It’s only a song, Simon

National MP Simon Bridges says he hopes “we never see Tiki Taane in Tauranga again.” This was after the award-winning singer was arrested while performing at Tauranga’s Illuminati nightclub on Sunday morning.

Apparently his “crime” to was provide a musical background – singing the well-known rap song F*** tha Police – during a Police visit to the nightclub.

Now I am not particularly keen on the lyrics but, Simon, it is just a song. The right of free expression, guaranteed in our Bill of Rights, does include the right to offend. As the Court of Appeal said in the Moonen case, this artistic right is “as wide as human thought and imagination.”

We have to be consistent. If we defend cultural freedom in China – see my blog last week on the arrest of artist Ai Wei Wei – we have to defend it here.

There may be more to this story than has come out so far. However, Tiki Taane is pretty adamant he did nothing wrong. He told Newtalk ZB today that the club crowd left peacefully and there was no disorder or violence. He pointed out that he’s done the song before and it’s been played on radio.

51 Comments Posted

  1. SPC – that reminds me of Charlie Chaplin, who was criticised by J Edgar Hoover because his films poked fun at police and authorities – a “bad example”. Chaplin’s reply was, that is the reason his films were so popular.

    I guess some things don’t change much …

  2. I think Tiki should go out ‘on patrol’ for a few nights with the cops to live life from their point of view.

  3. Zedd; the Police ceased to be a ‘force’ in 1958.

    Except in the mind of Greg O’Connor, of course, who very much likes the “Force” bit; it tallies with his vision of the Police being “The coercive arm of the state”.

    Whatever happend to “Protect and Serve”? Not in my country 🙁

    (And I appear to have lost a posting from this thread…?)

  4. When the police SERVICE went onto become the POLICE FORCE.. the whole landscape changed.
    It used to be about maintaining Law & Order, now its about LAW ENFORCEMENT.. are the police declaring WAR on the people now ?
    they’ve been at WAR with Drugs & all people associated with them for about 40 years..
    whats next ? War on Music or War on leather jackets ?! Kia-ora…….. oh dear !!

  5. The irony was in your confusion of people posting here using free speech to criticise police with using free speech to hate the police.

    Your attack on the strawwman “you people” you created just exacerbated that to the point of parody. And if you really got it, or were even aware of it, you were not have done it. I get it your’e here to contend against Greens. And your’re prepared to make spurious negative categorisations as a tactic.

    Do you think a Maori is on charge to send a message to other Maori whom police associate with violence against police?

  6. SPC says “I don’t suppose you get the irony…..”

    I understand the irony – you’ve just added to it.

    You don’t like being put in a group and steroetyped for views you may or may not have.

    But you are happy for a song that promotes killing American police in LA, to be aimed at a couple of officers in NZ, simply because they are in the same profession.

  7. “the law says someone commits the crime of offensive behaviour if they… In or within hearing of a public place “uses any threatening or insulting words and is reckless whether any person is alarmed or insulted by those words”

    Well if that law exists, how come Damian O’Connor and Paul Henry (and many others) never got nabbed by the cops?

    Oh yeah, they’re white…

  8. They said on Three News last night that he was half way through the song when police arrived. Can anybody clarify?

  9. Reads ‘FTP’
    oh what can it refer to?

    “File Transfer Protocol” of course… oh wait…

    I’m of two minds about this 🙂
    __________________

    IF the police refrained from making an arrest while the club was crowded, and came back afterwards to do it, they may have done so out of consideration of the fact that if they had done the arrest while the club was crowded there really would have been a riot.

    OTOH, the fact that there was no riot should be prima-facie evidence that no arrest was actually required.

    Which begs the question of why there was any arrest at all.

    BJ

  10. Whatever thanks for the invite to dispel your misconceptions …

    I oppose restriction of free speech on religious matters and oppose the argument that criticism of Islam is hate speech or in any way racist (Moslem identity is not race based) – I am somewhat questioning of attempts to legislate and define and censor hate speech and take this line whenever this is proposed.

