Opposition Senator Dr Christopher Tufton says the Government should consider enacting laws to counter the influence of popular culture in promoting crimes such as lottery scamming.
Arguing that elements within the entertainment industry tend to piggy-back on deviant culture and often fuel those practices, Tufton said, “Anything that incites violence or other illicit activities warrants enforcement mechanism.”
“If we have to do that to curb behaviours, I see nothing wrong with that,” Tufton, who was a moderator at a Jamaica National anti-lottery scam task force forum, told The Gleaner last week.
National Security Minister Peter Bunting caused jaws to drop and eyebrows to raise last Wednesday when he introduced attendees at a forum to Vybz Kartel’s musical endorsement of the illicit practice.
Bunting said the song is an example of how popular culture is used as a vehicle for spreading propaganda that scamming is harmless and should be seen as reparation.
“Big up every scamma/ Weh mek US Dolla/ Build up di house fi yuh mama/ Western Union people fi gi wi more honour/ Slash, full-stop, comma/ Every ghetto yute fi a live like Tony Mantana/ Presidental like Barrak Obama/ Pool inna house and plane inna hanger/ Who seh di scamma dem wrong/ No, hungry, poverty dat more wronger/ Better dem dweet dan tek up the bomber/ Memba di yute dem nah squeeze trigga/ A just tru dem a nigga,” are a few lines from the song.
The minister told The Gleaner that popular musicians and popular music could be used to create dysfunctional beliefs in communities and argued that such a practice needed to be counteracted.
“We have developed a subculture of lawlessness, and I believe that one contributor to that may have been some of our popular musicians who glamorise and reinforce the popular lifestyle,” Bunting said.
Bunting, in a conversation with Tufton, said he would love to get an entertainer who has the cult-like appeal of Vybz Kartel to be part of the Government’s anti-lottery scam campaign.
Deny freedom of speech
In the meantime, Tufton has argued that with the problems posed by the lottery scam, it is “sufficiently important” for laws to be enacted to allow the State to deny the constitutional rights of freedom of speech of some persons within certain guidelines.
“There always has to be a balance between what you allow or don’t allow. When 9/11 took place in the United States, free speech became secondary to some of the laws that were created. The fact is that we have a major problem, and if we have a problem as a society, the Government has a responsibility, even if it means temporary suspension of free speech in particular areas,” Tufton said.
Leesa Kow, president of the Jamaica Money Remitters Association, was one of those persons left dumbfounded by the lyrics in the song.
“I was actually shocked when I heard it this morning,” Kow told The Gleaner.
She added: “I think it is a shame. It speaks to the fact that there is some amount of acceptance of this kind of illicit activity in our culture. However, I don’t know that what Vybz Kartel sings about is reflective of the posture of Jamaicans. I do know that there are many righteous, upstanding Jamaicans who would shudder to hear the lyrics of that song.”
Kow said the song demonstrated that it was not sufficient for the authorities to seek to tackle issues such as lottery scamming through legislation. She argued that it was also important to have discussions about the social underpinnings of the society.
“I am not suggesting censorship on free speech. What I am suggesting is that we need to take a very close look at why and how anybody in our society would seek to glorify what is an illicit activity,” Kow told The Gleaner.