By Devon Nola*
1.an organization set up to provide help and raise money for those in need.
2.kindness and tolerance in judging others.
synonyms: goodwill · compassion · consideration · concern · kindness · kindliness · [more]
What kind of a person would write the following about singer Susan Boyle?
You wouldn’t expect that sound to come out of someone that looks like her. Deliberately brought on stage looking and behaving like someone you’d cross the street to avoid…
For those who don’t know Susan Boyle, she is a woman who got her start as a professional singer as a contestant on Simon Cowell’s talent-search show, “Britain’s Got Talent”. The plain looking middle-aged woman shocked the entire judging panel and the audience when she boldly, confidently and quite melodically delivered her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream”.
The way she is described in the quote above is disturbing. To add insult to injury, the quote comes from self-proclaimed music teacher, Steve Silverman, who also happens to be the Director of Investigations and Enforcement of the British “charity”, Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA). They certainly don’t reflect the kindness or tolerance typically associated with a charity officer.
Terrorising British citizens and political institutions
The CAA is a Zionist pressure group that calls itself a charity. It enjoys all the perks of charity status, such as tax breaks. However, on close inspection, there is very little about the CAA that resembles a charity other than fundraising. Its most prolific activity seems to be terrorizing British citizens and political institutions. The campaigns against Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Livingston, and the Labour Party have been relentless. The CAA also has quite a sweet tooth for attacking musicians. Essentially, anyone who seems to be mildly critical of Israel will be subject to its wrath and it’s all done in the name of fighting anti-Semitism.
“When did charities begin carrying out smear campaigns? When did preventing someone from earning a living become part of a charity’s function?”
Alison Chabloz, Gilad Atzmon and Reggie Yates
But let’s focus on musicians. It seems two have been in its crosshairs. (1) Alison Chabloz, a talented musician with outspoken views on many subjects, including the holocaust and freedom of expression. (2) Gilad Atzmon, world-renowned saxophonist, author and philosopher who has a penchant for exploring the meaning of Jewish identity. Both these talented musicians have been subject to attacks by the CAA. Both have paid a hefty price, (Chabloz was given a two-year suspended prison sentence and banned from posting anything on social media for 12 months. Atzmon was left with enormous legal bills (luckily, much of that was taken care of by Atzmon’s supporters) defending their right to earn their living and enjoy their right to freedom of thought and expression as British citizens. Both are victims of the most relentless, vicious smear campaigns with the so-called “charity” leading the charge. When did charities begin carrying out smear campaigns? When did preventing someone from earning a living become part of a charity’s function?
British actor, BBC star and radio DJ Reggie Yates is yet another casualty of the CAA. Yates found himself on the chopping block when during an interview he celebrated the younger generation of Black music artists maintaining control of their publishing rights and royalties. Yates remarked:
The thing that makes it great about this new generation of [music] artists is that they ain’t signing to majors. They’re independent, they’re not managed by some random fat Jewish guy from north west London, they’re managed by their brethren.
The CAA immediately went in for the kill. The CAA’s interpretation was that Yates’ comment would “evoke the ugly stereotype of Jews as untrustworthy and money-grabbing”. On the contrary, it speaks specifically to keeping their earnings within their own community, uplifting their own people, much the same way Jews like to do. It speaks to the reality that the Black community is finally staking its claim in the music industry through independent labels. How could supporting your own community ever be perceived as anti-Semitic? I wonder if Yates had said “…some random fat white guy”, might it have passed without comment?
Let’s look at one of the CAA’s lead characters, Steve Silverman. He is said to have studied music at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He has the drama aspect down to a science, not sure about the music, however. According to his website, students can come to his home and learn musicianship skills, music theory and history and musical analysis. He is not really a performing musician – in fact, not one performing act is attached to his name. This could explain why he seeks to destroy musicians.
Silverman claims to love opera and certainly sees himself qualified to review them. He believes he is capable of distinguishing what is or isn’t an operatic voice. I guess that a graduation diploma from a music school is all one needs.
Looking at his reviews of music and performers on his blog tells a different story, however. They read more like the opinion of an envious, pompous child than that of someone who appreciates, understands or actually plays music. In my opinion, Silverman should be banned by the appropriate authorities from teaching musicianship, as the way he treats other musicians is beyond repugnant.
In Silverman’s blog, he writes about the exploitive practices of Simon Cowell and his talent-search show, “Britain’s Got Talent”. But what we see is Cowell uplifting unlikely star, such as Susan Boyle. It is Silverman who tears her down. I’ve seen the episode of her audition. She was most definitely plain, but playful and sweet. To a fellow human, she comes off as lovely, warm-hearted woman whom you’d enjoy having as your friend or neighbor, not someone to be avoided. She was a woman with a dream, and whatever one thinks of Cowell, he made that dream a reality. The female judge comments that Boyle is a wake up-call for anyone who was cynical and what a privilege it was to hear her sing. Susan Boyle is now a working recording artist, selling more than 20 million albums. In January 2019, it was reported that Boyle’s net worth is £26 million. I don’t believe this qualifies as exploited.
