Musing on Comments & A Slight Policy Change

Dear Reader, 

I take this blog very seriously. I write using my full name and have my picture posted in the “About” section, not out of narcissism, but because I feel that it is important to stand fully behind my own words and never hide behind the a curtain of anonymity. Please keep that in mind as you read this post.

Based on the traffic to Sunday morning’s post B.B. King, Buddy Guy & 9 Year-Old Quinn Sullivan Blow My Mind, I am assuming that most of you have read it. 

If you haven’t read it, allow me to fill you in on what happened. 

I saw an amazing concert and wanted to share the experience with anyone who would listen. Probably the most memorable parts of the show involved an extraordinary young guitarist named Quinn Sullivan. At age nine, I can safely say that he is a far more accomplished guitarist than I will ever be… than most guitarists will ever be. Watching this child play with Buddy and B.B. was a profound experience for me. 

When I got home I couldn’t sleep, so I wrote a post praising all three. I also included a little background about Quinn and included a number of YouTube videos of him over the last few years. 

I’m no stranger to controversy and frequently invite it, but I want to be clear that that was never my intention with that particular post. I merely wanted to showcase the talent that I bore witness to, both young and old. 

What ensued were a series of comments by some generally angry and misguided individuals who had a problem with young Quinn’s presence among the elder blues legends. 

Now, I have a firm opposition to censorship. I believe that the only way that this site can be truly honest is if it is open to opposing viewpoints. To that end, I do not censor and I do not deny comment. I will however engage in discussion on the comment boards, especially if I disagree (it is after all social media). 

When I received these angry comments I was faced with the decision to delete, censor, or allow. I followed my beliefs and allowed them, choosing instead to advocate in opposition of these individuals. 

In short, I was faced with an ethical decision and I went with my gut in a situation where in my opinion, both options were miserable. 

Fortunately, the argument came to a screeching halt when Quinn’s mother found my blog and left a rather respectful yet stern post calling out the individual who lobbed the harshest criticism at her son. 

I felt bad about what I had allowed to happen on this blog a day before Quinn’s mother posted, but I felt even worse after.

My intention was never to allow this site to become a lightning-rod for verbal abuse of a nine year-old boy, but that was what happened. 

I will continue to invite honest, open, and uncensored dialog now and in the future, however, I will never permit another comment that in anyway degrades a child.

As you post on this blog and on others in the future, ask yourself if you will be comfortable with your words in six months before you submit it. These comments do not go away, and even if you post them anonymously, they still belong to you.

I want nothing more than to see this site turn into a vibrant community of open dialogue, but never at the expense of a child.

To the Quinn, Carol, and any of Quinn’s family and friends –  From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry if this has caused you any grief. I will do better in the future. 

To all of my readers – Thank you for taking the time to read this and any other post that you choose to read. I am honored by your time and readership.


David “The Geek Whisperer” Spira

15 thoughts on “Musing on Comments & A Slight Policy Change

  1. Thank you for posting this, and each of your illuminating articles. Additionally, thank you for your sincere opinions on the issue. Freedom of speech is a gift, and should be used as such, not to spread hate and anger, but as a tool to engage others and discuss and learn.

  2. David,I also agree with free speech and agree with you wholeheartedly. I can agree with people feeling the cost of their ticket to the show did not include (or should not have included)having to be subjected to a 9 yr old unknown guitarist. People wanted to see a full set of Buddy and instead,in certain opinions,felt cheated. Those were honest opinions in which everyone is entitled to. From my view at the show I only saw people on the floor cheering the performance as were the people at The Beacon Theatre in New York a few nights before when Buddy, B.B. and Quinn took to the stage as a trio which brought a standing ovation. Regardless of what people thought leaving that show (and any other)I will say one more thing. Buddy and B.B. not only graciously shared their stage with such a young guitarist but treated him with the utmost respect which is something I can only hope Quinn will carry with him and share with others if he chooses to continue on this path.

  3. Please keep in mind that what I am about to say is done in the spirit of pure objectivity, with no ill will or disrespect to Quinn and Carol.

    I’ve been following this thread for some time and felt the urge to jump in.

    I detect some faulty logic here. Is Quinn (a) a 9-YEAR-OLD with a talent for guitar or (b) an exceptionally proficient MUSICIAN who happens to be 9 years old?

    If we’re going under the presumption of (a), then the question under debate is: Is Quinn’s talent so great that he deserves a place onstage with Buddy Guy and B.B. King? If not, he should not be touted as a guitar genius, but as a child exceptionally skilled for his age.

