YouTube is right to defend drill

The British state’s war on rappers is authoritarian and racist.

Jason Reed

Earlier this year, UK drill rappers Skengdo and AM were convicted for performing a song at a concert. In an unprecedented case, the authorities deemed the song – ‘Attempted 1.0’ – inflammatory, alleging that its lyrics ‘encouraged and incited violence’. Over the past few years, the police and the political class have sought to blame the thriving drill music scene for Britain’s knife-crime epidemic. They have criminalised artists and censored music. Thankfully, some long-awaited resistance to the censorship of drill seems to be materialising.

Last week, YouTube resisted calls to take down drill videos. Its UK managing director, Ben McOwen-Wilson, wrote in the Telegraph that he wanted to ‘provide a place for those too often without a voice’. He made a thinly veiled jab at the Metropolitan Police and others who would ‘silence’ innocent artists with ‘sweeping rules to eradicate the few’. YouTube has staked its flag – for now, at least – as a defender of free speech in this regard, signalling that it is unwilling to kowtow to ceaseless calls for censorship.

There is not a shred of evidence to support the claim that censoring drill music helps curtail violent crime. It might even make the situation worse. Censorship could stoke discontent with the authorities while snatching away a lifeline of vital self-expression for some of the most marginalised people in British society. Drill music, like all music, is a socio-cultural endeavour of immeasurable value. As rapper Konan (one half of Krept and Konan) puts it: ‘I don’t think the police understand that criminals don’t make music. You make music to leave the criminal life behind, so focusing your efforts on the musicians is pointless.’ Nevertheless, many in the elite cling to the idea that poor black kids rapping about violence must, surely, cause violence.

In reality, of course, the drivers behind rising knife crime are complex and multifaceted. Cultural censorship is a knee-jerk reaction akin to Sadiq Khan’s banning of burger ads on the Tube in an attempt to tackle obesity. Both are examples of ham-fisted government meddling, desperate attempts to be seen to be doing something, while the underlying issues go on festering beneath the surface.

Certainly, drill lyrics can be violent. But if the grounds for censoring drill music are its violent lyrics, then vast swathes of musicians should surely be censored, too. By this logic, more popular rap songs would also cross a legal line. And that is before we even get started on violent film, TV and video games.

Attempts to censor drill music are authoritarian, racist and comically ineffective at reducing violent crime. It is about time someone challenged the authorities on this issue. Only time will tell whether YouTube has enough of a backbone to continue to resist the incessant calls for censorship.

Jason Reed is a research intern at the Adam Smith Institute and a student at the LSE. He is also a political analyst and freelance writer and editor.

Picture by: YouTube.

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jessica christon

23rd July 2019 at 1:53 pm

The fact that drill music has been used to incite and arrange violence isn’t in any doubt but the point here is that gang violence among “marginalised people” doesn’t offend any woke principles – so it gets a pass on social media.

Only things that go against the woke grain are seen as causing real harm, and that’s why arranging lethal violence is ok (as long as you are “marginalised”), but telling a non-binary transitioning demi-girl that there are only two genders must be censored/banned.

Kevin McCabe

16th July 2019 at 6:24 pm

If they’re not white, how come they’re racist?

Northern 1312

16th July 2019 at 4:04 pm

Was intrigued whether the mass exodus of blood and soil racists below the line here would have improved the quality of comment on issues like these but apparently not. I can never understand why people who evidently never visit areas of social deprivation and who’s only interaction with people of colour is to sneer at them down their noses then feel qualified to discuss the merits and or ills of their artistic output despite having absolutely no understanding of their circumstances. That’s the same attitude that produces these idiotic crack downs on freedom of expression in the first place.

The idea that rising knife and gun crime can be attributed to a particular kind of music is laughable. It’s mistaking one of many symptoms of the problem for the source and merely allows the real causes to go unresolved whilst simultaneously feeding people’s prejudices and stoking division. There are plenty of socio-economic factors I would suggest have much more of an influence on people’s propensity for violence than their music taste but it suits our Tory government and Tory media not to discuss them in any real detail as that would require a level of introspection the British states does not tire of proving itself incapable of.

