My musical tastes are rarely described as “hip” or “cool”. For me, an ideal evening in involves talking with my 93-year-old grandmother on the phone, and listening to Conway Twitty.
But my friends tell me Action Bronson is one to watch, not just because he is an interesting artist, but also because his lyrics often challenge the dominant cultural and political consensus.
Action Bronson is a few shades removed from a “conscious rapper,” which is to say, his lyrics are intended to shock listeners, and often subvert what he really says.
Not that that matters to the perpetually offended identity politics crowd.
Take Erica Shiner, a Toronto woman, who started a petition to have Action Bronson kicked off the bill at North by Northeast (NXNE), an annual music festival in Toronto. The Directors of NXNE have partially conceded to her demand. On Friday, they announced that Bronson was banned from performing at Yonge-Dundas Square, the main stage for NXNE, where he was originally slated to perform.
Why the shutdown?
Well, Shiner’s call to censor Bronson was primarily based on lyrics from his song “Consensual Rape”, which mentions giving a girl drugs and having rough sex with her.
To be sure, his lyrics are crass. But he’s hardly the first belligerent rap artist to ever perform in Toronto.
As music critic Gary Suarez put it: “Man, if you’re upset about Action Bronson lyrics wait until you hear about rap music."
Incidentally, unlike many rap artists whose sole message is the objectification of women, Action Bronson isn’t one-dimensional. He’s a chef who hangs around household names like Mario Batali and raps about razor clams and bucatini. When it comes to offensive rap artists, Bronson is very middle of the pack.
Where were these anti-misogynist crusaders at every other hip-hop concert in Toronto? Why did they single out Bronson? Could it be, perhaps, because he’s a white man? Political correctness is easily shot at white men over minorities. This is a truth few are willing to publicize.
Regardless, in western liberal democracies, we’re allowed to insult people’s sensibilities. Or at least we’re supposed to be allowed to do so. That’s free speech.
Shiner and co. would have you believe that if you’re not offended, you’re not paying attention. They live in a world of necessary offense. Offense, offense, offense! It must be exhausting.
Shiner is offended by Bronson’s lyrics, that’s fine. But why doesn’t she protest by simply not showing up to his concerts? Or writing an article? To be sure, I don’t condone Bronson’s lyrics, but it offends me that a small group of arrogant faux-intellectuals have deemed him unworthy of his free speech rights. Social dialogue must be wide ranging. Bronson should be allowed to spark a debate. Instead, Shiner has muzzled him and called it a social victory. Nothing could be further from the truth.
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Ezra Levant’s book about the Canadian Human Rights Commissions, censorship and the Mohammed cartoons was voted "the best political book of the last 25 years."
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