Who’d have known that bragging about stealing seven shirts (the thief later claimed to have stolen only two) from Defeater’s merch table during their show at Chain Reaction two days ago would have created such a fuss?
The loose-lipped shirt snatcher in question, 19-year-old Justin Gainey, sure as heck didn’t think things through. Having stolen a grand total of two shirts (he later told the band he lied about the number to sound cool), Gainey went and tweeted about the damned theft. His blinkered show of braggadocio didn’t go unnoticed, and Defeater soon put up a notice on their Facebook page with Gainey’s Facebook and Twitter profiles, as well as a link to his Tumblr page.
A follow-up post by the band included Gainey’s number, with a message from the band saying that they had “called and left our buddy Justin a message.” They encouraged fans to “feel free to do the same,” with the first person to retrieve the shirts being allowed to keep the stolen merch and receiving a gift from the band.
Most applauded the band’s efforts at outing the thief, with one particularly enthusiastic commenter saying that he hoped Gainey would “slit his wrists.” Some users, however, chafed at the name-calling and harassment being directed at Gainey. He eventually called the band and apologized for the trouble he’d caused, agreeing to donate the two stolen tees to The Salvation Army while sending the band some money.
Watching the furore surrounding “Merchgate” die down, I found myself concerned about the heavy-handed tactics employed by Defeater in their attempts to retrieve their stolen merch. I have to admit though, that he made himself a ridiculously easy target. I mean come on, having @Designed4Brutal as your Twitter username? Sheesh.
However, was it really necessary to name and shame the culprit so publicly? Don’t get me wrong – Gainey’s online persona has all the charisma of a turd – but Defeater’s role in harassing him wasn’t something to applaud either.
Sure, I get that bands feed, clothe and keep themselves on the road by selling merch to fans, but was it really worth the effort expended in the band’s attempt to reclaim the seven, or rather, two stolen tees? Fans can argue that it was a matter of principle, pointing to the zero-tolerance-for-bullshit attitude adopted by the hardcore scene.
Yet, I fail to see any redeeming qualities in the hounding Gainey received at the hands of Defeater’s fans. They stooped down to get at the kid and in the process, not only repulsed a handful of fans, but also displayed a remarkably distasteful, self-justified attitude towards someone who did something agreeably childish.
Fortunately, everything was settled relatively amicably. Had Gainey done something stupid and gone and harmed himself, Defeater and co. would have gone from being the victim to becoming the guilty party. Regardless of which side of the argument you fall on – I still believe the situation could’ve been handled far more civilly – my view is that both parties are in the wrong; Gainey, for being unable to keep his hands to himself and his general idiocy in boasting about it on Twitter, and Defeater for inciting their fans to gang up on him.
For what it’s worth, don’t steal from bands. We’re all in the same community after all, and bands need all the help they can get to stay together.