    The real issue is public safety and when there is real incitement to violence (especially when related to activist groups prepared to act violently) there can be a valid legal issue. Otherwise there is the issue of actual violence and whether it was based on “hate”.

    In this case the only time the police felt unsafe was if they tried to arrest him while the crowd was there so they returned later when most had gone – so they could make an example of him to send a message to the crowd in their absence.

    This song is played around the world, a singer who sings the song for audiences being prosecuted for doing so before a crowd just because police arrived, it’s not a good look for a once proud human rights based democracy, while those Moslem Arabs are fighting for their free speech.

  11. I don’t suppose you get the irony, but is your negative group betrayal/stereotype of Greens (members, supporters, voters those people who post here who you don’ agree with etc) motivated by a lot of hate … . While its allowed, it does however remind me of the negative campaign tactics of Exclusive Brtethren back in 2005.

    If you want to throw the YOU PEOPLE at me and then at the Greens, as if are inter-changeable (remember I am not a party member) – I would advise you that this sort of tactic has a history/is deliberately prejudicial and indicative of an intent to malign or slander.

    If criticism of police is “hate” what exactly is motivating you to post criticsms of Green policy and Green supporters here day after day?

    The righteous police and photonz vs the now finally exposed “Greens” indeed (you are on a mission from your god right).

  12. SPC – you just continue to prove my point.

    You all stand up against hate speach, and pretent to be all ethical and caring.

    But if the hate speech is against someone YOU hate, then you throw your ethics away and weakly try to call it free speech.

    The regularity that many Greens have a bash at the police is almost as regular as the frequency they’re getting bashed on the street.

  13. Umm, I’ll just assume that I’m talking to people who listen to music regularly.

    Tiki Taane sang a couple of bars from a song that is well-known amongst the genre he performs. It is a well-played, almost ‘canon’ piece of its genre.
    Nobody rioted.
    From that one might conclude that it was taken in the spirit given, as a piece of musical humour on the spur of the moment.

    Other famous songs that have caused controversy include ‘God save the Queen’ by the Sex Pistols, as well as other tunes by those well-played 80’s punks; practically anything by Greenday or Linkin Park, if you actually read the words; and one of my favourite (now disbanded) Welly punk grrlbands, Punchbowl, who performed live and had recorded a song with the refrain ‘get your filthy paws off my silky drawers’ (alluding to Police searches of clothing to find bizarrely listed items of underwear during the October 15th raids). Don’t recall that musicians were arrested after any of those performances.

    Perhaps the Police in Tauranga, where the Bay of Plenty District Court sits, are feeling a little sensitive because they have a guilty conscience hanging over them for the way they allowed their local citizens to be treated in October 2007, February 2008, and on other dates that are obscured.

    Oh, and Mark – I’m assuming the acronym you’re fishing for isn’t file transfer protocol … ftp in common daily usage 😉

  14. Yeah right – let’s start with the musical connection between the artist and the song (has often performed it), then move onto the level of imprisonment of Maori in New Zealand for the cultural connection here… .

    Then back to the issue of free speech, is there something you cannot say and sing when the police are there, but can when they are not – for fear of how they will respond? Is there anything to fear from saying or singing lyrics that someone in power may not like … ?

    Some in the police have tried to punish this person for what they did with their free speech, personally I think it’s an vexatious and aggressive abuse of power.

    Yeah use the violence against police as an excuse to censor what people say line, but the whole thing about the use of words is that those who do this are not promoting violence but empowerment, the alternative to resort to violence. But like the police concerned you see it as the a matter of establishment enforcement of compliant obedience. So much for the perfect hand of the free market and a society working it out as responsible adults.

  15. If the cops are intent on doing inspections in the middle of a concert- an unwelcome interruption not appreciated by the performers or the audience, someone is likely to tell them to buggar off. Tiki did it in his own creative way, he did not request the crowd to turn on said law enforcement officers, otherwise everyone including the Greens would not be backing him now.

