The Beastie Boys, Cancer, and the Importance of Internet Response

I was reading through Twitter this afternoon and ran across a story about The Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch's cancer diagnosis. I'm not a Beastie Boys fan but I'm familiar with their work and find it to be good, it's just not compelling enough for me to intently follow them. Still, I remain prayerful for Yauch's recovery and I'm glad to hear things will be alright. A friend and colleague of mine was recently diagnosed with cancer and she received excellent treatment and is recovering well. I can understand how important something like this is.

But I'm here not to talk about The Beastie Boys or even specifically about cancer. I'm talking about sentiment. Take note, I hyperlinked their YouTube video instead of embedded it for a very specific reason. I want you to see directly beneath the video window. You'll note that ratings for the video have been disabled.

Some may ask why ratings were disabled for this video. None of the other videos on their account have disabled their ratings. In fact, all their other videos are rated quite highly.

But, as Amy Phillips of Pitchfork Media noted, "Yauch explains the situation with characteristic humor and candor." This video was very pointedly made. It was a press release as only the Beastie Boys could make. It was frank but maintained their typical tone. It said what it needed to say and reassured their fans.

But it was also cognizant that the Internet is the Internet. As this video was posted, someone had to ask the question, "Should we disable ratings for this?" What does rating a video about a group member's announcement of a cancer diagnosis (and subsequent cancellation of touring and postponement of an album release)signify?

The Internet being the Internet (at times a veritable panopticon in reverse), folks will come out of the woodwork (albeit anonymously) to shower Yauch and his fans with hate mongering just to spread malcontent. YouTube comments are already known for some of the worst discussions in cyberspace. Imagine all the trolls who would hear of this news and rate down this video just to be anti-Yauch, or even worse, pro-cancer.

Or what would the fans do if they rated the video up? Is a five star rating indicative of showing support for Yauch's recovery? Are there some who would rate the video highly because they're in favor of the group's hiatus? What if you only sort of like The Beastie Boys? What would rating this video only three stars mean? And frankly, rating to certain degrees a video of the announcement of a cancer diagnosis would have about the same weight as tinting your Twitter avatar green for Iranian democracy or referring to Michael Jackson directly (like, totally in the second person) on any online venue that still holds his name. Do the Iranians care that there are green avatars on Twitter in America? It's certainly not getting the police forces off their backs during protests because I'm tweeting about what I had for breakfast in my suburban Texas home. And whether or not Michael Jackson is in heaven or hell, I doubt either way he's googling himself on a supernatural wifi network.

So the Beastie Boys this morning had a quandary. Considering the nature and tone of this video, what does it mean to leave the ratings enabled. Some or all of these questions were considered and they likely made the right choice, because ultimately they knew the Internet is filled with a tough crowd. Ultimately, ratings on a video on the Internet mean nothing at all and shouldn't stand by the cadence of this announcement. Ultimately, because the Internet is a steadily growing aspect of our culture, ratings on a video on the Internet mean everything.


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