Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

The selective targeting of Beenie Man

November 16th, 2009

Reportedly, Big Day Out organizers have backed down from their original intention to include the Jamaican dancehall musician Beenie Man in the next BDO festival line-up in January. The reason has been the public pressure from gay activists who have been expressing vocal opposition to the anti-gay sentiments in some of Beenie Man’s lyrics. A Facebook site was created to oppose Beenie Man, and Charles Chauvel had even called for him to be refused a visa to enter the country.

From the very outset, the BDO knew Beenie Man had a controversial background. In the past, his song lyrics have included lines such as “I’m dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays” in “Damn”, and “Hang chi chi gal [lesbian] wid a long piece of rope” in ‘Han Up Deh.’
Whether Beenie Man had actually signed for the festival or not, we may never know. Certainly this site would suggest his appearance had not been finalized

When we spoke to Beenie Man’s brother and manager ‘Blue’ yesterday, he said that Beenie Man has not been officially contracted to perform. Blue said they were aware of the protests since Wednesday and were puzzled by it.

He said, “I don’t even know how dis issue reach so far, cause we haven’t closed the contract as yet. We have been in discussion with the organizers for the last three weeks to a month. They sent the contract and we weren’t comfortable with some things in it so we’re not even sure if we’re going to go as yet or not.” According to Blue, if the contractual matters are sorted out to their benefit, despite the protests, Beenie Man is willing to perform at the Festival.

Just perhaps, the furore has enabled the BDO to avoid needing to deal with contract conditions still in dispute. Did those items in dispute comprise further assurances about the content of his act – or his fee, or what? In any case, the organizers have now decided not to associate the BDO with the controversy, nor to allow the protests to blight the atmosphere of the entire day. Initially it would seem, BDO organizers thought the stance taken by Beenie Man [which I will explain below] was defensible and they were prepared to support his renunciation of anti-gay violence – but when they realized the depth of feeling and possible commercial consequences, they buckled. Whatever you call that, its not rock’n’roll.

The campaign against Beenie Man mirrors gay protests in the US last month against a US tour by Buju Banton, with Beenie Man as support. Similar protests occurred in Britain a couple of years ago against a proposed tour by Sizzla, that was cancelled. That adds up to tactical success and good publicity for the gay community, which has been able to isolate these marginal artists and threaten their livelihoods very effectively.

Rap and dancehall musicians serve as relatively safe targets in that respect for gay politicians such as Chauvel and the Green Party’s Kevin Hague, and enable them to play to their constituents.. In many respects, the campaign against the Jamaican dancehall musicians is similar to the campaign waged against the rapper Ice T for his “Cop Killer” song in 1992. Chauvel’s attempt to deny a visa is also a virtual repeat of the Clark government’s barring of the Holocaust denier David Irving from entering New Zealand in 2004, which I objected to here at the time.

The activists will no doubt be congratulating themselves for their success in silencing Beenie Man. Yet what Professor Bill Hodge said of the Irving incident holds true here, too.

Freedom of speech is really the freedom to read, the freedom to hear and the freedom to listen. It is far more important to the listeners, the readers and so on than it is for the speaker. Everybody is losing. If you go back to John Stuart Mill, we might know the truth of it [the Holocaust], but it might be dead truth, if we do not allow it to be challenged.”

In the cases of Ice T and Beenie Man, there has been not a peep from the human rights organizations, Even though – to state the obvious, Beenie Man is a singer, exercising free speech. He is not a political activist. He is not handing out guns. He sings songs that are fictional constructs. Like Ice T’s 1992 song, the songs of his cited above belong to the context of hip hop and dancehall – in which exaggeration of all kinds (sexual bragging, the expression of violent hostility towards authority and other artists and groups in society) is commonplace. It is a theatre of aggression and hedonism for oppressed people, but it is theatre – not a literal call to murder. In films and on television, people kill people – including gays – all the time, for our entertainment. Why should the rules be different for music?

