In 1965, The Beatles recorded a song written by Paul McCartney called “Yesterday.” It has since become one of the most covered songs of all time.
In 2008, now former-NBA player DeShawn Stevenson and rapper Soulja Boy tried their best to get in a tag-team feud with hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and NBA living legend LeBron James. After being goaded by the NBA bench-warmer and the one-hit-wonder, both Jay-Z and LeBron laughed off the situation because they didn’t have time to deal with the toothless barkings from dogs much smaller than they. The public turned on Stevenson and Soula Boy, and they came out of the whole situation a lot worse than when they went into it.
In 2014, in fact just last week, a writer named Rachel Manteuffel decided to write a piece for THE WASHINGTON POST shitting on the lyrics of “Yesterday” by The Beatles.
She apparently had not learned a lesson from the DeShawn Stevenson/Soulja Boy fable…
Now Rachel Manteuffel identifies herself as a Millennial writer, which is something we should just stop doing (but for some reason we just can’t yet). Like many in my and her demographic, she tweets a lot, she occasionally writes really great stuff like this piece she did about a Vietnam veteran with a hoarding problem, she’s not afraid to be creative with form, she’s forced to do annoying bitchwork like play editorial MC from WaPo’s “Post Script” section…
And sometimes she bites off more than she can chew.
There are a few things history has taught us we should never do: get involved in a land war with Asia, accept a first offer, and insult The Beatles, even satirically, and think we’re going to get away with it scot-free.
But Rachel Manteuffel went and did it anyway, writing a letter to Baby Boomers on behalf of all Millennials cutely deconstructing the lyrics to one of the most famous piano ballads of all time:
“Boomers, please believe that we are not trying to be cruel. We simply urge you to assess your music in the harsh light of reality. Of today.”
See, it’s funny because she knows that what she’s doing is ridiculous, and she may think this light-hearted controversial tactic will work to her advantage as it will provoke the article’s view count higher, but she doesn’t realize there is actually nothing to gain from rhetorically asking Mr. McCartney if he is, “a sap and a dip and a freeloader.”
Baby Boomers hate all things Millennial — they especially don’t understand Millennials’ uninterrupted flow of sarcasm and irony — and they worship at the altar of Beatle, so they’re going to come after you.
Millennials, on the other hand, are going to either A) not get it because sadly, as Rachel admits at the end of the piece, Millennials don’t know who Paul McCartney is or B) not care enough to write anything positive about it/share it on InstaTweetBook, so you’re not going to get any good traction there to offset the negative chatter.
Now Rachel Manteuffel is left with a comment section and Twitter feed that’s lambasting her as a complete idiot, when she only was sort of temporarily an idiot while writing it.
Her real (and biggest) mistake was defending her idiocy.
Part of having to crank out content each day means you completely misfire sometimes (see: this piece I wrote comparing trolls and mentally ill people). These kinds of things will leak out of one’s brain and onto the internet from time to time. And it sucks, but as a writer, you have to know when to just throw up your hands and go “yeah, I fucked up on that one.”
Unfortunately, it’s a bit too late for Rachel. What she has to do now, as hard as it is, is go radio silent, especially on her Twitter feed, when it comes to that story; people have short attention spans, and they’ll forget this in a week, tops, if she forgets it too.
As long as she can avoid getting labeled as “The Girl Who Thought It Would Be Funny To Shit On The Beatles,” works her ass off on her next piece, and lets this one fall by the wayside, she’ll be fine.
She’s learned her lesson the hard way.
In August of last summer, Kendrick Lamar dropped a verse on Big Sean’s “Control” in which he took aim at a slew of his hip-hop peers:
I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you…
What is competition? I’m trying to raise the bar high
Who tryna jump and get it?
But he wasn’t dissing them for no reason; he wanted to motivate them.
He thought that calling people out on their sub-par output was what’s best for their entire industry; he optimistically believed that we were capable of being better.