Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Twitter Bell Tolls - R.I.P. Poly Styrene

Last night I received a particularly unwelcome text: "Did u hear Poly Styrene died from cancer? Now that is some BULLSHIT!" After the initial shock, I gathered my wits and texted back, "where did u hear this?" The reply came instantly: "Twitter of course." And therein lies the problem. The reply came instantly. No fact checking, no verifiable, reputable source, nothing to base this horrible news on other than the chorus of whispers from the twittersphere.

In the old days they would announce the death of a notable person with the tolling of a heavy church bell. Today, our bell is sounded by the trending topic on Twitter. How ironic for the passing of someone who wrote and sang about the depersonalization and isolation that she saw happening in society as a result of technological and commercial progress.

Poly Styrene was a huge inspiration to me as a musician and performer back in the early days of punk. She had her own style, something totally unique. In a scene full of wildly colorful performers she stood out, not only because of her curly hair, her braces or her uniforms. Poly had a voice, a mixture of sweetness and determination that was perfect to deliver the line "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard...but I think OH BONDAGE UP YOURS!"

Poly herself was an inspiration to me because like me, she was a woman of color and a feminist. She was also anti-consumerist and pro-environmental before those causes became fashionable (I'm still waiting for anti-consumerism to come into fashion.) Not only did she have a voice, she had something to say.

Goodbye, Poly, I am terribly sad to see you go so soon, but I have a feeling that your influence, like the nearly indestructible product you named yourself after, will be with us for a long, long time.

7 comments:

roxy said...

wonderful, thoughtful post. i was appalled that so many of my friends who also found poly inspirational and loved her music so dearly were clamoring to be the first to announce her death on facebook and outscoop everyone.

raquefella said...

Great post, Alice. And sadly in the age where we aren't cutting with scissors or pasting with glue and where we've grown weary of all media outlets, especially the big dude-bro corporate rock mongerers, we, our fandom/our remaining humanity, rely on the facility that social media has gotten us high with...

In re: to the twitter/FB "outscooping," i saw a lot of genuine personal homages/memories of Poly. At least folks are trying to imbue that honor to the dead.

queerblackfeminist said...

What a respectful and thoughtful post. I love it! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

darksidegirl77 said...

Your view of Poly is spot on as always Alice.
Twitter sucks and people are silly for believing what they read on it.

RIP Poly - you were adored here in Los Angeles.

Alice Bag said...

Thank you all for taking the time to read and comment. I'm not a big fan of Twitter, but I'm on it because it is how we communicate nowadays. I want to clarify that I wasn't attacking Twitter and social media or those who use it. This was more of an observation that instant mass communication makes it possible to spread news so quickly that it's easy to get swept up in unsubstantiated rumors. Sadly, this rumor turned out to be true.

undeadboy said...

Just listened to Oh Bondage.

Poly will never die as long as her music is played and enjoyed (that goes for any musician or artist etc)

Thanks for the music Poly

Lencho of the Apes said...

Poly's death has really saddened me; I'm not really emotional about public figures, or about death, but I'm feeling this one. Can't even say why...