    If we’re going under the presumption of (b), then Quinn should be included in the category of all musicians who publicly take the stage. Being such, he should expect to be held to the same standards of talent, knowledgeability, and performance as any other professional guitarist, regardless of age. True, as we know, age bears no bearing to a performer’s sensitivity and/or ability to receive/process criticism—and by criticism, I mean critique of his playing, not of the individual (but that’s another story…). A 9-year-old—and more so his mother—may be emotionally sensitive, but this is the scrutiny that befalls all professional musicians. A 60-year-old musician can be just as perturbed or even disturbed by negative criticism. But this is all part of the gig.

    If Quinn is touted as a GUITARIST, he must get used to this. Therefore, to say that because of his age, Quinn should not be subject to objective musical criticism is a faulty syllogism, as that would put him in the first category.

  4. Come on. You have got to be kidding me. We are going to censor because of something that the people we are discussing are going to be offended??? They should not read it if they are concerned about criticism. That is the ultimate form of censorship.

    First of all, Quinn and his mom do not have to turn to this website. A mom should be able to control what her son looks at. Second, if he cannot deal with criticism, maybe he is not ready for the limelight. What is he going to do when the NY Times has a bad thing to say about him, write a letter to the editor complaining? That is likely what has led to his hogging the stage that night, was the lack of reality that he is not the center of the universe. A little criticism leads to insight which gives you character and helps you to check yourself and maybe learn something from the circumstances. And mom needs to hear this so she can instill some humbleness in her child.

    Second, the criticism is not only leveled at Quinn and his mom, but more at Buddy and BB for letting this get in the way of what people’s expectations were for the show. We did spend a lot of money and we may not go back again because of situations like this and so maybe they need to hear this, especially as they complain about the lack of popularity of the blues in the mainstream media. Stunts like that one push a person like me, a huge blues fan, away from going to see shows again. $100 a ticket? I remember the days when you could go see a show for $20, and those were big acts, with big opening acts. I am already reluctant to go to shows and gimmickry like what happened that night has to end. I like guests and people showing up to play with the people on the ticket, but they have to learn to share the stage and that it goes verse/chorus/solo/solo/solo with each person taking a solo for a stretch of the verse and/or chorus, it is not just play, play, play. Buddy could have easily said, I will extend my set to compensate for the lack of my playing time to give this kid the spotlight.

    So, stop being such a facilitator of censorship. People should be allowed to vent. That is what free speech is all about. There is no defamation here. It is all opinion, so don’t worry about getting sued.

  5. This shift in policy has absolutely nothing to do with the wishes the Sullivan family. They made no requests nor any demands. The decision to not allow comments that degrade children is my decision and mine alone. Quite frankly, that is just not something I am comfortable being the facilitator of. Perhaps it was my own fault for blogging about Quinn in the first place.

    You are more welcome to bash on me on my site if that will make you feel better about it.

    Finally, it seems to me that your real problem isn’t with Quinn, it is with Buddy and BB. Both of them opened the up the stage to him. It was Buddy who surrendered the stage – Quinn didn’t take it.

  6. One last thing –

    In the future, I won’t blog about kids. The criticism of young children in a public forum that I own and operate makes me uncomfortable, so I will not create the opportunity.

    Does that work better for everyone?

  7. I heartily agree that any criticisms must be directed toward Buddy and BB. To remark that Quinn should get used to being put down is a ridiculous and ignorant proposition. The kid is in fourth grade – give him a break. At that age, you were still wearing Jetsons underpants and taking a Flintstones vitamin every morning (a number of you sound too old to have worn Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles underpants). The last thing anyone is going to tell a kid his age is that selfish adults are probably going to criticize you for putting yourself out there. He doesn’t know any better. At that age, you’ve gotta believe that anything’s possible. You can say that Buddy and BB should have known better, but in reality, it’s just a small, obnoxiously loud minority that are selfish enough to post an angry comment on this topic.

    The hateful and hurtful comments that have been expressed on this issue are evidence of jealously at its best. It’s a shame that this site had to install any kind of policy protecting children, but in light of the circumstances, it was the right thing.

  8. Again, the kid’s parents are the ones who need to reign in their kid. The comments should reflect more on them than on their kid. And if he reads about this, it will not hurt him. He should just take that as a challenge to get better and learn what it takes to be accepted into the blues community. I appreciate that you are so sensitive, but I am sure that all of the great blues legends have dealt with feedback (not the amp kind).

    And the comment about it really being Buddy and BB’s fault, that is taken from what I said. So piggyback if you must. I hate to say it, but Buddy needs to hear it, because the blues crowds are dying out and him coming up and playing for 60 minutes (and bringing on a 9-year-old who has a lot of learning to do) does not cut it.

  9. Jeff, if you were at the performance you would have heard that Buddy, BB, and Quinn met five days before that show (but BB didn’t have a chance to play with him that day). They clearly practiced, they clearly let the child know what they expected from him. His parents are not the reason for this change in policy on my site as I have said before. They understand that he will have to get used to criticism, however, at the end of the day, I own and operate this site and I have to be able to sleep at night. I am the one that is uncomfortable with bashing on prepubescent children, no matter how extraordinary they are.

