Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Morrissey: the thin line between nostalgia and racism

It took many years for the NME and Morrissey to make up after the paper called him on his flag-waving, skinhead-teasing live appearance at Madstock in Finsbury Park. It seemed, though, that passing time and changes in the editorial team had smoothed over the breach. In 2004, he once again graced the cover.

So it was that Tim Jonze went off to interview Mozzer for this week's paper, expecting a fairly dull elder-statesman-of-rock-speaks piece.

That was, until Morrissey started to talk. Jonze asked about the state of the world:

"Can we help but be annoyed? Certainly in England, everyone is taxed for everything under the guise of saving the planet..."

If this sounds more like the sort of thing you'd expect to see in the Telegraph op-ed page than the NME, more is to come. Mozzer grumbles how there's "no democracy" in England, before moving on to the state of Britain:
Britain's a terribly negative place.

This from Morriseey, who has already spent three columns grumbling and moaning about everything from the way people write about him and Marr to how people carry cameras with their phones.
And it hammers people down and it pulls you back and it prevents you.

So far, he sounds a lot like those other expats who go off to live in tax exile and pretend it's a cultural rather than an economic decision, like Michael Caine.
Also, with the issue of immigration, it's very difficult because although I don't have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears. So the price is enormous. If you travel to Germany, it's still absolutely Germany [...] But to travel to England and you have no idea where you are!"

Oh.

Not, of course, that he has anything against people from other countries.

He stresses that he's worried about the loss of identity and concedes that there's something "nice" about the enrichment offered by immigration ("but you have yo say goodbye to the Britain you once knew"), before worrying that, ooh, you don't hear English voices any more:
[T]he change in England is so rapid compared to the change in any other country. If you walk through Knightsbridge on any bland day of the week you won't hear an English accent. You'll hear every accent under the sunapart from the British accent.

The converstaion turns to Bengali in Platforms, which Morrissey defends again on the grounds that the song was about someone who didn't belong, "just didn't", but not because of race.

So far, then, this is what you'd expect - a rich ex-pat muttering away about immigration "diluting" a nation, complaining about how you hear funny foreign voices on the bus - it's clear that, as with Dannii Minogue's racism over lunch with GQ a few years back, although this is unpleasant, it's being offered without malice. It's the soft racism that pervaded my parent's generation - "nothing against people from overseas", it's just they're different. Xenophobia from a fear of change, and lazy scapegoating of an easy target to blame.

It's disappointing, of course, to hear this sort of hateful rubbish being trotted out - an intelligent man who complains about the British government and ruling classes and media apparently getting his worldview from the news pages of the Daily Mail. We do love, by the way, that Morrissey cites Knightsbridge as the exemplar of Britishness - hanging around outside Harrods, a shop that sucks in tourists, you would expect to hear the sound of people from overseas.

There's worse to come, though. Worried by the tenor, Jonze sought a second interview to give Morrissey room to - presumably - explain the whole thing away as a silly misunderstanding. That didn't quite happen. Explaining his reasons for accepting a chance for clarification, Morrissey starts off well:
I just think it could be construed that the reason I wouldn't wish to live in England is the immigration explosion

He does mutter on that, rather, it's the "expense" and "pressure" which keeps him away, but the mere fact that he speaks of immigration as an "explosion" rather than an ongoing, two-way process that's been happening as long as humanity have been able to build boats hints that he does see people from overseas as a problem.

Surprisingly, he then claims that the face of Britain in Jean Charles DeMenzes, and how you don't "shoot someone seven times in the head by accident". This is quite surprising - does Morrissey feel that he'd be at risk of an accidental execution if he lived in Levenshulme? Did a man who lived in LA - a place not exactly unknown for difficulties with police over-reacting - really find the prospect of Lancashire so frightening?

Sadly, the question is left hanging, as Moz is pressed on if he regrets anything he said:
In my life, my favourite actor is an Israeli, Lior Ashkenazi, and my favourite singer was born in Iraq and now lives in Egypt.

Oh, god; he really is using the "how can I be racist, I watched all of Roots and once went to see Sammy Davis Jr play" defence. Albeit slightly QI-ed up.

