“I don’t even know who Wiley is!” is a statement I’ve seen a lot of since last Friday.
Well, I do. As a rap and UK Garage fan, the ‘Godfather of Grime’ (Grime being a London-born music genre that emerged in the early 2000s and draws on influences from UK garage, hip hop, jungle and dance hall), has been on my radar and playlists for nearly two decades.
In fact, the last physical album I bought, way back in 2011, was his seventh studio album 100% Publishing. When I go running, it’s up-tempo, high-energy tracks from that album that I blast through my earphones. Or at least, it was.
Wiley’s paranoid, poisonous social media rampage against the Jewish community — which included the spreading of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and calls for us to ‘hold corn’ (slang for ‘receive bullets’) was disgusting and shocking. But for me, at least, it wasn’t totally unexpected — for two reasons.
Firstly, I’ve personally confronted Wiley about his antisemitic views before. This conversation took place, on Twitter, around five years ago (frustratingly, since he’s been removed from Twitter, the message thread is no longer there). On that day, Wiley was explaining, to his thousands of followers, that Jews were all powerful and only cared about their own community.
As a fan, I was disappointed and keen to set him straight. I replied, we had a short, pleasant exchange. He even followed me back.
Seizing my chance, I sent him a private message saying that if he was up for it, I’d love to take him to my synagogue to actually meet some Jews and see that what he was saying was far from the truth. He never replied.
The second reason I wasn’t shocked by the content of Wiley’s posts was because I’ve heard these paranoid conspiracy fantasies before, stated as fact, by personal friends. And this is an incredibly important point, because making this all about one person is foolish and dangerous. Wiley is in my opinion clearly unwell, but the ideas and beliefs that powered his hate are not niche. They’re incredibly common. Huge swathes of the world’s population — black and white, Muslim and Christian, far-left and far-right, and everything in-between — believe these twisted theories. This is the reality we’re dealing with.
I’d like to end with this; a rallying cry to my fellow Jews who are remaining silent. This is the time to speak out. This is the time to engage with the non-Jewish world (because believe me, they are finally listening). This is the time to educate our non-Jewish friends and colleagues about who we are, what we stand for, and the intricacies and history of Jew-hate. By staying silent, you are putting yourselves and the rest of the community at risk.
Siam Goorwich is a journalist and currently a commissioning editor at The Guardian Labs. Twitter: @siamgoorwich. Instagram: @misssisig