A special unit in this prison houses Australia’s most dangerous extremists. We gain rare access and discover a ticking time-bomb
The Muslim yard at Goulburn SuperMax.
THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE, APRIL 1-2, 2017
STORY: PAUL MALEY | PHOTOGRAPHY: GUY BAILEY
Five times a day, Goulburn’s SuperMax goes quiet. The din of jail life stops as the 30-odd Muslim inmates angle their bottle-green prayer mats towards Mecca. Standing alone in their narrow cells, they raise their arms in supplication and, with eyes closed, recite the holy incantations of the Surah Al-Fatiha, the first verse of the Holy Koran and the beginning of the Muslims’ Divine Communion with God. Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem. Alhamdu lillaahi Rabbil ’aalameen…
A few hundred metres away, in the general prison, dozens more inmates are doing the same thing. Under a soggy grey sky, they kneel in the exercise yard and pray as guards carrying high-powered assault rifles patrol the 5.5m-high walls around them. There’s no trouble today; there rarely is during prayers.
Out in the main prison population, religion is a source of comfort or just another diversion from the drudgery of jail life. Not so in the SuperMax. Here, religion remains an obsession. It is the reason most of the inmates were locked up and, as the years tick over on their time here, it’s what’s kept them going.
Anyone who thinks Australia does not have a problem with prison radicalisation should visit SuperMax during prayer time. They are all here. The names and faces behind a thousand headlines heralding mayhem and death. And with a handful of exceptions, the entire population of the SuperMax observes this daily ritual. They all believe the same thing: “There is no God but Allah and this is where He wants me.” For now.
When Islamic State broke through the Syrian border in June 2014, annexing northern Iraq and declaring a caliphate, Australia’s prisons filled with a new generation of Muslim extremists ensnared by the ISIS ideology of do-it-yourself violence. In Australia, 62 people were charged after 27 separate counter-terrorism operations in little more than two years. A problem that once lurked in mosques, chat rooms and obscure prayer halls was transferred, en masse, into the prison system. That was the good news. The bad news is they are more dangerous than they have ever been, their radical beliefs entrenched in the same system that locked them up in the first place.
And soon, some of them will be up for release. A system that is supposed to remove threats from the community is, in fact, incubating them for future generations.
The first thing you notice about Goulburn’s High Risk Management Correctional Centre, to give the SuperMax its official name, is that it looks nothing like a prison. Built in 2001 in the NSW city 90km north-east of Canberra as a place to house the state’s most violent offenders, it is concealed behind the soaring walls and grim Victorian façade of Goulburn’s historic jail, a fortress within a fortress. The corridors are wide, the lights are bright and cherry-red doors with observation windows provide access to every cell. There is no mess hall, no shower block. No tattooed cons pumping iron in the yard. Common areas don’t exist in SuperMax. On some days it might be possible to walk the entire length of the prison without encountering a single inmate.
Glen Piazza, SuperMax’s manager of security, is our guide for this rare glimpse into Australia’s most secretive prison. Piazza is an affable 50-something who’s been working in Corrections for nearly 30 years, five in the pressure-cooker of SuperMax. He’s got a broad Australian accent and a black sense of humour. “Remember, if you get raped, it’s just jail sex,” he says, as we’re about to enter the prison. You get the feeling it’s not the first time he’s used this line.
Glenn Piazza speaks with a prison inmate.
SuperMax is divided into three units, Piazza explains. Unit Nine is where unsentenced prisoners are kept. Unit Eight holds convicted prisoners serving out long sentences up to 20 years or more. Unit Seven houses prisoners for the first 14 days of their sentence while they are being assessed. Nobody is sentenced to SuperMax. Everybody here has been sent because they were too hard to manage in other prisons or because of their link to terrorism. Thirty of the prison’s 48 inmates are here for terrorist-related offences.
We head first to Unit Nine, a horseshoe-shaped row of cells with an enclosed observation area in the middle where the prison officers huddle like soldiers in a pillbox. This is effectively a remand centre for NSW’s most dangerous men. We have been here just a few minutes and already the shouting from the banks of locked cells has begun. “Why don’t you tell them about the oppression inside SuperMax!”
In some countries, radical inmates are dispersed across the prison system, an approach that is supposed to make deradicalisation easier. But here in NSW they are grouped together, quarantined from other prisoners like patients stricken with a deadly virus. The idea is they can’t radicalise other prisoners and in practice it works well enough. They radicalise each other instead. The names of prisoners are written on cards outside their cells along with the details of their sentence. Virtually all are of Middle Eastern background.
One of the conditions of our visit is that we do not name inmates, but they are recognisable enough. Australia’s most notorious serial killer is here. The fearsome muscles and piercing black eyes that terrified his seven known victims in their last moments are gone. More than 20 years into his sentence, he’s an old man now. He is sitting at a concrete desk writing letters, something he does incessantly. He mops the floors for extra milk rations. In any other jail he’d be just another sad old crim seeing out the years, but here in the SuperMax he looks oddly out of place. It says much about the transformation of SuperMax from high-risk prison to holding pen for Muslim radicals that not even the serial killers fit in. Piazza says this prisoner would normally be up on Deck Eight, but they brought him down here because he’s been doing it tough. Some break.
In the cell next to him is a rangy Lebanese boy with a mohawk haircut and a chest full of tatts. I recognise him, too. In April last year he was moved from Kempsey Prison to the SuperMax after he bashed his cellmate, doused him in boiling water and carved “E4E” (eye for an eye) into his forehead. His victim was a former Australian army reservist and it’s believed this was an ISIS-inspired attack. Certainly it was enough to get him transferred to SuperMax, where he has since been charged with plotting a terror attack on Bankstown Police Station. He also allegedly threatened to cut off the head of Peter Severin, the NSW Corrective Services Commissioner. He sweeps the floor and glowers at us malevolently.
A few cells down is a young man at the centre of Australia’s biggest terrorism plot. He was arrested in September 2014 over an alleged conspiracy to abduct and behead a random member of the public. “Why don’t you report the truth and that’s the oppression of your so-called government,” he yells through the glass. There is a lot of this. In the minds of most inmates there is no difference between a targeted military campaign and cutting a bloke’s head off in Sydney’s Martin Place. If anything, they think the former is worse.
Visits like this are rare in SuperMax and already the prisoners are getting toey. Young men with bushy Salafist beards press their faces against the heavy safety glass in their cell doors. Before long the shouting starts. “Power to Islam!” “The truth shall set you free!” and “Allahu Akbar!” Piazza can feel the tension rising; you’d have to be made of granite not to. He doesn’t want the inmates too riled up – it creates problems for staff later in the day. We move on.
