Friday, November 30, 2007

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy...

I spent most of yesterday at my "proper job" tangled up in the story about Morrissey suing the NME over an article in which they implied that he was (while being very clear that he definitely wasn't) a big old racist.

It was a nightmare - One of those stories where every tiny detail, quote and punctuation mark has to be checked by a lawyer in case you accidentally repeat a libellous comment. But more annoying was the creeping realisation that the NME were rubbing their hands in glee at dragging Morrissey's reputation through the dirt.

Their "outrage" centred around comments he made to journalist Tim Jonze about immigration.

According to the magazine, Morrissey said Britain had suffered an "immigration explosion", adding: "England is a memory now".

"The higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears," he was quoted as saying. "Other countries have held on to their basic identity yet it seems to me that England was thrown away."

In a second interview, he insisted he did not intend to be "inflammatory" and said: "I find racism very silly. Almost too silly to discuss. It's beyond reason. And makes no sense and is ludicrous."

Personally, I don't know why the NME is so upset about all of this. Are they really surprised that Morrissey - who has always been a reactionary, grumpy, out-of-touch titbrain - holds conservative political views?

Not that I agree with his comments. There is a very clear British identity which is in no danger of being diluted by immigration.

If you read Kate Fox's magnificent Watching the English to get an idea of what our national characteristics are, you'll notice that the majority of immigrants end up adopting our habits and tics - queueing; using humour as a defence mechanism; talking endlessly about the weather; finding the words poo and bum immeasurably funny.

Yes, the cultural pollination runs the other way, too. But do we really care the curry has replaced fish and chips as our national dish? (Note to Morrissey: You can still get both, the last time I checked) Perhaps the former Smiths miserablist forgets that tea, that most quintessential of British of drinks, was a foreign import as recently as 300 years ago.

What I think the NME is really upset about is that the perennial poster-boy of indie rock doesn't sign up to their right-on world view. It seems to get their goat that they idolise someone who they so profoundly disagree with. Which is weird, because musician's views are largely separate from their music.

For example: I adore Prince, but I'm not about to become a high heel-wearing, Watchtower-selling, squeaking vegan. I love Madonna, but I didn't spend the early 90s fucking everything with a pulse. I worship Girls Aloud, but I wouldn't want to spend half an hour in their company.

Actually, that last bit was a lie.

In the end, this all seems to be an unsavoury mixture of personal vendetta and massive publicity stunt on the NME's part. Unfortunately for them, it seems to have backfired right in their stupid faces.

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