Artist News

Wiley insists he’s not racist despite his antisemitic Twitter tirade

By | Published on Thursday 30 July 2020


Wiley has apologised for directing his rage at “all jews and Jewish people” after being challenged over the flood of antisemitic posts he made to social media last weekend. However, in a somewhat erratic interview with Sky News, he failed to properly retract many of his controversial statements, meaning his apology hasn’t really placated anybody.

The rapper, of course, has faced strong criticism from Jewish community groups, the music industry and many politicians over his lengthy tirade on Twitter and some subsequent posts to Instagram and other social media. In those posts Wiley supported and spread a number of long debunked antisemitic conspiracy theories, while also seeming to advocate violence against Jewish people.

Although the ranting was not entirely coherent, it actually began with some common griping about the structure of record deals. That, and some other comments he made, suggested that the whole thing had actually started with a falling out between the rapper and his manager, who happens to be Jewish. That manager, John Wolff of A-List Management, initially expressed concern about his client’s mental health as the Twitter storm began, but subsequently announced that he had formally ended his long-term partnership with the rapper entirely.

In his interview with Sky News, Wiley said: “I just want to apologise for generalising and going outside of the people who I was talking to, within the workspace and workplace I work in. My comments should not have been directed to all jews or Jewish people. I want to apologise for generalising, and I want to apologise for comments that were looked at as antisemitic”.

He also added that “my thing should have stayed between me and my manager, I get that”. However, he failed to formally retract many of the more problematic things he had tweeted, while adding that “the Jewish community are powerful within the music business”.

He also repeatedly denied being racist, while insisting that the remarks he made that seemed to advocate violence against Jewish people – using the slang term “hold some corn”, which can mean “to receive bullets” – had been misconstrued. When asked what impact his comments, misconstrued or otherwise, might have on his fanbase, he played down his influence, stating that he is now at the end of his musical career.

The interview came as Twitter announced it was banning Wiley from its platform entirely, following the lead of Facebook/Instagram. Both social media companies have faced criticism for not acting quicker in removing the rapper’s posts. Both did suspend Wiley’s accounts as the controversy around his tirade grew before instigating the full-on bans, but critics say that they were too slow to take down his more problematic and dangerous statements.

With platform responsibility already a hot topic in political circles, Wiley’s antisemitic rant has re-energised the debate over what policies social media should have regarding racist and other hateful content, and how those policies should be implemented.

Some have also argued that some of Wiley’s posts – mainly those seemingly advocating violence against Jewish people – actually broke laws regarding religious and/or racial hatred, and the Metropolitan Police are already investigating those allegations.

However, critics argue that – whatever the law says – social media companies that claim to be opposed to hate speech need to get better at dealing with hateful content quicker, especially when such content is posted by users with large audiences.