The NME points out that immigration helped his parents into Britain:
Yes. But once again, it's different now. Because the gates are flooded. And anybody can have access to England and join in.

Apart from being sickening - flooded? - this simply isn't true; it's the sort of ill-considered rubbish you hear BNP supporters bleating. Anybody can have access to England? Really, Morrissey? Have you ever spent any time at a immigration office? Who do you think are all those people being deported constantly?

Of course, Morrissey tries to stress that he's only being sensible - you can't let everyone come in and sit on your bed, apparently - and denies being inflammatory. He then worries he's going to be stitched up - although, if he doesn't think he's being inflammatory or offensive, why would he be worried by that?

This is clearly contentious material - indeed, Conor McNicholas feels the need to produce an editorial column to stress that, you know, Morrissey isn't racist, probably:
I'm convinced Morrissey is ultimately just a nostalgic creature who pines for the England of his youth

Oddly, though, this doesn't stop McNicholas slapping this on the coverline:
Bigmouth Strikes Again: Morrissey "The gates of England are flooded. The country's been thrown away" Oh dear. Not again.

- which hardly suggests that the paper sees this as just a swansong for a prewar Blighty that never existed.

Meanwhile, True To You Morrissey fanzine carries a piece by Moz manager Merck Mercuriadis, giving a Morrissey view the background to the interview. He says they'd heard NME was planning "a hatchet job":
We immediately contacted the magazine's editor Conor McNicholas who refuted the suggestion that the NME would be anything less than supportive and personally posted on the site categorically denying the "rumours and untruths."

Clearly, rather than accepting that their man wasn't hatcheted, but more slapped himself round his own head, Mercuriadis then quotes an email he claims he got from
Tim Jonze:
"Hope you're well. I should mention that for reasons I'll probably never understand, NME have rewritten the Moz piece. I had a read and virtually none of it is my words or beliefs so I've asked for my name to be taken off it. Just so you know when you read it."

And, indeed, the article does appear under a clumsy "interview: Tim Jonze words: NME" byline, which makes the first person nature of the article a little odd, to say the least.

Morrissey's management sent an email to Conor; the response - claims Mercuriadis - was deliberately delayed to avoid any legal action keeping the paper from entering distribution. The response is quoted in full on True To You, but this is pretty much the tenor:
Obviously no-one is accusing Morrissey of racism - that would be mad given what Morrissey says - but we do say that the language Morrissey uses is very unhelpful at a time of great tensions. I am - as I say in the magazine - fully confident that Morrissey's comments are simply the result of a man in his 50s looking back nostalgically on the England of his youth, but his reasoning for that change is unreasonably skewed towards immigration and as a title we think that's wrong. I think he's simply naive and doesn't understand the atmosphere here. I don't think he wishes anyone any harm but I don't think he understand the climate or the possible interpretation of his comments either.

We wonder if McNicholas actually paused to consider - given the "climate or possible interpretation of his comments" - whether running a coverline of "the gates of England are flooded. The country's been thrown away" would be helpful or not?

Mercuriadis throws himself on our mercy:
When reading it we request that you think for yourself and consider what is question and answer and what is inflammatory editorial on the part of the NME which we assume can only be intended to create controversy to boost their circulation at the expense of Morrissey's integrity and for which no journalist is willing to be credited. It might as well say "anonymous."

It's true that the NME doesn't exactly come out of this looking great - it's trying to have its 'Mozzer race row' piece while desperately stressing that it doesn't believe Morrissey is racist - but the trouble is that even if you ignore the confused editorialising in the article, well, yes, Morrissey does still come across terribly. Not calling for race riots, perhaps, but using inflammatory, ignorant language and unacceptable imagery and singling out "otherness" as being a threat to "Englishness".

It's noticeable that Mercuriadis doesn't quite have the confidence to leave it there, but feels the need to stress just how not-racist Morrissey is:
As we all know, the NME does not speak for its readership, the artists do. Artists like Morrissey. The NME also does not speak for Morrissey. Anti-racist songs such as "Irish Blood, English Heart," "America Is Not The World" and "I Will See You In Far-Off Places" tell you the true measure of the man.

