A lot of people who read this article will be aware of my position with regards to the type of media coverage is subject to at present. The coverage is almost exclusively of a nasty and vicious nature and sources are unattributable.
Being an old fart a lot of people have asked me if I have ever known a musician to be subject of a similar type of smear campaign. In all honesty the reality is probably not but the question did set me to thinking. ouch!
Of course image manipulation in music is as old as management and labels exploiting artists. Through the years image has always been important. If we go all the way back to the early 1970s when I began to stretch my musical wings we did see a tendency for artists to be portrayed in a particular fashion.
As an example the recently deceased David Bowie went through numerous alter-ego’s as he reinvented his image from Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke. Bowie was famously androgynous, part of his image was to keep people guessing about his sexuality.
As we left the 1970’s behind we saw the birth of the new romantic era where once again gender boundaries were bent.
Visage front-man Steve Strange was just one of many who used their sexuality as a marketing tool. Boy George and many others have followed Strange’s lead by ensuring that if the music press were not talking about their music they would be talking about whether or not they were gay.
If artists were not making the press for their music then stories emerged about drug use, groupies and hell raising. We saw hundreds of press reports about drink and drug fuelled binges that saw TV sets thrown from hotel windows.
There is of course a a huge difference between then and now. Back in the day we had to rely on what was available in the print media and the occasional television magazine program. If you wanted big news and the real story you needed to have access to a band or inside information.
What is new is that stories are now spread around the world in seconds. With the arrival of 24 your news coverage on television we have seen a growth in the cult of celebrity. Put simply celebrity gossip is big business. The growth of TV talent shows and reality television have seen a seemingly inexorable rise in the degree of fascination with the lives of celebrities.
It seems almost churlish to say that, in the music business, publicity is life blood. Without publicity a musician has a very tough job to carve a living out of their art. Today we see millions of stories written every day. There is no such thing as an “exclusive.” I saw myself just last week just how quickly stories get picked up and duplicated. When I wrote this article last week it was being published in other news outlets within a couple of hours. My story was the result of an exclusive interview so I knew that I was the source of all the subsequent articles.
In a 24 hour society we get so much more in the way of rumor, speculation and pure bullshit now than ever before. We have of course seen high profile celebrities being subject of rumors in the press before. Michael Jackson was subject of unpleasant rumors for many years and people like Jimmy Saville and Gary Glitter were the subject of a whispering campaign for years before proof emerged that they were pedophiles and sexual predators.
In the internet age I have no doubt that there are plenty of celebrities who have skeleton’s in their cupboard but it is now much more difficult to suppress information than it was in the past.
That said with so much information available at the click of a mouse it is now more difficult to get noticed and the UK press does love to build people up to knock them back down again. There are frequently campaigns to expose celebrity indiscretions and occasionally efforts to discredit high profile people for no apparent reason.
I think what is different with Tomlinson is that his management do not seem to want to make any effort to combat the negativity that Tomlinson is subject of. There have been absolutely no denials and no damage control when negative stories about Tomlinson have emerged.
As a result of this Tomlinson has been subject of a campaign of sustained negative press that has gone on for over six months. The primary sources of most of the negative reporting are the Sun and the Daily Mail, both papers that reduce “news” to the lowest common denominator. it is no exaggeration to say that these print outlets are reviled by the majority of people in the UK.
In conclusion Tomlinson’s situation is not unique but he is inexplicably being targeted by some media outlets. The longevity of the negativity is perhaps unusual and it does seem that some sections of the media are obsessed with trying to dig up dirt, anything that will dent One Direction’s clean image. I suspect that in the internet age this will not be the last time we see some sort of concerted attack on a celebrity.