Deck Eight is quieter. The prisoners here are older and less excited by our visit. SuperMax rules allow prisoners to consort with no more than one inmate at a time so some are in pairs wandering in and out of each other’s cells. I peer through one cell door and see a man in his 40s sitting alone on his bed reading from a sheaf of papers. He tugs at his beard and makes notes with a pen. On the outside he ran a recruitment network for al-Qa’ida, funnelling dozens of young radicals into the maw of the Syrian jihad. To the cops he was an A-grade coward, content to send countless young Australians to their deaths but lacking the bottle to jump on a plane himself. I’m told he wept uncontrollably when he arrived in SuperMax. He sees us and raises a single hand in greeting.
Prisoners spend at least 16 hours a day in their cells. They eat in them, shower in them, defecate in them. They can have a radio, TV and kettle. No internet. Depending on their behaviour they might be allowed into the exercise yard where they can play handball, basketball or work out on the chin-up bars. If they’re really good they get access to the running track at the centre of the complex. The track’s small but hard to miss. It’s slathered in netting to stop contraband being hurled in – or a helicopter landing.
Security is an obsession inside SuperMax. When prisoners first arrive they are stripped naked and placed in an observation cell. Their entire body is x-rayed using a so-called “boss chair”, a throne-like device that fires x-rays at the head, feet, torso and rectum, the cavity of choice for those wishing to smuggle contraband past the officers. Piazza says that over the years staff have retrieved knives, drugs and phones, which are a valuable commodity in prison. “The best one I’ve seen is a phone and a charger,” he says. “That was in 2006. Imagine how big the phone was.”
Prisoners sit in the boss chair after every visit or court appearance. They move cells every 28 days and when they move through the prison they are accompanied by a minimum of two guards. When their relatives or solicitors visit they must sit, Hannibal Lecter-style, in sealed Perspex boxes, so-called “safe interview spaces”. Their mail is read, scanned and stored. Their conversations with visitors are live-monitored. Conversations in languages other than English are banned.
This is how SuperMax works. Not with muscle or threats but with a rigid adherence to rules and discipline. Strip a life down to its rudiments, take away a man’s contact with the outside world, his possessions, his freedom, force him to seek permission if he wants to hold his wife’s hand during a visit – narrow his life to the point where the most exciting thing that can happen in six months is a visit from a journalist – and you don’t need phone books or rubber hoses to keep order. All you need is extra milk rations.
A SuperMax cell.
It wasn’t supposed to be quite like this. When the Carr government opened SuperMax back in 2001, the plan was for a maximum security prison that would be used to house the state’s most difficult offenders. Escapees, psychopaths, crime bosses – this was SuperMax’s core business. Then came 9/11 and, more than a decade later, the age of ISIS. A prison that had been built to handle the system’s toughest crooks became a holding pen for Muslim terrorists, the most radical square mile in all of Australia. “We’ve got a completely different set of inmates than in the main jail,” says Scott Ryan, SuperMax’s head of intelligence. “There’s very little violence. They’re a lot smarter.”
Working in SuperMax is uniquely stressful for staff. The inmates hate them, calling them kuffars or dogs. Some won’t even talk to the female staff. As we are leaving, one of the officers tells us: “I don’t want my picture. I’ve got a family.”
But as dangerous as these men are, there is a growing view that many do not belong in the SuperMax. Increasingly, experts are questioning the wisdom of housing young offenders in the same facility as older, die-hard extremists. Australian National University deradicalisation expert Dr Clarke Jones says SuperMax is the right place for violent, difficult prisoners but the wrong place for younger inmates who might, under the right circumstances, be separated from their radical ideologies. In Victoria, he adds, radical inmates are spread throughout the system.“
There’s a long history of psychological evidence that it becomes more difficult to rehabilitate prisoners over the age of 25,” Jones says. “But under 25, there’s a good chance.” Vocational training, religious counselling and physical contact with their family – these are the elements that need to be in place if younger inmates are to be diverted from radicalism. “Virtually none of that is available in SuperMax.”
And SuperMax’s population is getting younger, much younger. Across the fence in Goulburn jail proper, the prison population is divided by race or religion. There is a Muslim yard, an Islander yard, an Aboriginal yard and an Asian yard. Multiculturalism might work in the real world but in Goulburn it is segregation that keeps the peace.
In SuperMax, the division is even simpler: al-Qa’ida and Islamic State. The older, sentenced prisoners support al-Qa’ida. The younger ones, energised by the Syrian jihad, support Islamic State. Two tribes. They don’t get along.
“They really have nothing to do with each other,” Ryan tells me. “They’ll be polite to each other. The older fellas will look at [them] as young punks – ‘they know nothing about the Koran, they know nothing about our struggles’ and all of this. The younger ones will look at the older ones, ‘Oh, these old has-beens. This is the new way. All that stuff’s out now.’ There’s a big division in that.” Al-Qa’ida supporters are held in Unit Eight, where the average age of prisoners is 35. Islamic State supporters are in Unit Nine, where the average age is just 21.
The al-Qa’ida terrorists sentenced after 9/11 are starting to come up for parole. A few are already out. Khaled Sharrouf did a brief spell in SuperMax after he was convicted over his involvement in the 2005 terror plot to bomb targets in Sydney and Melbourne. It didn’t do much good. In 2013 Sharrouf fled for Syria, where he was last seen brandishing severed heads and executing Iraqi officials in the sands outside Mosul.
In August this year, Bilal Khazal, a 46-year-old former baggage handler convicted of making a terrorist training manual, will chance his arm before the parole board. There is a reasonable prospect he will get out. In early 2019, Ahmad Naizmand, a 22-year-old convicted of breaching a terrorism control order, will do the same. The others will start dribbling out in the years after that. I ask Ryan how many remain hard-core radicals. He thinks for a moment. “You could probably put on the one hand the ones that aren’t.”
Inmates behind bars.
New federal government laws that would allow authorities to detain unrepentant extremists beyond the term of their sentence would, in theory, apply to many of SuperMax’s inhabitants. NSW Corrective Services Commissioner Severin says that, as it stands, virtually all of SuperMax’s sentenced terrorists would be candidates for the new sanction. But the legislation is untested. Besides, there are 30 Muslim extremists in SuperMax. Locking them all up indefinitely is not a realistic option, not if you want to avoid turning SuperMax into Guantanamo Bay. At some point they’re going to rejoin the community.
