While the BBC excises classic comedies and variety shows from its archives for offensive racial stereotypes, the musical genre of rap has seemed immune to cancel culture. Glorifying drugs, misogyny and violence, its lyrics are a profusion of the ‘n’ word and ‘motherf******s’. If you were to quote these verbal volleys on Twitter you would risk a ban, or perhaps a knock on your door by the Old Bill.
But now a rapper himself has been rapped. I doubt that many Salisbury Review readers would have heard of Wiley, but he was highly regarded as the pioneer of ‘grime’ rap, being awarded a MBE. The trendy Guardian clearly didn’t know him either, erroneously featuring a picture of Kano, another black artist, in an article on racism by Owen Jones. This blunder was like a 1980s football commentary, when mistaken identities were excused as ‘they all look the same’.
The reason for Jones’s interest was the recurrent theme of Jews controlling the world, tweets on which Wiley doubled down in a Sky News interview. He was suspended from social media platforms, a police investigation was launched, celebrities boycotted Twitter for two days, and home secretary Priti Patel added her tuppence worth to the condemnation.
Wiley’s tirade was referring to the rich and powerful rather than Jewish people generally. Any suggestion of a globalist oligarchy is stepping in dangerous territory: the writer need not mention Jews at all. The Depeche Mode song Everything Counts from 1983 would probably be suspect now: –
The grabbing hands grab all they can
Everything counts in large amounts
The Board of Deputies is quick to associate any critic of the likes of mega-financier George Soros as a latent Nazi, but the inconsistency of media outrage is stark. If Wiley had targeted white people instead, he would have been lauded by the BBC for his ‘political’ stance. Because Black Lives Matter. In the same edition of the Times reporting Wiley’s demise was a heading ‘Whites hold most top jobs’. Substitute the word ‘whites’ for Jews and it’s the kind of headline from a Berlin newspaper, c1933.
Some people may see it as progress that a black man has been censored for racism. But contrast the punishment of this representative of impoverished urban street culture with the outcome for Priyamvadar Gopal, who was promoted to a full professorial position at University of Cambridge after tweets about abolishing whiteness. It was Gopal’s critics who were racist, apparently. When stickers appeared at bus stops around Cambridge asserting ‘It’s okay to be white’, the local police force stated that this was being taken extremely seriously, while assuring the public that Gopal had not committed any crime. Whites are fair game in the hegemonic ideology of identity politics.
As the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn discovered, any criticism of Israel or Zionism is verboten nowadays. Yet some ugly anti-Semitism passes unnoticed by mainstream media. Around the same time as Wiley’s rant, the Times exposed the Facebook postings of Heshmat Khalifa, a director of the largest British Muslim charity Islamic Relief Worldwide. Having tweeted that Jews are ‘the grandchildren of monkeys and pigs’, Khalifa resigned. But there was nothing on the BBC about this. As Charles Moore remarked, ‘imagine how it would have reacted if a director of Christian Aid had said the same things’.
Such disparity demonstrates the complicated hierarchy of victimhood and its conditional licensing. Men mustn’t oppose feminism, unless the feminist is ‘trans-exclusionary’, in which case the male critic is not representing his own gender but that of a victim group. A Muslim MP was appointed to Labour’s shadow cabinet despite having endorsed a tweet that white working-class girls abuse by Asian grooming gangs should shut up for the good of diversity.
The sadly common phrase ‘you can’t say that’ is qualified: it depends on your group identity, and which group you are talking about. This is the regressive tolerance of cultural Marxism. If you want to understand this properly, apply to the social science department of a university and become an enlightened graduate of intersectionality. Then you can attend a Trans Black Lives Matter rally with your raised fist, certain of your righteousness. Most of your fellow marchers will be middle-class, white and supremely woke.
But that’s an alternative reality. Whatever the intellectual gymnastics supporting identity politics, this is a house built on sand. It is manifestly unfair that the dehumanisation of Jews in the Koran is permissible, but not a black Londoner telling the truth about the yawning socio-economic gap between Golders Green and Harlesden.
A free society would allow Wiley to express his opinion, and for his bluster to be challenged. Unlike the keyboard warriors who got him cancelled from the internet, Wiley was prepared to talk to the likes of Alan Sugar face-to-face. Maybe both sides could have learned something from each other. But that’s not the way of society today. Courage comes in small measures: most of Wiley’s detractors would not have dared to say in person what they wrote about him on Twitter.
Inevitably the culture war will become more heated, because there dialogue, discussion and debater are vanishing. In this atmosphere opponents are denied their humanity. How many more people will be cancelled before they become a critical mass, a horde of HG Wells’ Morlocks who will rise against the precious Eloi?