Some of the tweets prompting this story are obviously jokes; others some seem earnest.
I don't know who Paul McCartney is, but Kanye is going to give this man a career w/ this new song!!
— Joshua (@OVOJosh) January 2, 2015
The one thing Beatle’s fans can’t handle is insults to their dear old Paul.
Only thing makes me mad about the stupid McCartney/Kanye tweets is these damn kids have google. Ain't no reason for your stupidity today.
— Johnny Rico of Space Force; let's kill some bugs! (@Sky_Razzball) January 3, 2015
— Ali the Spooky ¢abbage (@AliMaadelat) January 3, 2015
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.
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.
why is kurt cobain trending did he die
— dr. bad girl (@lydialunchables) February 20, 2013
who's kurt cobain and why is she trending
— Drolland (@MyNameIsRolland) February 20, 2013
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.
WTF el poco de gente que no sabia que titanic WAS REAL http://t.co/KgB4W81a
— Neriovsky The III (@Neri0x_pro) April 26, 2012
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 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!