Surprise! If your gut feeling around the YACHT sex tape “scandal” yesterday was that it smelt of a PR stunt, take a gold star — Jezebel just reported that the whole thing was a hoax, perpetrated by the LA-based duo in support of their new music video! Conceptual art! Whoa! Maybe it’s making a statement about churnalism, or internet media, or how funny it is that people actually believe victims of this sort of crime! Hilarious, right?!
We didn’t report the story yesterday, because, yes, it felt suspiciously like a hoax — you tend to get a feel for this sort of thing after you’ve worked in this industry for a while — and, more relevantly, because we had no way to know one way or another. And sure, there are legitimate questions raised by the fact that plenty of media outlets reported the story unquestioningly yesterday — oh, that naughty online media in 2016, just recycling stuff that other places publish — the joke’s on them now, isn’t it?!
Or is it? Because perhaps there’s something to be said for the fact that the media is starting to default towards believing the victims of revenge porn. Perhaps there was a genuine sympathy and goodwill toward the band, a desire to signal boost something that has happened to many others before and to which the media’s response in the past has been less than perfect, characterized as it was by, at best, a lack of understanding — why don’t you just log off if people are being nasty to you on the internet?! — and, at worst, with ill-placed amusement: hey, she cheated on her man and now her tits are all over 4chan? Lol!
YACHT have, as everyone is noting now, a history of performance art, which in 2016 as often as not means “a history of doing dumb shit for attention.” Sure, art should always be provocative and challenging, but it should also punch up. And YACHT are not punching up here, at all. Pulling a stunt like this is fundamentally disrespectful to the people who really have been the victim of revenge porn, or who’ve had their phones hacked and private photos stolen, or other similar crimes. These things destroy lives, and in that respect, leveraging them for publicity is a really shitty thing to do, and I suspect that anyone who’s been a genuine victim of this sort of thing, or been close to someone who has — full disclosure, I fall into the latter category — won’t find this even remotely clever or amusing.
Who else is the joke on here? The band’s fans, who believed them and sympathized with them and really did try to donate the $5 fee the band was asking to download — or not download — the video? Sure, some of them will no doubt be posting “LOL OMG YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST” right now on YACHT’s Facebook page, because that’s what some fans tend to do, but plenty of others might be feeling like their emotions and goodwill have been played with for no especially good reason.
As YACHT noted in their original Facebook post, yes, times are tough for indie bands now. They’re tough for people in any sort of creative endeavor. But pulling a piss-poor stunt like this doesn’t help anyone; in the context of art, it’s lame and stupid, and in the context of the way that online harassment and abuse are treated in 2016, it’s cynical, unpleasant and may well be actively counter-productive to actual victims’ chances of getting redress. Well done, assholes. I hope the sales are worth it.