Beenie Man invitation shameful


News has broken today that the Big Day Out has invited ‘Beenie Man’ to perform at the 2010 event.

Big Day Out, while getting a little long in the tooth, is still the major music festival in New Zealand, and holds a special cultural appeal to many thousands of people, mostly young.

Beenie Man is a Jamaican reggae performer, notorious for his lyrics and other statements promoting the killing of gay men and lesbians.

Music is a powerful shaper of culture, values, attitudes and behaviour. Music that denigrates gay men and lesbians in the most extreme way imaginable sends some very powerful signals both to young gay and lesbian people but also to their peers. It is not true that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”.

Hate speech like that of Beenie Man gives permission to prejudice and discrimination and creates it where it didn’t previously exist. It blights and diminishes the lives of all who are exposed to it, most particularly young lesbian and gay people who suffer violence, harrassment, lowered self-esteem and all the consequent health and social problems.

Those who argue that hate speech is harmless are wrong. One has only to look at the role of anti-Jewish propaganda (like “The Eternal Jew”) in preparing the environment for first forced evictions and harrassment and finally the holocaust in Hitler’s Germany.

Hatemongering is not welcome in New Zealand. Big Day Out must withdraw its invitation. If it does not then both musicians and fans will be called upon to declare which side they are on.

About Kevin Hague 163 Articles

Green Party Member of Parliament

23 Comments Posted

  1. Yes, i agree. And sometimes I continue to ignore the lyrics even after I find out about them. In extreme cases like this I wouldnt, however I am quite overtly atheist yet I still listen to alot of music with religous lyrics like reggae, samoan music, soul etc. Because even if you listen to something and like it doesnt mean you support it and everything it may represent. People find their own messages and meanings in music and thats the beauty of it.
    I see that Big Day Out has cancelled his performance? Good on them.

  2. Kevin,
    Yes, indeed. I was wondering exactly how much attention you pay to those with whom you debate. Most MP’s would not bother to remember such details; I am impressed.

    You are, of course, perfectly correct that such extreme freedom of speech is not a natural right and is indeed not even a legal right as in our juristiction there are legal bounds to that which one may say. I am, however, not promoting his right to promote his bigotry nor any entitlement for him to be given a means of doing so. I am promoting freedom of thought; a different concept entirely. Complete freedom of thought is a legal right in New Zealand as it is enshrined in legislation (New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, Section 13) and enforced by the state should it be infringed. In a similar manner, the discrimination you are proposing against this individual violates the rights bestowed on him under sections 21 and 22 of the Human Rights Act 1993 in a way no different to the discrimination against queer group members as previously cited.

  3. Cheers Tautokai. And I can relate to your experience. I have noticed that some people listen intently to the lyrics of songs while others experience the vocals more as another instrument. I’ve always been one of the latter, so have sometimes been slow – sometimes embarrassingly slow – to find that some bit of music I liked was advocating a political position I abhorred.

    Not directly relevant, but an interesting situation arises where a type of music is adopted in the symbology for an offensive political ideology. What is the progressive to do?

    Many people will know that Wagner’s music became theme tunes for the Nazis. More pertinent to my own experience was the way in which neo-Nazis adopted early punk. The Clash (my favourite band) solved that by wrestling control back and using their status to make anti-racist music and to campaign against racism. Interestingly Joe Strummer saw reggae as one of the few forms of music that had not already been co-opted for reactionary political expression, which is one of the reasons the Clash adopted that reggae/rock/dub/punk fusion and championed Jamaican artists.

  4. I accept those points wholeheardtly Kevin. I wasent really trying to say I believed that excuse, as there is no excuse. I was just, like you said, trying to find some reason behind the lyrics as there may well be, I’m not sure. I think the lyrics are disgusting and the most abhorent part of reggae culture; I love reggae music, its my favourite genre of music. But I must say that their homophobia has put me off certain artists I otherwise like, such as Buju Banton.

  5. James, Sapient, Paul B – you guys are essentially making an argument of an absolute right to freedom of expression. In other words that people should be permitted to express themselves in any way, regardless of the harm that may cause others. That’s an extreme version of even Randian thought James, and a surprising argument for you to mount Sapient, given the position on rights you set out in relation to whether or not children with disabilities had a “right” to access mobile dental units. The freedom of speech argument has already been dealt with above and, in any case, as Lyndon has pointed out, even if someone had an absolute right to freedom of expression (regardless of the harm to others) that surely does not confer a duty on others to give them a platform for that expression.