In 2012, a 17-year-old boy with an astonishingly beautiful operatic tenor voice, Jonathan Antoine, appeared on Cowell’s “Britain’s Got Talent” show. Silverman compared his appearance to that of a “Victorian circus sideshow”. The boy was quite large. Silverman’s take is a bit more cruel:
Hey, look at this big fat lad with the weird hair. Guess what – he can sing.
But the whole point of the show is to give opportunities to undiscovered raw talent who may never get them, thanks to the Silvermans of the world. Antoine was admittedly fragile and insecure, due to his size, but a caring friend and fellow singer gave him the confidence to go on the show. Again, think what you like about Cowell, but without him and the support of the friend, Antoine may have remained in obscurity and no one would have heard his effortlessly exquisite voice. In truth, Cowell has launched many successful musical careers. Is the industry exploitive? Indeed. It always was. However, I don’t think it is any more exploitive than the CAA and at least it honestly calls itself a business rather than a charity. More importantly, as result of Cowell’s efforts, we are left with beauty in the form of Antoine, Boyle and too many more to list. Silverman’s practices result in the suppression of beauty. And herein lies the big reveal. Only Silverman is sufficiently trained enough to discern what is authentic high art. The rest of the viewing population is apparently too ignorant to realize they’re being conned by ordinariness masquerading as culture. Interestingly, enough, in Silverman’s world, there’s no room in it for him.
“Silverman… mockingly attributes Bocelli’s success to the ‘one thing that not even Pavarotti in his prime possessed: blindness. Ker-ching!’ Who on earth speaks about fellow musicians in such an ugly manner?”
His take on International singer/songwriter/producer Andrea Bocelli is equally disturbing. He illegitimately and unfairly compares him to Pavarotti. There is one problem. Pavarotti is an opera singer, Andrea Bocelli is not. He never was. He is a classical crossover, easy listening vocalist who has sold over 80 million albums. He performs some arias as well as selections from other genres but is not categorized anywhere as an opera singer. However, Silverman can’t seem to get passed the fact that he is a “former lawyer from Tuscany” who found world-wide fame as a singer. Silverman also can’t overlook Bocelli’s “need for a microphone, the thin whiny vocal tone and the absence of anything remotely resembling a talent for interpretation”. He mockingly attributes Bocelli’s success to the “one thing that not even Pavarotti in his prime possessed: blindness. Ker-ching!” Who on earth speaks about fellow musicians in such an ugly manner? Some might say it bears a striking resemblance to the sadistic approach deployed by CAA against its prey.
If he isn’t attacking their musical ability outright, he goes for his favorite coup de main of anti-Semite and does everything in his power to prevent them from performing as in the case of world-renowned jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon. Atzmon has won many awards. He is sought after globally for his extraordinary musical genius, including as a teacher, but Silverman taunts and threatens music venues where Atzmon is scheduled to play. He may not like Atzmon’s missives; however, this has nothing to do with Atzmon as a musician.
Jealousy cloaked as concern
It seems as If Silverman deceptively cloaks his jealousy of the success of others in false concern for the poor exploited souls being duped by Cowell. He claims to be concerned about the welfare of their vocal chords. Young Antoine is classically trained, so apparently there is nothing to worry about. I’m not sure there is one singer whom Silverman has tutored that is a raging success. There’s a good chance they bag groceries to pay their bills, including their lessons in “musicianship”. Silverman may like to know that some of Atzmon’s former students are themselves world stars.
“[Silverman’s] entire existence is about what books not to read and what music not to listen to. It would serve him well to stop attacking musicians, find something he enjoys doing that isn’t drenched in venom, and spend his final years perfecting it.”
In fact, in his blog, Silverman eviscerates one musician after another. It would be more aptly named “The Green-Eyed Monster”. Jealousy oozes from every hateful word. His problem with Cowell seems to be that he, too, is making boat loads of money. Cowell has created for himself a little cash cow in his talent-search shows supporting artists. Sadly, I believe Silverman isn’t doing as well, and in the case of Atzmon, the more he invests in destroying Atzmon the more people openly rally behind the ex-Israeli horn player.
Silverman needs to reconcile the fact that while he may own a few instruments and may possess a degree in something to do with music, he isn’t really a musician nor can he be considered a music educationalist. His entire existence is about what books not to read and what music not to listen to. It would serve him well to stop attacking musicians, find something he enjoys doing that isn’t drenched in venom, and spend his final years perfecting it. Green really isn’t his color.
*Devon Nola is a political and social justice activist.