Yeah, he was a great singer but…

I loved Prince. Not everything he did, but a lot. And even if I didn’t get it, I appreciated that someone else loved it. He was a musical genius. With genius comes fringe ideas. He had some irrational views that have surfaced I don’t agree with that may be considered harmful, such as his endorsement of views about the poisoning of African American communities by chemtrails, manganese and whatever was put in malt liquor. He was a Jehovah’s Witness and was apparently against gay marriage. I don’t really know how fervently he believed in these things. I don’t seek expert advice from actors, singers or reality-show celebrities, so what he said about these subjects never crossed my mind.

But I see people struggling with this. I do too.

Every time I posted an obituary on Doubtful News, there were plenty of positive and negative comments about the person who passed. My job there was to run a website promoting science and reason, so I was not going to sacrifice that view or change my mind just because that person is now not living. But I didn’t gloat personally in the death of anyone; I pointed out their accomplishments best I could but remained disappointed that they did what they did with their time on earth. Death doesn’t erase your life’s work.

For example, I couldn’t find a nice thing to say about psychic Sylvia Browne but I assume her family was hurt by her passing. She might have been a nice person to someone, I wouldn’t know that because I can’t know everything and that’s not how she presented herself. The hatred that spewed from the skeptical community when she died was ugly and not useful to any positive goal. But I knew that would happen.

I took a stand that astronaut Edgar Mitchell disgraced the nation with his nonsense UFO talk. People argued that he still was a hero for our space program. I don’t disagree, but I abhorred the current view he pushed. It’s my opinion colored by my experiences. My values are going to be different than the next person.

I wanted these people to stop promoting their harmful ideas in society. If they had just stopped, I would have been happy, but they didn’t obligatorily stop, they died. Public shaming is not the way to go for a civil society for anyone, dead or alive. It was a tough task to deftly note the bad while acknowledging the positive. And, readers will latch on to what they feel at the time and pummel you if it riles them.

I totally get that you might feel annoyed by my admiration of someone who irks you, because I really get perturbed that you support the person I think is a total jerk unworthy of praise.

So, people are flawed. They aren’t perfect and they constantly screw up. More examples I’ve come across:

  • Foo Fighters once supported an anti-HIV/AIDS agenda. But I still love their stuff and that’s what they will be remembered for.
  • Joe Paterno was a sports icon and a great man, helping many students at PSU, but he was implicated in the Sandusky child abuse cover-up before he died.
  • Richard Dawkins is an amazing speaker and science communicator but expresses some extremely strange opinions about Muslims and feminism.
  • When Glenn Frey of The Eagles died, the first thing some did was point out what he jerk he was to other band members.

The point is that people who achieve some great things in life may have serious shortcomings in other parts. I could go on and on with examples. I’m sure you can think of dozens more. If we open ourselves up, we see our own serious flaws, too. In fact, I don’t know if you can find someone who is universally loved and untarnished. Isn’t it best to just acknowledge this and deal with it instead of allowing disagreement to turn to hate? 

We have every right to disagree on personal views or actions, but it should not preclude us from acknowledging accomplishments people genuinely earned. That’s easier to say than do. We can’t help but insert our gripes into the discussion of how awesome this person or group was if our opinion is colored by different values and experiences. (Yes, this could head into moral relativism but that’s not where I intended to go. I’m not being philosophical as much as being practical in terms of having a more rational society.)

I would prefer we not do it but social media encourages us to do so. It prompts us with a blank space to type in “What do you think?”. (It should say “What do you feel?” because commenters often respond with emotion rather than well-thought out statements.)  We are expected to respond with our two cents.

If I could hope for improvement, I would suggest we withhold opinions on some things in general conversation with each other and on social media unless asked. I’m working on this myself, trying to be more open and understanding towards positive aspects people find in what I might consider awful. And, I’m trying to keep my mouth shut in personal conversations if bringing up a point will cause trouble. I’m opinionated so this is rather difficult, but I’m still trying because I believe it will make for a better, more civil, society. Unfortunately, our society runs on outrage and controversy these days. It’s rare to be asked for a reasonable opinion when clickbait is all the rage. So, the not-so-beautiful side of Prince has come out in the past 12 hours. I don’t think what the media gives us is what we really want or what is actually helpful.

People, society, culture, the world – it’s complicated. Be more thoughtful.



*I have my own public disputes with people, for sure. I know they have problems with me. But I don’t think I ever publicly shamed them, or insulted them without provocation. I remain open to resolving such disputes instead of holding grudges. 

About idoubtit

Fluent in science, animals, paranormal culture. Expert in weird news.

5 thoughts on “Yeah, he was a great singer but…

  1. Excellent article Sharon.

    I have to be truthful; I wasn’t a massive fan of Prince. Some stuff I really liked, some stuff I didn’t mind, some I didn’t care for. At the same time, I had (and have) huge respect for his musicianship and ability. As you say, we’re finding out now he had some eccentricities. It shouldn’t diminish his musical accomplishments though, because they are pretty impressive.

    Very enjoyable read.

  2. Except he wasn’t “just” a muscian or singer. As is coming out now, he was also a real philanthropist, helping fund a number of organizations devoted to helping black kids gain entry into STEM fields that tend to be very bad about people who aren’t white, male, and graduating from Stanford. He funded music education programs. he went out of his way to boost the careers of women and minority musicians and entertainers. He fought long battles to help prevent the kind of constant screwing musicians get from both the labels and their fans, not because he really needed the money, but to help the artists who would come after him. Some of this wasn’t known because he was intensely private about such things (His religion forbade him from promoting “good deeds”), but a lot of it was with even minimal research.

    Did he have some views that were outre? Sure. But how often other than an interview or two, did you see him pushing them? How many songs did he publish about the eeeevil chemtrails?

    Right. if it’s even one, I’d be kind of surprised. You said:

    “I wanted these people to stop promoting their harmful ideas in society. If they had just stopped, I would have been happy, but they didn’t obligatorily stop, they died.”

    but yet, was he? Was he running around ala Mitchell or others giving interview after interview on it? no, as best as anyone could tell, this is all from a single interview 7 years ago. He could have changed his mind, but there’s no allowance for that in your post either. You just assume that because he had these views once, he must have held on to them to the deathbed.

    Maybe part of the problem with quick obituaries and similar posts, like this one, isn’t the opinions within, but the speed involved in writing it.

    1. Holy crap, you missed the point of this post entirely.

      I guess I didn’t make myself clear. I don’t begrudge him any of his beliefs because he DIDN’T push it on us. I don’t like that people are dredging them up now that he’s dead.

      Perhaps your response was hasty.

  3. It’s astounding the weight some people assign to a subject simply because a “celebrity” believes it to be so. Dave Chappell vs. the illuminati, Jenny McCarthy vs. the Global Vacination conspiracy, Ted Nuggent vs. the right of animals to not have an arrow protruding from their body, etc.
    I would like to suggest the following: a reality TV show starring you, Sharon. We would see you travel to different parts of the country weekly. You would locate individuals (famous people would be best for ratings) and stride purposely to their front door, knock, and when they answer deliver a catch phrase, such as “Are you f-Ing kidding me?” or “how stupid do you think we are?” or in the case of Jenny McCarthy “I’d like to see your medical degree please…”
    I think your first episode could be titled “Randy Quaid vs. the Vicious Hollywood Hit Men” but good luck finding him, the man is a master of disguise:

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