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Inexplicably, Kanye West and Sir Paul McCartney collaborated on a new track. This being the Internet, the main headline quickly became Kanye’s fans not knowing who Paul McCartney is.

Some of the tweets prompting this story are obviously jokes; others some seem earnest.

The one thing Beatle’s fans can’t handle is insults to their dear old Paul.


It’s a template for headlines seen more often online: “Someone Online Doesn’t Know Something Obvious To Me”. But what does the popularity of stories like this say about the web?

The Good, The Bad And The Internet

The Internet is a mixing pot. Anyone from anywhere can join in on almost any discussion at any time of the day. Websites like Twitter mean that something said in passing by a 15 year-old in the middle of nowhere can make headlines around the world.

Sometimes the Internet can unite people in wonderful ways — like it did with #JeSuisCharlie #JeSuisCharlie: Murder, Cartoons and Barbara Streisand #JeSuisCharlie: Murder, Cartoons and Barbara Streisand Today, in response to a horrible terror attack in France, the Internet was at it's best. Read More and #illridewithyou Australia's Twitter Win Against Islamophobia: How To Use #illridewithyou Australia's Twitter Win Against Islamophobia: How To Use #illridewithyou Twitter's top trending hashtag worldwide, #illridewithyou, shows how social networks can be a force for good. Read More — but it can just as easily bring out the worst in people Worse Than Hitler: Why Do Flamewars Happen? Worse Than Hitler: Why Do Flamewars Happen? Why are flamewars so common on today's web, and is it really a new phenomenon?  Read More .

This specific incident is just an example of a general trend: tweets being used to make the case that young people today are idiots, and that not knowing A, B or C or liking X, Y or Z is indicative of a moral failing. The future of humanity is in doubt, if some of these people are to be believed.

You Tweet Therefore You’re Wrong

It also happened with Kurt Cobain, the deceased Nirvana frontman. Last year, on his birthday, his name started trending on Twitter. Some people, predictably, didn’t know who he was and expressed their confusion.

As you can imagine, these got a vitriolic response from other Twitter users as well as being featured in collections of “dumb tweets”.

It’s not just limited to music. During the centenary of the Titanic’s sinking there were major press stories highlighting tweeters who thought the Titanic was just a movie.

Is it bad that these people don’t know that the Titanic was a historical event? Yes, but for most of them, the Titanic movie will have had a far greater impact on their life than whatever footnote the actual event got in history class. They may deserve to be laughed at (and corrected) by their friends, but not by a national newspaper.

Back To The Beatles

Let’s be honest, The Beatles were a big deal… in the 1960s. Yes, their music is timeless and there are many people who still listen to it. Yes, they have influenced a huge number of musicians. But how many times in the last five years do you think I chose to put on Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? A man without hands could count it on his fingers.

I know The Beatles exist. I know John Lennon got shot, that Ringo Starr had weird hair and that there was another one who just wasn’t as cool. But when I think of what Paul McCartney has done in the past decade, I think of his bitter divorce with Heather Mills, not his occasional musical reissues and one-off shows.

And that’s okay. I’m sure there were just as many Beatles fans who were wondering who this Kanye fellow was. Their ignorance just wasn’t broadcasted to the entire world.

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

Right now there is more music available quickly, freely and easily online Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Spotify Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Spotify In the past week Taylor Swift has pulled her music from Spotify, inspired countless song-pun laden headlines and reignited the debate about streaming music services. Read More than you could listen to in a lifetime. Some of it you’ll love; some of it you’ll hate. Most of it you’ll never even hear of.

The time when a single artist was universally popular is gone.

No band will ever be as big as The Beatles or Queen were. There’s now too much choice. It’s awesome! It shouldn’t be a problem that I think Blink–182 are better than The Beatles, nor should it be a problem that someone thinks Justin Bieber is better than Blink–182. Bieber’s existence doesn’t take away from Blink or The Beatles – and liking one more than the other certainly doesn’t mean that the world is doomed.

So you like The Beatles. Good for you. But stop complaining about how awful things are today. Justin Bieber makes some damn catchy tunes that have at least as much artistic merit as the Village People or Spandau Ballet.