    Tauranga is very conservative and that includes our police. The Greens don’t register on the radar here. I’ve been trying to make contact with local representatives, find out who the local candidate is, ask for help and advice on environmental issues, to no avail. Tiki came here to perform for fans, but made the mistake of disrepectin officers of the law! “We don’t take kindly to that round these parts boy”- meanwhile on the other side of town burglaries and other crimes proceed unhindered due to lack of police resources? Houston we have a problem.

  16. SPC – I think it is you who has no understanding of what happened. This wasn’t in LA. It wasn’t sung to the LAPD. And it wasn’t sung for it’s musical merits.

    A song that invokes killing police, was sung in NZ, directly to Tauranga police, when they were in the middle of a concert crowd.

    That’s an incredibly hostile thing to do for someone who claims they have great respect for the police.

    As Tiki Taane fans have said, at the very best, it is incredibly idiotic and stupid. There’s no excuse and the police should start standing up against all the abuse and crap they take from dickheads.

  17. hey, photonz – you are being selective about the lyrics to that song – here are some more to put it in context …

    Fuck tha police
    Comin straight from the underground
    Young nigga got it bad cuz I’m brown
    And not the other color so police think
    They have the authority to kill a minority

    Fuck that shit, cuz I ain’t tha one
    For a punk muthafucka with a badge and a gun
    To be beatin on, and throwin in jail
    We could go toe to toe in the middle of a cell

    Fuckin with me cuz I’m a teenager
    With a little bit of gold and a pager
    Searchin my car, lookin for the product
    Thinkin every nigga is sellin narcotics

    … hmmm … i wonder why tiki taane would want to sing such a song …

  18. People who don’t even get Tatts have one – almost universally
    Reads ‘FTP’
    oh what can it refer to?

  19. To use an appropriate metaphor, when out of one’s depth stop digging. Drop the shovel photonz.

    You really need to understand the culture from which some song lyrics came (a bit like local knowledge of culture being useful to textual study of religious myth) and then the sociology of the more academic terminology – instituional racism.

    There is a reason this person maybe the first person in the world to be charged with using the lyrics of this song.

  20. SPC – perhaps you’re right – it’s just nuanced artistic expression and it’s really about the pleasures of gardening.

    “Beat tha police outta shape
    And when I’m finished, bring the yellow tape
    To tape off the scene of the slaughter”
    “A sucka in a uniform waitin to get shot,
    By me, or another nigga.”
    “And when I’m finished, it’s gonna be a bloodbath
    Of cops, dyin in LA”
    “Takin out a police would make my day”
    “I’m a sniper with a hell of a scope
    Takin out a cop or two, they can’t cope with me”

  21. Does the song invoke people to kill police photonz (such a literalist)
    artistic expression is not your forte, possibly does not tick all the boxes for those joining the police either …

    Just maybe the real aggression comes from vexatious arrest and prosecution.

  22. SPC says “photonz, are you without any semblance of understanding of the nuances involved here”

    Tell me – what is nuanced about lyrics that invoke poeple to shoot the police, take them out, snipe on them with scopes, and that the police are waiting to get shot?

    Typical – hate speech is fine by Greens as long as it’s against police or right wing.

    In other cases you pretend to be all ethical.

  23. Sam asks “Is there a law against being offensive to the police?”

    Yes – the law says someone commits the crime of offensive behaviour if they –

    -In any public place “addresses any words to any person intending to threaten, alarm insult or offend that person”; or

    -In or within hearing of a public place “uses any threatening or insulting words and is reckless whether any person is alarmed or insulted by those words; or

    – addresses any indecent or obscene words to any person”

    A song that invokes people to kill police, sung when the police walk in, probably ticks all three boxes.

    Though if it is considered that someone is encouraging violence, that would lift the charge to the more serious disorderly behaviour, which is the case here.

