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A Stormzy’s comin

GOING DOWN A STORM: Glastonbury fully embraced Stormzy at the massive music festival

ISN’T IT ironic that while Stormzy was up there on stage at Glastonbury trying to right the wrongs of the world, particularly when it comes to young black boys and girls and their parents, there was YouTube working with the feds to be the self-appointed police men and women of black political correctness.

Yes, even as Stormzy was telling 100,000 (mostly white) festivalgoers to go and have sex with the man who seems almost certain to be the next prime minister of this country, the forces of law and order were tightening their grip on how rappers express themselves.

And they’ve been doing it on the sly in collusion with that video platform that rules the world. By now, you’re probably wondering what the hell I am talking about. Which is exactly my point. So intrusive and so insiduous is this joint enterprise by YouTube and the cops that you should know about it, you should know what I’m talking about without me having to spell it out.


But you don’t because, like the old saying goes, if you want to hide something from a black man put it in a book. And it is in the statute books that our rights and, in particular, our civil rights and liberties are well hidden – and that’s the last place that the authorities want us to be looking as they chip away at those freedoms by stealth.

Up until now we have been at liberty to chat whatever we want to chat, whether it’s foolishness (and let’s face it, a lot of it is) or not. It didn’t matter if some of it was offensive.

We have even been at liberty to chat libelous stuff, as long as we were aware that it might cost us dearly in the courts. However, unlike the United States where the liberty to say what you want is protected by the constitution, it is not in the United Kingdom – even though the convention is so much like the United States that we jump up and down about protecting freedom of speech as if it is the very pillarstone upon which our democracy is founded.

We are given the semblance of this freedom being a right. In reality, when it comes to black boys and girls and what they say on rap/grime records, no such assurances exist, not even in the Areopagitica, that famous essay in 1664 by John Milton, which was an appeal to parliament to protect that fundamental ‘right’ to say and be damned
Not sure if Stormzy is aware of all of this, because while he was going through the history of grime in the UK and giving shout-outs to everybody who knows him (where d’you know him from), the Metropolitan Police and other forces were quietly going about the business of shutting grime down, or at least monitoring the lyrics of over 2,000 tracks and succeeding in getting YouTube to shut some of them down (130 videos so far in total).

The pretext is to tackle knife and gun crime, some of which, the cops say, is predicated by shout-outs and disses and threats on tracks and may even lead to murder. On that basis it is laudable. We black people will be the first ones to say, ‘Bring it on’, ‘Tackle knife crime, don’t let us get in your way... after all, we’re the ones who are dying from it the most’. And yet, and yet…

When it comes to civil rights and stabbings, which is the most important to deal with? Which trumps the other? Is it more important to protect our civil liberties or to protect our children?

I know what you’re going to say. I know... trust me, I know. But before you all start shouting ‘the children come first – every time’, remember that they come first in considerations of civil rights as well. It is because we have to protect their rights and liberties that Martin Luther King marched and got thrown in jail and marched again and got beaten about the head and was abused.

And still he marched again. Because without those rights we are not free. Without those rights we risk boggling our way back into enslavement. With all that in mind, let me ask the question again: Which is the more important black consideration – to protect our children or to protect our civil liberties?

Consider that at least four rap groups are now banned by court order from performing or publishing their music! That has never happened before in the history of this country.

Those are actions that you would associate with a totalitarian state such as Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. But this is not-so-great Britain. Can a ban on performing music ever be justified?

And what shall we say about the role of YouTube in all of this? That they are prepared to collude with the cops in this way is a trust issue for all YouTube users. Further, they are happy to make money from many unsavoury videos – music or otherwise, what evidence has the police provided to them that some videos need to be removed from the platform?


“As of June 21, the Met has submitted requests to YouTube to remove 154 of the 2,040 indexed videos, 130 have been removed,” according to Detective Superintendent Mike West. But what evidence is required to get the company to act? Because this is a quite unprecedented move by them to ban music, the staple diet of YouTube.

Would this kind of thing have fallen under the remit of the company’s former diversity director, Baroness Oona King, or do they not see this as a ‘black’ issue? If she had still been in her post would Oona King have been able to explain the context of these rap videos, as the ‘street’ interpreter that the police use to break down some of the slang in the video does?

I am conflicted, really. Should we, as a people, support this kind of ban on the freedom of speech of grime/ drill/rap artists. And will it stop even one killing of a young person? I’d love to hear what Stormzy has to say about this.

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