Look through the Billboard Hot 100. These are the artists who are big today. Do you recognise all them? If not, maybe we should be talking about how out of touch you are!

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  1. Jesse White
    November 24, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Disagree. If you don't know who paul is and you listen to music, you are stupid and ignorant, that's all there is to it. Do you not know who george Washington is? The beatles are insanely famous. Do these people live under a rock? No excuse for ignorance. Kanyes fans are morons, and kanye isn't the brightest bulb either.

  2. robert wilson
    January 15, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    It's only a recent phenomenon of young people not being aware of History and it's mostly due to the recent liberal way of thinking that pushes that it's Okay not to be informed and it's Okay not to be pressured to learn or take responsibility for yourself because someone else will take the blame. You are only required to act if you're feet are put to the fire...and forced to. A new generation of leaders are coming to change that atrocity very soon.

  3. Jordan
    April 2, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    This article was going rather well until the last paragraph. What a nonsense to suggest it's okay not to know the Beatles. There are names and bands oit there that should be known for the simple fact that they made history and opened the doors for these new artists. Elvis and Beatles just HAVE to be known by every single person who has more than one brain cell. Simple.
    And please don't even bring someone like Bieber into this. He's got no credibility as an artist. Not yet.

  4. PlaGeRaN
    January 30, 2015 at 9:47 am

    Twitter should have a direct link to sites like Wikipedia and IMDB type sites. If I don't know someone, that's the first place I look. Sad how the internet isn't used properly....

  5. Christian Cawley
    January 23, 2015 at 9:39 am

    It's fair enough that some people don't know who the Beatles are. Some people don't know Christiano Ronaldo or David Beckham, or Pele or Platini or Cruyff or Maradona

    However, if someone proclaims to be a fan of football, then the chances are that they will know those names. Similarly with music, anyone who claims any sort of knowledge should therefore know who The Beatles are. Yesterday is the most covered song of all time. Paul McCartney has written synphonies and movie sound tracks (Live and Let Die stands out), he's done more than "one off shows", having embarked on full tours in his 60s, and in the past few years has released albums that overshadow his work in the 80s and 90s.

    While Harry's article is a strong piece, the problem isn't with it, but with the topic. At its core is the ignorance of much of the modern youth (and no, it *hasn't* always been this way) which is somehow programmed or conditioned to worry only about here, now and them.

    One point for Harry - a very good writer who does not deserve the negative comments here: The Beatles continue to sell a ridiculous amount of records. 2.8 million on iTunes alone: also 1 (2000) is the 4th best selling album in the USA , best selling album of the last decade, and George Harrison is not only the coolest member of the Beatles but also the most dignified and interesting ;)

    (Disclaimer: wrote an ultimately unpublished book about the Beatles as one of my first writing gigs)

  6. Garreth Marsh
    January 17, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    I now live in Liverpool where anyone not knowing who the Beatles are is a blasphemous as being asked what football team you support and answering with "I don't" I would expect everyone to know the Beatles as many artists still say they were heavily influence by them. They even still outsell all other artists in terms of album sales year by year. As for them being history or pop culture they are most definitely pop culture, for reasons stated above. There is even that infamous story of Micheal Jackson buying the Beatles back catalog after being influenced by Paul McCartney to do so.

    However I have to disagree with you that Harry is poor excuse for a writer. He may and I agree with you here, be every uneducated on the Beatles but by his own admission this is because he was born ten years too late. But is terms of him being a poor writer, he is not. I have done a degree in Journalism and I can see he is exactly the right type of Journalist. He is witty and informative and covers all the 5W and H. I love reading his stuff where we may not always agree, as is part and parcel of opinion he is a great writer that makes for very interesting, informative and debatable reading. If you would like to go back to generic bland reading, feel free to pick up a free metro where you can get you information sans expression, in black and white.

