SOME of you with a taste for one-hit wonders might recall a band called Goldie Lookin Chain, a Welsh comedy hip hop act who had a hit with a song called Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do.

They were far from a great group but the song caustically satirised how society blames musicians and film-makers for the ills we see around us. As the opening lines say: “Guns don’t kill people – rappers do/ask any politician and they’ll tell you it’s true.”

When it comes to youth violence in particular, instead of admitting that it’s us who’ve failed our children – parents, police, teachers, and politicians – we point the finger at the music and movies young people consume. It’s a pathetic, dangerous cop-out, the mark of a society incapable of taking real responsibility for the world we’ve created.

The phoney finger-pointing and lazy cop-outs are happening again this week. The film Blue Story, a movie about inner-city gang culture, has been banned by the cinema chain Vue. The ban follows a mass brawl involving machetes at a Vue movie-house in Birmingham in which seven police officers were injured. Now you can’t go to see the film at Vue cinemas in Aberdeen, Hamilton, Glasgow, Stirling, Edinburgh, Livingston, and Inverness.

Director Andrew Onwubolu – better known by his stage-name Rapman – says the studio behind the film, Paramount, will provide extra security at cinemas. Understandably, he feels wronged by the ban. Blue Story explores the lives of young black men in inner-city London. His other work, a three-part series of short films called Shiro’s Story, is a modern urban opera, a tale of alienated youth and violence set to a rap soundtrack.

Rapman is an artist trying to say something important to us. Blue Story is meant “to show you what these young boys are fighting for”. Isn’t that what art is supposed to do? Take hold of the matters which trouble society – in this case gang violence – and try to explain what’s going on?

What makes the censorship even more troubling is the sense that if this had been a film about white gangs, the backlash wouldn’t have been as extreme. There have been plenty of films about white violence which received nothing but praise: Scum, about borstal boys; American History X, and Made in Britain, about neo-Nazis; Harry Brown, about young hoodlums terrorising the elderly.

Accusations of latent racism have already flown. Vue says its decision is “categorically not” related to race, but to violence. However, it’s hard to see why the answer to violence is suppressing an important film documenting social ills.

If we censor art, we’ll never solve the questions raised by the artists. That irony is worth mulling over. Here’s a director trying to show us the truth about young violent men, asking us to think about why young men become violent and if there’s any solution and for his troubles the movie gets a partial ban.

Artists aren't responsible for how anyone responds to their work. When A Clockwork Orange was linked to violence in the 1970s, director Stanley Kubrick was hounded in the press, his family received threats and protestors turned up at his home. He eventually asked Warner Brothers to withdraw the film from the UK. Kubrick later said: “To try and fasten any responsibility on art as the cause of life seems to me to put the case the wrong way around. Art consists of reshaping life, but it does not create life, nor cause life.”

Films have led to violence before and we now look back on the resulting censorship with disgust. In 1930, Nazis began targeting the anti-war movie All Quiet on the Western Front. Brownshirts disrupted screenings, assaulted audience members, and chanted ‘Judenfilm’. Eventually the film was banned because of Nazi violence. Goebbels later said that Germany had been forced to listen to “the Nazi street”.

So a film, based on a German novel, which was meant to speak to Germany about the horrors of militarism was banned because of the violent behaviour of a bunch of thugs. Sound familiar? I’m sure it sounds familiar to Rapman.

Society becomes especially foolish around art and censorship when children are seemingly involved. And of course, Blue Story focuses on the lives of the young.

Some of you may recall the ‘Blame Marilyn’ epoch of stupidity. It began after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 when two students murdered 12 classmates and one teacher and then committed suicide. At the time it was the deadliest school shooting in American history.

Instead of banning guns, instead of looking at why two young men were so twisted and alienated by the society they lived in that they’d commit such terrible crimes, America chose to blame the controversial singer Marilyn Manson. The killers were fans, we were told – except they weren’t. Nevertheless, news outlets reported that the “killers worshipped rock freak Manson” and that the “devil-worshipping maniac told kids to kill”. If it wasn’t so horribly serious, it would be funny. Twenty years on, Marilyn Manson still hasn’t killed anyone. But try counting the bodies of dead children murdered in American schools.

Britain made the same stupid mistake after the murder of two-year-old James Bulger. Instead of taking time for national reflection and asking what on Earth had gone wrong in our society to create two ten-year-old boys who would torture and kill a toddler, we decided to blame horror movies.

The tabloids didn’t seek to explore parenting or poverty – they turned on the film Child’s Play. The family of one of the killers, Jon Venables, rented the film, although there was no evidence he ever watched it. Police knew the link was nonsensical. Inspector Ray Simpson said: “If you are going to link this murder to a film, you might as well link it to The Railway Children”. His words may be cold and stark, but they’re brutally true.

Art isn’t meant to be easy, it’s meant to confront the most bitter problems in society, for our own good, so we can work out how to be better, as a group and as individuals.

Art is a mirror. We’re not just scared to look in the mirror, we’d rather break the mirror for daring to show us our reflection. If we don’t look in the mirror, however, we’ll never see enough to learn how to be better people.

Neil Mackay is Scotland’s Columnist of the Year