So, if you’re following along: Lynn Hirschberg outed M.I.A. as a member of the bourgeoisie in her New York Times Magazine profile of the artist via a selective anecdote involving a truffle-flavored french fry; M.I.A. struck back by Tweeting Hirschberg’s number to the world; Hirschberg averred to the Observer‘s John Koblin that this action was “infuriating and not surprising,” not to mention “unethical”; at which point M.I.A. posted a covert recording of Hirschberg ordering the dreaded french fries; which led the intrepid Koblin to call Hirschberg back, asking for further comment. Which she then gave:
“I was just trying to explain to her what was on the menu,” Hirschberg told the Observer yesterday, not entirely convincingly. “I don’t think the French fries illustrate that much about her character.” This statement, of course, is entirely disingenuous–details like the above are included in profiles precisely because they are assumed to be illuminating, character-wise. Otherwise features like the ones Hirschberg specializes in would be mere laundry lists of articles of clothing, menu-orders, trivial pleasantries, small talk, and the rest of the life-noise that gets excluded in shaping a portrait of another human being through words.
And though it may be frustrating to Hirschberg to have her entire article undermined by one lousy aside–” I don’t think that’s the only example of contradictions in M.I.A.’s life,” she tells Koblin–it’s a kind of perverse justice for what was in fact a low blow. You are only as good as your worst sentence, when it comes to these things, so leave the cheap shots in at your own peril, profile-writers. Otherwise you might just find that the next exposé is about…you.
More on M.I.A., The Times and Truffle-Gate [Observer]