UK media regulator Ofcom has sanctioned London-based radio station Rinse FM after they aired a song that was deemed to have contained “antisemitic hate speech.”
On 12th July 2020, Rinse FM’s presenter introduced the song “Better in Tune with the Infinite” by Jay Electronica as “one of my absolute favourites”. A complaint was then made over the following lyrics: “The synagogues of Satan might accuse or jail me. Strip, crown, nail me, brimstone hail me…To the lawyers, to the sheriffs, to the judges. To the debt holders and the law makers. [Bleeped] you, sue me, bill me.”
In their report, published on 19th July 2021, Ofcom stated that it referred to the International Definition of Antisemitism in making their assessment, citing the following paragraph: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The regulator deemed the lyrics to have negative connotations containing antisemitic tropes, stating: “In our view, the UK listeners would be likely to understand the phrase ‘synagogues of Satan’ to be a reference to the Jewish place of worship, and that it makes an explicit association between Jewish place of worship and Satan. We considered that UK listeners would have understood this association to suggest that Jewish people are evil or worship the Devil, which is a well-established antisemitic trope.
“Immediately following the reference to the ‘synagogues of Satan’ were the lyrics ‘Strip, crown, nail me, brimstone hail me’ which we considered to be a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In our view, the juxtaposition of the lyrics may have evoked for UK listeners the antisemitic allegation that Jewish people are collectively responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ
“These words were later followed by the lyrics ‘To the lawyers, to the sheriffs, to the judges. To the debt holders and the law makers’, whom the artist addresses with ‘[Bleep] you, sue me, bill me’. In the context of the preceding lines and in particular, reference to the phrase ‘synagogues of Satan’, we considered that some UK listeners may have interpreted these references to be references to the Jewish community.”
Ofcom initially made its decision about Rinse FM’s airing of the song in July 2021. The radio station responded in October that year claiming that it was not always possible for an under-resourced station to “nip in the bud” any material that might be considered “controversial”. This was, however, rejected in the regulator’s most recent ruling, which said: “We consider that 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. During the investigation process, the licensee made representations in response to Ofcom’s request for formal comments [and] it was given the opportunity to respond to Ofcom’s preliminary view on the breaches”.
This is not the first time the rapper was accused of antisemitism. In 2020, he was criticised over the lyrics: “And I bet you a Rothschild I get a bang for my dollar…The synagogue of Satan want me to hang by my collar.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism monitors traditional media and regularly holds outlets to account. If members of the public are concerned about reportage in the media, they should contact us at [email protected].