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Concerns Raised Over Modstock Headliner's Controversial Comments

Following the announcement that B.o.B will headline the Campus Activities Board (CAB)'s annual Modstock concert, Boston College students expressed concern due to the rapper’s controversial views. In particular, students objected to B.o.B's public denial of the Holocaust and other anti-Semitic remarks. 

The Georgia rapper has gained a reputation as an anti-establishment conspiracy theorist. He has argued that the earth is flat, questioned the existence of slavery in American history, and discussed human cloning.

In a 2016 song titled “Flatline,” B.o.B. expresses anti-Semitic views when he refers to well known Holocaust denialist David Irving in the following lyrics: “but before you try to curve it, do your research on David Irving; Stalin was way worse than Hitler, that’s why the POTUS gotta wear a kippah.”

By mentioning the kippah, the traditional Jewish hat, he also seems to promote the conspiracy that Jewish people control the U.S. government.

Though it is unclear how seriously B.o.B. intended these lyrics to be taken, in 2016 the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt released a statement calling them “troubling” and “irresponsible.”

B.o.B. seems to have given new life to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory of Jewish control of the U.S. government, while handing a free publicity gift to the notorious Holocaust denier David Irving," said Greenblatt.

According to Caitlin Guthlein, MCAS '18, B.o.B.'s past remarks should have eliminated him from consideration as the Modstock headliner.

“Considering the issues of racism and homophobia that have plagued our campus in the past year, BC should be trying to repair its image and promote itself as an inclusive environment to all students of all races, religions, and sexualities," said Guthlein. "The decision to invite B.o.B is a clear step backwards from becoming a more accepting campus.” 

BC students have also voiced concerns about the Modstock performer because he has promoted conspiracies about the September 11 terrorist attack. In 2017, he tweeted “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams” and called 9/11 an “inside job” during an interview.

“I am honestly embarrassed that the university I chose to attend would endorse this singer's offensive views and statements by paying him to perform,” said Guthlein.

“I think the choice of B.o.B was a terrible mistake and oversight, and [I] hope BC will make an effort to apologize and set up protocol to make sure this never happens again," she continued. “I strongly encourage the Office of Student Affairs to issue a public apology to students, alumni, and members of the Newton community who were offended by the decision.”

Rachel Putterman, the rabbinic advisor of BC Hillel, the Jewish student organization at BC, also released a statement which expressed disappointment over the selection.

These lyrics are justifiably painful to segments of the Boston College Jewish community, as well as to the larger Boston Jewish community," said Putterman. 

"I highly doubt that BC would host a performer with racist or bigoted lyrics about any other group," Putternam continued. "It is unfortunate that BC is not keeping to its stated mission of exhibiting deep concern for all members of the BC community."

The Boston College Hillel Executive Board also released a statement to The Gavel which expressed disappointment in CAB's decision to invite B.o.B. to headline Modstock, a decision which they said "isolates Jewish students, staff, and faculty in the Boston College Community."

"Jesuit and Jewish traditions emphasize the key role of building and fostering community, but this decision and the recent statement issued by CAB feel the opposite, dividing our community and making it feel less inclusive," said the statement, which was signed by Talia Shapiro, LSOE '19, Ben Thomas, MCAS '21, Haley Bannon, MCAS '20, Lior Torenberg, LSOE '18, Danit Lieberman, CSOM '18, and Hannah Weisenberg, MCAS '18.

"Boston College’s Center for Christian-Jewish Learning promotes understanding 'based not merely on toleration but on full respect and mutual enrichment',” the statement continued. "As a thriving Hillel campus community, the muted response from CAB and the administration thus far is upsetting. We hope that CAB and the administration will respond to our concerns and send a clear message that Holocaust deniers have no place on our campus."

In an email to The Gavel, CAB stated that they are happy to meet with and listen to the concerns of students who are offended by the selection of B.o.B. as the headliner.

The Campus Activities Board invited B.o.B. to perform music at our Modstock concert for his talent and popularity," said CAB. "That invitation is not an endorsement of his personal views.”

Update: Apr. 30 at 10:15 a.m.

A statement from BC Hillel was added to the article.