Corrective Services NSW offers a voluntary deradicalisation program, the Proactive Integrated Support Model or PRISM, but it is aimed at those at risk of radicalisation, not those already in its grip. Of the 13,000 prisoners in NSW jails, about 20 are signed up to the program. It is hard to know how effective PRISM is, but if it is like any other deradicalisation program the answer is, probably, not very.
The rise of Islamic State has spawned a multi-billion-dollar industry in so-called “countering violent extremism” programs. None claims a convincing success rate; most are abject failures. None of this is news to Piazza. “Nobody in the world knows what to do with these guys,” he says.
For the older terrorists, the point is moot. They’re too far gone. A few won’t talk to the staff anymore, let alone participate in deradicalisation programs. In the years he’s spent walking the corridors of SuperMax, Piazza has seen little evidence the men in his charge are ready to change. “When someone gets to that age of 40, they go, ‘F..k, you know what? I’ve had enough of this shit.’ Well, now we’re getting guys who are 50-51 years of age and they’re still going.” I ask Ryan what would happen if the older ones were thrown in with the general prison population. “They’d recruit. Simple as that.”
But for the younger ones, the picture is different. Ryan estimates that if all the unsentenced prisoners in SuperMax were released tomorrow, around half would never touch a Koran again: “They’re not that committed to the cause.” He thinks some of the younger prisoners might shed their extremist ideology if they could be separated from the older, harder ideologues early into their sentence. He describes what it’s like when prisoners first arrive in SuperMax. “They’ll be down in Unit Seven all by themselves and you can talk to them there,” he says. “After that initial shock, they’re polite. Then you get them up to the other deck with other influences and that’s when you lose them.”
Severin acknowledges the challenges of trying to rehabilitate hardened jihadis inside the SuperMax but to him the priority is clear. “For me, the responsibility to the rest of the system and the broader community, and national security for that matter, outweighs the negative effects that the concentration of those individuals might have.”
He has hinted this will change in the future. Last year Severin said Corrective Services NSW was examining a “differentiated” placement system, one that could see radical inmates separated. A report by NSW Inspector of Custodial Services Fiona Rafter, who was tasked last year with examining prison radicalisation, is likely to make similar recommendations. Corrective Services is also looking at a system that will allow radical inmates to be moved downward through the system prior to release.
Severin says that outside the SuperMax there is no widespread problem of radicalisation across the prison system, and by all accounts he is right. Of the 13,000 inmates confined in NSW, there have been just four confirmed cases where inmates have been radicalised, he says. That’s almost certainly an underestimate, but it’s hard to make the case that the prison system is teeming with murderous jihadis. When we visit the Muslim yard in Goulburn jail proper, the inmates make a show of praying but seem far more interested in horsing around for the cameras. This isn’t to make light of their beliefs or be naive about their crimes, but it seems anything but a hotbed of radical preaching. In two days wandering the yards of Goulburn they are the friendliest bunch of blokes we meet.
But as SuperMax starts disgorging its inmates, the risk to the community will be profound. None of this is the fault of Piazza and his staff. They are not social workers. They are prison officers whose job is to protect the community, something they do exceptionally well and under the most trying conditions. But thinking of the rangy Lebanese boy with the chest full of tatts prowling his cell like a caged animal, it is difficult not to believe we are kicking the can down the road. What happens when we get to the end?
This morning as I was getting ready for work, I took my phone into the bathroom to play music as I showered. I put the phone on shuffle and the first song up was Justin Timberlake’s Spaceship Coupe off of his latest, 20/20 Experience. I’ve been playing the 20/20 Experience a lot. I don’t think there’s a track on there that I don’t like. My favorite songs are Pusher Love Girl and Mirrors. His album is a breath of fresh air as far as R&B is concerned. Singers like Usher and Chris Brown seem to be moving more towards R&B/techno mashups.
No sooner did Spaceship Coupe finish playing, the next song started, which was I Luve Dem Strippers by 2Chainz ft Nikki Minaj. To say there was a glaring difference in the two songs would be an understatement. Not to say that I don’t enjoy ratchet songs because it was in fact on my phone but I started to think, “Why don’t rappers rap more about love?”
In my opinion (and I’m assuming the opinion of many others), it seems that the topic that rappers rap most about are sleeping with lots of women and not caring about them, how much money they make and freely dispense, and their propensity towards violence. What rappers are selling are fantasies. Rappers like T.I., 2Chainz, Jeezy and Pusha T are all above 30 years of age. I’m pretty sure they have either wives or long time girlfriends (I’ve considered the possibility that they may or may not cheat with reckless abandon). Rappers also don’t stay rich by spending their money thoughtlessly. Those bottles they’re popping in the club? I guarantee the owner provided them free of charge for making an appearance to draw customers to their establishment. Most likely they have an accountant and/or a financial advisor.
When I asked my timeline why the majority of rappers discussed the subject matter that they did, I was told that it was because talking about committing to one woman and financial responsibility isn’t cool. I thought that most rappers took pride in being trendsetters and setting themselves apart from the crowd. Rapping about jewelry and liquor accomplishes neither. You want to really win my respect? Rap about something more powerful and uplifting and don’t fall for the trap of discussing subject matter that do nothing but sell false dreams and false bravado.
So why don’t rappers talk about love? Hypermasculinity and need for approval from other men. Have you ever heard that women don’t get dressed up when they go out to attract men, but to compete with other women? This is the same theory when it comes to rappers. Rappers do their best to one up each other to prove who can be the most virile and macho. The longing for acceptance by other males makes the act of loving a woman not acceptable. It’s seen as a weak emotion that only weak people fall victim to. Love isn’t for the weak. Love is for the strong. It’s not an easy emotion to deal with.
What about what hip-hop consumers want want? Arguments could be made that rappers are just giving listeners what they want. Outside of rap music, our society has a fascination with violence, easy money and sex so I can’t realistically put this all on hip-hop but that is a different conversation for a different day.
Have you noticed that monotony that is rap music? Why do you think rappers don’t rap about more diverse topics?
Michelangelo and Picasso, so often celebrated for their contributions to art history, now have something else in common. Kanye West likened himself to both artists in a circuitous two-hour interview that saw the Chicago rapper and fashion designer speak candidly about social class, race, misogyny in rap and the pressures of fame.