The verbal extremism and heated tone of dancehall is a bit like the Internet, If dancehall was a blog, it would probably be a bit like Whale Oil, and IMHO, it should be treated as such. As overblown thetoric. It isn’t likeable, it can be hateful. It is also a conscious caricature, and understood as such by its audience. Does it tap into unhealthy and repugnant attitudes to gays and others ? Yes. So does rap, so does heavy metal, so does pornography, so does half of popular culture. Gays may not like some dancehall songs, any more than cops liked Ice T’s song, or songs by any number of rap artists since who have sung about their violent feelings towards people they don’t like.

In Beenie Man’s case, he is being labeled by some New Zealanders as a disgusting homophobe. He must be wondering why he bothered to sign the Reggae Compassionate Act document in 2007 – which was an agreement brokered between record producer Eddie Brown in Jamaica and British gay activists – in which the signatories pledged, among other things, ‘to respect and uphold the rights of all individuals to live without fear of hatred and violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender.’

The document was and is controversial in Jamaica, in that it lumped reggae performers in with dancehall musicians. It also sought artistic obedience from performers whose entire persona is based on not respecting authority, or taking orders from anyone. Can you imagine what would happen if you tried to require 50 Cent to sign such a document, demanding that he only issue music in future that contains less glorification of gun violence and more respect for women?

Even so, Sizzla, Beenie Man, Capleton and Buju Banton all signed it – the latter under his real name Mark Myrie, and Beenie Man under his own real name, Anthony Davis. On the available evidence, Beenie Man has stuck by his side of the agreement, and not performed the objectionable songs since. He has also publically advocated against violence towards gays. In 2007, he told the Jamaica Observer that: “We don’t need to kill dem. We just need fi tell the people dem the right ting because I not supporting a gay lifestyle because it’s not wholesome to me.” In other words, if you disapprove of the gay lifestyle as he does, then try to talk them out of it but don’t use violence. Regardless, gay rights advocates have continued to target him.

Similarly, Buju Banton has never been able to shake the stigma of his song ‘Boom By By’ in which he advocated killing gays and setting them on fire. A disgusting song, to be sure. Banton is now 36 years old. He wrote “Boom By By’ in 1988 when he was a 15 years old DJ , in the context of a notorious case of the homosexual rape of a young boy, and the song was re-released in 1992. A fortnight ago, an article in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper described the song in these terms :

The youthful DJ translated the archaic language of the King James Version of the Bible [ie, the anti-gay sentiments in Leviticus] into graphic street talk. The imported Hollywood gun culture provided the primary image for the song in which the sound of bullets ricochets with rhythmic precision. In the best (sic) biblical tradition, the song called down judgement on sinners for the crimes of paedophilia, buggery and rape.

The song has not been part of Banton’s repertoire for 20 years, apart from a couple of occasions in 2006 and 2007, when he sang a few lines from the song as the preface to an attempt to explain to his audience his current feelings about the song, and the controversy it has engendered. (The 45 second 2006 Miami clip of “Boom By By” on Youtube cuts out just as he starts to talk. Very creative editing.)

Moreover, as anyone who knows anything about Buju Banton’s music over the last 20 years would attest, his music has been reggae’s most eloquent expression since Bob Marley of the quest for peace and the oppressed’s struggle for justice. During the mid 1990s, he had seemed the logical successor to Marley as a global reggae icon. Put Banton’s compassionate ‘Untold Stories’ up against Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ and you’ll see what I mean.

For the record, Banton was alleged to have been associated with a 2004 Kingston incident in which six gay men were badly beaten, apparently because the beatings occurred near his recording studio. Banton denied having any involvement whatsoever, and the charges were dismissed by the judge for lack of evidence linking him to the incident. In April 2009, well before last month’s gay demonstrations in the US, Banton launched his latest album Rasta Got Soul at the University of the West Indies by saying that his music was inclusive and meant for everybody : “the young, the old, the gay, the lesbian, the obese, the slim.” In recent weeks, Banton has met with gay activist groups in the US and pledged afresh not to perform anti-gay material. Why didn’t gay activists here seek to pursue a similar dialogue with Beenie Man?