Jakealope Darcy

23rd July 2019 at 8:11 am

Oh spare us your lame Sociology 101 set of excuses and lies about black crime. It is always some white guy’s fault. I love reading almost every day stories about these noble rappers getting murdered or arrested for serious crimes while idjits pretend some “artist” criminal like Meek Mills is a victim

Hana Jinks

16th July 2019 at 1:31 pm

You’ve obviously never listened to NWA

Hana Jinks

16th July 2019 at 1:25 pm

Sadiq Khan.

There must be some kind of explanation.

I don’t get it. How did he get in?

Amelia Cantor

16th July 2019 at 11:29 am

Has someone slipped me some LSD? In what conceivable universe is it “racist” to seek to prevent young black bodies from falling victim to the acting-out of hyper-masculinist pseudo-tropes of violence, honour and territorial aggression? Youtube are trying to DEFEND young black bodies from the results of austerity, racism and the legacy of slavery.

With “friends” like Spiked, the black community is hardly in need of enemies.

Hana Jinks

16th July 2019 at 1:29 pm

I like Lsd . And mushies. It’d probably be a bit of a freak-out ro trip with you.

Danny Rees

16th July 2019 at 8:19 am

Complete tosh.

The state is not enacting a war on rappers but is dealing with low life criminals who use video sharing websites to incite and whip up gang fights.

Rap needs to quit playing the victim card.

Ed Turnbull

16th July 2019 at 1:30 pm

So Danny, are you suggesting that anyone who listens to ‘drill’ is automatically programmed to indulge in street violence? Or is it only young black men who’re susceptible to its siren song? And that I, a middle-aged white guy with a penchant for prog and folk, would be utterly immune. Your comment seems to be denying the fans of ‘drill’ any agency, and implying that their response to certain stimuli is predictable and inevitable. Really Danny? Are you claiming that ‘drills’ fans are mere automata?

Hana Jinks

16th July 2019 at 1:34 pm

Northern 1312

16th July 2019 at 3:35 pm

Wow, I know you’re king of knee jerk reactionary comments on here these days but that’s dumb even by your standards. Your white privilege is showing, as the kids would say.

Jakealope Darcy

23rd July 2019 at 8:13 am

“Your white privilege is showing”
So Spiked only allows whites to post here?
Good, can it get anymore trite and SJW?

Ed Turnbull

16th July 2019 at 8:15 am

Here we go again. We seem to have these kind of moral panics regarding music at least once every decade. In the 50s it was Elvis et al corrupting the young ‘uns with their lyrics and ‘sexual’ dancing. In the 60s we had a panic over references to drugs in music (we had panic 2.0 regard in the 90s with the whole house / rave scene). In the 70s we had punk, and so on. It seems that every generation, as they progress toward middle age, misunderstands (perhaps wilfully) the music of the following generation. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

I’m no fan of rap (not enough melody or beauty for my taste), but would I see it banned? Even in its most nihilistic forms? No, of course not. Freedom of expression must prevail. In any case we already have laws covering *real* incitement, we don’t need new ones to address incitement that’s merely *inferred*.

Winston Stanley

16th July 2019 at 2:18 am

“alleging that its lyrics ‘encouraged and incited violence’”

That is a bit rich coming from the British state, which is currently trying to goad Iran into a war, as the state has obviously not had enough wars with Iraq X2, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen etc. which has left hundreds of thousands dead and untold millions displaced. It is a permanent war state now. The sooner that we get rid of the “royal prerogative” and we get democratic control over the state and its wars, the better.

I am mainly into psytrance at the moment but I really like those drill videos on YT done in the housing estates and with the drones. It is great art and social commentary. Thanks to the artists. Likely the British state just does not want the general public to see the architecture and what is going on in parts of residential London. Out of sight, out of mind. It was a deliberate post-war Tory policy over decades to use social housing to concentrate the worst off into areas of poor housing.

Hana Jinks

16th July 2019 at 1:42 pm

Yeah, but they can’t be allowed to build a bomb, given their antipathy towards Israel.

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