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London Radio Station Sanctioned for Playing Jay Electronica Song With Antisemitic Lyrics

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Rapper Jay Electronica. Photo: Abdul Aziz/Wikimedia Commons.

British communications regulator Ofcom announced last week that it sanctioned a London-based community radio station for playing a song by rapper Jay Electronica that “contained antisemitic lyrics.”

Rinse FM aired the song “Better in Tune With the Infinite” on July 12, 2020. The track includes the lyrics: “The synagogues of Satan might accuse or jail me; Strip, crown, nail me, brimstone hail me; They might defeat the flesh but they could never ever kill me; They might can feel the music but could never ever feel me; To the lawyers, to the sheriffs, to the judges; To the debt holders and the law makers; F**k you, sue me, bill me.”

The radio station bleeped out the profanity in the song, but aired the rest of it unedited and without comment.

In a decision published on July 19 of that year, Ofcom found that by playing the track without edits or comment, Rinse FM breached Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code by airing content that “contained uncontextualized hate speech and derogatory and abusive treatment towards Jewish people, and was therefore also potentially offensive and not sufficiently justified by the context.”

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As part of the sanctions imposed last week, Rinse FM must broadcast a statement about Ofcom’s findings and its ruling to listeners.

Ofcom also found that, “these lyrics would have been understood by some listeners as suggesting that Jewish people are evil or worship the devil and characterized Jewish people and Judaism in a negative and stereotypical light.”

The media regulator further said Jay Electronica’s lyrics could also “have evoked for UK listeners the antisemitic allegation that Jewish people are collectively responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.”

The offensive lyrics also “may have been interpreted by some UK listeners as evoking a common derogatory stereotype about Jewish people being disproportionately in control of businesses, economic systems and other influential institutions,” Ofcom explained.

In a letter sent to Ofcom in October 2021, Rinse FM argued that the lyrics “synagogues of Satan” were taken from the Bible, and that finding it controversial “would ultimately lead to the accusation that the Bible itself is antisemitic which would open up a much wider and controversial debate.” They also disagreed that the lyrics were “objectively offensive to our community or to the wider public.”

The radio station argued that it had not been able to properly represent its arguments about playing the track because Ofcom’s investigation “had not had sufficient regard for the size and scale of Rinse FM’s operations and the resources available to it to defend its position, which it said were not comparable to those of larger licensees, particularly in light of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”

The show’s presenter claimed that the track did not contain “negative connotations towards Jewish people or any particular religion,” and that in the lyrics Jay Electronica is expressing “his struggles within the music industry as an artist.”

Ofcom said it contacted Jay Electronica’s management company to give the artist an opportunity to provide insight into his lyrics, but numerous attempts to follow up with their contact and the singer’s legal representative went unanswered.

Ofcom added in its ruling: “We also considered that the phrase ‘synagogue of Satan’ has often been taken out of its original Biblical context and used as a form of abuse of Jewish people and Judaism … We therefore did not accept that the Biblical origins of the phrase would mitigate the antisemitic content included in the lyrics.”

In its new ruling, Ofcom said it believes Rinse FM “was treated fairly during the investigation process and in line with Ofcom’s procedures for investigating breaches of content standards for television and radio.”

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