“All of my aspirations are things that currently only 60-year-old white people do,” West said, in the video interview live-streamed by fashion site Showstudio. When asked why he referred to himself as a creative genius and visionary, West said: “Because otherwise I’m called celebrity. I’m called nigger. I’m called rapper. And when they use the word celebrity, nigger or rapper, it’s not in a positive way. So I have to define who I am.”
During a conversation with journalist Lou Stoppard that veered from personal anecdotes about struggling to break into fashion – “me sitting here, trying my hardest, and everyone laughing at me” – to family memories, West outlined his positive vision of a society that overcame class hierarchy.
“I want everyone to win. I don’t even want to be in competition with everyone,” he said. “I just want people to be the best thems and live the happiest lives possible. If you keep information and opportunity away from a certain group of people, then it’s destiny that they’ll stay part of a lower class.” West’s comments on class echoed views he’d shared during an interview in March, when he’d talked about class holding people back from success more than race.
West’s optimistic outlook didn’t keep him from frankly addressing questions about racial politics in America. He spoke about the legacy of slavery contributing to African American people’s reluctance to speak with confidence and carve out their own space in public life. “Blacks, especially in America, have been raised with a slave mentality – they don’t feel that they have the right to speak as loud as possible,” he said. “And every time you hear a black person speaking as loud as possible, somebody’s going to say: ‘Look at those niggers over there’.”
Over the course of the inteview, Stoppard asked West questions submitted by his friends, peers and fans. Most focused on race, fame and when West’s forthcoming album would be released – still unconfirmed, for those wanting to know. “You want to deliver genius, you want to prove people wrong and prove people right that are fighting for you,” West said, before likening the pressure of expectation around the album to being pulled apart by horses in all directions.
Lighter moments arrived elsewhere. London mayor Boris Johnson asked what West would do to make London better – “widen the streets” – while West’s wife Kim Kardashian West asked what he would choose for his last meal. He opted, diplomatically, for some of her home-cooked fried chicken. But a fan-submitted question about the portrayal of black women in rap lyrics saw West offer one of his more hesitant and convoluted responses. “I definitely think generally rap is misogynistic,” he said, after a pause. “Not that that’s justifying the culture.”
West spoke about rap music responding to trends, and communicating the current zeitgeist at the time that its lyrics are written. “There was a time when we had Afrocentric rap, and everybody was more like how Common is – ‘my queen’ and all that,” he said. He described misogynistic lyrics as an outlet for men who’ve found themselves belittled, turning towards the women in their lives and lashing out at them in order to feel validated.
“So let’s take that to the idea of a black male in America, not getting a job, or getting f*ed with at his job, or getting f*ed with by the cops or being looked down upon by this lady at Starbucks. And he goes home to his girl … and this guy is like … you just scream at the person that’s the closest to you.” West linked the use of misogynistic and violent language in rap to a “lack of opportunities” before switching tack and discussing hatred and racism.
Between sharing his pride about his wife’s former stepfather Caitlyn Jenner’s gender transition and labelling himself a humanist rather than feminist, West maintained that he understands his privilege as a celebrity. “Do I worry about being in the public eye and raising kids? Yeah. Any situation you’re in you’re gonna worry about raising kids. But it’s champagne problems, too. There are people who can’t feed their kids. I’m not gonna sit here and complain about these issues.”
London riots: Is rap music to blame for encouraging this culture of violence?
UPDATED 24 FEB 2012
BY PAUL ROUTLEDGE
A teenager standing near a burning car in Hackney
WATCHING London’s Self-Blitz on live television was a horrifying experience. I’ve lived in these riot-hit places and know them well.
The mayhem erupted overnight, but it has been building for years. And putting more police on the streets – while vital to end the threat to life and property – will not solve the crisis.
I blame the pernicious culture of hatred around rap music, which glorifies violence and loathing of authority (especially the police but including parents), exalts trashy materialism and raves about drugs.
The important things in life are the latest smart phone, fashionable trainers and jeans and idiot computer games. No wonder stores selling them were priority looting targets.
Stir into this lethal mixture the fostering of irrational anger against the world and disrespect for others and the end result is self-absorbed young people living at boiling point.
Tension is always there. You see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices and it can break out over the most trivial issues. I’ve been on the receiving end, threatened on a Number 12 bus to Peckham for no apparent reason.
In the short run, the civil authorities have to restore order on the streets, using whatever means are available. Society cannot function if marauding gangs of young men are free to terrorise neighbourhoods.
I don’t care how “angry” these kids are. It’s simply not on for ordinary people to be cowering in their homes, too scared to go to work or out to the shops. Or, even worse, petrified of the petrol bomb that could take their lives.
For the medium term, Cameron’s government must rethink their security, employment and education policies. And fast. It is too glib to blame all this violence on ConDem policies, but they have undoubtedly contributed to it.
Cutting police numbers by 2,000 in the capital is unwise. Ending education maintenance allowances that prepare thousands of young people for work was a mistake. And half-hearted measures to bring down the appalling toll of youth unemployment are not enough.
But in the end only a change of culture, and the way these kids see the world about them, will work. I would ban the broadcasting of poisonous rap, and urge – require, even – schools to teach that the world is a much better place without pointless rage.
“I ain’t gonna change nothing I do, cause I aint doin’ nothing wrong,” rap legend Ice Cube said when asked whether he would cut “F*k Tha Police” from his future sets in light of the recent Dallas shootings.
The protest song, originally released on N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton in 1988, echoes the anger and frustration expressed by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, but its perceived call to violence has many critics clamoring to censor the song for fear that it will incite listeners to act out in kind. Conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly said it was “very disturbing” that the song was still being distributed, and Bernard McGuirk called Ice Cube’s refusal to stop performing the song “beyond disgusting.”
But James M. Jasper, Ph.D., a CUNY sociologist specializing in the emotions of protest, stands by Ice Cube’s refusal to self-censor. “Anger is a totally appropriate emotion for protesters,” he tells Inverse. “You want people to go out in the streets and shout. You want people to go out protesting.”
Music has played such a large part in protests throughout history because it creates a sense of solidarity by inciting strong emotion. “It makes you feel like you’re part of a bigger whole, or larger cause,” Jasper says. The emotional bond shared by people exposed to the same song — whether on the streets or online — can spur collective activities — dancing, marching, and chanting — all of which create a feeling of cohesion. In the Black Lives Matter movement, which has fought to gain recognition on the national level, this sort of mobilization is crucial. And using anger to fuel it is “totally appropriate,” Jasper says.