To sum up : IMHO, there has been a disproportionate concentration on dancehall and black rap musicians. I can see the political convenience for New Zealand gay politicians and activists to focus on a music such as dancehall – which has few defenders on free speech grounds, even in liberal circles. To my mind, art that is said to be ‘hate’ speech is still art. whether I like it or not. It should be engaged, not vetoed. And newsflash : it is all around us. Pick on dancehall as an easy target, but spare me the righteousness.

By which I mean, there is an elephant in the room. Why haven’t gay activists gone after Eminem in the same way that they have now gone after Beenie Man, and picketed record stores that carry his music ? Take the lyrics in Eminem’s song ‘Criminal. Sample : “My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge/ That’ll stab you in the head/ whether you’re a fag or lez/ Or the homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest/ Pants or dress hate fags? The answer’s `yes’.” Or, what about the songs in which he fantasises about murdering his wife Kim, or raping his mother?

To be fair, Peter Tatchell who spearheaded the global campaign against the dancehall musicians, did denounce Eminem. Yet interestingly, some prominent members of the gay community did not. Elton John, who lamented the anti-gay culture that he felt had contributed to the infamous hate murder of Matthew Shepard in Texas, did a duet two years later with Eminem on the hit song “Stan” and has stood by him resolutely through his recent personal and career troubles. Melissa Etheridge, a self declared lesbian, has spoken admiringly of his artistic merit. Liberals such as Sheryl Crow have done likewise. Boy George, one gay celebrity who has consistently criticised Eminem has explained the double standard this way :

“Nobody wants to sort of battle against success. It’s one of those things; if you slag him off, you on the one hand will appear bitter, and on the other hand you will appear uncool,” George said. “If Pol Pot had a successful record, people would probably be running around him as well.” Forgiveness for Eminem remains rife. On Yahoo Answers only five months ago for instance I found this reply – voted ‘the best’ by readers – to a query as to whether Eminem opposes gay marriage :

Reply :. ‘He uses the word “faggot” a lot in his songs, and so I thought he was against homosexuality.In an interview though, he said he uses terms like this because to him they mean somebody who is weak. But he doesn’t want to offend gays, he just doesn’t see the word in that way. So I’m not sure about your specific question, but, no, he is not anti.’ Plainly the same cultural latitude and forgiveness are not to be extended to less successful Jamaicans.

Funny, but I don’t see any righteous Facebook community in New Zealand opposing the ready availability of Eminem’s ‘hate speech’ in every single record shop in New Zealand. To do would seem old hat, and uncool. Far better for the gay aggrieved to focus on disrupting one performance in New Zealand by an obscure artist singing in virtually incomprehensible dialect – even though he has publicly renounced violence, and would not have been singing the material you’re wanting to complain about.

Now that Big Day Out has buckled, who will be the next marginal black performer with antisocial lyrics who is financially vulnerable enough to be forced into submission ? It may be politics, but it has very little to do with principle.


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    1. 26 Responses to “The selective targeting of Beenie Man”

    2. By Craig Ranapia on Nov 16, 2009 | Reply

      I’ve got to admit I’m also very uncomfortable with the so broad it’s also meaningless definition of “incitement” being used.

      Here’s something I’ve pointed out on Red Alert and Kiwiblog. The Auckland Theatre Company has just announced it’s 2010 season, including a new production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ — a jolly little play that ends with a teenage suicide pact, and works through lethal gang brawls that would give Michael Laws a woody, (implied) sexual relations between the title characters that would now be considered statutory rape, and all kinds of general disrespect for parental and civic authority.