  24. photonz, are you without any semblance of understanding of the nuances involved here. The lyrics of the F the police come put of a culture where large numbers of black men are left with lesser edcuation, high unemployment rates, higher crime rates and imprisonment rates – the language is one of politics, a re-claiming back of a right to empowerment – confronting with words the agent of their oppression by using their right of free speech.

    The comparable use of free speech, is F the Zionists who steal our land, F the PM who will mince for charity but won’t vote for civil unions, and F the Crown that allows us to settle, to vote and to stand for parliament but requires us to listen to their prayers to someone not God before we can sit down.

  25. “It is very obvious that it was done to be deliberately abusive and offensive to the police.”

    Is there a law against being offensive to the police? Better make sure The Dukes of Hazzard never gets a re-run.

  26. “But when someone like Paul Henry says something offensive, the great ethics that the greens stood up for are all thrown out the window.”

    Don’t recall any greens – or anyone else – saying Henry should be prevented by law from saying anything. I wouldn’t have been bothered by him except for his tendency to pick on the powerless, from a position of strength conferred by his media access. When he finally said something against somebody in power and he got the boot.

    Anyhow, if you work as a professional comedian, you should be able to be funny without resorting to being offensive without a trace of wit. Henry should really be looking at choosing a different career.

  27. rimu says “there’s a difference between ‘free speech’ and ‘hate speech’. Learn it.”

    So you think a song that invokes people to kill police is merely free speech, but comments about moustaches is hate speech?

    So is it still “free speech” if the song invoked people to kill jews, or gays, or muslims?

  28. @photonz1 7:34 PM

    But when someone like Paul Henry says something offensive, the great ethics that the greens stood up for are all thrown out the window.

    Henry should have been disciplined by his employer, TVNZ. Early on, that should have been a formal warning, like over the Stephanie Mills “moustache” commentary.

    But TVNZ let it go on, and even encouraged it in support of ratings, and then we got the racism of the “Dicksit” comments and those disparaging of our Governor-General being of Indian descent.

    No, Henry should not have been arrested, because he did nothing that offends the criminal law. But he should have been disciplined by his employer, long before his public display of bigotry got to the level that it jeopardised his employment.

  29. Authoritarians just don’t like it when weaklings break the rules. It sends them into paroxysms of fury. Paul Henry, since we’re dissing him here, was apoplexic over the folk who walked and cycled over the Auckland bridge a couple of years back – he was foamyfleckingfurious – bloody…HIPPIES!!!
    (It’s because they know the can’t control it, that it’s out of their hands and that it can flare up anywhere, any time.
    Photonz1 hates those meeces to pieces, eh photonz!

  30. “It is very obvious that it was done to be deliberately abusive and offensive to the police.”

    …unless he was simply sending a message to friends in the crowd that putting out marajuana joints would be a good idea.

    Trevor.

  31. I am always intrigued that so many of those who celebrate the free market are so quick to support limitations on free speech and activism. If there is a case for a charge for incitment to violence from the song’s lyrics then the song itself would have been banned.

    The attempt to associate artistic expression with Paul Henry is also just a litle desperate as an argument. The issue with the approriateness of Paul Henry’s comments is not one of free speech, but public propriety. The extent of unfeterred free speech available to the individual is not commensurate with the same license for discourse on public television that some viewers will find offensive.

  32. uhhh photonz: there’s a difference between ‘free speech’ and ‘hate speech’. Learn it.

    Loooooollll

  33. toad – it’s amusing that Greens will lay into the police every chance they get, and bring out all the old cliches
    – artisitc expression
    – culture
    – freedom of speech

    But when someone like Paul Henry says something offensive, the great ethics that the greens stood up for are all thrown out the window.

    Seems they are fair weather ethics.

  34. It is only a song, that says “F*** the Police” which sounds a hell of a lot different to me, than “Physically assault the Police” “Reign riot and chaos upon the Police” or “F*** UP the Police”.

