To restate the obvious, the Internet is a pretty awful place at times. The observation that the online medium makes people callous is most often discussed in the context of anonymous comment sections and message boards, but let’s not forget how common it also is in that blurry Venn diagram of journalism and blogging, where a similar spirit of nihilism and comedic contempt characterizes the way in which reporting is carried out. So it went yesterday with the news that pop singer Sky Ferreira and DIIV’s Zachary Cole Smith were busted in upstate New York in possession of a car with stolen license plates, a bunch of MDMA, and a whole lot of heroin.
The police in Saugerties, where Ferreira and Smith were pulled over, haven’t revealed exactly how much heroin the duo was caught with — all they’ve said is “42 decks,” a curiously non-specific term that seems like rather vague terminology for law enforcement to use. But if your average bag is 100mg, give or take, Smith was carrying something like 4.2g of heroin for a weekend away (he and Ferreira were en route to the Basilica SoundScape festival in Hudson), which means he’s either got a hell of a habit or he was planning to sell some of it. Either way, it’s a pretty depressing scene.
There are certainly questions to be asked here, not least how exactly Smith is still walking free after getting busted with stolen license plates, an outstanding warrant, and what is by any measure a lot of smack. But the one thing that’s 100% certain about his and Ferreira’s arrest is that it’s not funny. Heroin kills people, y’see, which rather limits its comedic potential. Still, that didn’t deter the Internet’s bottom feeders from rejoicing in the news that two somewhat famous people had been caught with a bunch of it. There was Carles of Hipster Runoff, who made one of his ever-less-frequent journeys out from under his bridge to ask, with his trademark oh-so-ironic mock sincerity, “Are Sky Ferreira and Zachary Cole Smith of DIIV ‘the heroin junkies’ of indie?,” sneeringly wondering whether “the pressures of faux-fame” are to blame in “their massive spiral towards hell.” (I’m not linking the article here, for obvious reasons.)
As ever, Carles hides his nihilism behind a veneer of ironic satire — his message here is that because they’re somewhat successful musicians, the fact that Smith (and possibly Ferreira) are apparently using heroin is worthy only of mockery and contempt. This says more about Hipster Runoff than it does about either Ferreira or Smith, but sadly, Carles wasn’t the only one reacting this way. The similarly awful Perez Hilton published a photo of the duo adorned by the words “Oopsie!” because, y’know, there’s nothing in the world that isn’t appropriate for a pink-bordered giggle-athon.
Elsewhere, there was much gleeful editorial punning on Ferreira’s single “Everything Is Embarrassing”: “Singer slash model Sky Ferreira is in a whole bunch of ’embarrasing,’ [sic]” giggled Oyster, while Global Grind went with an all-capes “THIS IS EMBARRASSING!” And, of course, then there were the comment sections, where the sort of people who haunt Brooklyn Vegan day and night climbed over one another to spew vitriol at Smith and Ferreira.
We’ve been here before, of course. The self-righteous assholes who are laying into the duo now will be the same people lamenting the situation as “tragic” if anything really bad happens to either of the parties involved here. Our society’s relationship with celebrity has always been fraught with hypocritical and vicarious nastiness that means we lap up news of their indiscretions at the same time as we condemn them. It’s an entirely unedifying spectacle, and it ignores the fact that these are flesh-and-blood people we’re dealing with, not cardboard cutouts whose lives exist for our entertainment. The fact that this schadenfreude now extends to people who are only really well known on the Internet music blog circuit is especially distressing.
None of this, of course, is to say that either Ferreira or Smith is blameless. The latter, in particular, has been milking the latter-day Cobain angle for quite some time now; last month he told Pitchfork, “Drugs are fine for you alone at home, but when it comes to being a family, which a band is, it just messes everything up.” Sadly, when it comes to heroin, at least, only the second part of that statement is true.
But look, everybody makes mistakes. Everybody does stupid shit. God knows I’ve done enough dumb shit with drugs and alcohol, although thankfully never heroin, because once you open that hole in your arm it’s awfully hard to close it. I hope this proves to be a blip for both Smith and Ferreira, and nothing more — but the fact remains that they’re in dangerous territory here, and they’re worthy of sympathy and support, not contempt. Fuck you, Carles.