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.