Not With The Band: Has The Internet Changed The Biography Game?
Why is it so easy to re-write history? Why are people so easily beguiled? The more money is involved in the process, the more it is easy to fool fans who are too often ready to buy the myth which is served to them.
Brett Morgen’s ‘Montage of Heck’ received seven nominations for the Creative Arts Emmys which took place on Saturday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, I don’t know how many he actually won but this is revolting,… revolting because Morgen has tried to sell this fiction for the truth, heavily promoting a story that simply is a lie. Didn’t Buzz Osborne say ‘Montage of Heck’ was 90% bullshit? And Osborne was Cobain’s close friend since they were 14! He actually used the word bullshit 5 times in his post on the Talkhouse, doesn’t this count? No, the out-of-touch-with-reality people who vote for this kind of nominations don’t care about things like these, they don’t even know who Buzz is, all they know is what Morgan has told them, because he is one of them. Buzz is not even the only friends who talked against the movie, close friend and photographer Alice Wheeler also called the movie ‘Montage of crap’ but again, the elite ignore stories like these because, as Buzz brilliantly writes, ‘Unfortunately, it matters very little what the facts are; what matters is what people believe.’
We have reached the core of the problem here, myths have been built around the life of every musician or artist who has ever lived, and no matter how loud people try to scream the truth, they are ignored. Morgen hides behind Kurt Cobain’s daughter whom he uses as a validation of his brilliant documentary: ‘We knew we couldn’t have Courtney be attached because of the stigma she brings and she understood that,’ he declared in an interview. Really? And people believe that? They believe that Frances Cobain, who was not even 2 years old when her father died, can really be a judge on his father’s character and personality or what could be used in a film about him? She is just at the mercy of her mother’s fiction, but people get fooled so easily, don’t they?
The same could be said about W.T. Schultz who wrote Elliott Smith’s biography ‘Torment Saint’. His book was praised and regarded as the definitive work on the dead songwriter, whereas it too often seems to have been written only to prove Elliott wanted to commit suicide since he was a kid,… jut like Morgen’s doc. Nevertheless Schultz recently received the Erik Erikson Prize, I guess for the ensemble of his work on psychoanalysis, whereas his analysis of Elliott’s character was everything but discerning… just like Morgen he teamed up with the worst person…but again he gets the praise because he is part of the establishment (he is a University professor) and because he says what the majority of people want to hear… I even experienced the weirdest thing a few days ago, I was participating in a thread about ‘Torment Saint and was challenging someone’s conviction that this book was the bible, and this person simply blocked me, just like this… instead of having a decent conversation and listening to the other possibility, he preferred to shut me down from his Facebook world. And this says a lot, it may be too disturbing for some people to change what they want to believe, because believes are powerful things, they define who you are and people are not ready to let them go over a Facebook thread.
Cobain and Smith are not the only victims of this game, there are myths about rock stars all over books and movies, and for decades we have been told what to believe about Elvis or Sinatra, about Lennon or Jagger… where is the truth now that countless authors and filmmakers have rewritten their history? It’s clear we can’t count on the mainstream media to know the truth.
Nevertheless, times are changing, with the increasing presence of the internet in our lives, the power has changed hands,… There is power to people who want to listen! I see more and more people talking online, doing their own research and having a more critical look at what is served to them. I see more and more people organizing groups and forums, exchanging information and being active. May be it is the end of the establishment lies, may be it is the beginning of a new era… Decades ago, I would not have known about Buzz Osborne or Alice Wheeler’s comments about ‘Montage of Heck’, I would not have been able to talk to all these people who knew Elliott. The internet has changed things, we just need to be more vocal and get more organized… There are countless groups discussing Cobain’s death for example, spreading info about the investigation and questioning the official story. The Tom-Grant-endorsed movie ‘Soaked in Bleach’ would not have been possible without the internet, and the movie can be watched online. Soon, the days of triumph of people like Schultz and Morgen will be counted.