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It's the Same Beast
The Censorship of Ward Churchill and Dancehall Reggae Music
by NATE COLLINS

Dancehall Reggae and many of its most prolific and articulate artists have as of late been treated the same as Ward Churchill, and have been censored and attacked for their "insensitive" comments. The reason for the censorship of the Reggae artists was ostensibly the anti-gay content in some of their work but since when have the powers that be cared so much about gays. The reason for the censorship of Dancehall Reggae artists is actually the outspoken radical antiwar content of their music which is spreading a popular radical message to the youth in Europe and the US through a popular musical medium that is "insensitive" to say the least toward US aggression and propaganda.

Yes I really must say that this Ward Churchill censorship issue is directly related to the censorship of for example hiphop artist KRS-ONE who was also recently censored and attacked for making "insensitive" comments about 9-11 such as that he "cheered when 9-11 happened" and said that "America needs to commit suicide if the world is to be a better place." Which resulted in a backlash against KRS, who happens to be one of the main links and signposts of the interconnected histories of the evolution of Jamaican reggae and American hiphop. So it is easy to see how this is all related to the recent and ongoing censorship of dancehall reggae artists Capleton, Sizzla, and Buju Banton. All of whom had "anti-gay" lyrics but more importantly have politically radical lyrics that are "insensitive" toward the US politics of 9-11 and the propagation of US power and influence globally. Capletonís album ëStill Blaziní was one of the first radical takes on 9-11 that I hear! d in popular culture echoing the same sentiments as Churchill. The lyrics of popular conscious Reggae artists have proven to be entirely hostile to any sympathetic understanding of US Imperialism or the massive distortions of the US media. Reggae is its own resistance media. Why else would reggae artists not only be censored but also prevented by governments from entering the US or the UK?

The current attack and censorship of Ward Churchill and Muhammad Shahid Alam which has apparently raised eyebrows among the left is directly related to the massive attack and censorship of Reggae Dancehall artists over the past year. I must say that I tried to make a stink about such attack and censorship which the Bay Area based "progressive" and antiwar group Global Exchange participated in themselves with the cancelling and censoring of the artist Capleton for their annual Reggae in the Park. I made poetic warnings about participating in such nefarious and aggressive acts of censorship(AVA letters to the editor 10-04). I said that censorship would also eventually affect our voices, like the classic quote goes, but their was not much reception on the left for "homophobic" Jamaican or Rasta artists.

So here we go now, the censorship is now at our doorstep. So how does it feel? I know that people are fuming. Well I’ve been feeling that way since last year, same dreaded feeling. But apparently sexual preference is an issue that trumps racism, colonialism and censorship in importance on the psuedo-left of cultural Cali or we may just be too perfect to overlook the imperfections of others political or social outlooks that donít quite achieve our enlightened standards. At any rate there are many "progressives" that have their hands in this censorship business and are entirely willing to participate. Who is surprised that the latest crowd to be labeled practitioners of ëhate speechí are outspoken radicals and leftists, critics of US Empire? That is why the whole business of censorship and political correctness is dangerous, a double edged sword they say, and that is precisely the reason why people warn against getting involved in such nonsense.

What happened to the classic quote on the nazis about how they go one group at a time until they get you? Now that the ‘left’ is starting to feel the heat, would anyone like to now consider solidarity with the mass of popular outspoken antiwar reggae artists hailing from Jamaica? These artists were censored because they have lions voices against the US and its global interests period. Dancehall Reggae artists are willing to push the envelope on politics and language on such a consistent basis that intellectuals should at least consider this as an authentic offering of solidarity from popular culture(I myself am quite excited at such an offering). The massive spread of radical ideas on a popular level which Reggae and Hip Hop music have both signified- that is the fear that is propelling this concerted right wing attack, Can’t you see? Ward Churchill was just next in line just like the classic quote goes. I love Churchill for the same reason I love Dancehall ! Reggae artists, they have the voices of lions, regardless of any flaws jumped on by the p.c. liberal thought police.

NATE COLLINS lives in Berkeley. He can be reached at: redshank@sbcglobal.net