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English Town Censors Anti-Gay Singer:

On pain of losing its license, a club in Brighton has canceled a performance by Buju Banton, known for violent anti-gay lyrics. Two years ago, the police and city council in Manchester prohibited Buju Banton from performing. Hmm, how do I get the local authorities to close down the Guardian?

Zed Pobre (mail) (www):
Wait for them to start regularly advocating violence, and then file complaints?

Maybe it's just me, but I can't really get worked up about people who lose their platform to incite torture and murder.
7.5.2006 2:43pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Zed, note that the story says that the local politicians wanted to close down the show regardless of whether he was going to perform the objectionable songs, so there's not plausible defense that this is just a matter of stopping incitement.
7.5.2006 2:46pm
Zed Pobre (mail) (www):
The story also notes that he is still selling the objectionable songs, and would likely be using the concert to do so. In other words, he would likely still be using the concert as a platform for the advocacy of violent crime, whether or not he was planning to sing the one most famous example of that or not.

Let's put it this way: would you be similarly outraged if a famous neo-nazi who had previously put out several songs advocating murder and torture of Jews, including one especially notorious song about how to kill your next door neighbors, was prevented from performing, even if he promised not to sing that one song that topped the controversy charts, though he'd still sell CDs with that song at the concert, and the concert was likely to turn into a neo-nazi rally?
7.5.2006 3:05pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Let's put it this way: would you be similarly outraged if a famous neo-nazi who had previously put out several songs advocating murder and torture of Jews, including one especially notorious song about how to kill your next door neighbors, was prevented from performing, even if he promised not to sing that one song that topped the controversy charts, though he'd still sell CDs with that song at the concert, and the concert was likely to turn into a neo-nazi rally?

Cruel, Zed, cruel.
7.5.2006 3:18pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Similarly outraged if it came from the government, happy if it came because of public pressure.
7.5.2006 3:19pm
Salaryman (mail):
OK Zed, you tell us: it's obviously ok with you to ban concerts that are "likely to turn into a neo-Nazi rally," and to ban CDs with songs employing violent imagery in ways you (and I) don't like.

What else gets banned? Concerts that are likely to turn into pro-Palestinian rallies? Anti-Bush rallies? The sale of CDs containing songs that are "objectionable" to persons other than you, me or whoever happens to have enough votes at the relevant time? And what happens when you DON'T have enough votes at the relevant time, and those you disagree with do?
7.5.2006 3:42pm
Cornellian (mail):
If he just stood up in front of the crowd screaming "Kill Jews! Kill Jews! Kill Jews!" after which a dozen or so of the attendees went out and killed the first yarmulke-wearing guy they could find I wonder how many people would be championing that as an exercise of free speech, cause that's pretty much what his lyrics amount to, substituting gays for jews.

I wonder how many people ready to defend his right to incite murder before a large audience are also demanding the British government do something about the local imam and his "how to be a martyr" sermons.

Was pressuring the concert promoter to cancel the concert a wrongful supression of speech? Arguable, but like a previous poster stated, I'm not going to shed any tears for a two bit thug like Mr. Banton. He's not a British citizen and the British government had no obligation even to let him into the country in the first place.
7.5.2006 3:45pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Was pressuring the concert promoter to cancel the concert a wrongful supression of speech? Arguable, but like a previous poster stated, I'm not going to shed any tears for a two bit thug like Mr. Banton. He's not a British citizen and the British government had no obligation even to let him into the country in the first place.


Interesting, what if instead the British government simply refused to let him enter the nation because of his beliefs?
7.5.2006 4:45pm
frankcross (mail):
Good grief, people, do you think we should censor every rap song that refers to killing cops?
7.5.2006 4:46pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Good grief, people, do you think we should censor every rap song that refers to killing cops?


No, it's far more efficient to just stand on the sidelines while the purveyors of that filth kill each other off.
7.5.2006 5:01pm
Public_Defender (mail):

Similarly outraged if it came from the government, happy if it came because of public pressure.


The professor has it right. There appears to have been a lot of pressure from non-governmental groups. It's too bad the government didn't give the people the chance to shame the club into civility.
7.5.2006 5:15pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
I wonder how many people ready to defend his right to incite murder before a large audience are also demanding the British government do something about the local imam and his "how to be a martyr" sermons.