“You go to a protest to feel angry. You’re already angry. In some way you go to a protest to know you’re going to feel even angrier,” he explains. “F*k Tha Police” is not a trigger; it’s an echo chamber. But what’s most crucial to realize is that it’s not, in itself, a call to violence.
What critics fail to understand is that the strong emotions aroused during a social movement or protest don’t necessarily translate into shootings, Jasper says. While MC Ren’s line on the original N.W.A. track — “I’m a sniper with a hell of a scope/Taking out a cop or two, they can’t cope with me” — is pointedly aggressive and especially uncomfortable to hear in light of recent events, it remains a vehicle for anger, not violence. “Music is neither necessary or sufficient for violence,” he says.
He does concede that music can make it easier for people with violent intent to actually act, explaining that putting on loud music could get the adrenaline flowing and make it easier to actually do something. But there is no evidence to says that violent music directly begets violence in a social movement. “It’s a powerful song,” he says. “But 99.999 percent of people who listen to it will not get a gun and start shooting at cops.”
It’s funny that the people who have their foot on our neck are telling us, ‘Get up. What’s wrong with you?’
One thing to keep in mind, he points out, is that the lyrics of a song are much less important than its musical elements — its beat, tempo, and melody — and shouldn’t be given too much weight. Even a song like “F*k Tha Police”, in which Ice Cube declares there’ll be a “bloodbath of cops/Dying in L.A.”? “I wouldn’t worry about the lyrics so much as people do, especially for outsiders,” he says. “All they learn, all they see are the lyrics. They don’t experience the music. They aren’t there feeling the feelings of the music.”
That’s the point that Ice Cube’s critics are so blatantly missing. Yes, “F*k Tha Police” is a shocking title for a song. Yes, its lyrics depict and defend alarming acts of violence. But focusing on what the song says is less important than asking why people want to listen to it. And perhaps understanding why is impossible to grasp unless you know how it feels to be compelled to do so. N.W.A.’s classic anthem is a song of protest, indignation, and outrage, feelings that are entirely appropriate given the frustration experienced by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement — and feelings that are largely, consistently misunderstood by those watching from the outside.
During a recent march commemorating the brutal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile one sweltering evening in New York city, protestors marched on Times Square, tirelessly chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “Whose streets? Our streets.” But the crowd’s tone changed sharply as police forces started lining the sidewalks. Cries of “F*k the police” began to surface above the din, echoing in waves throughout the crowd. Were people violent? Not at all. Were people angry? Of course they were. But they had every right to be. [not]
Rap Music, Brainwashed Youth, and the Power of Hip Hop Culture
As a Hip Hop purist, I’ve always hated the fact that most commercial rap music promotes negative images and messages.
Having used Hip Hop culture as a medium to empower youth for the last 15 years, I’ve seen first hand how mainstream rap impacts young impressionable minds. It is disturbing. Having also worked with incarcerated youth, I’ve seen how rap that glorifies irresponsible and criminal behavior has become the soundtrack to their daily lives.
The music industry’s role in promoting negative music has been a hot topic for many years. I’ve personally written about it extensively. What is too often under reported is how young people, including incarcerated youth, are directly impacted by the music. Although the overall effect is easy to imagine, specific details are extremely revealing. Here are some of my personal observations gathered from years of work with teens in traditional schools and juvenile detention centers.
When asked to explain what Hip Hop consists of, the majority of kids list violence and gangs as being elements of Hip Hop.
When asked to list what their favorite artists rap about, the overwhelming majority list guns, sex, violence, cars, thugs, jewelry, and money as popular topics.
When asked to name rappers with positive lyrics, most kids name Drake, Tupac, and Kendrick Lamar (within the last year) but seem unaware of any others.
When asked to name female rappers, the overwhelming majority can only think of Nicki Minaj.
When asked if rap music influences them, the majority say yes.
When asked if they know anyone who tries to emulate what rappers do, 99% say they know one or more people who do.
The majority of girls say that most boys seem to learn how to treat girls from their favorite rappers.
The majority of boys say that rap music has taught them that girls cannot be trusted.
Over half of kids use slang they picked up from the newest songs in their everyday conversations.
99% of kids get all of their music for free. Most have never even owned a CD.
The majority of kids only know commercial rappers and aren’t very familiar with the underground scene.
Most kids don’t realize that they can use the internet to discover new artists and end up only acknowledging rappers who top the charts.
Half of all youth state that they’ve never heard rappers use big words.
The overwhelming majority of incarcerated youth say they listen to “gangsta shit” to pump them up to get high or commit a crime.
Over half of incarcerated youth refer to rappers who glorify negativity (ex: Chief Keef, Gucci Mane, Lil’ Boosie, 2 Chainz, etc) as “real shit” while rappers whose content is more progressive are labeled “weak” or “corny”.
Over half of incarcerated youth dream of becoming rap stars when they get out of jail.
During rap writing sessions, most kids write about the same topics commercial artists rap about. 99% of incarcerated youth have an extremely difficult time writing about anything else besides the streets.
Half of incarcerated youth say that slow and bass heavy instrumentals (trap music) inspire them to do negative things. They say “something” in the beat has an effect on them.
The previous data is usually gathered within the first few days of working with youth. After I’ve had enough time to teach kids about Hip Hop culture, the music industry, and the “Commercial Rap to Prison Pipeline”, I expose them to pioneers and iconic Hip Hop artists as well as new underground and independent rappers, of whom most of them have never heard before. Some of these artists include:
The overwhelming majority of kids say that the artists I’ve introduced them to sound better than commercial rappers.
Most kids wonder why radio doesn’t play these artists in heavy rotation.
Most say that they didn’t know rappers could speak intelligently and still sound good.
About half of the kids state that mainstream rappers sound stupid in comparison to these newly discovered artists.
Many of the kids who are aspiring rappers ask me what they can do to become better lyricist.
The majority of them are mad at the mainstream music industry once they’re exposed to alternatives and conclude that the industry is intentionally promoting music to “brainwash” them.
These findings are both disturbing and hopeful. As I’ve stated in previous articles, mainstream rap music can’t be blamed for all of today’s social ills as unemployment, poverty, gangs, drugs, failing school system, and institutionalized racism are the real culprits.
However, mainstream rap’s impact on youth cannot be ignored and has undoubtedly contributed to an already troubled society. Still, when seeking solutions and innovative ways to effectively reach our youth, it’s good to know that Hip Hop culture, in the right hands, can have the kind of impact on young people that may help to save their lives.
