There seems to be a repeating theme that, every couple of years, we get a new rationalisation by our saviours the government as to why we can’t do certain things that don’t immediately affect us.
One of the more recent cases of this was Tyler, The Creator, Californian rapper and ringmaster of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill them All (I know), who was recently denied entry to the U.K. to perform festival dates for his music tour. The ban will last from 3 to 5 years, and is on the grounds of him being a threat to “public order and public interest” with his behaviour being “unacceptable” (i.e. he said some controversial things in his lyrics and on social media, big deal). Tyler’s last album release was in 2011 and has visited the U.K. numerous times since, so Theresa May’s latest compulsive whipping out of the banhammer seems rather arbitrary and pathetic. Tyler has remained unchanged in his behaviour for years, both being prolific on social media and playing fast and loose with his “expression” shall we say. Once his relevancy, and buzz that put a positive spin on behaviour died down he was left out to dry, and the cold stark facts about his behaviour was jumped on by opportunistic politicians – not a decision to remove a threat to national security on principle.
For all her supposed moralism on behalf of the British public, May seems to opportunistically ban foreign products that people don’t like for political point-scoring, rather than actually adhering to the rule of law or being a proper public servant. It harks back to the case of notorious pickup artist Julien Blanc who was denied access to the U.K. last year, based on public outcry over media presentation instead of actually explicitly committing crimes in the country, much like Tyler.
To be considered a legitimate threat to national security, a person must have an obvious and clear intention or causing harm to others. Tyler’s lyrics do nothing of the sort, and are even based on an alter-ego. Despite authorities being fully aware of this, the ban went through; they essentially banned a piece of art, not Tyler as a “terrorist”.
People like to talk about free speech like they support it – it’s a very popular position to be in favour of – and then proceed to ban things they personally don’t like or are offended by. The whole purpose of free speech is that, despite the subjective opinion or morality of an interest group, authorities are essentially neutral, allowing reason, discourse and experimentation to flourish in society, not to arbitrarily favour a certain way of doing things.
You can dress it up any way you want, you can call it “a menace to society”, you can say it’s corrupting your kids, you can call it terrorism, that it promotes violence; rationalising until you’re blue in the face as to why you’re essentially clamping down on something that doesn’t explicitly break the law because you don’t like it violates free speech, period. They’re inherently trying to put forward a values based policy that violates the neutrality of the state, whilst trying to disguise it under some sort of banner that will benefit the common good.
Here’s the catch: You can justify any kind of arbitrary and targeted ban or policy under the veil of “the common good”. Regardless of whether it comes under the category of “concern for the children”, “protecting the national interest” or “maintaining our cultural and/or religious values”, it doesn’t somehow excuse you from being guilty of censorship, prohibition and violating people’s right to free speech; for example the idea that homosexuality is distasteful because it “degenerates the British Christian tradition” seems a bit arbitrary, despite there being a large sect of people who actually agree. Unless the person is an actual criminal, banning someone from a country “because we don’t listen to their terrori- I mean music” it just more opportunistic nonsense from the moral crusaders of yummy mummies. This has been consistently happening throughout the modern era of music. Rap blamed for gun violence, metal blamed for suicides, video games blamed for violent kids; it is just becoming incredibly banal.
Whether something is enjoyable, offensive, or distasteful is completely down to individual and their subjective preferences and tastes, and to start favouring one group over another at the institutional level is not a pleasant path to go down. Unless there is real, solid evidence that something is dangerous despite people’s capacity for self-defence and exit, manipulating it is extremely arbitrary and an extension of the state that nobody should see approved.