Even better.
7.5.2006 5:49pm
guest:
Aside from the question of whether the government should condone all forms of free speech, regardless of whether that speech promotes violence - DB's comparison to anti-semitic bias at the Guardian is a fundamentally dishonest comparison. A bias against the state of Israel is not the same as calling for the killing of Jews. If the Guardian called for Jews to be killed, I do hope the government would shut down the paper.
7.5.2006 6:30pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Guest, look up the meaning of "tongue in cheek."
7.5.2006 6:47pm
guest:
I understand that it was meant as a joke. But by throwing it into your blog post, I assume you think there's some similarity in the two situations. Or maybe you had gone one too many blog posts without a reference to anti-semitism somewhere in the world. Or maybe you linked to a hysterical letter to show how ridiculous it is when people always think they are being victimized and everyone is out to get them. I really don't know how you think it is relevant and related to your point about Buju Banton, so perhaps you could explain the purpose of putting it in the post.
7.5.2006 7:20pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
This is England people so this shouldn't be too surprising. They are much less absolutist about the right to free speech in the uk, for instance take the proposed (and I believe passed) religious hatred bill that bans 'hate speech' against religion.

As I understand it this means that if I say, "Mohammed was just a greedy womanizing shepard who figured he could get ahead in life by 'hearing' some voices and copying the succesfull christian/jewish scam and anyone who believes he was a profit is a fucking moron," or if I said, "Christ was obviously a delusional skizophrenic and anyone who believes the son of an omnipotent god *had* to die on the cross is an idiot," then I could be prosecuted if I lived in the UK. Sure these aren't politely stated and the factual claims aren't justified (we have no plausible historical source with any detail about these men) but other than the politeness this seems no different and less offensive than the many religious teachings that say non-believers are bad people and are going to hell. Thus the law can either be seen as a legal requirement for politeness or a form of mandated religious relativism.

Entertainingly it would seem the law prevents one from openly stating the logical consequences of perfectly legal speech. It surely would not be illegal to state the opinion that, "People who believe god is talking to them are either prohpets or crazies," nor that "Christ/Mohammed/whoever believed god was talking to him," nor that "God does not exist" yet the logical consequence of these beliefs is that Christ/Mohammed/whoever is a loony which could very well run afoul of the law.

Admittedly anti-religious speech is probably less likely to be pursued at the moment than hateful speech from one religion against another but that just shows the dangers of prosecutorial disgression in these sorts of situations. Whatever is the danger du jour will likely recieve harsh treatment.

Anyway the point is that a venue being pressured to stop one incident of anti-gay speech that arguably was an incitement to violence shouldn't be surprising or even a big deal (comparitively) in a country which actually criminalizes certain sorts of offensive speech.
7.5.2006 9:45pm
Cornellian (mail):
This is England people so this shouldn't be too surprising. They are much less absolutist about the right to free speech in the uk, for instance take the proposed (and I believe passed) religious hatred bill that bans 'hate speech' against religion.

So far as I know, every country in the world is much less absolutist about the right to free speech than is the United States. We're the high water mark.
7.5.2006 10:11pm
Zed Pobre (mail) (www):
Salaryman: If any of your examples turn to incitement to murder, they're fair game. A pro-Palestinian rally on its own is no problem. A pro-Palestinian rally shouting out instructions on how to build do-it-yourself suicide bomb vests is a problem. Anti-Bush rallies are no problem. But try setting up an anti-Bush concert where you're advocating assassinating him -- you'll be extremely lucky if the concert is the only thing that ends up canceled.

"I killed a cop" rap music is borderline. "Go out and cap a cop for daddy tonight," is a problem.

I can certainly sympathize with the view that it's dangerous for the government to be involving itself with censoring the speech of its citizens at all, but I have to draw a personal line when it reaches encouragement of torture and murder. I think those acts are condemned widely enough for it to be a reasonable metric.

