Flop of the Month: Wiley’s antisemitism and social media

Wiley’s antisemitic tirade of posts, which lasted for well over two days before he was finally silenced, is a dark chapter for the Godfather of Grime and has no place in our society, online or otherwise.

Will Wiley continue to get high-profile gigs, such as South West Four Festival in 2019, after his antisemitic tirade? (Photo: Getty Images)
Will Wiley continue to get high-profile gigs, such as South West Four Festival in 2019, after his antisemitic tirade? (Photo: Getty Images)

There are two parts to this tale that are disturbing. First, that an artist with social-media followings north of half a million people on Twitter and Instagram, would broadcast such abhorrent and sickening views about Jewish people.

Some of his videos clearly incited violence and many reinforced age-old antisemitic tropes against a community that has had to deal with far too much persecutiion over the years.

Wiley’s attempt at a false apology – ‘I’m sorry if you took offence’ – only further rubbed salt into the wound, and must surely have hastened his decline as an artist.

There is no doubt his stock has nosedived, and this racist tirade comes at a time when the anti-racism movement has been reinvigorated through racial injustices in the US and elsewhere.

The second part of this tale is why Wiley was ever given a platform to spout such bile and hatred.

Twitter and Facebook eventually binned his accounts, after temporary suspensions, but not before leaving these disgusting rants online, for anybody to view, for several days.

As has been pointed out in our latest podcast (I’d highly recommend you listen to it), Wiley has a larger following on Twitter than the whole UK Jewish population. It’s little wonder that prominent Jewish leaders in our industry were left fearful as a result.

Twitter’s apology was also rather pathetic – how about less words and spin, more action? Facebook, a company with a Jewish CEO, didn’t even bother apologising.

As has been mentioned several times in PRWeek’s coverage of this issue, there should be a zero tolerance approach to all forms of hate speech, including antisemitism, on social media. It should be a: ‘one strike, and you’re out’ policy.

Accounts can always be reinstated upon review, but the pain inflicted on the victims of such attacks can last a lifetime.

As Graham Goodkind pointed out on The PR Show, if graffiti of swastikas is being scrubbed from tombstones in one day, social-media companies have no excuse for allowing antisemitism to linger on their platforms for the better part of a week.

Dishounourable mention: David Starkey paid a heavy price for telling right-wing commentator Darren Grimes that “slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain would there? You know, an awful lot of them survived.” Another example of unacceptable racism in what hasn’t been a great month for it.

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