The M.I.A. Debacle, Or, When Celebrities Become Investigative Journalists

Singer / visual artist / designer / initial-haver M.I.A., née Maya Arulpragasam, evidently irritated by a recent profile that ran on the New York Times‘ website, decided to play both investigative journalist and her own personal flack by posting the author of the offending article’s phone number on Twitter, giving others the impression that it was her own number, and sitting back to see what would happen. As it turns out: Unhappiness.

The article, “M.I.A.’s Agitprop Pop,” looks at M.I.A. as an artist and as a celebrity, and included lines like “Although her publicist had a wheelchair ready and a midwife on call, Maya, who has a deep and instinctive affinity for the provocative, knew that this Grammy moment was not to be missed. It had everything: artistic credibility, high drama, a massive audience. The baby would just have to wait” and “Maya’s tirade, typical in the way it moved from the political to the personal and back again, was interrupted by a waiter, who offered her a variety of rolls. She chose the olive bread.”

The author in question was Lynn Hirschberg, who was, understandably, less than amused at having her phone number broadcast to countless strangers. Nonetheless, she has no plans to have it changed.

As she tells the New York Observer, Hirschberg doesn’t quite understand why M.I.A. would draw more attention to an article one would assume the singer wouldn’t want people to read in the first place: “I find it kind of interesting that she would cast the spotlight on the story in any way, shape or form. I can’t say what she thinks of it. But it seems you would want it to go away.”

Hirschberg adds that, while she is not surprised by M.I.A.’s reaction given that M.I.A. is, somewhat by profession, a “provocateur,” she does find it “unethical.” And she has a personal message for the artist:

The messages have mostly been from people trying to hook up with M.I.A. If she wants to get together with John at Bard next week, I have his number.

The internet has certainly weighed in on the ongoing feud, but M.I.A. will get have her say, again, soon: