Singer M.I.A, you’ll likely recall, was recently embroiled in something of a controversy with New York Times contributor Lynn Hirschberg over an article Hirshberg wrote for the paper. The article in question sought, it seemed, to analyze M.I.A.’s dual status as both a celebrity and an activist.
M.I.A. was unhappy with several aspects of the article and decided to express her disappointment by posting Hirschberg’s number on Twitter and inviting her fans to call it, giving them the impression that it was her own. Hirschberg responded by calling the singer’s actions “unethical.”
Over the weekend, M.I.A. again took control of her image and what she perceived as a dishonest portrayal into her own hands, posting two audio clips from the interview — which she apparently recorded without Hirshberg’s knowledge — to her blog. The clips serve to clear up some portions of the article. The singer, for instance, never ordered truffle french fries as Hirschberg had written she did. In reality, the reporter suggested and ordered the dish. The Observer has a helpful synopsis of the conversation:
“They have, like, truffle, they have like three different kinds, it’s very elaborate,” Ms. Hirschberg says on the tape, explaining the menu to M.I.A. at the Beverly Hills Wilshire Hotel.
M.I.A. said that, yes, she would like a starter.
“Can we order the French fries that come on the bar menu, the basket?” Ms. Hirschberg instructs the waiter.
Several types of fries, then!
When asked by the Observer about this fry-ordering discrepancy, Hirschberg explained that she didn’t really have “much of a comment,” adding:
I don’t think the French fries illustrate that much about her character. I don’t think that’s the only example of contradictions in M.I.A.’s life.
…which is a debatable point, truffle fries being the food of kings and fancy pop stars who live in castles made of cocaine. Hirshberg’s report contains a few other discrepancies when compared to the audio of the interview, but she explains it as having edited an entire conversation full of repeat quotes, and not so much the result of editing one particular phrase or sentence.
The question, of course, was never whether Hirschberg edited or spun M.I.A’s statements and actions to suit a particular point — many pieces on celebrities do this — but whether M.I.A. is, herself, the embodiment of a new phase of journalism, where celebrities now have a platform — via social media — to act as both journalist and PR flack on their own behalf.