Music

A Primer On The Almighty Shitstorm Surrounding The Needle Drop’s Anthony Fantano

Just what is happening to the 'Internet's Busiest Music Nerd'?

This article discuses sexual assault.

If you spend much time reading music blogs or trawling through YouTube, the name Anthony Fantano will probably be familiar.

Fantano is the creator of The Needle Drop, a music review channel with a current subscriber base of over 1.1 million users. Over the last few years Fantano has risen to become one of the most famous music critics on the planet, chalking up illustrious profiles in publications like SPIN and positions on panels at music conferences all around the globe — including Melbourne’s Face The Music last year.

But in the last couple of days, Fantano has found himself at the centre of an almighty shitstorm, after an exhaustive The Fader article blasted him over the alt-right politics of his side-channel, thatistheplan.

Huh? I Thought He Just Did Music Reviews?

You’re right, Fantano’s main gig is TND, but until yesterday he also ran two successful side channels: fantano and thatistheplan.

While Fantano is generally concerned with posting music-related rants, thatistheplan (which he deleted yesterday, we’ll get to that in a sec) was dedicated to meme reviews and 4Chan-inspired shitposting — with videos like “pepe the frog triggers hillary clinton,” “I CHANGED MY GENDER CUZ DONALD TRUMP,” and “MEGA-CUCK SAYS POKEMON GO IS LIKE DOGFIGHTING”.

He would also post disturbing parodies of rappers like Hopsin with scenes like this, as described by The Fader:

“Fantano wraps a cord around his neck, while an image of a black guy with a white noose around his neck that appears behind him. Next, we see a background image of another black person being choked, right as Fantano says the words “choked to death.” He’s playing the specter of black suicide and death for laughs.”

For someone who purports to be respectful of hip-hop spaces, the tone of thatistheplan appeared to be beyond problematic. Fantano’s defence of the channel — which he reiterated on Twitter today — is that it’s satire.

But using satire as an excuse to air and examine horrid views is a shaky position at the best of times, and you have to wonder whether Fantano’s (mostly male) fanbase was actually in on the joke, or just egging him on because they agreed with the views being expressed.

“For someone who purports to be respectful of hip-hop spaces, the tone of thatistheplan was beyond grating and problematic.”

But the controversy extended far beyond just that channel. The Fader also highlighted two questionable incidences on Fantano’s Needle Drop podcast.

In one instance, Fantano invited on well-known vlogger Sargon of Akkad (real name Carl Benjamin), who has made a name for himself by labelling feminists as a “hashtag hate group“, and tweeting “I wouldn’t even rape you” at UK politician Jess Phillips.

In their discussion, Fantano agrees with Akkad that “authoritarian social movements” and “left wing activists” are on the rise in the music industry, and finishes on the statement that “the gender debate distracts” from more important issues.

Then there’s another incidence. Beloved alt-right vlogger Sam Hyde was a guest on the podcast only a few months after Akkad, and took the time in the middle of their discussion to deliver a rant about how he would “defend himself” if attacked by actress Lena Dunham:

“I’ll be nailing her, I’ll be punching her in the back of the neck, I’ll be boxing her eyes in. I’ll break both her orbital bones. I’m gonna destroy Lena Dunham so badly that the people that come to clean her up, they’re gonna be puking when they see what I did to her. I want them to know how I feel about her, so I’m gonna fuck her up so bad that they’re gonna puke when they see her bruised mangled body.”

Fantano, instead of stopping Hyde, laughed along. When Hyde continued on his rant, saying things such as “the government giving women a paycheck to use their pussies like ATMs and crap out kids”, Fantano continued to laugh.

Say what you will about the “satire” on thatistheplan, but to laugh at this kind of statement — or to even let it go to air — is an extremely questionable decision.

Then there was Fantano’s participation in the below video, in which he poses this question to “SJWs” and feminists: “What do you think will happen when you leave your safe space?”

He also dropped by to leave a comment:

The Disappearance Of ThatIsThePlan

Yesterday, only a few hours before The Fader hit publish, the author Ezra Marcus emailed Fantano for comment about some of the material that would be aired:

We don’t know whether Fantano responded — no comments from him appeared in The Fader article — but we do know that shortly afterwards, Fantano completely deleted thatistheplan. Every video, save for a 30-second clip of YouTube’s monetisation logo, is now gone.

On Twitter, Fantano explained that the sudden deletion was due to YouTube’s controversial demonetisation policy — which essentially removes a user’s ability to receive advertising revenue if their material is deemed inappropriate.

Fantano is definitely not alone in his criticism of YouTube’s policy, but the timing of thatistheplan’s deletion seems suspicious — as many people pointed out after The Fader piece was published.

The Reaction

One only has to take a short scroll through The Fader’s Facebook or Twitter to gauge the intense reaction from Fantano’s hardcore fanbase — but there was definitely a lot of support for The Fader out there as well.

Fantano, for his part, has remained fairly silent, although he has flagged that a response is coming:

At the time of writing, Fantano’s response has yet to air. Read The Fader’s article in full here.

Jules LeFevre is Staff Writer for Music Junkee and inthemix. She is on Twitter