Note that the United States isn't at all absolutist about free speech in public venues when it touches other topics, either: if it had been a planned public orgy, for instance, I don't imagine the bar hosting it would have stayed open long. There are fairly restrictive laws in most locations about what kind of things are allowed in nude bars and strip clubs, if I recall correctly, and to exist at all they are specially zoned. Even political protests get censored: protestors are herded into "free speech zones" far enough out of the way that they won't be noticed when major political figures speak. Both of those things are more valuable and less detrimental than calls to murder. I'd rather keep the first two, and lose the last.
7.5.2006 10:51pm
Salaryman (mail):
Zed: thanks for your response, but I'm still unconvinced. First of all, if by "incitement to murder," you mean rounding up a lynch mob, then I and (I'm sure) everyone else on this thread are with you and your straw man. Short of that, I'm not sure how to distinguish what you call "I killed a cop" rap (which in your view apparently is on shaky ground to begin with) from Banton's stuff.

I'd be interested in what the first amendment mavens in this thread think about some of your examples. Specifically, can the government ban public dissemination of instructions for making suicide bomb jackets under current law? (Obviously, they could punish dissemination of the information as part of a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, but can they stop you from shouting them onstage, assuming your audience finds that entertaining?) Also, if a recording artist had recorded a song "advocating" (assuming we can agree on what that means) assassinating the President, could the record be banned? Could the government ban future concerts by that artist unless he adequately recants his views? Obviously, expressing such views would garner you a lot of unwelcome attention from the authorities (and quite properly so), but could the government shut down your speech? Apparently Zed thinks so, and I was wondering if he's right.
7.6.2006 11:36am
Ken Arromdee (mail):
I wonder how many people ready to defend his right to incite murder before a large audience are also demanding the British government do something about the local imam and his "how to be a martyr" sermons.

I don't know. How many people do you think there are?

More to the point, are you certain that "I'm outraged at such imams" must translate to "I think they should be arrested"?
7.6.2006 11:55am
Salaryman (mail):
Another thought: could the government ban a fundamentalist Islamic Imam from preaching the virtue/necessity of "honor killing" or of any other aspect of fundamentalist Islam (such as execution of homosexuals) that justifies killing? Such speeches would certainly be made to an audience that could be expected to take them seriously enough to act on them. If the government should be able to shut down Buju Banton (who in fact contends that his anti-gay views are religiously mandated), shouldn't they be able to shut down the Imams?
7.6.2006 12:03pm
Salaryman (mail):
I see I missed someone else making the same point about the imams, above. Sorry for the redundancy.
7.6.2006 12:05pm
Zed Pobre (mail) (www):
Salaryman:

By the descriptions I've read of his music, they go beyond fictional descriptions of events (though ironically, his most infamous song appears to be only that), to actual calls for people to pour acid on gays, set them on fire, and drown them (I'm actually having to rely on translations, as I find the actual lyrics unreadable, but "Poop man fi drown an dat a yawd man philosophy" has been translated to "Gay men must be drowned, that's a Jamaican philosophy", and I don't have any reason to doubt the veracity of the translations at the moment).

There's no straw man here. The music contains actual calls for violence, not just depictions of violence, and the police were claiming that his concerts were an actual danger to public safety, and I'm willing to defer to their judgement lacking evidence to the contrary. It's a little bit shy of rounding up a lynch mob, but it's not something I feel a government is required to overlook, and while I'm willing to give a bit of leeway to "I shot him because he was gay, and I enjoyed it", I think lyrics that directly ask the audience to kill someone or that claim that killing someone is a philosophical or moral imperative pretty clearly cross over the line.

When it comes to the President, though, I can only assume that you're unaware of how vigorously the Secret Service goes after anyone that even implies a threat. I remember from a couple years back a student that left something he'd written in a public place that, on its plain reading, was certainly not any kind of threat to the President, but that could be read as implying one if you stretched a lot, still ended up picked up by the SS and had most of his belongings confiscated. He was eventually released without being charged, IIRC, but the SS wasted no time getting to him.

Someone who tried to make a concert with the lyrics, "The next time you see Bush speak, pour acid down his throat" would never even make it to the venue, and he'd be lucky if anyone ever figured out what happened to him, given that the U.S. government has started refusing to disclose even whether or not they've arrested someone.

As to the issue of the Imams, from a moral perspective I don't see why religions should be exempt from this, either, whether it's an Islamic extremist or Pat Robertson at the root of the problem (though to be fair, at least the latter recanted). I'd be perfectly happy if places of worship or professional religious speakers had to be licensed, and could lose that license for inciting murder. From a technical perspective, however, it may be a big can of worms. People get touchy about their religions, and tampering with religious leaders may well generate more unrest than it suppresses.
7.6.2006 7:03pm