Erinn Swan, 24, the daughter of former treasurer Wayne Swan, devised the Medicare fear campaign for the Labor Party. Picture: Nicholas Welsh
With the temperature outside fit to freeze, Malcolm Turnbull arrived at the Coalition’s campaign headquarters in Canberra at close to 1.45pm last Thursday. He had wrapped up a successful speech to the National Press Club and now he would thank excited campaign staff for their hard work.
They would win “with the luck of the gods”, he told the crowd as it gathered in a bland room adorned with a few posters on the wall. It was now up to the judgment of the Australian people. He added optimistically: “I think Labor’s lies have started to wear thin.”
Turnbull did not reveal the bad news he had just received. In a private office, party director Tony Nutt had walked the Prime Minister through the numbers. It was not a happy picture. The Coalition’s recovery in the polls had stalled. The advertising blackout had begun. They could not counter Labor’s ground campaign with mass union volunteers. And with seats up-ended by the exodus to independents, the outcome was unclear.
An hour later, on a RAAF jet back to Sydney, Turnbull was in a pensive mood. Seated in the forward cabin with its polished timber fittings and blue-leather seats he admitted to being tired. “I remain apprehensive,” he said. “It’s still pretty close. A whole bunch of seats are pretty close. What the net is, we don’t know.” Labor’s Medicare scare campaign was on his mind. “The Medicare lie is probably the worst … that’s obviously cost us some votes. It’s amazing how they got away with it.”
Three weeks earlier, Erinn Swan, head of digital at ALP campaign headquarters in Melbourne and the daughter of former treasurer Wayne Swan, had come up with a good idea. She could hardly have known that it would disrupt the Turnbull campaign’s economic mantra: “We have a plan.” Nor that it would help derail Turnbull’s smooth path to power. Or that it would expose weaknesses in the Liberal headquarters and suck almost two weeks out of the Prime Minister’s campaign.
In the end Swan’s good idea would become Labor’s campaign motif — right up to judgment day. Swan’s digital team had wanted to create a digital ad warning that the Coalition would wreck Medicare — after all, it was already looking to outsource some backroom functions. Protecting Medicare had already been on the grid of issues Labor deployed to attack Turnbull. But if it could get former prime minister Bob Hawke to front the ad, well, it just might fly.
Swan took her idea to ALP national secretary and campaign director George Wright: Let’s put Hawkie in an ad to warn the Liberals will privatise Medicare.
Wright liked it. The digital team managed a list of about 300,000 email addresses, plus social media and digital advertising. Through this large email network, Labor now received small online donations that totalled twice the size of the largest single contribution from any trade union. A digital Medicare ad with Hawkie was a good idea. Wright phoned Hawke. He agreed — happy to be involved with the campaign — and a team flew to Sydney to film in the ALP’s Sydney office. They made a 90-second spot to use online and with supporters.
The spot went so well online that Wright had it cut to a 30-second ad for TV and took it out to focus groups. Again, it worked so well that Wright flew to Sydney to see Hawke to discuss running it as an ad on TV. He wanted to walk through the potential aggression the old campaigner might strike if the Coalition decided to go after him — with all its weapons. Could Hawke cope with that? Hawke waved it through.
The Medicare campaign was based on a projection from a premise [lie]: that because the government was outsourcing [not privatising] a small corner [some administration] of Medicare, the whole lot could go. So far as Wright was concerned, this tapped a core weakness of the Coalition: that it did not support Medicare, or that it supported it only grudgingly while looking for ways around it. This was the fear to leverage.
The Hawke ad was launched on YouTube on June 11 and on TV on June 12. It ran as free as a rabbit in a field for nearly a week. “You don’t set up a Medicare privatisation taskforce unless you aim to privatise Medicare,” Hawke told viewers.
By June 16, fast-rising anxiety had gripped Victorian Liberal officials. Voters in marginal seats were responding to Hawke — and older voters, who pinned health as their top item, were raising concerns about Turnbull’s plans to privatise Medicare. Told it was not true, these voters still thought it sounded right. Turnbull had no such plans. But it was too late. The Hawke ad had bitten deeply.
The party’s activist Victorian president Michael Kroger and his state deputy, Simon Frost, decided to push Coalition campaign headquarters to act — they needed a rebuttal and it had to be fast. Some of the state directors were already concerned about whether the campaign was too lifeless, with its clinical jobs and growth message. Labor’s Medicare ad was biting in Victoria.
After warnings from the Victorian Liberals, Tony Nutt was pressed to react faster to Labor’s Medicare campaign. A back-room operator, he emerged from the shadows for the Liberal campaign launch.
Frost raised it at the 7.30 morning conference between state directors and Nutt, and pressed for action. The Victorians thought the feds should have been on to it instantly to crush Labor’s credibility before the Medicare story developed a life of its own. Kroger was understood to have raised his concerns with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. She too, would take it up on a CHQ conference call.
The Coalition had not anticipated Shorten would turn Medicare into a giant privatisation scare. It was unprepared. Suddenly the challenge was to rebut it while not spending too much time on it — thus ending up fighting on Labor’s turf. It had to get back on to safe territory with its own message about the plan.
On Saturday, June 18, and clearly suffering from a cold or flu, Turnbull struck back, vehemently declaring the Medicare scare to be an outrageous, bizarre lie. But he revealed how far Labor had already bitten, announcing that he would dump plans to outsource Medicare’s back-office operations. Medicare would “never, ever” be privatised, he said.
Turnbull looked and sounded authentic, angry and honest, repudiating the Labor attack. But it was too late. He would be forced to fight the mirage of Medicare privatisation until the final breath of the campaign.
When Wright’s headquarters team saw Turnbull abandoning the taskforce they were stoked. They were in a fight and they had taken a major win. It would be a turning point in Labor’s campaign.
ALP national secretary George Wright at Labor campaign headquarters. He called Bob Hawke to ask him to front the Medicare ad.
The next day, Sunday, June 19, Shorten went after Turnbull again over Medicare at the Labor campaign launch. No mind that the Coalition had no plans to privatise Medicare, the story was now embedded with the public and Shorten intended to water it. Turnbull could not be trusted, he told the party faithful and TV viewers. There was already a taskforce and other inquiries into Medicare. “Piece by piece, brick by brick, the Libs want to tear it down,” Shorten roared.
One senior member of Turnbull’s team said later: “It wasn’t until someone got the AMA to come out, that we got any traction.” New AMA president Michael Gannon rejected the idea that the government had plans. But his impact as a supportive third party did not last long. Labor, after all, had the health unions.
