Kanye West, Jeremy Clarkson And The Poisonous Potential Of E-Petitions

We’ve probably all put our name to an e-petition at some point, whether it’s asking for Jeremy Clarkson’s P45 or demanding no tax is spent on a museum for Margaret Thatcher. Most never achieve their stated aim, nor are they ever really intended to: they’re simply a way of thumbing your nose and bearing your arse at something you don’t like. That’s especially true of petitions like the one started by Neil Lonsdale, a first-time Glastonbury-goer who last week demanded that Kanye West be relieved of his Saturday-night headline slot and replaced with “a rock band”. Lonsdale doesn’t go into specifics, but presumably any rock band would suffice, seeing as nothing could be more antithetical to the spirit of Glastonbury than an assertive, outspoken and hugely successful hip-hop artist.

The 100,000 (and counting) people who have signed it must know they’re not going to get Kanye kicked off the bill, and Lonsdale himself even admitted to being “a little surprised that people have taken it as seriously as they have”. I wish I could say the same, but furores like this one have become something of an annual tradition, particularly where Glastonbury is concerned – remember last year, when Metallica were too much of a rock band for some people?

The petitions themselves are unfailingly pointless and ineffectual, and in that sense I’ve got no real problem with their existence. They’re little more than temper tantrums, and rightly ignored by the Eavises. Nevertheless, it’s interesting that the biggest and best known of them tend to be the work of rock and indie fans whose dogmatic belief in what is and isn’t ‘real’ music has been challenged in some way. Hip-hop is the usual culprit (see also: Jay-Z at Glastonbury ’08), and there are all sorts of insidious racial and cultural undertones that tend to go hand in hand with that – Lonsdale’s own description of Kanye’s recent Brits performance as being “just threatening” was an unintentionally revealing case in point. Yet as last year’s storm in a teacup over Metallica proved, any band who don’t fit the narrow parameters of the ‘Traditional Glastonbury Headliner’ – as Foo Fighters evidently do – are liable to be greeted with outrage and apoplexy. Sometimes, you have to wonder if the biggest difference between an indie zealot and a Ukip supporter is their feather cut.

Some of these petitions are funny enough that you hope they succeed. The ones looking to ban Nickelback from playing in London, force Bono to retire from public life or pay Weezer $10m to split up, if only to see them reform 10 minutes later as Weezier. But the Kanye petition doesn’t seem to come from a place of humour, but an assumption that these people know what’s best for a festival that many of them have never actually been to. I’d never argue with a person’s right to have a hissy fit on the internet – that’s practically what it was invented for – but, as with a monkey who starts throwing his own faeces around, it’s best not to give them the attention they crave.