Well, perhaps they do. One has that clunky bit about how we shouldn't feel racist standing by the Union flag (which sounds like the sort of thing the UK Independence Party trot out); the other two contain kneejerk anti-Americanism which - while it might be delightful to those who indulge in geopolitics by numbers - hardly is the same thing as a condemnation of racism. In fact:
And don't you wonder/ why in Estonia they say/ hey you, you big fat pig, you fat pig, you fat pig

sounds suspiciously like lazy all-Americans-are-fat stereotyping to us.

It's true, though, that he does lament there never being a "black, female or gay" president, so how could he be racist, eh?

Somewhat surprisingly, Mercuriadis signs off by publishing a letter from Mozzer's legal team to Conor - one that's covered in "not for publication"s and "strictly private and confidential"s all over it.

The legal letter insists that describing Morrissey as racist would be "malicious" - although, as we've seen, the NME bends over backwards to deny that it thinks Morrissey is racist and threatens withdrawal of planned Mozzer 7" covermount, besides other comments. It also demands McNicholas apologies to Morrissey for - apparently - having told Tim Jonze that Morrissey wouldn't want "a [black person] living next door".

It's all a bit of a nasty mess - Morrissey revealing more deeply the unpleasant side to his character and then attempting to use legal letters from this being shared; the NME trying to take two positions at the same time; and a suggestion that McNicholas apologise for something he may or may not have said in private.

No, Morrissey doesn't think he's being racist; he doesn't realise he's stirring up a hornets nest. That's what actually makes it worse.

[Thanks to Duncan for the link]


29 comments:

Pelotudo said...

I read the Morrisey brouhaha and frankly I am not that upset by it at all. I find it more honest than most things written by so-called liberals in defense of saving the earth or living the Benetton poster, who at the end of the day don't pay taxes on their illegal worker nanny. These people lie more than any republican conservative I have ever encountered. I live in the United States, NYC, to be exact and feel 100% on Moz's side.
People in their private thoughts are racist all day long, and I am talking about the intellectual as well as the 'blue-collar' plumber.
For example, if someone is driving their vehicle terribly, the first thing that you will most likely do is see who is behind the wheel in order to see if racial stereotype profile has been fulfilled. Personally, it is about 98% accurate. When I traveled to England (stayed in Ealing)in 1993 for the first time, the first thing I noticed was that every convenience shop was not owned by a Brit, but rather by an auslander (sorry, German). When I go and visit my relatives in Cadiz, Spain, the shops are manned by Spaniards. Try going to certain restaurants in Japan if you are a foreigner, good luck! Here is the United States, we ourselves are loosing the our quaint wholesomeness, in every state in the country, the Mexican population is exploding. I talk to a lot of Mexican people on a weekly basis and I bluntly ask then how Mexico would cope if by some reason they were considered the promised land and Brazilians crossed the borders in tens of thousands into and demanded that they provide legal documentation in Portuguese; their response on average is NUNCA, los echamos antes de eso. ( NEVER, we'll kick them out before it even gets to that stage)

We as people, who for the most part grew up listening to the Smiths, came from middle to upper middle class families. Our neighborhoods were nice, our parents had nice cars, etc., whether you grew up in Buenos Aires, such as myself, or in a hamlet in Northeastern Scotland you personally knew were you stood when it came to racial divisions. Most of us were very content in attempting to live in a homogeneous society.

I don't feel shame in saying this at all.

Anonymous said...

WOW! A psychic who knows what's going on in people's "private thoughts" all day. You do get a broad spectrum of readers here. Not just any old psychic either... a 98% xenophobic one! How wonderfully delightful!

Rachel Summers said...

"For example, if someone is driving their vehicle terribly, the first thing that you will most likely do is see who is behind the wheel in order to see if racial stereotype profile has been fulfilled."

Speak for yourself...I'm an American and it's never occurred to me to do that. I'm more concerned with getting well away from a bad driver rather than catching up with them to see if it's one of those people.

"Most of us were very content in attempting to live in a homogeneous society."