    As I have promised, I will only post on topics that I am comfortable with readers criticizing in the future. In the mean time, I have allowed your comments on this child against my better judgement. What more are you looking for?

  10. I was definitely at the show. As far as practicing ahead of time, that may have been said, but it was not obvious that they had played together. Buddy could not get control of the situation so there obviously was no agreement on how things were to be. Ever play in a band before and practice? It is decided how it goes. The one song was okay (I still don’t think there was any clear delineation of who was going to do what when), but that was enough. Again, Voodoo Chile sounded sweet from Buddy, but Quinn was still there, did not know the riff, definitely not practiced. Time to step back. Did you see what happened when Buddy had his backup guitarist play. He stepped forward and jammed and Buddy stepped back. I have seen many shows and that is how it works. Quinn did not know when to step back. That is the criticism here and needs to be validated. Quinn’s parents (or teacher) need to reinforce that. You can sleep at night. He definitely has talent but this needs to be nurtured in the right way. That is not harsh. Good with bad is okay.

  11. Again, I respect everybodys comments on my son. I must make something clear. Quinn doesn’t read any blogs. This one or anyone elses. No interest in them. Also, there are no practice sessions between Quinn and Buddy. They meet before the show and discuss what’s going on in each others lives. Why? Because they are friends.
    Now, about being emotionally sensitive. That I am not. One reader used the word, “arrogant” to describe Quinn. Anyone who has ever met Quinn would strongly disagree with that. Actually, it didn’t make any sense in the readers comment but was his/her right to use if he/she chooses. I agree with free speech people. Comments made about Quinns’ guitar playing and performance are expected. Critisizm is expected. We get it. We don’t have a problem with it.Why? Because at the end of the day your opinions aren’t given a second thought. What matters to us is Quinn. He may have alot to learn technically but you gotta admit, he has been in the company of some of our most respected guitarist and in time will learn from them. He is a normal 9 year old kid with other things in his life. School/friends. If Quinn decides to continue on this path (and it will ultimatly be his decision)I can guarentee you one thing. He has met some of the kindest,most generous musicians who will guide him in being the kind of musician Quinn wants to be.

  12. To Jeff C.

    You shouldn’t hate on a guy who makes the subjective call not include bashing of a young boy on his blog. Call it censorship or call it editorializing a publication. I think the best way for you to get back at the writer of this blog is to start your own blog called “Bash the Kids – Showing Youngsters How Harsh the World is Since ’09”. It looks like you’d have plenty to say. You aren’t a member of N.A.M.B.L.A., are you?

    S. Marichone.

  13. Steven Marichone,

    I had to look up what NAMBLA was, but obviously you did not. That says a lot. If child porn is your thing, so be it (but I in no way condone that). I am a happily married man with a good upbringing and no need for that. Best of luck with that.

    As far as your substantive criticism, you have not read my posts very closely. No one is bashing specifically on Quinn. Everything that has been said is a view of the “totality of the circumstances.” We came to see Buddy (and BB) and the excessive use of Quinn (without any rehearsal per his mom — see above) took away from the experience for which we paid a lot of money. If we had an entire night of Buddy, what transpired MIGHT have been okay, although, again, it was sloppy at best.

    With regard to David (the original poster), you can have your view, but blogs are not meant to just portray one side, especially when a lot of people obviously have very strong feelings (note that I was not the only one with criticism). A blog is about a forum with multiple viewpoints.

  14. Jeff, I was content to back away from this and let it burn itself out; I didn’t even make an attempt to rebut your previous comment. However in your latest comment, your argument has clearly crossed into territory that you are unfamiliar.

    I have no further interest in debating the merits of the show at the Beacon with you. I think you will agree that both of our positions are extremely clear.

    However, your understanding of blogs is something that I do take exception with. Quite frankly, you are dead wrong.

    There is no strict definition for what views can or should be expressed in a blog. There certainly is no obligation to present a fair or objective argument. Even if there was, fairness and objectivity are actually subjective concepts and they are perceived differently in different cultures. Furthermore, you don’t even get truly objective news from the NY Times or Wall Street Journal, so don’t expect to get any from a blog (mine or anyone else’s).

    I operate this site. I determine its content, and I allow comments. If you spend some times looking at blogs you will find that some require moderation for all comments. Some will redact comments as they wish. Some do not allow comments on all or some posts. You don’t have a right to express yourself on a blog, the owners grant you the ability. I am not obligated to do anything with this site – I choose to manage it however I wish. I have decided that I am not going to allow criticism of young children. I’m allowing anything else that isn’t illegal, but children are where I have drawn a line.

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