    As for the blind leading the blind I suggest you watch "See No Evil Here No Evil" with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, have a laugh, and realize that ignorance is bliss. As Robin William proudly professed "Life is Fleeting...Make it Spectacular"

    • dragonmouth
      January 20, 2015 at 12:58 pm

      "He may and I agree with you here, be every uneducated on the Beatles but by his own admission this is because he was born ten years too late. "
      That is a very weak excuse. Following Harry's logic, since we were born decades after Heydn, Beethoven, Sibelius and/or Wagner makes those composers irrelevant to us.

      "But is terms of him being a poor writer, he is not."
      A Samuel Clemens, he's not. I wonder if Harry even knows much about Clemens. Being born decades after Clemens, makes Clemens irrelevant to Harry. Harry is the perfect journalist for the current times. He is arrogant, shallow and dismissive of the past. Twitter is the perfect medium for him because after writing a 140 character opus, he can move on to the next relevant, to him, subject.

  7. BGPhilbin
    January 17, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Seriously, considering history & pop music history, one shouldn't expect children & tweens to know who the Beatles were, necessarily.

    Perhaps even teenagers might be excused not to know who Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, John Lennon & Paul McCartney are. But once you become a consumer of music, you should truly become educated on why you like what you do, and who influenced your favorite artists. It's part of any music lover's self-discovery.

    The author of this article lacks a proper platform to defend the ignorant.

    One who is under the impression that Ringo's hair is his most outstanding contribution to music and that George Harrison wasn't "as cool" as the other Beatles has a great deal of ignorance to address themselves. Particularly if their only semblance of understanding John Lennon is that he was assassinated. Understanding pop culture isn't just recalling headlines or passing references to those headlines in someone else's articles.

    Respecting an informed opinion is one thing. But there is, in fact, such a thing as a fallacious opinion and this author has professed one above.

    Harry Guinness is a poor excuse for a writer. Particularly a writer professing themselves to be an authority on how much ignorance is excusable. The blind leading the blind, indeed.

    • Harry
      January 17, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      What are you talking about? I assume you are intimately familiar with all the various folk musics, and the oral traditions that preceded them, that led to the rise of Blues and then thus most modern music. Or perhaps you're more familiar with African tribal music that is so core to modern hip hop's beat? Or maybe even the influence of classical music on many west european electronic music producers since the late 80's and that's only now beginning to become popular as EDM in the States?

      Ringo's hair is by far his worst contribution to music, not his most outstanding. John Lennon was dead 10 years before I was born. I hate to break it to you but The Beatle's aren't pop culture any more. They're history!

      Also on the subject of fallacious arguments, are you seriously trying to make the point that it's impossible to love music without make a dedicated effort to become educated on it?

    • BGPhilbin
      January 18, 2015 at 12:16 am

      Since you asked (even though it's beside the point), I'm actually facile in performance of all forms of Western music, having performed with world ranked Madrigal Ensembles, choral groups and barbershop quartets and choruses, as well as delta blues ensembles, rockabilly, rock & roll and musical theater groups. My field of study, while focusing on classical and modern-contemporary composition, also has included world music history as part of my curriculum. Not to mention having studied and taught the historical origins of theater and music.

      That said, pop music, in all of its forms - from Berlin's Alexander's Ragtime Band (arguably the first pop hit) to the fare of our current hit-makers, Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift - owes itself to every form of music that precedes it. However, familiarity solely with the past 100 years - being the advent of popular music and only a modicum of music history - is paramount to understanding one's musical taste.

      Having even a passing understanding of how pop music has shaped the last century is necessary when offering a critique on what knowledge is "okay" to ignore. You, yourself, have offered that you feel justified not to care about anything that happened before you were born in your response to me.

      Your argument - being that it's "okay" not to understand the historical roots of what you enjoy - is no more salient due to your own ignorance or anyone else's. It's selfish and uninspired.

      Both of my daughters (16 & 25) are not only musical consumers, but also performers and advocates of having an appreciation for how their music is shaped and how it shapes our culture.

      Becoming "educated" (and I use that word lightly, considering the narrowness of the field) on the subject of pop music is one of the simplest things in the world, what with the mass amount of information and media at the fingertips of everyone these days with the advent of the Internet, the WWW, and smartphones.

