The techno grandaddy's recent bout of digital bigotry highlights a major issue among so-called liberals.
You really want to like Moby. If you're of a certain age, he made one of the quintessential albums of your youth, Play, and songs like "Porcelain" and "Honey" haunted you from car commercials for years after its release in 1999. Billboard magazine once dubbed Moby the "King of Techno," which may not be inaccurate considering that his 10 records (the most recent, Destroyed, came out in May) have sold tens of millions of copies. Over the course of his decades-long career, Moby has collaborated with Brian Eno, New Order, and David Bowie. And if Bowie says he's all right...
Outside of his music career, Moby is a middle-aged, soft-spoken pussycat who wears cute t-shirts. He started a cute little tea shop, TeaNY, in Manhattan with his cute girlfriend (who ended up marrying comedian Mike Myers). He's been a staunch vegan since before it was trendy, and he does cute interviews in which he explains how his love for his childhood pet, Tucker the cat, led him to his stance on animal rights. He has cute glasses. He does this cute thing on Twitter where, even though more than one million people follow him, he only follows six, one of whom is David Lynch and one of which is NASA. His Twitter handle is cutely self-deprecating: "thelittleidiot."
On paper, there's really no reason to not like Moby. In fact, there's no reason not to like Moby in person, either. We met once in the bathroom at a party, and when I told him I had been vegan for two days, he was very cordial about the whole thing.
So why is it that I can't stand the guy?
A friend of mine, Kyle, once had an acquaintance turn to him and say, "You know what? I just don't like you." Kyle was taken aback because he barely knew the guy. "But, but you don't know anything about me," Kyle stammered, "how can you dislike me?" The acquaintance replied, "Something about you rubs me the wrong way, and that's just basic human emotion." That's how I used to feel about Moby. Despite the fact that I, too, loved veganism, music, and David Lynch, there was just something off about the small, bald man, like your favorite recipe made incorrectly.
Until this week, when all of my unfounded animosity was vindicated:
Moby is a racist.
"One racist tweet doesn't make a person racist," you might be saying, and you'd be right. What does make a person racist, however, is when, after their racism has been clearly pointed out to them, they double down on it, and then admonish as too sensitive the people they offended. Moby is, apparently, the cutest guy in the world who thinks it's funny when formerly poor black people have opinions about fine art.
But this isn't about a few racist tweets, or really even about Moby himself. It's about Moby's brand of liberalism. He has what I'll call the "but I’m a vegan" problem—BIAV, for short—but it can also be the "but I’m a feminist problem" or the "but I voted for Obama" problem. You probably know someone who has this illness; perhaps you even suffer from it yourself. It's very easy to diagnose: Thanks to a history of supporting liberal causes like Greenpeace or the NAACP, the person afflicted with BIAV—Moby, in this case—thinks it impossible for him to be racist or sexist or, indeed, to hold any bigoted view whatsoever. "What do you mean I'm not a feminist?" asks the misogynist with BIAV, "My first wife was in the women's movement."
Anyone can have BIAV—white people, black people, women, men, Jews, Muslims, Christians, anyone. And though it sounds a lot like privilege, it's different. Privilege is a toxic yet unintentional default setting, whereas BIAV is willful ignorance. Privilege is what causes Moby, as a wealthy white guy, to think it's funny for black rappers to name-check museums; BIAV is what prompts him to snark at anyone who would dare suggest he is in the wrong. Privilege is forgivable; BIAV is inexcusable.
If you follow thelittleidiot (remember, his words) on Twitter, you know that the greatest irony is how much Moby chastises others for their inability to face reality. Just this past Sunday, in fact, he tweeted, "I'm always amazed at the american [sic] right wings [sic] ability to ignore facts and statistics that they find inconvenient." Three days later, Moby would be making fun of people for pointing out facts he considered inconvenient.
As of this writing, Moby's last tweet was: "I just went for a walk and found: a trampoline. And 2 donkeys. Trampoline was fun. Donkeys were bored. Maybe I'll go back with apples." Cute, plus the donkeys can't call him a racist. He'll like that.