    A culture exists in the line of duty, which exists also for the armed forces, where individuals are trained to harden themselves emotionally to the not so nice aspects of the job. They are fully trained, and paid to handle these situations, so resources are not expended unnecessarily. Policemen and women should not need to wrapped up in cotton wool, if so, they should find another calling in life that is less taxing on their emotional state. It is a risky job, it is a job which makes you the bad guy more often than not – you should expect to encounter some name calling.

    Common sense should tell us this school yard rule: Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

    Reflecting on Tiki Taane’s track record as a performer, I have been to various concerts of his. Some were for all ages, others were R18. Not once have I seen a riot, or chaos that compromised my personal safety. Get out of the stone ages Tauranga, before your city earns a reputation deserving of the stone age.

  35. @photonz1 5:06 PM

    So fucking what!

    If he only sang two lines, he wouldn’t have got anywhere the lyrics about cops being “smoked”. So what’s their problem?

    The first two lines proper (without spoken intro), if that is all he sang, are:

    Fuck the Police, Comin’ straight from the underground

    Young nigga got it bad ’cause I’m brown

    Is that “deliberately abusive and offensive to the police”? And, even if it is, the legal test for the offence of disorderly behaviour is not whether a police officer would be offended.

    I suspect some cop in Tauranga is feeling he’s been a bit of a dick at the moment.

  36. rimu – he wasn’t just coincidentally singing the song.

    Tiki Taane confrimed he sang just two lines from the song when the police came in.

    In other words it wasn’t done for it’s musical merit.

    It is very obvious that it was done to be deliberately abusive and offensive to the police.

  37. @Johnny Let’s be real clear about the sequence of events.

    From http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/music/4875649/Tiki-Taane-arrested-over-rap-song you can see that the inspection happened, the song was sung and the police finished their work and left. Nothing bad happened. THEN several hours later when the gig was over, the police came back and arrested the singer.

    At no point was anyone in danger and the police did not arrest the singer in order to stop him from inciting a riot. The song happened, the rest of the gig happened then hours later the police came back and made their point by arresting the singer.

  38. He is charged with “disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence to start or continue” (thank you stuff.co.nz).

    You can sing the words for the hell of it OR use them to get people to get agro to a police officer. The fact that a police officer was carrying out an inspection at the time of these words being sung complicates the situation hugely.

  39. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to incite riot.

    This does not create a freedom to riot.

    The problem seems to be an alleged perception on the part of the police that there was a threat to their safety as a result of this song at a time when there were police and patrons who had been indulging present… if that was in fact the case. Lot of weasel words there because none of us WERE there.

    Point is, that the freedom of speech doesn’t include yelling fire in a crowded theater. If it endangers people you really cannot say it, and police are people too (well some of them). So it comes down to circumstances we are not quite familiar with and it comes down to the “edginess” of a certain performer who chose to push things to the edge.

    I doubt he “crossed the line” but I wasn’t there. I am not however, fond of the idea of bashing the police unnecessarily as it takes away from the potency of protest when THEY cross the line. The police culture is a hard thing, but so is their job. We have to watch them carefully.

    That leaves very little that CAN be said about this incident. Which applies somewhat to us, and a whole lot more forcefully to Simon Bridges.

    His hopes should be dashed. At worst, Tiki exercised marginal (not even poor) judgment about where the edge is (he was on the face of it, correct in guessing his audience would NOT up and assault the cops, no matter if the cops felt somewhat threatened), and there has to be a lot of slack offered to an entertainer.

    Simon Bridges has exhibited rather worse judgment in this, than Tiki, given the serious importance of freedom of speech.

    As Keith says, it IS only a song…

    BJ

  40. To the commenter above: there’s a difference between ‘free speech’ and ‘hate speech’. Learn it. Then shut the f*** up.

  41. @photonz1
    Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having” – Redmond-Bate v Director of Public Prosecutions [1999] EWHC Admin 732

  42. Keith says “The right of free expression, guaranteed in our Bill of Rights, does include the right to offend.”

    So you’d stand up for the right to abuse people – for example jews and blacks and gays – as free speech?

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