See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

By Vicky Carter

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The latest controversy that’s been on everyone’s lips is of Tyler the Creator being denied entry into the UK. The 24 year old rapper was arriving from Calais, where border patrol detained him which made him feel as if a “terrorist”, telling him regretfully of his outcome. Officially the government denied Tyler entry due to bringing “unacceptable behaviour by making statements that may foster hatred, which might lead to intercommunity violence in the UK.” These “statements” that have led Tyler to be ostracized from the UK, highlight various aspects of Tyler’s creativity which has stemmed from modern world politics and crime, inspiring Tyler to write about fractured personalities.

The content is obviously quite controversial, “I wrote Blow when I was reading about different people in American history. One of the people happened to be [the serial killer] Ted Bundy and I wrote a song from his point of view”. However, the lyrics are similar to any fictional novel that has been written in various character perspectives and have similar themes of abuse, rape and murder which can be found in novels such as, “We Need to Talk about Kevin” and “Lovely Bones”.

The notion of free speech is founded partly on the possibility that if you don’t like what someone else says you are perfectly free to use your speech to counteract it. So, if the government bans certain speech to be expressed, then one cannot express their dissent. I see it as censorship, forcing society to “hear no evil”. Is this the start of a slippery slope? Surely the government understands that music is a form of creative expression, and rap is notoriously known to offend and create a reaction. Tyler is as bewildered as I am, as he highlights the extremist groups that are allowed to protest and rant in public freely: “There are rallies of neo-Nazis in parts of England. And then you’re telling me I can’t come there because of some bullshit song, but you got motherfuckers with swastikas rallying down the street actually promoting hate?”

This is not the first instance of censorship of music and artists and I doubt it will be the last. I fully understand when musicians are turned away at the border because of previous acts that are harming to society or are even illegal, “do no evil”. This is exemplified through Chris Brown infinitely banned to visit the UK because of the serious criminal offence of assault involving Rihanna in 2009, or Snoop Dogg trying to smuggle 8 grams of marijuana into Norway, which is a crime and if anyone else, would have faced a jail sentence.  Strict religious countries such as Indonesia or Malaysia enforce rules and regulations or complete boycott of an artist from the country, to ensure members of the society “see no evil”. This is the case, if the artist does not comply with their rules of dress.  Although a little harsh, I understand the reasoning of this, stemming from religious concerns of faithful Muslims that might find Beyoncé’s erotic dance moves and saucy dress enough to raise pulses, eyebrows and maybe even questions about their own faith.

But the UK is hardly a religious country and we withhold an integral reputation of equality, liberality and freedom of creative expression through allowing risqué artists such as Banksy to flourish and thrive. The recent circumstances of the expulsion of Tyler from the UK for the next 5 years, beg to differ. Is this an inking into guidelines in what future musicians must follow? The proverb: “Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, and Do No Evil” has two separate meanings. Buddhists believe that through each sense one should not dwell on evil thoughts, whilst the western world believe that the proverb refers to a lack of moral responsibility on the part of the people who refuse to acknowledge impropriety.  Is this censorship put in place to highlight the immorality of people’s behaviour, to protect society, or even constrain society?


Photo by DeShaun Craddock