Even assuming you're right in saying 'most of us', that doesn't make the sentiment feasible for all time. Most of this country was "very content" with slavery and segregation not so long ago, too.

Pelotudo, your attempts to justify your racism by claiming that everyone else is as paranoid and xenophobic (untrue) or that it's simply a yearning for the "quaint wholesomeness" of earlier days (because who _doesn't_ get misty-eyed with nostalgia at the thought of lynchings..oh wait, maybe black people?) are laughable.

It seems here that calls for return to a "national identity", whether British or American, are essentially calls for a white supremacy. Oh excuse me, a "quaint wholesomeness", wherein the dominant cultural majority remains unpolluted by those filthy, unwholesome non-whites.

Anonymous said...

I would have hoped for a more insightful analysis from xrrf. Morrissey has always romanticised England and its culture so it is understandable that he would be upset by a feeling that it has been lost. He does not say anything racist yet you take the easy, holier-than-thou tone and castigate him for spouting "hateful rubbish" and "soft racism."

Certainly Morrissey's comments are emotive and factually suspect. The immigration debate is multi-faceted and I think the full content of the interview represented that. Morrissey sees the benefits of immigration (he is one himself) but also sees some costs.

I do not think it can be convincingly argued that our national culture and identity has yet been reconstructed in a multi-cultural way. I do not think it logically can be without being diluted. A sense of common purpose and identity enriches people’s lives. It's something to consider and I think Morrissey is entitled to raise it without the sixth form common room reaction.

I understand that the loss of national identity and culture is an issue genuine racists can rally around to promote a hateful agenda. But it does not follow that everyone concerned with the loss of national identity and culture is a racist. I understand the desire to expose the genuine racists but I do not think it should come at a cost to having a mature debate about these sensitive issues.

In the article "NME" wrote "There is obviously a need for debate around taboo issues like immigration" and a few paragraphs later, "We're not in the mood to play in grey areas." If that's the case they should stick to the simple "Love Music, Hate Racism" message that we can all rally behind. It is deeply unfair for NME to cast Morrissey as an anachronistic figure espousing murky opinions because he begins to engage with the complexities of the issue while the magazine does not.

simon h b said...

Pelotudo:

I'm sure that, as you drive around "racially profiling" bad drivers (because, of course, "white guys drive like this...", like in that sketch) it gives you comfort to believe that everyone is thinking racist thoughts in secret all the time - they just lie about it.

Your anecdote about going into shops in Ealing really tells me all I need to know: you see a non-white face behind a shop counter and conclude from that the shop has to be owned by someone who isn't British. Actually, you'll find that a large number of British citizens don't have white faces at all. And even if the shop was owned by a Dutchman or a Guamanian, I'm at a loss to understand why this would be a problem to you? Did the shop somehow cease to be a traditional convenience store? Had these "auslanders" refused to sell good old-fashioned Mushy peas?


Anonymous:

By "more insightful analysis", I suspect you mean "one I agree with". It's true that immigration numbers and rules should be something we could debate without the arguments cascading into racism and claims of racism. But Morrissey's comments aren't dispassionate and use loaded phrases like "gates being flooded" - conjuring images of an uncontrolled influx of the others.

I disagree with your analysis that he feels that immigration can be fine, but have costs - I think his attitude is one found sometimes found in second and third generation descendants of migrants, one of "close the gates behind me".

The problem I really have with him is this: He talks a lot about what he doesn't like - people coming from overseas, bringing their accents and ways - but nothing about what it is he is trying to protect. There's no expression of what this England he feels under threat to be. Is it village ponds and morris dancers? British Leyland? The Black and White Minstrel Show? And this is why his argument seems to be less about heritage, and more about fear of others and otherness.

I'm sure he doesn't mean it maliciously; I'm sure he really doesn't, in his heart, feel that he's behaving in a racist way. But if the imagery of a stout British yeoman under threat from an influx of overseas sounds like a recruiting call from the BNP, there's a very good reason for that.

Anonymous said...

can we assume that pelotudo isn't Lenape and is therefore perhaps something of a hypocrite?

Random R&B Bitch On The Hook said...

