Earlier this week, British musician Devonté Hynes lost all his belongings when a fire broke out in his apartment. Even more tragically, the fire killed his beloved dog Cupid. Seeking a way to help, the mother of his girlfriend Samantha Urbani (of the band Friends) started a Go Fund Me that has raised over $24,000 from supportive fans. It also caught attention of a member of the Guardian's editorial board.
In her piece as it reads now, currently entitled "Why celebrity crowdfunding has little appeal," Holly Baxter takes issue with the idea of wealthy and/or privileged and/or famous people crowdfunding, comparing Hynes to crowdfunders like Zosia Mamet and Zach Braff. Baxter argues that crowdfunding is legitimate when it allows people to produce work that they otherwise wouldn't be able have creative control over. She's not supportive of people who are raising money to replace things but is supportive of those raising money to make things:
What Hynes lost in his recordings can only be reproduced with meticulous time and effort. That's something I'm willing to pay for. Hynes's designer jeans and the honour of working for the Mamet sisters? Not so much.
Though Baxter's piece right now seems to use Hynes' situation as an example case of a larger issue, according to many angry people on Twitter, the article used to be much more pointed. It was originally titled "Dev Hynes Puppy Sob Story Has Left Me Burnt Out" (really stunning pun there) and the URL still reads "dev-hynes-puppy-burnt-kickstarters-charity-cases-blood-orange." Others are alleging that the Guardian has also made edits to the piece without noting them.
Baxter's argument has likely been attacked even more than it would have been to begin with because it went up very shortly before a Tumblr post Hynes wrote this morning that suggested he might donate all the money to three unidentified charities:
If I am honest, the fundraiser makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. This isn't me saying I don't need the money, to reiterate, i have lost everything. But maybe it's time I down some anxiety medication see a doctor and try and play some shows y'know? There are things i can do, although it will take years, that can help myself rebuild, a huge part of me is still struggling with understanding the events of two nights ago, and where to take my life from here.
This isn't me being unappreciative. Tears stream down my face when Samantha shows me the nice messages people have written. It's overwhelming in the most extremely nicest way that people would care about this But as I stated before, so many people have nothing they can do to rebuild their life from scratch.
"While I am working everything out, please feel free to email me if you have donated and have any concerns, or would rather your money go to charity, or not. I want to hear people's thoughts," Hynes added. "I'm not trying to make a news story, this is just my life, and I want to be genuine with the people that have been more than genuine with me."
The Guardian has closed comments on Baxter's piece, leaving only one that links to Hynes' post, with a reply from Guardian editor Sarah Phillips:
Thanks to the various people who have flagged that link up. This piece was written before Dev's blog was published, so Holly was unable to bring that in. Of course it changes things if he donates it all to charity and Holly does acknowledge that it was his gf's mum who set it up, not them. The point she is making though is about the wider issue of what justifies your crowdsourced cash.
Fans of Hynes' have positively flooded the Twitter account for Vagenda magazine, a publication Baxter founded, as many have noted, with help from a Kickstarter. Since Baxter apparently shares that Twitter account with her co-founder Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, there's been some confusion over exactly who is tweeting from it and where the criticism should be directed:
Hynes himself is unsurprisingly displeased about the article:
In her piece, Baxter writes that crowdfunding can be effective because, "It also reasserts creative control for people who want to build a project with integrity outside the normal capitalist constraints." But what she fails to understand is that crowdfunding is part of the capitalist system. It allows people to decide what they want to purchase and support and when, the same as if they decided to donate to a museum or buy an album. It doesn't sit outside the capitalist system, but is merely a development of it. Additionally, debating the pros and cons of crowdfunding is something that's been done many times before, with far worthier targets (and though we're definitely biased over here at Gawker Media, often in much more articulate and tasteful ways). While it's (bottom line) a terrible idea to kick a man when he has lost everything, it's also a complete waste of energy because ultimately, people will vote with their wallets. And they did.