Grime artist Stormzy might have thought it would be a straightforward exercise to give an interview to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, but he reckoned without UK media outlets and their creative ability. And just to add a little spice to the creativity, this time it was not the press, who are usually looking to get after him, that set the ball rolling, but ITV News.
During the interview, “he was asked if Britain was still racist, to which he replied: ‘definitely, 100%’ even if such racism was ‘hidden’”. So how was that reimagined? “The quote was used in headlines and articles by outlets including ITV and several news websites to suggest that Stormzy had said the UK was 100% racist, rather than that he 100% believed there was racism in the country”. He also passed adverse comment on Bozo The Clown.
“In the interview, Stormzy also said racism has worsened under Boris Johnson, saying the prime minister was a ‘figurehead’ whose actions had made it more acceptable to say racist things in British society … ‘If the top person can openly say this racist thing - the “piccaninnies” remarks, “watermelon smiles”, comparing Muslim women to a letter box - if that is our figurehead, the top man, the leader we have to follow, and he openly says these things, he encourages hate among others’”. And that set the Bozo boosters off.
Katharine Birbalsingh, who should perhaps stick to teaching, snapped “This defence of Stormzy just shows how broken we are as a society. It is so sad. He swears and wears stab vests on stage and we don’t have a problem with this. Nor do we see how this glamourises knife crime and gangs. What is the world coming to?”
Nara Hodge was not happy. “No, UK isn’t racist. You’ve built a successful career as an artist, have a big fanbase, sold your music, became wealthy and now are given a prime spot at prime time on British Broadcasting Corporation. None of those things would happen in a racist country”. And then came Allison Pearson.
“This is the man who just said the UK is ‘100% racist’ [wrong]. And he’s allowed to read the CHRISTMAS STORY on the BBC funded by the licence payer. The very people who are 100% racist? A new low for public broadcasting … Did he or did he not recently say, ‘Fuck Boris?’ [not just him] If he did is he a suitable person to read a Bible lesson on the BBC?”
There was more. “And I just retweeted a survey which showed the UK was one of the two least racist countries in Europe. This, the UK is 100% racist stuff [which he didn’t say] is inflammatory, negative and such a distorted picture … Imagine any other religious festival and a patently unsuitable, foul-mouthed individual being invited by the BBC to read that religion’s key precious text. People would be up in arms. Rightly so”.
She was totally wrong on the “100% racist” comment. And for some reason, she missed that the “Fuck Boris” comment also came from Harry Styles. Now, what is it that makes Harry Styles different to Stormzy? Why might Allison Pearson give the former a free pass, while launching an attack on the latter? That’s one to have a think about.
Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s not the slightest bit racist. Perish the thought, eh Allison?
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at