Who’s to Blame for THORNAPPLE?
Every year, the Undergraduate Student Council (USC) comes up with a list of groups that will be featured in the annual KAIST Art and Music Festival (KAMF). In throes of the increasing awareness on gender-related issues today, discussing the controversial pasts of the cast artists prove to be difficult. The debate discusses whether the USC’s invitation of THORNAPPLE to the recent KAMF deserved the commotion it caused and where the fault lies for the controversy.
Not so long after the #MeToo movement has swept across the country, KAMF has been tainted with hatred towards and discrimination of the minority. As explained in further detail in the news section (page 4), THORNAPPLE, a rock band, had been at the center of controversy for the insensitive comments the vocalist and the bassist have made in the past. From the release of the KAMF lineup to the cancellation of THORNAPPLE's performance, the issue, like any other that arises in KAIST, has been discussed actively through students’ online platforms, such as KaDaejeon, ARA, and Bamboo Forest.
The criticisms targeted the USC, Batchim, who recruited the band. It has failed to appropriately represent the student body by inviting persons with objectionable philosophy to a festival celebrating “arts and music”. After all, the ideology of the creator is said to be conveyed through their masterpieces.
However, before the release of the lineup, various posts and comments on KaDaejeon requesting for THORNAPPLE received numerous “likes”, and when the line-up was confirmed, until the controversial aspects became as well-known, students’ responses appeared just as positive. It is Batchim’s duty to serve the students’ needs and to improve their quality of life through various means including welfare, policy-making, cultural events, and so on. Therefore, its decision to cast THORNAPPLE can be seen as an effort for cultural enrichment. The band is renowned for its particular artistic talent exhibited through its unique and somewhat quixotic music, and its characteristic genre has built a solid fan base. Moreover, the vice president of Batchim mentioned in his comments for a post on KaDaejeon regarding the reprehensible comments made by the vocalist and the bassist of the band that it is also society’s duty to accept the individuals who have apologized for their past mistakes. Nevertheless, the Central Executive Committee has admitted that it was unaware of the bassist’s remark regarding sexual minorities.
Because the stage was ultimately canceled, it has only left scars for those who were involved in the intensive discussion and disappointment for those who have yet supported THORNAPPLE’s music and perhaps hoped to see the band eventually. Therefore, many would agree that it would have been best if Batchim had not invited the band in the first place and that the recruitment of THORNAPPLE was a mistake. However, who really is to blame? Batchim, as the representative of the student body, makes decisions based on combined opinions collected through surveys and student platforms, whilst keeping a neutral stance. Therefore, it does not exert an opinion but simply assesses the viewpoints and the outcomes in order to push the “right” button. I have no intentions to blame the students’ opinions either. A belief of an individual comes from their unique circumstances, so some may say that the music and the persons are separate, or that what the THORNAPPLE members have said is forgivable. Nevertheless, Batchim should have avoided the possibility of controversy as much as possible.
In many ways, Batchim had certainly been unprofessional in both the process of decision-making and the handling of the situation as it became controversial. However, the only people that had the intentions to offend anyone were the two THORNAPPLE members. So although Batchim has made a mistake and does need criticism to recognize what it has done wrong, the excessive condemnation of the student council in its decision-making process appears as though the public started jumping on the bandwagon. At the end of the day, what we need is to move on and for each of us to make an effort to contribute to the betterment of the community. The student council has already made specific pledges for improvement, and through the case of THORNAPPLE, we may reflect upon the things we say in casual gatherings or online spaces to become more sensitive.