The Internet's Reaction To Racism (Devin Perez & DIIV)
If you follow any semi-independent or “alternative” music news source, by now you have probably read enough on the Devin Perez/4chan debacle to make you sick. As music news sites often do, whenever there is any amount of brouhaha that can be turned into multiple stories and updates, it tends to become completely overblown. (This theme has re-occurred multiple times in the last few months alone with Mark Kozelek’s beef against The War on Drugs and Grimes denouncing Ariel Pink) The most recent of these melodramatic stories to breach a Google News search page is the revealing of DIIV bassist Devin Perez using racist, sexist, and bigoted slurs on internet message board 4chan. Without diminishing the actual events that occurred on 4chan and how incredibly damaging and hurtful they were, the internet’s reaction to the entire situation was perhaps even more disgusting.
After the screenshots of Devin Perez’s assorted, colorful comments were leaked online to multiple news sources, the creator and guiding voice behind DIIV, Zachary Cole Smith, turned to Twitter to voice his “disgust” at the situation and reaction to seeing what his bassist had said. After posting that he was “disguted, angry” and “will never EVER tolerate sexism, racism, homophobia, bullying, or bigotry of any kind”, the majority of Twitter responded with criticism against him. Smith has had a spotted record with music press because of his substance abuse issues and relationship with Sky Ferreira, and his actions in the last two years have seemed to amount to major animosity against him. Twitter users have been calling Smith a racist and a bigot, while others decried him for voicing a position against his bassist, claiming he was trying to gain favor with “internet strangers” in order to maintain some of his band’s image.
There are a lot of problematic issues surrounding this issue. Devin Perez, who claims that he is in fact, NOT a racist despite his continual and habitual use of racist/sexist remarks online. Perez’s argument is that his words were taken out of context, and do not paint any picture of him whatsoever. This is a disgusting claim to make, knowing the history of the words he’s continued to use and the struggles associated with them. Absolving yourself of any wrong based on an internet message board’s “lingo” is repulsive. Perez is using 4chan’s past history of racial slurs and community of bigoted users to shift blame from himself and onto the internet as a whole. Popular music news sites are doing nothing to help the issue, merely perpetuating the popular idea that the mysterious enigma known as “the internet” is home to racism, intolerance, and hatred.
Dozens of Twitter users have also been claiming Smith should not voice his opinion, nor does he have one given his past history of substance abuse. People are labeling him as unworthy of taking any sort of stance on the issue because of his personal history, which is another incredibly damaging stance to make. The fact that people choose to make an argument against someone standing against racism/sexism/bigotry in order to declare them two-faced is a pointless argument. Why are Twitter users trying to make this stance against Smith? Why are they essentially supporting Perez’s slurs and continuing the cycle of internalized racism used on the internet? What is the purpose of taking this stance?