      Would anyone seriously want to argue that ATC should cancel the production — or at least make it an R20 show — for fear of “inciting” teenagers to anti-social, sexually promiscuous or self-harming behaviour? Believe it or not, that’s exactly the argument some folks were making about Baz Luhrmann’s surprise hit 1996 adaptation.

      Or do we assume that ATC’s audiences aren’t, in the strictest sense, a gang of psychotics who can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality, and will go and act on what they see?

    3. By lyndon on Nov 16, 2009 | Reply

      [Peter Tatchell writes]

      Beenie Man is clearly unrepentant. He has never apologised for urging the killing of gay people. In fact, he put out a statement and hit song called ‘I no apologise’.

      The issue is incitement to murder, not hate music. Inciting the killing of any human being is wrong. Full stop.

      Big Day Out would not have even considered hosting Beenie Man if he was a white racist singer who had called for the murder of black people. They would have ruled him out from the start. There should be no double standards when it comes to singers who incite homophobic violence.

      Beenie Man did indeed sign the Reggae Compassionate Act in 2007:

      But he denied signing it a few weeks later and has since denounced it.

      He still performs, ‘I no apologise.’ This song implicitly reaffirms that he stands by his previous lyrics urging the murder of lesbians and gay men.

      Free speech does not include the right to advocate the killing of other human beings. Incitement to murder is a criminal offence throughout the civilised world.

      Would venues host a concert by a neo-Nazi singer who called for the murder of Black and Jewish people? Of course not. Why the double standards?

      The Stop Murder Music campaign is backed by the Jamaican gay rights movement, J-Flag. A J-Flag spokesperson said:

      “We here at J-Flag strongly believe that more pressure needs to be placed on artists like Beenie Man to admit that inciting violence against anyone is wrong and that they will not do it again.

      “Beenie Man has refused to apologise and he continues to perform and / or defend his songs encouraging the murder of lesbians and gays. His concerts should be cancelled. Beenie Man should be arrested, not feted.

      “J-Flag wants to create a Jamaica – and a whole world – that celebrates and accepts of sexual difference,” said J-Flag.

      Thank you, Peter Tatchell, coordinator of the international Stop Murder Music campaign

      [Also: Beenie Man concerts axed in Australia & NZ]

    4. By Craig Ranapia on Nov 16, 2009 | Reply

      Would venues host a concert by a neo-Nazi singer who called for the murder of Black and Jewish people?

      Good question — now will Charles Chauvel be calling for the next gangsta rapper whose lyrics demean women as gold-digging whores be turned away at the airport? Or is lyrical homophobia somehow worse that pop cultural misogyny?

    5. By NJ on Nov 16, 2009 | Reply

      If Facebook had actually been around 9 years ago when that Eminem album came out, I bet there would have been protest group. Can’t expect a really prominent Facebook group to start now on an issue that’s almost a decade old, wouldn’t have the same momentum. I don’t imagine there’d be many gay people in NZ that’d be cool with Eminem’s lyrics..

      Gordon also forgot to mention or didn’t know that quite a few CD shops in NZ refused to sell Eminem at the time that album with ‘Criminal’ came out eg. The CD & DVD Store.

    6. By mike on Nov 16, 2009 | Reply

      The assertion that dancehall and hiphop are (solely?) “theatres of aggression and hedonism” is a little misleading and simplistic. Is this to say that there has never been a direct statement on a political issue or an actual call to action? Methinks there have been many times. Is Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” just a bit of “theatre” to create catharsis for the audience?

      Who’s to say Beenie Man isn’t literally calling for death to gay people?

      Strangely, it seems quite hard to track down a full transcript of the Beenie Man lyrics on the internet. It would interesting to see these isolated pull-quotes in the context of the whole song and know whether this is really so obviously a “fictional construct”.

