Clear Channel Station Slinks Out The Back Door Over Homophobia Flap

Aug 23rd, 2007 // 13 Comments

A New York hip-hop station, owned by radio monolith Clear Channel, very quickly backed away from a reggae festival it had agreed to sponsor this weekend after the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation pitched a fit after finding out about two of the performers, Buju Banton and Bounty Killer, who have written notoriously homophobic hit singles. But GLAAD may be targeting at least one of these artists for no reason other than a reputation that has preceded him:

Gay-rights activists are still planning to protest at the festival, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Randalls Island.

“Buju Banton and Bounty Killer continue to perform songs with virulently homophobic lyrics that in some cases support the murder of gay people,” Glaad said in a statement sent by email late Wednesday night. “It is unacceptable for Clear Channel, the concert promoters, and the other sponsors to provide these performers with a platform to promote messages that put lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in harm’s way.”

This is hardly the first time that Banton has found himself the target of ire from gay-rights organizations, and dancehall as a whole has been taking some well-deserved fire over the last few years for its occasional rank homophobia, following the genre’s most recent wave of international crossover popularity thanks to Sean Paul, Elephant Man, et al. But what’s especially odd about this story is that it comes only a month after Banton very publically signed the international “Stop Murder Music” petition, claiming to remove the homophobic material from his repetoire. (Bounty Killer remains a “Stop Murder Music” hold out.) The Newsday story makes no mention of this, or whether or not GLAAD is aware of Banton’s pledge to cut the gay-bashing crap. There are also some rumors floating around that Banton has since claimed that he never signed the petition at all.

If Banton has since performed homophobic material at live performances, or has indeed reneged on his promise, then fair game on the part of GLAAD. If he’s stuck to his pledge, however, you’ve got to wonder what a guy has to do to catch a break after already signing away his right to freedom of expression, however icky that expression may be. Clear Channel is obviously mostly interested in covering its ass from a public relations standpoint, backing down as soon as someone said “boo.” But even above and beyond the case of two dancehall deejays, if Clear Channel stations are going to dump any artist that’s ever made anti-gay remarks in their songs, well, they’re going to have a lot of house cleaning to do.

Power 105 Pulls Reggae Carifest Sponsorship [Newsday]

  1. mackro

    Buju got a lot of heat when he toured the West Coast last year. In many cases, he got his guarantee from the cancelled/protested show only to play an underground show where he didn’t do any of the controversial songs. However, he did perform the controversial song(s) in other cities, Miami being one, where perhaps the issue isn’t as much a hot button amongst the venue’s immediate community. (So I can only assume. Not that Miami doesn’t have a huge gay community too. There are lots of factors I suppose.)

    One thing for sure: Buju is just playing the controversy game very well. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

  2. iantenna

    but they can still be misogynists right?

  3. Bigggnasty

    Is it censorship when advertisers pull out of the O’reilly factor in fear of losing face, or is it responsibility? Let GLAAD put the pressure on these homophobes. GLAAD is not the government and in no way can dictate who says what and where. However, it can and should send a message to dangerously homophobic performers that if you continue to spit this bile at your fans, you will find no one willing to commercially support your cause.

  4. Lucas Jensen

    Dancehall does more than occasionally mention gays in a derogatory light. They talk about killing gays (and women, too). It’s a horrid subculture from what’s been called the most homophobic country on earth, Jamaica: []

  5. Bigggnasty

    @Lucas Jensen: exactly

  6. Lucas Jensen

    And maybe Clear Channel could do the right thing and clean up anti-gay artists. That’s not censorship because it’s not government mandated. It’s called self-regulation. And embracing corporate responsibility.

  7. loudersoft

    Meanwhile, on our local hip-hop station, Hot 107.1, they’ve got a song in deep rotation called “Gon’ Head Hate” by Crim where he drop the “faggot” bomb twice. Nobody even blinks. Nobody’s said a word.

  8. loudersoft

    my bad — the artist’s name is Criminal Manne (they call him Crim for short) and the actual track name is “Gone Head Hate”. doesn’t matter because i don’t expect to hear any outrage about it.

  9. Lucas Jensen

    @loudersoft: It’s an embarrassment, but not unexpected in this country either.

  10. Emerson Dameron

    Gay-bashing is profoundly entreched in our language, to the point where “faggot” is a general pejorative. Even “sucks” started out as a condemnation of chicks and fags, not to mention a practice that ideally brings joy to all concerned.

    I’ll grant that, regarding homosexuality, we’re on a Birth of a Nation level right now. And I’d understand Clear Channel wanting to distance itself from these guys. But I’m suspicious of arguments that expect any sort of consistency in evaluating art, or that involve an artist “advocating” anything. If Buju Banton told you to kill someone, would you do it? And if you did, who’s fault would it be? If you’re familiar with Camus, is the Cure’s “Killing an Arab” any different?

    When idiots like Bounty Killer and Michael Savage join the lawn jockey in the cultural basement, I won’t miss them, but I’m not sure how much better things will be.

  11. JedTheMime

    “If Banton has since performed homophobic material at live performances, or has indeed reneged on his promise, then fair game on the part of GLAAD. If he’s stuck to his pledge, however, you’ve got to wonder what a guy has to do to catch a break…”

    So what’s your point? You question GLAAD for not doing its research on the artist before condemning him, then admit that you haven’t done your research either. I find your editorial a tad hypocritical.

  12. spinachdip

    @Lucas Jensen: The sad thing is, although some Jamaicans defend homophobia as simply protecting their Afro-Jamaican identity, homosexuality was accepted in much of western Africa. They only picked up homophobia when they adopted Christianity.

  13. SBJ

    @Lucas Jensen: I heart you.

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