    Tautokai, the reason you advance for Bennie Man’s views has the hallmarks of urban myth and a retrospective justifying of his actions. I don’t know whether any American gay men have kidnapped Jamaican boys as sex slaves, and if any have, how widespread this problem is. I suspect you don’t know either. There may indeed have been cases of American paedophiles kidnapping Jamaican children, but paedophiles and gay men are not the same thing, and anyway would it be reasonable to extend anger at the actions of some to a whole category of people? And what about lesbians – is there a problem with lesbian paedophiles also, that would lead him to advocate killing lesbian women by hanging? I appreciate that you’re advancing what you think is an explanation of how this guy has come to develop the views he expresses. I’ve heard the same explanations, but I don’t buy them. They are an attempt to make him seem part way reasonable as a response to the outrage he has provoked, but are simply not credible or sufficient.

  6. The thing people need to remember is that in Jamica there are many, many gay men that come from America and other places and kidnap young Jamican boys as sex slaves. I will never condone his lyrics or the sentiments behind them, never. However I think it is worth remembering why some of what is being said is being said… I don’t think he should be denied entry but please protest, he needs to wake up to the hate hes insighting.

    But just to make it clear i do NOT support Beenie Man in any way!

  7. Indeed, we all hold some views that others would find offensive whether you know what they are or not. The key is to live and let live, in spite of those who can’t.

  8. Kevin,
    As much as I disagree with his viewpoints and that which he encourages in those songs, he does have the right to hold those opinions just as you have the right to hold yours.
    Your protest against his performance based on the viewpoints he holds is bigotry in and of itself. In fact, what you are proposing is an active attempt to ensure that he be denied employment based on his viewpoints. This is a very slippery slope and can easily translate to members of the queer community being denied employment because their sexual and gender preferences may offend the ‘sensibilities’ of the employer.
    It is my opinion that, so long as it is made clear he is not to perform the offending songs, that such censorship would do more to hurt the queer community than to protect it from harm. Just as the BBC should not disallow the racist party from coverage so to should we not disallow this individual.

  9. So protest and make a fuss Kevin.Fair enough…he sounds like a bigoted doushbag.But he does have freedom of speech including that which is considered by some as “hate speech”(a silly PC nonsense)Im with you in peacefully protesting his views but if you advocate a ban and want State force to do it then you are a far bigger threat to Kiwis and their freedoms than this guy.

  10. But Rangi he has also made it clear that he hasn’t changed his views. I have heard conflicting reports about whether or not he still performs the songs with the lyrics currently being quoted, but for me that is beside the point.

    My concern is with the signal that is sent to the young gay, lesbian or bisexual person (and their peers) by the fact that New Zealand’s premiere music festival considers it to be acceptable to invite such a person to New Zealand, knowing his history of hatemongering. Whether or not he still actively hatemongers, and whether or not he will hatemonger while he is here are irrelevant. His past actions have resulted in him now standing for a particular set of extreme prejudiced perspectives, and BDO by inviting someone who represents those perspectives gives some degree of tacit support for them.

    There is no neutral position here. BDO has to decide where it stands on this type of extreme homophobia. If it wishes to salvage any of the “prides itself on tolerance etc” that it says it stands for, then it must withdraw the invitation. If it does not then I will be advocating action to cause BDO as much financial and reputational damage as possible.

    I probably sound angry. That’s because I am. I have fought discrimination and prejudice in many forms for many years now and I have no intention of taking a backward step when bigotry is tolerated, because it has such a profound negative effect on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

    As you probably know, I like to try to find common ground with people and resolve disputes amicably, but on this particular issue I don’t find myself able to be at all conciliatory.

  11. Sorry Kevin but I will have to disagree with you on this one. Beenie Man has stopped singing the offending tunes since Peter Tachell amongst others made it impossible for him and other entertainers to perform in the UK/US.

    read here >

  12. An ’81 Springbok Tour re-enaction perhaps.

    Lots of us buy tickets, storm the stage when he’s due to come on, and the show stops there. Hamilton 1981 revisited!

