Talib Kweli Discusses Digital Media’s Role In Shifting Discourse To Disagreements (Video)

Talib Kweli is one of the most active Hip-Hop voices on social media. The Brooklyn artist touted for his lyrical content is also celebrated as a vociferous opponent of racism, homophobia, sexism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and other microaggressive and blatant acts of abuse online. On any given day, the MC can be seen engaging in heated discussion with trolls and flagrant harassers, using his platform to shine light on bullying, hatred, and plain misinformation. It’s something he’s done throughout his career, as well, namely in the form of his music, speaking engagements, and things he’s written. But it was his internet crusading that was the focal point for a recent interview in which he called the web “a battleground for cultural issues.”

In speaking with Soren Baker, Kweli discusses what Baker says is a societal shift from “discourse to arguments.” Kweli says one’s ability to be anonymous online emboldens people to attack rather than discuss. “They can say the nonsense that’s on they minds and in their heart that they don’t have to show up and defend.” Communicating through screens and text messages leads to conversations in which ” a lot of the soul is missing,” which Kweli argues has only become more prevalent since Obama left office. “I also live this real life. As you see, I’ve been touring 250 days a year. I’m dealing with real people. But I’m also in the online world, too, and I think too many people ignore what the rise of the Trump era has to do with that side of it,” he says.

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Furthermore, beyond the spewing of hatred and ignorance, the spreading of false information has become commonplace. “The Breitbarts of the world, the Steve Bannons of the world, InfoWars and Daily Wires of the world…people are not gonna vet their sources, or take the time to research. Accountability doesn’t matter.” He goes on to argue that left-leaning media are just as biased, but there is one caveat which he says differentiates them from the conservative outlets. “If they fuck up, they make a retraction…that’s what makes those institutions credible.” However, Kweli argues we’re living in an era “where people are accepting facts from sites that are opinion sites that have no checks and balances.”

Those kind of outlets, Kweli says, exist to “enable and protect White status quo.” But social media can also be seen as a safe space for White supremacists. “It’s become a lot more covert, a lot more coded. When I grew up, you rode a bike through a White neighborhood and White boys was like ‘you n***er.’ I had bottles thrown at me. I dealt with in-your-face rasicm,” he shares. He goes on to explain that people “get stressed out” about his interactions with racists online, but the hateful things he’s being tweeted don’t compare to the real-world instances of abuse he’s experienced. The overt racists, he says, “have now moved on to their online platforms.”

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In closing, Kweli says it’s important for society to acknowledge the shortcomings of information found on the internet. Yes, it’s more accessible. However, it’s not always sound, and he uses a DJing metaphor to bring the point home. “You can’t [win an argument by telling somebody] to ‘Google it,’ ’cause they might Google some bullshit. It’s like Serato. Anyone can have Serato. But not everybody is gonna be a good DJ just because you have that program. You still gotta know your music.”

Talib Kweli is getting ready to wrap up his 7 Tour with Styles P, with whom he will be dropping a collaborative album soon.