    7. By George Darroch on Nov 16, 2009 | Reply

      The freedom of speech argument you put up is weak. Nobody that I have heard is saying that expressing homophobic statements should be illegal. Giving “no platform” to those who stir violence and hatred is thoroughly consistent with free speech – you have the right to say it, but we have no obligation whatsoever to provide you a platform for doing so, or a platform with which to legitimise yourself. There is also nothing inconsistent with those calling for a boycott of an event hosting such a person on the basis that they would not attend.

      Given that ‘Beenie Man’ has come out and publicly refuted his earlier signing of the petition against inciting hate, and continues to sing these songs, according to Peter Tatchell, I don’t think we can assume any change.

    8. By garethw on Nov 16, 2009 | Reply

      So because there are other, milder examples of anti-gay speech in music this one should just be ignored by the “gay aggrieved”?
      Said “aggrieved” should either call for the avoidance of all potentially offensive music or none at all?

      Perhaps you’ll find that this was a useful platform to make the broader point about gay hate speech not really being acceptable, no matter how common it still is. But you think that should be abandoned to the demands of constant, absolute consistency at every single example?

      Personally I don’t think it would have been a disaster if he performed, but more than agree with the rights of the “gay aggrieved” to be against such speech, and suggest to the BDO that it’s not a statement it wants to make.

      Or is it all something to do with your little contract conspiracy at the beginning there or the race and financial position of the offensive perfomer at the end?

    9. By Dominic on Nov 16, 2009 | Reply

      Gordon, I have to say I read this item with some sadness. Claiming ‘righteousness’ in these sorts of situations feels very much like an intellectual luxury.

      When you are up against an endless wave of intolerance you have to pick your battles. Chauvel and Hague picked this one – Beenie Man was coming to NZ so it made logical sense. Should they have picked a ‘harder’ target? When did standing up against oppression get rewarded points for difficulty?

      I was part of that Facebook group. I clicked a link on a web page and boom – I was lending my voice to the protest. The anti-gay bile scrawled on that page by the pro-Beenie people was bad enough, but now I’ve got to worry about being perceived as righteous? That’s the very least of my worries.

      As a gay man in this country I am unable to marry my husband, or adopt children with him and I am still the potential victim of the vile ‘panic defence’ where a man could get away with murder just by claiming I came onto him. And that’s just the big stuff.

      For me, this was about wanting to do something, anything, to counter the injustice directed at me. So I’ll take the risk of the righteous tag happily because I know how powerless it can feel at the bottom of the sexual orientation heap.

      Think that I’m being over-dramatic? You try being legally denied marriage to your soul mate and see how that makes you feel.

    10. By George Darroch on Nov 16, 2009 | Reply

      In the cases of Ice T and Beenie Man, there has been not a peep from the human rights organizations, Even though – to state the obvious, Beenie Man is a singer, exercising free speech.

      And that is because their free speech has not been denied.

    11. By Craig Ranapia on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply


      Excuse me? I think we might actually get the drama out of the room and note that the partial defence of provocation (including the so-called “gay panic” one) is in the process of being abolished, with overwhelming multi-party support.

      As for same-sex civil marriage — well, if Mr. Chauvel has the balls to follow in the very big shoes of Fran Wilde and put up a private members bill removing the gender-discriminatory language in the Marriage Act he will have my whole-hearted support. I won’t hold by breath waiting, and what the hell that has to do with the issue at hand escapes me.

    12. By h on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

      I thought “the elephant in the room” that the activists, media and now Gordon Campbell are ignoring is that violent homophobia is commonplace in Jamaica and is encouraged and practiced by the police there. People actually do go and beat up gays and lesbians after a night of dancehall. There’s nothing theatrical about it at all.

      (I’m not in any way implying this would happen after an Auckland Big Day Out, and I think the visa-ban would be stupid just as it was for Irving, but I certainly wouldn’t be able to enjoy a Big Day Out he was performing at. It don’t make me a free-speech denier.)