      BTW, your attempt at inserting universals into my statement such as "impossible" misrepresents not only what I said, but further distorts my overall statement, which is this:

      Ignorance is the soul of hatred. When one advocates that ignorance is excusable, you're giving way to hatred - regardless of what form it takes.

      Further, sniping at critiques gives them an extremely high level of relevance in forums such as this. Thanks for verifying that you feel our comments have consequence and meaning to you by responding.

    • Harry
      January 18, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      Okay let's back up a sec. First, that's a serious musical pedigree you've got; makes for a nice comeback!

      Second, my article above makes the case that it's okay for people to not know musical history and to not be ridiculed for it. No where did I say that I didn't. My passing comments about the Beatles clearly show I'm familiar with them.

      Third, I don't disagree that becoming educated is easy. And nor would I fault anyone who did it. But likewise I wouldn't hold it against someone who didn't.

      And fourth, if you check my previous posts you'll see I respond to almost all comments. I don't write these articles to preach from a pedestal. I'm always more than happy to engage in a discussion in the comments!

    • Prof. Milburn Cleaver
      January 20, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      To Garreth Marsh: No one will change Prince Harry's mind on this subject. Yet, we must remember, he is one writer and his word is not gospel.
      I have read deragatory articles on how irrelevant the Beatles are dating back to the 1970's. The late rock columnist Lester Bangs wrote similarly of the group as Harry does. Yet, twenty years after poor Lester's demise (we miss you buddy), the Beatles scored a number one album of greatest hits that stayed on the charts in that position for nearly 10 weeks in the US and totaled nearly 10 million sales.
      People are entitled to have their opinion, but to dismiss something because it existed before one was born is foolish. But alas, fools are free to be fools (at least in the US). As for the commies, they still exist and are quite relevant in Russia, as that nation's leader is a former KGB agent. They simply operate under a different title.
      Still, I concede that 30-40 years from now, some writer will be saying Justin Bieber----is he a halfback for the NY Giants? Kanye West---oh, that's that vacation spot in Florida! IF those names ever come up at all because by your logic, they shall not be relevant in 2045....on this point I completly agree with you, Prince.

  8. Prof. Milburn Cleaver
    January 17, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Young Prince Harold,
    I am surprised that a boy such as you even knows what a "commie" is.....for that I give you an A (but only for effort). As I have researched your past offerings to the class I must conclude that you never won a spelling bee in elementary school. I do not lay this fault on you, but on our decaying educational system of which you are a product.
    Do yourself a favor and take a few night courses (assuming yoy have not attained your GED) in spelling and history. You may make it to that mountaintop yet!!
    I am rooting for you...oh, and for the record, please tell your friendst that the Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865 not under the Reagan Administration.
    Good luck, son.

    • Harry
      January 17, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      Of course I know what a commie is. They were relevant until the 90's and the effects of the break up of the Soviet Union continue to be relevant today. I have never entered a spelling bee nor been to elementary school (my dear Watson). And as for the Civil War point, I have know idea what you're talking about.

  9. Prof. Milburn Cleaver
    January 17, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Young Prince Harold,
    you really need to return to Sarcasm 101...they miss you. And, please-----rid yourself of that silly hat and learn a four letter word that you probably never heard of .....SOAP...i suggest you use it as you are irritating the rest of the class.

    • Harry
      January 17, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      It's Your Highness, and after the first incidence, M'Lord. And if I washed or took off the hat how would people know I'm a filthy commie?

  10. Prof. Milburn Cleaver
    January 16, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Young people today are so dumb they don't even know who Bill Clinton is. Hell, they are lucky if they know who Barack Obama is.
    So,theirs and the author's mundane taste in music is understandable.

    • Harry
      January 16, 2015 at 8:50 pm

      Are they that comedy double act where one's short and fat and the other's tall and thin? And my music taste is awesome!

