SHOULD WE REALLY BE CELEBRATING DR LUKE’S POTENTIAL FIRING FROM SONY?
HERE’S WHY I THINK NOT
With the skill set, awareness and precision of someone partially sighted colour coding Smarties in the dark, social media habitually places itself in the role of judge and jury. So, the case of twenty-nine year old singer-songwriter, Kesha, versus championed producer, Dr Luke was absolutely no exception.
The idea of a woman entrapped by a vindictive and exploitative man heralded for his creativity and skill in his field, with her career and reputation so thoroughly entangled in his red tape it eventually asphyxiates is sadly not a new concept; with Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren mirroring this turn of events fifty years ago.
So, when the judge ruled on the 19th of February 2016, denying Kesha the right to break her contract with the man she alleges sexually and emotionally assaulted her over a sustained period, it was difficult to not question whether humans had advanced at all in the last half century. Such a hot topic caught a lot of people’s attention and, predictably, with such a large, eclectic range of people grappling for the gavel, a barrage of bizarre defences began to emerge from the pro-Dr Luke camp on social media.
These included the hackneyed but somewhat debatable ‘there is no evidence to support this claim’, and the disturbingly blasé idea that the phrase ‘yeah, but he’s the best music producer in Hollywood’ could act as a literal get-out-of-jail-free card.
Conversely, the hashtag #FreeKesha became a synonym for recognising the perils of mistreating women, abuse victims and people in emotionally damaging situations. In her supporters’ eyes, this ruling effectively imprisoned Kesha in a contractual paper cage.
After a delayed, and somewhat lacklustre response to the overwhelmingly negative backlash, Sony’s acknowledgement came almost a week later. This consisted of a statement simply explaining that the judge’s ruling did not preclude Kesha’s working with other producers. However, Sony neglected to mention the uneven distribution of funds between said producers and the fact Dr Luke got the final say on all projects.
And much like the judge’s final say, this speech’s brazen belief that business comes before the people involved in it didn’t even require reading between the lines. After the social media uproar that ensued Sony stayed amorally schtum.
This week, stories began to surface about Dr Luke’s imminent firing, which his camp vehemently denied and with an ironically similar instance of he said-she said coming up against Dr Luke, it is hard to know — but difficult to doubt — if these rumours of dismissal are, in actuality, just a lot of hot air.
If businesses were run on moral conscience, Sony HQ would undoubtedly have tumbleweeds blowing through the dusty halls while feral raccoons fought over the few rusty pennies that people hadn’t picked up on their way out.
But they don’t.
Sony is a powerful and influential company worth nearly $18 billion (£13 billion) with a foothold in almost every media entertainment sphere. This means as questionable as his personal ethics are, as a business tool, Dr Luke is apparently irreplaceable (according to people who know the business).
Much like Jeremy Clarkson’s dismissal from Top Gear, if Dr Luke were to be let go on moral grounds, it wouldn’t be long until he found himself in a different studio making better money. While the witnesses make Clarkson’s case slightly simpler and thus less comparable, the point still stands. Amazon will receive a slap on the wrist but people will still watch, while the BBC would not have been able to justify keeping on a man who uses his fists when the hot buffet ends. So who suffers? Who is the real victim? Because if I were Clarkson I certainly wouldn’t feel like I was walking away with my tail between my legs.
And I imagine Dr Luke would feel exactly the same.
If these rumours are true, the whimsical back-and-forthing potentially being exhibited by Sony here is incredibly worrying on several levels. The most fundamental of which is that they’ve taken a woman’s emotional well-being and used it as a gimmick to diminish bad press. If we all stop and think about it, Sony didn’t challenge, condemn or even particularly comment on the ruling that kept Kesha in their back pocket. They didn’t offer to protect her, or be vigilant in the protection of women in vulnerable positions within their company in the future.
This sudden change of heart, if it does turn out to be true, is concerning. By accepting the loss of Dr Luke in exchange for Kesha’s mental wellbeing (in an ideal world), or a let up on the bad press (in a realistic one), Sony has effectively worked out that they should cut their losses. Their public moral standpoint on sexual assault is a commodity they’ve factored into the budget.
Another issue is the idea of public scrutiny gaining power. In Tina Fey’s words, ‘there’s a real culture of demanding apologies. I’m opting out of that’. We live in a society where any remotely unequal thoughts, beliefs or opinions tend to be stamped out of us with online brute force, and someone not apologising to save face is quite novel. While this pertained to alleged racism on her TV show, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, it does beg this question:
Would we really want a disingenuous act of moral condemnation from Sony, when they’d only be doing it to curry favour and Dr Luke himself wouldn’t feel any of the repercussions?
On a more theoretical level, this also perpetuates the idea that if you put enough pressure on a business, eventually they will relent. What if Dr. Luke is innocent? What if he isn’t, but another young girl wants to be let out of her contract and cries wolf at a later date? There will always be men who abuse their power, and unfortunately some of these men will also be heralded for their ability in their field. We live in a society that tends to run to comfort the victim, without the capability or sufficient interest in fact checking their story. Hedrin’s claims came up after Hitchcock’s death, meaning his defence truly rests in peace. Similarly, social media almost negates the possibility of a fair trial for either side in today’s society.
The power of social media is truly frightening. The idea that you can get whipped up into a frenzy from the comfort of your own home is worrying. The internet omits or fabricates salient facts and an alarmingly large number of people take it at face value as they sharpen their pitchforks.
So would this really be a victory for anyone? If it turns out Dr Luke has been let go, have we finally put a lid on that can of worms, or have we just opened a brand new one?