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Monday 09 April 2012

Odd Future's Big Day Out invite revoked

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 3rd November 2011


Controversial hip hop collective “Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All” appear to have had the Big Day Out welcome mat pulled out from under their feet, after intervention from Auckland Council, which owns Mt Smart Stadium.

Lauded by critics and picking up a cult following across the globe, Odd Future are seen as the future of music by some, while others despise them for their homophobic and misogynistic lyrics which discuss sexual violence against women and include constant use of the word 'faggot'.

After he heard they would be visiting New Zealand for the annual music festival, gay Wellington man Calum Bennachie set off a chain reaction when he wrote to the Big Day Out promoters expressing his concerns and putting forward a strong case for his argument that: “lyrics such as those played by Odd Future increase the societal discourse against lgbt people, a discourse that encourages bullying and violence”.

Bennachie cc'd the email to a number of people, including the Chair of Auckland Council's Parks and Heritage Forum Sandra Coney, who quickly found she agreed with the writer.

“I approached the CEO of Regional Facilities Auckland John Brockies with Calum's concerns and my own having watched Youtube,” she says.

“After a discussion with BDO organisers this group will no longer be appearing in BDO in NZ.”

Brockie confirms this is the case and says the Council has an excellent relationship with the Big Day Out's promoters.

”We passed on some concerns that had been expressed locally back to the Australian owners of Big Day Out and the outcome of the joint consideration of that was a change in line up for the event.” He says, adding, “We want all New Zealanders to have a fantastic time at Big Day Out.”

The Big Day Out's promoters are yet to comment.

You can read Bennachie's full letter below:

I understand that the group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (Odd Future) is to perform at the Big Day Out, despite the fact their songs contain extremely homophobic, misogynistic and hateful lyrics. It is through lyrics used by Odd Future that “Whole cultures may be induced, invited, or permitted to hate people or ideas they fear, or who are perceived as threats to their dearly held values” (Whillock & Slayden,1995: x).

I would have thought that you had learned what happens through that sort of music after the Beanie Man controversy, but it appears you have not.

Gordon Allport (1958) examines the ideas behind prejudice and hatred, how these affect people, and how hate speech eventually leads to violence through a five point scale: antilocution (the open expression of antagonism), avoidance (of members of the disliked group), discrimination, physical attack, and extermination.

Daniel Goldhagen (1996) discussed the three dimensions of anti-Semitism (source of malefic qualities, latent-manifest preoccupation, and putative perniciousness). Although Goldhagen (1996: 35-36) discusses anti-Semitism, the same can be said can also be said about homophobia:

It is his [sexual orientation], his [identification], or his [sexual behaviour].

These same three dimensions: source, latent-manifest, and perniciousness can be seen to exist in homophobia.

Both Allport's (1958) scale or action, and Goldhagen's (1996) three dimensions can be applied to other forms of hatred, and could also be seen to increase if the lyrics used by Odd Future against specific groups were to be allowed at Big Day Out.

Herek and Berrill (1992) indicate that the effects of hate speech on a person's self-esteem and the stigmatisation imposed cannot be ignored. It has been shown in numerous studies that stigmatisation of a group and a lack of self esteem can lead to suicide (Clayton, 1997; Fergusson, Horwood, Ridder & Beautrais, 2005: 979; Petrie and Brook, 1992; Rosenhan and Seligman, 1985: 342-343). The effects of these lyrics on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender emerging youth could be enormous, stigmatising them, resulting in low self-esteem, and possible subsequent consequences, such as suicide, and personal verbal and physical attacks. All these are certainly injurious to the public good. Furthermore, stigmatised groups are less likely to retain safe choices in regards to a variety of factors, including safer sex

In terms of societal hatred, Greg Herek (2004: 14) points out that “First, hostility exists in the form of shared knowledge that is embodied in cultural ideologies that define sexuality, demarcate social groupings based on it, and assign value to those groups and their members. Second, these ideologies are expressed through society's structure, institutions, and power relations. Third, individuals internalize these ideologies and, through their attitudes and actions, express, reinforce, and challenge them”.

This is not a new idea, but also dates back to Allport (1958: 152), who stated that minority members develop coping methods to deal with stigma directed at them, including “intrapunitive” measures, directed inwards: “one's sense of shame for possessing the despised qualities of one's group” as well as “repugnance for other members of one's group because they ‘possess' these qualities”.

This internalisation of hatred and stigmatisation affects people in various ways. Self esteem suffers under such an assault, and is often deemed necessary for ensuring that safe sexual decisions are made. However, NZ research seems to controvert this – self esteem levels in themselves are not indicators of safe sexual decisions (McGee & Williams, 2000). It appears that levels of stigma seems to have more effect than self esteem on decisions about safer sex decisions (Bruce, Ramirez-Valles, & Campbell, 2008; Preston D'Augelli, Kassab, Cain, Schultze, & Starks, 2004; Preston, D'Augelli, Kassab, & Starks, 2007). If these decisions are compromised, unsafe sex may be practiced, leading to infection with an STI, such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia or HIV. It is thus important to address stigmatisation of GLBT people and other minority groups.

People like Beenie Man and groups like Odd Future that promote hatred and discrimination against groups encourage violence against those groups. If it is acceptable to say something similar to “Gays are a cancer on society that deserves to be eliminated?”, then what group would be next?

Therefore, by allowing Odd Future to play at BDO, you are proving that you have little concern for the lives and welfare of LGBT people, that you are willing to endanger their lives, and seek to encourage stigmatisation against them. I find this disappointing in an organisation that could do so much to enhance the self esteem of youth, reduce stigma, and discourage violence. Over the last year we have heard of a number of LGBT youth who have committed suicide due to bullying tactics that are endorsed by music that belittles LGBT people, such as that played by Odd Future. Lyrics such as those played by Odd Future increase the societal discourse against LGBT people, a discourse that encourages bullying and violence.

Just as there are precedents for not allowing Beanie Man into New Zealand, I believe those same precedents apply in this case.

I therefore encourage you to reverse your decision to allow Odd Future to play at BDO, and thus prove that you do care about all members of society.

I look forward to your reply.

Dr Calum Bennachie

CC: Chair, Chair - Parks and Heritage Committee, Auckland Regional Council (Sandra Coney)

Minister of Immigration (Jonathan Coleman)

Peter Tatchell

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