Youth violence: Labour MP calls for action on 'dangerous' drill videos

Neil Puffett
Thursday, September 6, 2018

More must be done to tackle music videos posted to social media sites glamourising drug dealing and murder if high levels serious youth violence are to be addressed, a Labour MP has said.

Lyn Brown, Labour's shadow treasury minister who represents the West Ham constituency, where nine teenagers and young adults have lost their lives to violent crime since 2017, said youth violence is "fuelled by social media".

Her comments follow the death of drill rapper Siddique Kamara, 23, also known as Incognito, who was stabbed to death in Camberwell in south London in August. Met police commissioner Cressida Dick has previously called on social media platforms such as YouTube to remove videos that she said glamourised violence.

Speaking during a debate in parliament on the government's response to organised crime and young people's safety, Lyn Brown said drill music, characterised by dark and violent lyrics and gestures, often promotes serious criminality, making the grooming of children easier by offering a lucrative and exciting alternative to hard work.

She said one particular drill music video filmed in her constituency was "effectively a celebration of gang murder".

"The rapper brags about killing with knives and guns and attacking people in broad daylight, and gloats about having killed one man by name and planning to kill his brother," she said.

"He mocks other young men for just talking about murder and not acting. All of this was filmed by masked men in streets that my constituents recognise, because they live there, because they walk and work there every day and because their children play there."

Brown said that while the murders discussed in the video may be fictitious, online comments about it indicate that many young people believe they are real.

"They explain the murder references to each other and openly admire the rapper and his group for the supposed killings," she said.

"The original copy of the video had more than one million views — that staggers me. It was taken down, but other copies have since been uploaded, and one has already had more than 120,000 views."

She said the technology to remove copies automatically exists, as the home affairs select committee has repeatedly pointed out in the past.

"The law may be unclear about whether such videos illegally incite violence, but I believe they are dangerous," she said.

"They make the grooming of children easier by glamourising drug dealing and murder as a lucrative and exciting alternative to the hard and unrewarding work they see demonstrated in the lives of their parents.

"Presented as an alternative economic model, it is offered to children and made to look exciting. The videos do not just glamorise crime; they taunt and humiliate rivals. These are young, impulsive teenagers; there is so much pressure pushing them to respond, and the music itself tells them what response is expected: more knife attacks and more children dead."

However, others argue that drill music is a form of musical self-expression, that represents the reality faced by young people on a daily basis and is a symptom, rather than the cause of serious youth violence.

Brown said a wholesale review of the legislation on hate speech, harassment and extremism online is necessary in order to bring the law up to date. She also called for a strategy and necessary investment in services that provide resilience for children.

"Children need to know how to say no," she said.

"They need to be given the skills and tools to resist the manipulation of the groomers. We also need to develop a joined-up, strategic safeguarding response to the criminal exploitation of young people, with schools, social services, community groups and detached youth workers all playing their part.

"Teachers, parents, police officers and social workers need to understand the real threat of exploitation and grooming by organised criminals and what is in their power to do to stop it."

Watch the full debate below.

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