On June 20, Wright fired up his “never, ever” ad with a quick cascade of grabs of former prime minister John Howard declaring he would not introduce a GST “never, ever, it’s dead”, followed by Tony Abbott promising “no cuts to education, no cuts to health” and concluding with Turnbull: “Medicare will never, ever be privatised.” It was honey for an adman. The voiceover rolled: “Now he wants to privatise Medicare.” The finale was simple: The Liberals say one thing and do another.
It rammed home the message succinctly.
On June 21, the ABC’s 7.30 ran the story, following the row between the parties. Presenter Leigh Sales told viewers that the Coalition had no plans to privatise Medicare, and yet Labor said it could not be believed — given past form on breaking promises. Two nights later Shorten appeared on the program when Sales pressed him to put his hand on his heart “and say the Coalition has a policy to privatise Medicare”.
Shorten responded that the election would determine the future of Medicare. And with that, Labor cemented its pitch.
Through to election day, “save Medicare” rallies would spring up at short notice with union volunteers, and Shorten’s “Bill Bus” would roll into marginal seats to “save Medicare”.
The pressures caused by the Medicare scare opened up a number of other fissures in the Coalition campaign, in particular concern over finances.
Money had become a sore point. The confusing manoeuvres between Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison on economic policy in the months leading up to the election had disappointed and angered donors in the business community.
Many had been aghast at the on-off nature of debates, such as raising the goods and services tax and the overnight elevation and equally swift dumping of Turnbull’s proposal to overhaul federal-state taxes.
Turnbull had described this as the most fundamental reform to the Constitution in generations. It was gone in two days.
There had been evident strains between the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. There was speculation over Morrison’s future prime ministerial pretensions and ambitions, notwithstanding he was still attempting to come to grips with his Treasury portfolio. Some big donors had sat on their hands after this. Many disapproved of business tax cuts aimed eventually for the pockets of offshore conglomerates. And once the budget had cracked down on superannuation concessions, the list of aggrieved Coalition supporters only grew longer.
Money was still raised from some big donors but generational change in the wealthiest families had reduced this buffer. The younger generation was not so keen to give.
The Coalition campaign headquarters. Malcolm Turnbull heard the bad polling news in Tony Nutt’s office on June 30 as the campaign was wrapping up.
The party had a new federal treasurer, an honorary position, in Andrew Burnes, a travel industry businessman. His connections with the deep pockets of industry could never rival some of his predecessors, particularly given the deep disenchantment with politics, although party insiders felt he had made an excellent start. But they would need more than a good start.
In January, Turnbull contacted Ron Walker, the party’s greatest fundraiser, who had retired several years ago after a commitment of 15 years as treasurer. They met at the end of that month at Treasury Place in Melbourne.
Turnbull wanted everything possible in the saddlebags for the election and he asked Walker to open his legendary contact book to help Burnes where possible.
On March 7, Walker hosted a private lunch for Turnbull at the Athenaeum Club in Melbourne. The Prime Minister was re-establishing himself with a small group of businessmen with influence and connections. Moreover, they were closely connected to the party. They included Hugh Morgan, Charles Goode and John Calvert-Jones, all directors of the Liberal Party’s Cormack Foundation, a long-time investment vehicle that provides funds to the party.
Walker hosted another lunch for Nutt in the same vein later that month.
The Cormack Foundation would be closely watched by different divisions of the Liberal Party — keen for its cash. Cormack was established in the 1980s after the Liberal Party sold radio station 3XY and invested the $12 million proceeds in blue-chip stocks. It has earned multiple millions of dollars in dividends over the years, steered by a group of sharp-eyed directors. Chaired by former Western Mining boss Morgan, the board includes Goode, former chairman of ANZ and Woodside; stockbroker Calvert-Jones; Fred Grimwade, formerly at Western Mining and now a principal at Fawkner Capital; and Peter Hay, chairman of Newcrest Mining.
It includes a preponderance of lawyers, a handy defence during regular arguments with party officials over where the money should be directed.
As recently as two weeks ago, insiders at the Coalition CHQ in Canberra were complaining bitterly that Cormack had promised them more than $2m for the campaign but that this money had been slashed after Kroger insisted it belonged instead to the Victorian party, which was still trying to get itself out of the hole caused by a major fraud in the branch office.
Cormack, which is understood to have a policy of distributing only dividends, declined to comment. But close observers in the party say that the tradition has always been to provide strong support for the maintenance of the Victorian branch — and to occasionally make funds available to the federal party.
After substantial payments, disclosed under electoral laws, Cormack has expended most if its cash for now on the clutch of elections over recent years.
George Wright’s polling told him the Medicare fear campaign was biting deeply into Turnbull. Labor would push it all the way to the finishing line.
It is understood Kroger had already argued that any money available should go to the Victorian division, but was rebuffed by the board. The federal party argued for more. Nutt’s federal office wanted $2m, but the sum provided was closer to $1m.
Nutt was forced to go off-air with his TV advertising for two or three days in the third-last week of the campaign. One furious insider declared: “If we’d had the money it would have been about losing less than five seats at that time.” Instead there were 10 in play.
From the other side of the pond, there was no concession that the Coalition appeared to have financial troubles. By the last week of the campaign Wright believed Turnbull himself must be footing the bill given the scale of advertising running nightly.
Labor’s campaign, outside the Medicare fight, fell into its own hole after the release of the policy costings on June 26 which showed deeper and longer deficits than Turnbull had revealed. It fed into the argument, with shades of Tony Abbott, that Labor was all about debt and deficits, taxing and spending.
On the same day as the Labor costings bombshell almost halted Shorten’s campaign, Wright launched his “Out of Touch” ad. It was designed to attack Turnbull by implying that his personal wealth was a barrier to his ability to understand everyday worries. “Maybe it’s because he never had to rely on these services that Malcolm Turnbull would make a decision to cut health, education and Medicare, cuts to pensions and family payments, and talk up a GST. Malcolm Turnbull is just seriously out of touch.”
They had tested the ads with focus groups, finetuning, and the response had been excellent. But at one group, one member told the questioner, Turnbull’s not just out of touch, he’s seriously out of touch. Wright added the word to the mix and tested the ad again. This time it went off the charts.
Many had expected the Turnbull-versus-Shorten battle would be a bloodless affair. Even the calling of the election had no excitement, no fanfare. It dribbled in, like a light rain that had dried by noon. It was in line with Nutt’s strategy to portray Turnbull as a steady and competent manager of the nation in a time of uncertainty — but with a plan. No hoo-has and pompoms, as they expected Labor to turn on.
