Emma Barnett

Wiley, Jews don’t run the world

This was BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Emma Barnett’s impassioned monologue about the racist tweeting of rap star Wiley, broadcast on her show on Monday morning

July 28, 2020 13:51

Good morning.

I don’t know what you were up to on Friday – me? I was eating some chippy chips, bread and butter and scampi in Norfolk on my holidays.

Unbeknownst to me, and perhaps to many of you, a bloke called Wiley, often referred to as the godfather of grime, a successful musician from East London who has been awarded an MBE, was beginning a stream of foul antisemitism on social media.

Specifically Twitter. 

Some of his now removed tweets read like they are straight out of the Hitler playbook of 1930s Nazi Germany – the regime this country so bravely went into battle and defeated.

Let me give you a flavour: 

“Jewish people are cowards do something to me I am waiting.”

“Jewish people act rough but they hide behind the police.”

“Who writes the laws? Who changes the laws? Who implements new laws? WHO? What is the 5%ers? Who are they all? Who runs the world? Who runs the banks? WHO WRITES THE LAW BOOK? Who hides behind the police? Who owns the police?”

This was Wiley tweeting about Jews…

I caught up with these messages 48 hours later, last night, when catching up on the news agenda for this week after my break.

Those words burn. I am sure I don’t need to tell most of you that, but, in case I do, they burn deep. They are deeply dispiriting and play on a very well-hidden fear a lot of Jewish people have: that someday antisemitism will rise up once more. Because antisemitism is fresh and raw for us.

My grandmother escaped the Nazis from Wiener Neustadt in Austria and found sanctuary as a housemaid in this country. My husband’s grandmother survived unspeakable torture in Auschwitz. In Europe. A two-hour flight from here. I’ve been. He won’t. He can’t bear to. Our grandmothers, who read us bedtime stories safe in our beds in this country, this happened to them – people I met and loved.

Only two weeks ago, I opened Twitter on my phone and saw “Jewish privilege” trending. Do you know how that feels? Do you how frightening that is? I have had my fair share of abuse online, much of it sexist or politically charged. But the one form of hate that always stops me in my tracks and makes me feel angry and sad and burned? Antisemitism. 

Today, there is a walkout of Twitter by thousands of people around the world, under the hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate. It started at 9am and will go on for 48 hours.

And while there is a very important point to be discussed about the role of unregulated social media platforms to act swiftly and remove racist messages – something Twitter didn’t do quickly in this instance (Wiley has also been banned for a week) – something else must not be missed.

Why is a 41-year-old bloke from enlightened Britain attacking Jews?

And he’s not alone.

Wiley, if you are listening, just in case you need something clarifying, Jews don’t run the law. Jews don’t the banks. Jews don’t run the world. I hate to disappoint you and anyone else who got your memo, but it ain’t true.

A man who enjoys huge success and has legions of fans – where did he get the antisemitic memo from? I am interested in curing society of such racism. But can we? Or do we have to accept that certain people, even those with millions of followers and advisors who can educate, will always be deeply prejudiced?

And to fellow celebrities who say they are worried about Wiley and his “episode”, I say this: mental health issues – if there are some in this case – don’t make people antisemitic.

But what does? And can Wiley be cured of it?

Tell me. The mic is yours.

Speech taken from the Emma Barnett Show, broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live on Monday, July 27  

July 28, 2020 13:51

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