A feud has erupted between pop star M.I.A. and journalist Lynne Hirschberg over a feature-length profile of the Sri Lankan-British singer in this week's New York Times Magazine. Unhappy at her treatment in the article, the
"Paper Planes" singer has decided to fight back by posting the writer's cellphone number on Twitter. Here, the anatomy of a media spat:
What did Hirschberg write that was so offensive?
"It's unclear what specific objections the singer has to the piece," says Juli Weiner at Vanity Fair, but there was plenty of "ego-bruising" detail in the article. Hirschberg appears to note contradictions between M.I.A.'s political rhetoric and her comfortable private life. The "most devastating line," says Lane Brown in New York Magazine, was one of Hirschberg's trademark offhand juxtapositions: "'I kind of want to be an outsider,' [M.I.A.] said, eating a truffle-flavored French fry."
How did M.I.A. express her displeasure?
By posting Hirschberg's number on Twitter — the singer currently has over 110,000 followers — with the message: "CALL ME IF YOU WANNA TALK TO ME ABOUT THE N Y T TRUTH ISSUE, ill be taking calls all day bitches." She followed that with another message: "NEWS IS AN OPINION! UNEDITED VERSION OF THE INTERVIEW WILL BE ON neetrecordings THIS MEMORIAL WEEKEND!!!"
Has Hirschberg commented on M.I.A.'s tweets?
Tracked down by the New York Observer, Hirschberg described the tactic as "fairly unethical," but said it was not surprising. "She's a provocateur, and provocateurs want to be provocative." Hirschberg added she would not be changing her phone number, and that most calls she had received were from "people trying to hook up with M.I.A."
What was the "unedited version of the interview"?
Last weekend, M.I.A. posted audio snippets of the interview online, in which it was revealed that it was Hirschberg, not M.I.A., who had ordered the truffle fries. The singer also posted a new song called "I'm a Singer," featuring the lyrics: "Why the hell would journalists be thick as s--t / Cause lies equals power equals politics."
What does the New York Times say about the spat?
The "Grey Lady" has not yet commented on the specifics, but on Thursday it appended a correction to Herschberg's piece online. It appears that the journalist edited together two particularly controversial quotes by M.I.A. to appear as if it was one long statement. "The article should have made clear that the two quotations came from different parts of the interview," said the correction.
Who comes off worse from this spat?
This "terrible piece of trivial journalism" reflects very badly on Hirschberg, says V.V. Ganeshananthan at the Columbia Journalism Review. Her "sloppy contextualizing of the politics of M.I.A.’s actions swings between flat-out wrong and incomplete." But while the singer certainly wins the "truffle-flavored fries" battle, says Hamilton Nolan at Gawker, she "loses the war." The profile still suggests she might be a hypocrite, and her response to it makes her seem like a "baby."
Is this the first time Hirschberg has feuded with her subjects?
No. In an infamous 1992 Vanity Fair profile of Courtney Love, the journalist reported that the singer had taken heroin while pregnant with her daughter Frances Bean. Love — who denied the report — took her revenge one step further than M.I.A., recording a track with her band Hole entitled "Bring Me The Head of Lynn Hirschberg."
This article was originally posted on May 28