"I talk to a lot of Mexican people on a weekly basis and I bluntly ask then how Mexico would cope if by some reason they were considered the promised land and Brazilians crossed the borders in tens of thousands into and demanded that they provide legal documentation in Portuguese"

hahahahaha

"excuse me, where can i find the electronics section?"
"third floor, sir."
"thank y...wait, you're mexican, right?"
"uh, yes sir. well, my parents are."
"tell me, how would YOU feel if mexico was considered the promised land and brazilians crossed the borders in tens of thousands demanding that you provide legal documentation in portuguese?"
"what?"
"i thought as much. absolutely despicable. now tell me, "chico", where can i find the electronics section?"
"i already told you sir, third floor."
"oh, yeah."

Anonymous said...

Morrissey says of immigration: "it's nice in its way. But you have to say goodbye to the Britain you once knew." Of course his anti-immigration concerns are the ones the interview hones in but they are not the whole picture. His description of the gates as "flooded" is unfortunate but I don't think there is any inference that he wants the gates firmly shut.

Yes, Morrissey is unable to define what the national culture is (or was) but he is a pop singer not an anthropologist. You set him an almost impossible task.

I would not deny that there is something of a "fear of others and otherness" in what Morrissey says. Isn't that a natural human trait? That is no defence of it, of course. But we must be realistic.

Real progress has been made but prejudice is deep-seated. The debate should be about how we can further progress. I don't think that can be achieved with this strange conception that you are either perfectly oblivious to cultural identities and differences or a racist. I understand the desire to simply dismiss politically incorrect views but it is unhealthy to ignore how people feel; it does not relieve these tensions. It's incredibly complex and that why I called for a "more insightful analysis."

Anonymous said...

What I find equally as dangerous as racism, Mr. No Rockandrollfun, is individuals who crush any logical discussion regarding the immigration debate by screaming "RACIST!" at anyone who dares mention displeasure with the situation.

I've lived outside of the UK for 17 years. Last month I returned for the first time, and from that perspective what I saw was a "dilution" of British culture and - heres' you chance to call me racist - an infestation of immigration, the nature of which is lowering standards of life in various areas.

The argument is often put forward from liberals (of whom I would assume you are one) that "Britain was built on immigration!". That argument completely overlooks the fact that immigration in times past was of a completely different nature to the influx of the past 5 years or so.

You see, when, for example,the Jews flocked to London in the days of Jack The Ripper, Britain was not a welfare state. If you arrived here with nothing,you had to find work, or you would end up homeless and starving. So it can be said that virtually all the immigrants of wotking age/fitness of that era worked and paid their way into society. Thet came here and GAVE.

With the West Indians and Pakistanis in the 50's and 60's, again, they came here to work and better their previous situation, and on the whole, again, GAVE.

The difference in recent years is that we now have an ever-growing multitude of immigrants who arrive here to take full advantage of our welfare system. Many of these people have no interest in even learning our language, and don't need to because the Government has spent millions of pounds translating literature for them.

Granted, many immigrants come here and work - but for the first time in the history of immigration we are seeing immigrants arriving en masse simply to TAKE what they can get. And that is changing the nature of British society.

From being so engrained in that society you obviously didn't notice the gradual change - much the same as one doesn't notice their hair growing from day to day.

But having myself viewed the situation with the benefit of completely fresh eyes, and a down-the-line comparison from how I remember the country being 17 years ago, Morrisey's observations were spot-on.

Random R&B Bitch On The Hook said...

10:52 anonymous...you appear to be slightly confused. you complain about "dilution" of british culture, yet your main problem seems to be your perception that immigrants are coming here, leeching money off the system (or something) and refusing to integrate. surely if this was the case, they wouldn't be "diluting" anything. if they stick to their own, surely english culture would be preserved. and surely the "west indians/pakistanis" (im presuming you're labelling anyone from the indian subcontinent a pakistani) you defend are far more responsible for "diluting" british culture what with their reggae music and their curry and their funny accents?

such incoherence, as well as the use of words like "infestation", just suggests at the core of your rant is simple paranoid xenophobia.

"lowering the standards of life in various areas"? im presuming when you arrived back in the uk, you did a whirlwind tour of a bunch of deprived areas to find this out? or did you just do a one-stop whirlwind tour of a newsagent which stocked the daily express?

