This past March, Texas singer-songwriter Michelle Shocked made hordes of enemies in San Francisco while performing at Yoshi’s, when she blurted out a string of bizarre, homophobic comments (those who are really interested can read the whole transcript here).
This is the age of the Internet, so it wasn’t long before the screwy remarks triggered a firestorm of controversy and went viral.
The Bay Area reporter has published a detailed account of the backstory leading up to a now-cancelled June 30 concert, orchestrated by San Francisco Examiner Publisher Todd Vogt, that would have featured Shocked during the city’s Pride celebration and was described by Vogt as a public apology. Vogt and Patrick Brown, chief financial officer of the San Francisco Newspaper Company, are working on gaining ownership of a 49 percent stake in the company that owns the Bay Area Reporter.
Meanwhile, it appears that Shocked is actively trying to erase recordings of her offensive rant from the Internet.
She’s already succeeded in getting them yanked from SoundCloud. Bay Guardian Music Editor Emily Savage wrote about Shocked’s homophobic comments just after the episode occurred, posting a recording submitted by a reader to her SoundCloud account.
But on April 6, Savage received a takedown notice informing her that the recording had been removed. Reached by email, SoundCloud spokesperson Kristina Weise explained, “The request came from the rights-holder via filing a DMCA report,” referring to a copyright violation complaint filed by Shocked under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Weise did not answer Bay Guardian questions about whether SoundCloud knew the file contained controversial statements. Nor did she answer questions about whether SoundCloud considered the comments, as well as the music, to be copyrighted content. But it does pose an interesting question about what happens when copyright law is invoked to remove controversial material.
So far, Shocked hasn’t gotten anywhere in her efforts to have a different set of recordings from Yoshi’s pulled from YouTube -- the videos are still up. Google, which owns YouTube, has not responded to the Guardian’s request for comment.
In an email exchange with Vogt – a primary shareholder of the San Francisco Print Media Company, which owns the San Francisco Examiner, the SF Weekly, and the SF Bay Guardian – Shocked asked for “help getting the illegal Yoshi's bootlegs on YouTube pulled down,” as part of her “attempt to wheedle a few perqs on the side” in the concert deal.
Asked how he responded to that particular request, Vogt said in an email to the Bay Guardian, “I did respond, via a FaceTime exchange with Ms. Shocked, where I reminded her that SFBG was the first outlet to post an audio file of the Yoshi's performance in question and that we would not, under any circumstances, remove the file/link.”
When the Bay Guardian emailed Shocked, she declined comment. But a little while later, her friend Roger Trilling, a journalist, phoned the Bay Guardian to say he had some thoughts to offer on Shocked’s behalf, though not as her official spokesperson.
Trilling challenged the idea that she was trying to sweep her offensive comments under the rug, pointing out that she had posted the transcript of her Yoshi’s comments to her own personal website. “She has always tried to keep her intellectual property off sites like YouTube,” he said. He added that he did not believe the offensive comments she made at Yoshi’s could be separated from the copyrighted musical content in the recording, because “they were part of the show.”
Shocked, meanwhile, has recently been championing the cause of whistleblower Bradley Manning, whose un-appointment as Grand Marshal of the San Francisco Pride Parade has given fresh energy to the Bradley Manning parade contingent. When it became clear that Shocked was actively promoting the Bradley Manning contingent on Twitter, publicist Lisa Geduldig, who has been acting as a publicist for the community's response to Pride rescinding Manning as Grand Marshal, sent Shocked an email to feel out whether she actually intended to show up and march.
Geduldig asked her, “was it your intention to march in the contingent?” Shocked responded that she and some friends were thinking of doing that. Soon after, Geduldig was cc’d on an email Shocked sent to a music journalist, “to keep my SF media sponsors ‘honest,’” which contained the entire email thread with Vogt and others who had been working with her on an ad and interview for the SF Weekly. From there, the thread was circulated through the community and wound up being forwarded to media outlets.
For her part, Geduldig remains concerned that Shocked’s shenanigans will be a distraction from the intentions behind the Bradley Manning contingent of the San Francisco Pride Parade. “This is about Bradley Manning,” she said. “This kid is on trial, potentially for his life. And it’s about him – it’s not about Michelle Shocked.”