  11. Coltin
    January 16, 2015 at 3:36 am

    Harry, your article makes me very sad indeed. The Beatles weren't just a relecant band in the 1960s. Their music continues and will continue to inspire people all over the world. Also, it was incredibly ignorant and disrespectful to lump each Beatle under some one liner headline. I couldn't care less about your preference of Blink 182 over The Beatles. I do care about how you treat these men who don't deserve to be ridiculed at all. Their music --both Beatles and solo-- has had an impact an innumerable times greater impact on the lives of people around the world. Although I don't disagree with your stance on the idea that people who don't know Paul McCartney shouldn't be ridiculed internationally, I disagree with your disrespectful treatment of their music. Also, you cannot argue that the Music industry has gone downhill since early 1990s. It is an observable fact. The way to prove it? Check out 2014's top selling albums, compare them to any year preceding 1995 and tell me that 2014 was better.

    • Harry
      January 16, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      Hey Coltin, sorry to hear the article makes you sad. I'm not saying The Beatles aren't still relevant *to some people* but to a huge number of people they aren't. Music moves on, tastes change and The Beatles just aren't as big as they were.

      All the members of The Beatles are extremely successful public figures and totally fair game for ridicule. Especially given Ringo's hair choices.

      Okay! So Ed Sheeran's X was the top selling album of 2014. I prefer his work to
      1981 REO Speedwagon, 1986 Whitney Houston, 1988 George Michael, 1989 Bobby Brown, 1990 Janet Jackson, 1991 Mariah Carey, 1992 Billy Ray Cyrus and 1993 Whitney Houston.

      Seriously. Billy Ray Cyrus? Miley is by far the better Cyrus.

      I didn't look further back.

  12. epiquestions
    January 16, 2015 at 1:03 am

    "I’m sure there were just as many Beatles fans who were wondering who this Kanye fellow was. Their ignorance just wasn’t broadcasted to the entire world."

    I don't think a Beatles fan is that ignorant or stupid to ask who Kanye is without googling it first. The issue is not that the younger generation are supposed to know who the Beatles were, it is the fact that they twitted without googling first.

    "Justin Bieber makes some damn catchy tunes"


    "Look through the Billboard Hot 100. These are the artists who are big today"


    • Harry
      January 16, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      I think there's a lot of Beatles fans who haven't done much Googling in their life. Let alone tweeting.

      Also, true.

      And true.

  13. likefunbutnot
    January 15, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Paul McCartney is very possibly one of the worst things ever to happen to music, but I still know who he is. He will be remembered at least until all the baby boomers are gone.

    On the other hand I don't believe I've ever heard of the other person at all. Whomever he might be, he can't be terribly significant.

    • Harry
      January 15, 2015 at 11:47 pm

      I think he married some porn star. Something like that anyway.

  14. Justin Dennis
    January 15, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    oh man an article that describes exactly how i feel, haha. thanks, Harry :D

    • Harry
      January 15, 2015 at 11:47 pm

      Hahahah no bother Justin! Don't say that too loudly though. Mihir is annoyed with me and Matt as it is!

  15. Davis
    January 15, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    I entertained this article until you said George Harrison wasn't as cool. I understand not knowing artists from other genres or decades, but that's an ignorant comment. If you're going to write about music, then you should know a little bit about it.

    • Harry
      January 15, 2015 at 11:46 pm

      George Harrison was objectively not as cool! I knew who he was — and if I didn't I could have googled it — but it was a point for effect.

  16. Brian
    January 15, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    McCarnety uh headline typo

    • Ollie
      January 15, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      The author is the worst of the lot, he doesn't think George Harrison was cool

    • Matthew Hughes
      January 15, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      Paul McCartney? He's the guy from Wings, right?

    • Harry
      January 15, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      George who? Is he the guy from the Village People?

    • dragonmouth
      January 15, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      Hey Harry, who dat, Village People? Your homeys?

      "George who?"
      He's the guy who played the lead role in Perfect Storm. Doncha know nuttin'?

      Kenya Whatsisname is SOOO 5 minutes ago!

    • Harry
      January 16, 2015 at 8:48 pm

      I reckon the Village People would be so much fun to hang out with for a night!