Yesterday, the New York Times published a report from the Philippines about how apparently there is this “trend” over there where people get shot for singing Sinatra’s “My Way” at karaoke joints.
First we’re gonna give you some choice quotes from this bullshit piece, then we’re gonna point out all the things that are wrong and messed up with it.
From the NYT (not the National Enquirer or the Weekly World News, mind you, the New York Fucking Times) piece cleverly headlined “Sinatra Song Often Strikes Deadly Chord” [emphasis added]:
[This is the lede:] After a day of barbering, Rodolfo Gregorio went to his neighborhood karaoke bar still smelling of talcum powder. Putting aside his glass of Red Horse Extra Strong beer, he grasped a microphone with a habitué’s self-assuredness and briefly stilled the room with the Platters’ “My Prayer.” Next, he belted out crowd-pleasers by Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck. But Mr. Gregorio, 63, a witness to countless fistfights and occasional stabbings erupting from disputes over karaoke singing, did not dare choose one beloved classic: Frank Sinatra’s version of “My Way.” “I used to like ‘My Way,’ but after all the trouble, I stopped singing it,” he said. “You can get killed.
More from the NYT:
The authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling “My Way” in karaoke bars over the years in the Philippines, or how many fatal fights it has fueled. But the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime dubbed the “My Way Killings.”
Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?
Karaoke-related assaults have also occurred in the United States, including at a Seattle bar where a woman punched a man for singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” after criticizing his version. Still, the odds of getting killed during karaoke may be higher in the Philippines, if only because of the ubiquity of the pastime. Social get-togethers invariably involve karaoke. Stand-alone karaoke machines can be found in the unlikeliest settings, including outdoors in rural areas where men can sometimes be seen singing early in the morning. And Filipinos, who pride themselves on their singing, may have a lower tolerance for bad singers.
Others, noting that other equally popular tunes have not provoked killings, point to the song itself. The lyrics, written by Paul Anka for Mr. Sinatra as an unapologetic summing up of his career, are about a tough guy who “when there was doubt,” simply “ate it up and spit it out.” […] ” ‘I did it my way’ — it’s so arrogant,” Mr. Albarracin said. “The lyrics evoke feelings of pride and arrogance in the singer, as if you’re somebody when you’re really nobody. It covers up your failures. That’s why it leads to fights.”
Defenders of “My Way” say it is a victim of its own popularity. Because it is sung more often than most songs, the thinking goes, karaoke-related violence is more likely to occur while people are singing it. The real reasons behind the violence are breaches of karaoke etiquette, like hogging the microphone, laughing at someone’s singing or choosing a song that has already been sung.
Awash in more than one million illegal guns, the Philippines has long suffered from all manner of violence, from the political to the private. Wary middle-class patrons gravitate to karaoke clubs with cubicles that isolate them from strangers. But in karaoke bars where one song costs 5 pesos, or a tenth of a dollar, strangers often rub shoulders, sometimes uneasily. A subset of karaoke bars with G.R.O.’s — short for guest relations officers, a euphemism for female prostitutes — often employ gay men, who are seen as neutral, to defuse the undercurrent of tension among the male patrons.
Where do we begin? Let’s see:
- How about with the actual numbers: “the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime dubbed the “My Way Killings.” That’s right, 6 people have supposedly been killed in 10 years over this. In a third world country. Mostly in poor areas. And we’re using supposedly because according to the article itself, “the authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling ‘My Way’ in karaoke bars.”
- The hilariously inept lede (the smell of talcum powder!) seems to provide the only real reporting about this supposedly widespread panic: the reporter got some barber to go on record saying “I used to like ‘My Way,’ but after all the trouble, I stopped singing it. You can get killed.”
- Let’s recap up to here: 6 people who might or might not have been singing “My Way” were killed in karaoke bars in the Philippines over a period of 10 years. The writer claims that the local “news media” (which papers? reputable? links?) calls them “My Way Killings.” Some local barber thinks you’ll get killed over it.
- Echoing the worst excesses of tacky TV news reporting, the NYT sinks to making stupid, borderline racist, totally fucked-up generalizations in the form of rhetorical questions: “Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?”
- “Still, the odds of getting killed during karaoke may be higher in the Philippines, if only because of the ubiquity of the pastime.” Really? Can we get some some comparative stats? They’ve just pointed out that wherever people gather with guns to drink, be it Malaysia or good ole Seattle, violence might ensue, karaoke or not. Some of this violence is lethal.
- (Slight digression: According to this logic, fist-pumping at Karma in the Jersey Shore might lead to juiceheads pummeling each other to death. Is there something inherently sinister in fist-pumping?)
- The bottom line: some NYT reporter cobbled together a bullshit piece about random violence among poor foreigners, sexed it up with pop culture references (karaoke! the Chairman of the Board!) and some totally irrelevant quotes (“The Philippines is a very violent society,” proclaims one “Roland B. Tolentino, a pop culture expert at the University of the Philippines”), and incompetent editors gave it prime page space as “World News.” Next step: the webosphere picks it up and we can all have a good laugh at how wild and wacky those Philippiners are! Check out the Huffington Post parroting the Times article, and Gizmodo interrupting iPad coverage with this breaking non-story.