    I’ve been missing those non-violent direct action civil disobedience protests.

    So how about it?

  13. I agree Joe. I was disturbed to see in the Facebook discussion the suggestion that it would be an adequate response (or even a better one than a boycott) to attend the event but protest while he performed. As you say, money in the promoters’ pockets. Fail. It also misses the point I’ve been trying to make, which is that the main issue here is BDO’s decision to invite him. BDO is the target of my anger in this.

    I wonder if this is evidence of a sense of powerlessness (which of course has been a political and commercial objective for some). If so it is very worrying. We need people to understand that they can change outcomes by their actions, and to have hope for a better future. Faced with a Government principally motivated by an ideology about the role of the State and by populism, the only way we can secure effective action on climate change, for example, is by Government fearing it stands to lose more votes if it doesn’t take such action. If people feel powerless, then Government has nothing to fear.

    For those who feel helpless, though, history teaches us the value of hanging in there. I well remember (and please feel free to skip this bit if you’ve heard me bang on about it before) a picket of a Rugby Union meeting in late 1980, after they had invited the apartheid South African rugby team to tour New Zealand. There were probably about 20 of us there. Yet less than a year later, on September 12th 1981 (and particularly the night before in Queen Street) literally hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets making a public declaration of which side they stood on.

    We need people to know that collectively we are powerful, and we can create positive change if we choose to do so.

  14. Owen McShane wrote:

    “You mean like saying Phil Goff should be put up against a wall and shot?”

    yes, but Hone didn’t actually say that. he said “Now if I should be suspended for swearing, [Phil Goff] and his mates should be lined up against the wall and shot”. I would assume that he doesn’t think he should be suspended for swearing, and that he is arguing that suspending him for swearing would be equivalent to executing Phil Goff over the Foreshore and Seabed Act. I don’t agree that they’re equivalent, but it’s not the same as saying Phil Goff should be shot.

  15. Nothing to do with freedom of speech – it’s about why the promoters are giving this creep a platform for hate speech in the name of entertainment.

    If Beenie Man hasn’t rescinded his views this would be a good chance for the Green Party to teach a lesson in the politics of power and organise a boycott of the BDO – maybe accompanied by an alternative event- I dare say a reasonable number of Green supporters might attend (or play at) the BDO, enough for a boycott to have some economic clout.

    I heard a facebook group person on the rqadio this morning saying thay were planning to dance and chant if he plays – that’ll only help ticket sales. There seems to be a number of young people who think protest is only about symbolism. Here’s a chance to get them to exercise some real power.

  16. AIkmm

    You say:
    ” However, Beenie Man’s lyrics go beyond freedom of speech, and directly incite people to violence. Asking someone to kill someone else is not exercising free speech, it is taking part in murder as much as the person who physically does the killing.”

    You mean like saying Phil Goff should be put up against a wall and shot?

  17. Ooh, ooh, I know this one.

    Leaving aside the limits-of-free-speech question (see A1kmm):

    1) By the same token that someone has a right to say something, other people have the right to disagree as vehemently as they like.

    2) Allowing someone that right does not require anyone to give them a platform or be associated with them; hence (and also) one is allowed to criticise people who do that as much as one likes either.

    … which is all Kevin has done. Fully Voltaire compliant.

  18. Freedom of speech is a basic human right, and the Greens go further than any other party in parliament to protect human rights, while other parties try to abolish them. However, Beenie Man’s lyrics go beyond freedom of speech, and directly incite people to violence. Asking someone to kill someone else is not exercising free speech, it is taking part in murder as much as the person who physically does the killing.

    Examples of Beenie Man’s lyrics which directly incite violence:
    “hang chi chi gal wid a long piece a rope”, “Kill Dem DJ”, “Bun Susan from she a sleep wid Sharon”, “Bun a sodemite and everybody bawl (That’s Right)”.

  19. I always thought that the Greens were a party that would support freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

    As usually attributed to Voltaire:

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

    While you might not like what Beenie man has to say about Gays, lesbians or eskimos.. you are not forced to listen to him, or support him in any way shape or form.

    If you don’t like him, don’t go to the BDO, or go, but ignore his stage – its as simple as that.

    Your attempt at censorship goes against what one would expect a freedom loving, pro freedom of expression green party to stand for.

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