Call a pop star out on the contradictions in her “message,” and pay the price—via Tweet.
Celebrity profiler/muckraker Lynn Hirschberg (she wrote the infamous 1992 Kurt ‘n’ Courtney profile in Vanity Fair, for one) learned that the hard way today when her recent New York Times cover story on M.I.A. displeased the singer enough to make her post Hirschberg’s personal cell number on her official Twitter.
“917.834.—- CALL ME IF YOU WANNA TALK TO ME ABOUT THE N Y T TRUTH ISSUE, ill b taking calls all day bitches ;)” M.I.A., a.k.a. Maya Arulpragasam tweeted late this morning; the number, of course, is not actually hers but Hirschberg’s (we deleted the last four digits here, in the interest of preserving the writer’s privacy, such as it is at this point.)
In the piece, Hirschberg repeatedly targets the disconnect between the “Paper Planes” singer’s strident rebel persona and the rather luxurious lifestyle she leads in L.A.’s tony Brentwood neighborhood with fiance Ben Bronfman, the scion of the Seagrams dynasty (his grandfather Charles Bronfman’s net worth is estimated at $2.8 billion). And she does call her recent ginger-massacre video for “Born Free” both “exploitative and hollow” and “at best, politically naive.”
But many of the article’s most damning moments actually come via quotes from secondary sources: Ahilan Kadirgamar of Sri Lanka Democracy Forum expressed disappointment that London-born Sri Lankan singer has continually advocated the cause of the violent separatist group Tamil Tigers: “Maya took a very simplistic explanation of the problems between Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese government and the Tamils,” he says. “It’s very unfair when you condemn one side of this conflict. The Tigers were killing people, and the government was killing people. It was a brutal war, and M.I.A. had a role in putting the Tigers on the map. She doesn’t seem to know the complexity of what these groups do.”
And former boyfriend and longtime producer Diplo, who still works with Arulpragasam, didn’t seem overly concerned with future collaborations when he told Hirschberg, “In the end, Maya is postmodern: she can’t really make music or art that well, but she’s better than anyone at putting crazy ideas into motion. She knows how to manipulate, how to withhold, how to get what she wants.” (Also: “She met me, and we started a relationship. Maya was into the whole terrorism gimmick at the time. It was all underground back then. In the beginning, she was trying to be different.”)
Arulparagasam does manage to sneak in a minor smackdown of her own concerning a certain favorite foe—”“I can’t talk about Gaga anymore. All I’ll say is, it’s upsetting when babies say ga-ga now. It used to be innocent. Now, they’re calling her name”—but feels considerably more kindly towards Madonna, whom she says “did amazing songs. She had an amazing sense of style, without a stylist. And she was flawed, and sometimes she admitted it. I’ll fight the fight for Madonna. I think she should send me some chocolates or something to thank me.”
Hirschberg, who is likely not waiting with bated breath for her own Whitman Sampler, told the New York Observer today that she found the cell-phone tweet “infuriating and not surprising.” “It’s a fairly unethical thing to do, but I don’t think it’s surprising,” she continued. “She’s a provocateur, and provocateurs want to be provocative.”
M.I.A., however, may still get the last word. She just tweeted “NEWS IS AN OPINION! UNEDITED VERSION OF THE INTERVIEW WILL BE ON neetrecordings THIS MEMORIAL WEEKEND!!!”
What do you think, readers—was Hirschberg’s piece a takedown, or just her journalistic prerogative? And can M.I.A.’s retaliation-by-tweet be justified?
Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)
More from EW.com’s Music Mix: