Last Wednesday, Tyler, The Creator was turned away at the UK border. The Guardian reports that he faces a three to five years by order of the country’s home secretary, Theresa May. The UK’s Home Office issued this statement: “Coming to the UK is a privilege, and we expect those who come here to respect our shared values.”
Tyler also recently cancelled his scheduled performances in Australia after the grassroots feminist organization Collective Shout petitioned to have his visa denied. And a similar situation occurred back in 2013 when New Zealand banned Odd Future, and in 2011, when they were dropped from the Big Day Out tour. The group’s violent and misogynistic lyrics are generally cited as the reason behind these bans, but the petitioners usually also use language like “threat to public order.”
Tyler has previously spoken on the UK ban — which prohibits him from fulfilling performance slots at festivals in Reading and Leeds, among others — on Twitter, expressing frustration that the ban is directly linked to lyrics from as far back as 2009. Now he’s done an interview with The Guardian and shared details about his ban paperwork. One of the things it indicates is the government’s full understanding that he adopted an alter ego for the songs in question, but that they’re still treating him according to the guidelines that were adopted in 2005 to prevent suspected terrorists from entering the UK.
Here’s an excerpt from the letter he received:
The home secretary has considered whether, in light of this list [of song lyrics], you should be excluded from the UK on the grounds that your presence here would not be conducive to the public good. The home secretary has reached this decision because you have brought yourself within the scope of the list of unacceptable behavior by making statements that may foster hatred, which might lead to intercommunity violence in the UK. Your albums Bastard, in 2009, and Goblin, in 2011, are based on the premise of your adopting a mentally unstable alter ego who describes violent physical abuse, rape and murder in graphic terms which appears to glamorize this behaviour
Tyler is rightfully upset about being treated like a terrorist and argues that the UK government is now just following in the footsteps of Australia:
Now [the UK government] are just followers. Everyone is a follower, just following what other countries are doing. Now I’m getting treated like a terrorist. I’m bummed out because it’s like, dude, I’m not homophobic. I’ve said this since the beginning. The “hating women” thing — it’s so nuts. It’s based on things I made when I was super-young, when no one was listening [to my music]. Like, I wrote “Blow” when I was reading about different people in American history. One of the people happened to be [the serial killer] Ted Bundy, and I wrote a song from his point of view. The thing that irks me about it is that the paper saying I am denied entry to the UK clearly states that these songs were written from [the perspective of] an alter ego — which means they obviously did some research on these songs that they’re detaining me for. So the argument is right there! This song is written from an alter ego — I’m not like this! You could watch any interview and see my personality, see the guy I am. I wouldn’t hurt a fly.
He further argues that this is an arbitrary distinction being made about his music, that isn’t applied to other art forms:
What about the people who will make music in the next five years? Are they gonna get banned? Why don’t they ban authors? Writers who write these mystery books about people getting raped and sabotaged and murdered and brainwashed — why don’t they ban them? There are rallies of neo-Nazis in parts of England. And then you’re telling me I can’t come there because of some bullshit song, but you got motherfuckers with swastikas rallying down the street actually promoting hate?
These are all strong arguments and valid critiques of the UK’s decision. It does feel like an arbitrary time to enact this policy, as he further notes in the full interview. Read it here.