A Super Angry and Depressing Look at the Foo Fighters Break Up Prank

or Foo Fight-ing The State of Music Journalism

What’s being reported right now are the facts: that the Foo Fighters aren’t breaking up and that they fueled the rumors that they were in order to release a video mocking the rumors that Dave Grohl was planning to leave for a solo career. Outlets are jumping on this, ready to praise the 7 minute long video that the band even hyped via social media as an important band announcement.

And in the wake of it, these places are throwing their hands up and saying “they got us!”

But you know, it shouldn’t have been so fucking easy.

Yet it was incredibly easy. This wasn’t even a stunt that required a great deal of planning and timing and well-placed leaks. It feels spur of the moment because it essentially WAS: it was only two days ago that Page Six first planted the idea that Grohl was planning to leave the group and they were able to further the claims of a feud between him and drummer Taylor Hawkins in less than 24 hours, with the video announcement being released Wednesday night.

There are some huge upsides to what we consider “new media.” The ability to distribute news and information faster and further than ever before in human history isn’t something we should overlook. A few short years ago it was celebrated as the clearly superior option over outdated forms of journalism. Print was as good as dead, television was soon to follow. Who needed to worry about production time when you could have a blog post up and ready in a matter of minutes and broadcast to anyone with internet access?

Then with the emergence of Twitter, suddenly it wasn’t even minutes, it was seconds to get your 140 characters or less typed in and posted to the world. It was fast and concise. It was convenient. It was the future.

But if we as a society have an addiction greater than speed? It is profit. And they do say “time is money.”

Wanting to be the place that gets there first isn’t exactly a new invention. Outlets have long salivated over the opportunity to break a story. And doing so at the cost of fact-checking isn’t new, either, nor is sensationalizing a story to attract more readers and their money.

However, things move fast. And yes, years ago during the height of Occupy Wall Street the conversation was driven by independent media that had adapted to the new tools online. It felt more trustworthy because it wasn’t at the mercy of corporate interests, it was about truth rather than webhits, money was secondary to integrity. But it didn’t take long for the Powers that Be to adapt these strategies for themselves.

You might not yet see how all of this connects, but I’m asking for just a bit longer to convince you. Okay, honestly, that’s just a lead in to my next point: attention spans are fucked. If you’ve made it this far into my ranting, then you’re doing better than most, hell if you clicked a link and read beyond the headline you’re doing a heck of a job. Because people by and large don’t do that. They read a headline, take whatever they want or need out of it and react. This is a pain for those of us who are long-winded and have a thing for ironic or joke titles, because if you’re not reading past my first statement, you’re not getting to the punchline.

So you combine a need for speed with profit driving every decision and a resistance to giving something more than 10 seconds of time to explore and learn PLUS natural human gullibility and you get a band being able to, within 24 hours, convince us they were breaking up and then recruiting Nick Lachey for a video proving that they’re not.

And here is the kicker: if you are brave enough to enter the comments on YouTube, you will see an alarming number of people who didn’t watch the video fully and missed the ending where the band flat-out states they’re not breaking up. These are people in comments bemoaning the end of the Foos or sincerely telling Grohl to fuck off and fail in his solo efforts.

So the cycle continues and the worst part is there doesn’t seem to be a way to counteract it. Because, yeah, maybe the Foo Fighters “got” the people reporting on the video now, but they’re the ones who made it possible in the first place and there’s no way they’ll reflect on that. Why would they need to, if the hits are still incoming and the people pulling the purse-strings are happy, then the system is working exactly as it should.

Why do I take this so personally? Because I’ve watched this happen, firsthand, while working in music journalism. I was writing during the explosion of Twitter and in the span of a year went from being an early adopter who broke a story about Cobra Starship vocalist Gabe Saporta needing surgery, to seeing everyone jumping on any post made by any celebrity and eagerly presenting it as truth no matter what the tone or the context and expounding on it in the most sensational fashion possible, if only so they could post headlines that would catch attention but completely misrepresent the situation.

And it’s a problem because it’s stupid and it’s harmful, it lets rumors be presented as fact in an era where the ability to get facts is at our fingertips. It’s avoidable. And it’s irresponsible. It’s not even that journalistic integrity is being compromised, journalistic integrity just doesn’t have any meaning anymore. It’s frustrating and it contributes to a persistent dumbing down of our society. And before I hear “it’s only music news?” It has greater effects.

…sigh.

Anyway, do you think I can get that painting of Dave Grohl for my living room? Or at least a full length version of Lachey covering “Everlong?”

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