Talib Kweli Letter
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“Free Speech or Die” is the title of an open letter recently written by Talib Kweli. It comes one week after the New York rapper canceled a show at Kansas City’s Riot Room because Taake, a black metal band that’s been accused of being white nationalists, was supposed to perform there.

At the same time, the anti-fascist group Antifa put pressure on other venues that were hosting the band and more shows were canceled. So Taake decided to end their U.S. tour, which the lead singer Hoest released a statement about. He also named Kweli in his post and told his followers that their freedom of speech is being threatened.

“It is the ultimate demonstration of how, through the dissemination of lies, misinformation and unfounded accusations, along with credible threats of violence, a small minority of left wing agitators are able to force their agenda on the majority and deprive music fans of their freedom to attend concerts and go about their day-to-day activities without the fear of reprisals and retaliation,” wrote Hoest.

“We would also like to speak out about celebrities like Talib Kweli,” he continued. “Who was unfortunate enough to have allowed himself to be played by the lies spread by Antifa and who, as a result, issued statements that are libelous and slanderous. His heart may have misguidedly been in the right place but his brain and his legal advisers were not. Had he bothered to check the facts he would have realized that he had put himself in a position of looking like someone who doesn’t know or understand or even care about all the facts and who is easily manipulated by others to dance to their tune.”

In Kweli’s open letter, he challenged Hoest’s stance about freedom of speech being harmed and said those on the alt-right have often used that excuse to carry out acts of violence.  

Like Jeremy Christian, who in May of last year harassed a teenage Muslim girl for wearing a hijab, and when three men tried to stop him, he slashed three of them in the throat and two died. Talib also noted that Christian yelled out “Free speech or die” when he committed the murders and shared some of the content on his social media page.

“In addition to praising Donald Trump, whom he adores, as the next Hitler on Facebook, Christian also often used social media to espouse anti-Muslim beliefs and to call terrorists like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh a true patriot,” wrote the rapper.

He named Tyler Tenbrink and the brothers Colton and William Fears in his letter as well.

In 2017, in the name of protecting free speech, the men fired a gun at those who protested a speech that was given by white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida. Tenbrink and the two brothers also yelled “Heil Hitler” during the speech and later attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, where more violence occurred.

Kweli said all of these cases show just how warped the alt right’s thinking is, and if their racist beliefs aren’t accepted in the mainstream they’ll cause bloodshed. 

“Jeremy Christian used his free speech to hurl abuse at a teenage girl for wearing a hijab. This is terrible behavior, but it is allowed by law,” wrote the gifted lyricist.

“Christian decided that free speech applied only to him and that anyone who uses free speech to question his behavior deserves death … The problem is that many on the far right, the side adjacent to white nationalist and Nazi types like Christian, use the principle of free speech as an excuse to say whatever they want without consequence. Like Christian, they think free speech applies only to what they want to say and hear,” he added.

Later in his letter, the Black Star member traced some of the history of free speech and said it’s been a cause traditionally championed by liberals, not so much by the right.

Then he wrote about how freedom of speech became a huge topic in music during the ‘90s, when artists like Ice-T and his rock band Body Count received backlash for their song “Cop Killer.” Kweli also said, unlike Hoest and others associated with the alt-right, Ice-T wasn’t allowed to use freedom of speech to defend himself without being criticized even more. 

“Along with the band, the record company’s executives were receiving death threats from police sympathizers, and police were refusing to provide protection for people at Ice-T’s concerts,” he wrote. “A police department in Greensboro, N.C., publicly stated that they would refuse to respond to calls made from a Greensboro record shop that was selling the Body Count album.”

After Kweli’s letter surfaced, some racists came after him on Twitter and threatened his life. He’s since responded and some of his fans have said they reported the culprits to the police. You can see some of that exchange below. 

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