    13. By lyndon on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

      [Gordon Campbell replies: ]

      According to George Darroch, there were no free speech issues involved in these disputes. Yeah right. Only, if Charles Chauvel got his way, Beenie Man’s right to travel, and his ability to earn a living. Not to mention the ability of anyone else in New Zealand to hear him perform. Similarly, in the case of ‘Cop Killer,’ local Police were contacting Interpol for info on Ice T and his entourage in order to scrape together a legal rationale for banning his entry to NZ, while making moves to prosecute an Auckland retailer chosen at random for stocking his music – all on no legal basis, and without following the correct legal procedure of referral to what was then the Indecent Publications Tribunal for a ruling. Then and now, I think that might have merited a comment or two from human rights organizations. In the case of Beenie Man, the intention has been to censor his music via economic pressure, and it has succeeded brilliantly. My article was arguing that censorship by any means is less desirable than engagement with the artist, and his repugnant content – especially when those protesting are claiming to be agents of tolerance.

      As Craig Ranapia points out, a central issue here is what is to be regarded as ‘incitement. ’ As I said, these are songs. They are incitements to dance, not to commit murder. Moreover, how can there be ‘ incitement’ in Beenie Man’s case when neither the audience at the BDO nor 99.99 % of the gay community would have had a clue even whether he was singing the objectionable songs, much less what he was saying even if he was ?

      Danechall lyrics are delivered at warp speed, in a completely unintelligible patois. It is a peculiar kind of ‘incitement’ when both the crowd, and the vulnerable sector of the community at issue, would need to be told afterwards, with subtitles, whether they were being incited and if so, to do what. Much less whether anyone would do what particular lyrics say. Bob Dylan for instance may have said that everybody must get stoned. But you know what? They didn’t.

      The focus of the protests, as my article pointed out, is safely selective – it has picked out a marginal, economically vulnerable form of music disliked by white liberals – while virtually ignoring the homophobic, misogynist culture that people actually do listen to and buy. In the case of Buju Banton, the campaign waged by the gay community has portrayed him as a hate musician, by entirely focussing on one anti-gay song he wrote when he was 15. To do so – and to take lyric content seriously for a moment – it ignores his subsequent 20 years of songs like “Murderer” in which he has taken a stronger stand against violence than anything I have heard from any US hip hop musician.

      While I respect Peter Tatchell, I find it surprising he plainly expects a personal apology from Beenie Man..Has he no sense of history, or what is likely to happen when white Britons demand an apology and try to place pre-conditions on the music of black Jamaicans, while others ( US hip hop artists, heavy metal musicians, film and television makers ) are not threatened with the same economic sanctions ? Of course such people will subsequently deny they buckled to pressure, if asked. Not simply because of pride. The Bobo Shanti form of Rastafarianism ( with all its Old Testament attitudes to gays ) embraced by artists such as Sizzla means there is sectarianism pressure on them not to publicly condone homosexuality. In saying that, I am not condoning religious bigotry. I find these lyrics and Bobo attitudes in general to be hateful, too. My point is that for a variety of colonial and religious reasons, some room for bravado and posturing is required, if one is actually serious about ending the practices. Of course, if one is more intent on prolonging the campaign for political reasons, then by all means seek a public apology. The result is virtually bound to be defiance, not compliance.

      How different it is for a white American like Eminem, who has built a multimillion career in music and film on a homophobic, misogynist foundation, when so many more options were available to him. And is being applauded by prominent members of the gay community for doing so. Seeing that, no wonder the likes of Beenie Man and Buju Banton feel they are being unfairly singled out. Because they are.

    14. By Jan on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

      I think there’s a difference between calling for violence against an already marginalised and targetted group – that many people feel they already have valid grounds to hate/commit violence against – and a group that holds power in society. Wishing violence against a group that you perceive as treating you badly can be a kind of coping strategy. It doesn’t make it desirable but does make it less threatening.

      And I don’t think this was a case of censorship either. Making people realise there are consequences to saying certain things – is society in action. The fact that there is a network of gay-rights activists with enough clout to build a international campaign is a testament to usefulness of organisation for marginalised groups.