Still there was an undercurrent between the two men, a note of class war. Turnbull, the son of a single father, and Shorten, the son of a single mother, had worn their ambition like incandescent tattoos. Turnbull had reached the top of the business ladder, Shorten had reached the top of the labour ladder. With their broad foreheads, wide smiles and self-determination born of emotional fortitude, each had always intended to be prime minister one day. Turnbull had torn down predecessor Abbott to get there; Shorten had officiated at the political death of his own two predecessors. But he remained a step away from power — as far away as the heartbeat of a nation.
Neither man’s story bore the Shakespearean drama of the momentous clash of 1996 between Paul Keating and John Howard, two of the most talented politicians to stalk the stage. Labor’s 13 years of rule under Hawke and Keating had given way to the shock of Howard’s victory, which he in turn carried to 11 years as prime minister. That clash resounded with blows as they fought each other to the finish line.
The party president and the pollster. Richard Alston left, with pollster Mark Textor in a rare moment outside campaign HQ.
Turnbull visited the Governor-General on May 8. In truth, he had called the election three weeks earlier, on April 19, when he announced it — as a second order of business — during a photo op in Canberra. He was not actually calling an election, he said at the time, but Australia would go to the polls for a double-dissolution election on July 2. The budget would be delivered on May 3. Turnbull had committed the country to an eight-week campaign. Purists would call it a 10-week campaign, dating from Turnbull’s first announcement on April 19. Either way, and beyond the semantics, it was going to kill everyone involved. In a perspicacious comment, Peta Credlin, former chief of staff to Abbott, declared in her first newspaper column: “You are probably all sick of it and it’s barely started.”
Many eyes and ears would be tuned to Credlin and Abbott. Would they disrupt the campaign? Would Abbott white-ant Turnbull, transforming 2016 into a rerun of 2010 when Kevin Rudd had undercut Julia Gillard’s campaign. Each knifing had begat more future knifings. No one truly believed the cycle of bloodletting could stop.
Turnbull had begun a fall from grace with the electorate. After a political honeymoon with matchless poll numbers, Turnbull had appeared initially to be some kind of golden figure. But it was not to be sustained — it was a honeymoon, it was rose-coloured glasses, it was dreams, it was an illusion.
The Newspoll that signalled Turnbull’s sharp fall from public favour was a devastating blow to his supporters and all of those who had backed his tilt against Abbott. The front page of The Australian on April 5 had news that sent a shudder through the party: “Turnbull surrenders lead.”
In a bit over two months, Turnbull’s satisfaction rating had crashed 15 points from a post-honeymoon high. Far more ominous was the headline number: Labor was ahead 51-49 per cent in two-party terms, reversing the polls at the start of the year that had the Coalition ahead, 53 to 47 per cent. It was just seven months since Turnbull had challenged Abbott.
When finally Turnbull approached the Governor-General on May 8, Jacqui Lambie, the troublesome independent senator from Tasmania, declared that the Prime Minister had turned Mother’s Day into Turnbull Day.
To the myriad questions thrown by reporters through that day, Turnbull responded that it was an exciting time to be an Australian, that a double dissolution would mean rolling back lawless building unions with the restoration of the watchdog Australian Building and Construction Commission, and, on a positive note, that he looked forward to several campaign debates with Shorten.
Abbott, vanquished, seemed to stay mostly below the radar.
Tony Abbott chases every vote in the Sydney seat of Barton, while adviser Richard Dowdy, rear, searches for some answers.
Every now and then, he materialised suddenly on television, perhaps an interview with a true believer from his camp, or a bright wave from a candidate launch for the cameras.
But his followers in the party had barely kept their claws gloved as Turnbull walked on water in the months following the coup.
With the election imminent and Turnbull’s popularity dented after the messy economic debates over the GST and other matters, the party seemed poised for a secondary war between its two prime ministers in addition to the battle between Turnbull, the Prime Minister, and Shorten, the challenger. There could be three potential prime ministers in this fight if Abbott chose to argue his own policy positions from the sidelines.
Credlin, seen still by many as Abbott’s forward guard, rattled Turnbull’s cage early, referring to him as Mr Harbourside Mansion on Sky, where she had a new role as an election commentator.
Abbott mostly took to the road, attending campaign launches, helping candidates, shaking hands and smiling. In the final stretch of the election, he could be found wandering along the main street in Brighton-Le-Sands near Sydney airport.
Clad in navy, he strolled with Nick Varvaris, the federal member for Barton, who would go on to lose his seat to Labor’s Linda Burney four days later. “Hey, it’s Tony Abbott,” a couple of big guys said, rushing for a selfie with the former PM. “We’ll definitely be voting Liberal.”
Abbott found a baby to chat to, its enthralled owner happy to stop for a photo. Abbott, making small talk, trying out the fish and chips, walking alone without the entourage of prime ministerial office, looked strangely disconnected. He kept his thoughts to himself.
EXCLUSIVE | TOMORROW PART II: Both sides get down and dirty by Pamela Williams only in The Australian
A Stop the Sag billboard is seen on the side of a building in Brooklyn
New Yorkers told to ‘pull their pants up’
Low-slung trousers give their wearers a bad image, according to a US state senator who is behind an advertising campaign telling people to “raise your pants”.
UK Telegraph 1 April 2010
Eric Adams, a state senator from Brooklyn, is behind the $2,000 (£1,309) ‘Stop The Sag’ advertising campaign showing two men in jeans that hang low enough to display their underwear.
Mr Adams is calling for the end of the sagging trend that has become popular in men’s fashion. In an online message posted on YouTube, he said: “You can raise your level of respect if you raise your pants”,while pleading to young people not to “surrender control over your own image”.
The politician, a retired police captain, is the latest to speak out on the trend. He follows Larry Platt, an American Idol performer who became an internet sensation earlier this year with his song “Pants on the Ground”.
Even Barack Obama has previously said: “Some people might not want to see your underwear. I’m one of them.”
Mr Adams said he had had enough after watching a train passenger who wore a particularly low-slung pair of trousers.
“Everyone on the train was looking at him and shaking their heads,” he said. “And no one said anything to correct it.”
The low-slung trousers trend is adapted from the unbelted and sometimes oversized look of prison uniforms, according to Mark-Evan Blackman, who heads the menswear department at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.
Initially seen as invoking street credibility, the style has spread from inner cities to suburban shopping centres and school classrooms.