate our understanding of abuse.
I listened to Ryan Adams’ music endlessly when I was at university. “Oh My Sweet Carolina” evokes memories of writing essays at 3 a.m. in my bedroom. “Houses on the Hill” can move me to tears; “Goodnight Hollywood Blvd” is still a staple in my shower-singing repertoire.
I say this not to mourn the artist that I have lost—Adams is not the victim, and nor am I— but to recognise my part in a cultural culpability which overlooked and encouraged Adams’ arrested development, his self-mythologising as a tortured artist and the lazy misogyny, too, in many of his songs, spewing disdain for women who didn’t “get him.”
The creepy and noxious behaviour he is said to have displayed, and the apparent abuse of the power he wielded, stem in great part from the allowances our culture constantly makes for the gifted man-child. I bought into that nonsense: the mythos of the folk hero as a glowing, booze-addled Rimbaud figure; the troubadour outlaw, wrecking a different woman in every new town and moving swiftly on.
I’ve listened to the podcast, too, of Henry Michel, one of the men whose name was this week on the list of participants in the so-termed “Ligue du Lol.” The members of the group harassed and doxxed a number of people, mostly women, with the aim of amusing each other.
Essentially a group of French lads up for banter, the group contained more or less active and bullying figures. Michel claimed before leaving Twitter that he was very inactive in the group and had long since quit it. He is, however, mentioned this week in a stomach-churning testimonial by Benjamin LeReilly which talks of his ordeal when a member of the group targeted him with doctored homophobic videos online. He says he begged Michel and a few other people for help; they told…