      Of course dancehall artists aren’t exactly a powerful group, relative to the mainstream music industry, but their voice is still alot stronger than the gay boy/grll on the street.

    15. By h on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

      Gordon, I don’t know if dancehall is disliked by white liberals. Maybe in Wellington. A few years ago white liberals were the primary audience for this stuff, but I guess that tapered off when people starting reading transalations of the lyrics off the internet.

      I’d like to see Kevin Hague campaigning to expand the refugee definition to include sexual orientation, so gay Jamaicans have the opportunity to move here. It’d be great if this particular media outrage could be directed somewhere useful.

    16. By mike on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

      Here’s an idea: maybe Scoop should institute a permanent Beenie Man column on this website, to give him the “platform” to fictionally construct things.

      And Scoop could also sponsor similar columns/platforms for David Irving, National Front etc. I’m sure they’d appreciate the legitimization.

      Why would Scoop never do this?

      Probably for similar as BDO. Scoop is a platform for “left” views, just as the BDO is a platform for “slightly left of the dial” popular music. Both have income to survive and are subject to various market pressures.

    17. By Dominic on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

      Again, I find discussing what homophobia should be tackled ahead of another to be an intellectual luxury.

      The post and many of the comments contain assumptions that reek of someone standing outside. The very assumption that just because Elton John thinks something, ergo all gays think it, is staggeringly facile.

      And Craig, not sure why you think Chauvel should now personally bear the brunt of righting every wrong for gays in New Zealand. I assume you are busy emailing every straight, married male MP telling them to reduce domestic violence… Or every MP with children to tell them to stop child abuse…

    18. By lyndon on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

      Not directly in response but here’s
      Emma Hart

    19. By George Darroch on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

      I’ll take holocaust denial, a limit example, and an example of something that does have very real horrific consequences in the present day, since Gordon Campbell brought it up.

      Should David Irving be allowed into the country? Yes. Should his words be illegal? No. I disagree with Chauvel on this point, and should have made that clearer. In both cases this is because we consider freedom of speech a right that deserves a particularly high protection, and should only be limited in extreme cases.

      Should every right-thinking person deny him their platforms to speak? Absolutely yes. He is free to his opinions, but his views are both abhorrent and harmful, and we are under no compulsion to give him our microphones. Putting his speech in front of the Press Club, or in newspapers and magazines is to give him credence he does not deserve. Even if he did not talk about the holocaust or history, the venues that hosted him would still be saying that he is a person of note and worth listening to.

      Denying fascists a platform to express their views works. There is the idea that the public sphere is unlimited, and that the answer is to give these people our forums and let our arguments win out. This is a falacy however. There is not the room or time to have everybody in the world given radio interviews and concert spots. In practice, those considered more important are given these spots. Furthermore, our arguments do win out, but their arguments are given much more credence by the mere fact that we publicly consider them worth putting in front of our microphones. Giving them the stage increases their audiences, and the evidence shows that this allows them to create more harm than when their views are denied such public space. More attacks on mosques and synagogues, greater membership of these organisations. Real harm, an infringement on the rights of these victims caused by well meaning people who think that a person having a right is the same as us having an obligation to allow the greatest exercise of that right.

      Having Beenie Man on stage, when he is not performing his torrents of support for hatred and violence, legitimises him as a person, and says that this a person that we consider worth paying attention to. If the BDO considers that he is not worthy to grace their stage, he is still free to enter the country, and still perform at some lesser event.

    20. By Craig Ranapia on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

      Dominic wrote:
      And Craig, not sure why you think Chauvel should now personally bear the brunt of righting every wrong for gays in New Zealand.

      I reply:
      Well, you’re the one who brought up same sex marriage, dear. I’d note the rather glaring fact that he’s the one in Parliament, not us, and perhaps THAT issue would be a significantly better use of his time and energy.

    21. By Stuart Munro on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

      George Darroch wrote:
      “Should every right-thinking person deny him their platforms to speak? Absolutely yes.”

      No, because much of what he has to say is unrelated to gender politics. And, as a performer, microphones are his thing. We have perfectly adequate laws that would apply if Beenie Man had indulged in hate speech.

      What we have here is a vocal, allegedly liberal, minority attempting to prescribe the public taste. You would do well to remember that this kind of prurience is the feature gender rights campaigners object to in organised religion. If you don’t like it, don’t do it.

    22. By Damen (TheSifter) on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

      Thank you scoop, yet again for giving an unbiased and independent view of the situation.
      great article without the “boo hoo” sensationalism that other sources have resorted to.

    23. By George Darroch on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

      . And, as a performer, microphones are his thing. We have perfectly adequate laws that would apply if Beenie Man had indulged in hate speech.

      Sorry. I’m not calling for his prominent homophobic statements to be illegal. I see no inconsistency in asking that people who do not endorse homophobia pay him to stand behind a microphone, even if he promises to avoid the subject.

      What we have here is a vocal, allegedly liberal, minority attempting to prescribe the public taste. You would do well to remember that this kind of prurience is the feature gender rights campaigners object to in organised religion. If you don’t like it, don’t do it.

      Does it occur to you that people might actually sincerely genuinely not want to attend an event that is prominently hosting someone who actively promotes anti-homosexual hate speech?

      No, because much of what he has to say is unrelated to gender politics.

      His statements are not incidental to his music, they form part of his music. And he hasn’t renounced his anti-homosexual hate speech, at least not as far as the evidence I’ve seen suggests.

      I and others have every right to object to someone we find highly offensive being at an event we would like to attend, and to ask that others do not give him a platform from which to legitimise himself.

      There is no free speech argument here.

    24. By Jake on Nov 18, 2009 | Reply

      Just in case you’re in any doubt about the kind of Caribbean culture you’re defending, here’s an example from Puerto Rico from last weekend:

    25. By stuart munro on Nov 18, 2009 | Reply

      “I and others have every right to object to someone we find highly offensive being at an event we would like to attend, and to ask that others do not give him a platform from which to legitimise himself.”

      Someone you find highly offensive is a confession of ad hominem. Fine – so you want to suppress free speech beyond the scope of hate speech – your analogy is that if David Irving were to publish a recipe for banana cake, you’d ban it.

      Buster – you’ve no right to do anything of the kind. You’re a bad ‘un. But then, what good is a right that doesn’t include trampling on other people’s eh.

      Thankfully, free speech is not confined to buffoons like you.

    26. By Sanctuary on Nov 19, 2009 | Reply

      I am sure the generals in Rangoon would argue Aung San Suu Kyi is free to express whatever opinion she likes, they are just denying her an audience. Anyone exiled to Siberia under the Tsars were still free to express their views to the wolves, snow and endless pine forests. If it were not for the BDO Beenie Man would be unlikely to ever come to N.Z. Getting him cut from the line up – and his appearance fee – is as effective form of censorship as simply banning him would ever be.

      Saying that denying a platform and denying free speech are two different things is utter claptrap. That this piece of sophistry is showcased as the primary defense for effectively banning from New Zealand by proscriptive liberals is disappointing, but not a surprise.

      I am rather sad that the organisers have decided – purely for business reasons no doubt – to axe him. What would have been so terrifying with letting him play, and trusting in the wisdom of the crowd to decide?

    27. By Brent Courtney on Nov 20, 2009 | Reply

      Bravo Gordon.

      I found the national news coverage of this was researched poorly, going on a lot of heresay and very one sided – as we know the NZ public sucks that sort of thing up.

      There was no mention at all of the laws of buggery in Jamaica to put his upbringing and thoughts in context.

      This discussion will pop up again as I know there is talk of a solo tour to Australia in 2010, likely to be picked up and promoted in NZ also.

      Signed – a reggae DJ.

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