Unsurprised young 'un said...

It's hilarious when people spout the "they're coming here to sponge off the state" stance for being against immigration now.

How the hell do you know how "easy" it is to get benefits? It really isn't easy at all, and "illegal" immigrants most often aren't entitled to any, or even to stay here.

A lot of the immigration that is happening at the moment is normal influx of people coming to work. Now that that working laws cross the EU, making it possible for the new Eastern Bloc countries to work here without visas, they are coming here TO WORK AS THEY ARE ENCOURAGED TO DO.

Quite a lot of the British ex-pats feel no need to learn the local language of the country they now inhabit, I don't see why people living here should be bothered if we can't be arsed. And in fact they seem *proud* of the fact that they are muddying the culture of others - "Come over to Portugal, everyone speaks English and you can get fish and chips pretty much anywhere, none of this foreign muck".

I have met plenty of young europeans that have come to england to seek working opportunities, keen to learn english and make a living in this vibrant, multicultural country. I'm sorry that some of you dislike them so much.

Anonymous said...

Everyone seems to be mentioning this "dilution" of British culture, but it's not, and never has been "dilution". It's called an evolution of culture and it has been happening since the beginning of civilisation.

Are we all going around talking in the same language that Shakespeare wrote in? No, because the culture has evolved.

If it's this "dilution" that people are so worried about, why is there nobody complaining about the vast amount of American TV shows, films and music which are present all over our televisions, cinemas and radios? This culture "invasion", which changes the way that children speak to each other in the playgrounds, and will ultimately go a long way to shaping the future culture of this country?

There's no arguments against this type of "dilution" because this type of "dilution" doesn't cause the inconvenience of having to sit on the same bus as someone with darker skin, listening to them chat away on their mobile phones with their different accents or (God forbid) different language.

Call it a debate about culture all you like, it's a debate about xenophobia, with its roots in racism.


Michael

Anonymous said...

"an infestation of immigration" = RACIST!

"The difference in recent years is that we now have an ever-growing multitude of immigrants who arrive here to take full advantage of our welfare system."
Immigrants benefit economy by £2.5 billion

Pelotudo said...

Dear All Who Have Commented:

I just want to tell you all at how easy it is to create a firestorm. I have been reading No Rock And Roll Fun for quite a while.

Look, I put together these crazy ramblings like a douche just to see the reactions. It got quite a bit. Now what I don't understand how come more people don't comment on the other stories from this great gossip site. How come you guys only unite on crazy polarizing stuff and don't comment on the countless other great topics that are put up on a daily basis. The writing here is much better than The Superficial (without pictures, but so what) or D-Listed or countless other sites. This site should be massive! Please contribute comments not just to the crazy Brazilian Mexican crazy talk crap.

I believe all people are here to do something, I just don't particularly know what. Experiment completed.

Pelotudo.

Anonymous said...

> If it's this "dilution" that people are so worried about, why is there nobody complaining about the vast amount of American TV shows, films and music which are present all over our televisions, cinemas and radios? This culture "invasion", which changes the way that children speak to each other in the playgrounds, and will ultimately go a long way to shaping the future culture of this country?

Actually that was one of the main impulses behind punk. People were sick of listening to music about california and british singing with US accents.

Laura Brown said...

I'm an immigrant, having come to the UK from the U.S. eight years ago. There are quite a lot of us Yanks over here -- Canadians and Antipodeans, too. Bizarrely enough, though, opponents of immigration never seem to accuse us of "flooding" the UK, diluting British culture, detracting from a "sense of common purpose and identity" or sponging off the state.

But I'm sure there's some logical explanation; perhaps people complain about Pakistani newsagents rather than Australian bartenders because they're strict teetotalers who have never seen the inside of a pub. I wouldn't want to scream "racist," after all.

(Besides, I can't possibly be anti-racist, because Kipling is one of my favourite authors and I have an aunt who complains about the Mexican population in her neighbourhood.)

David said...

Can't say I agree that Morrissey's comments are "sickening" but they are undoubtedly poorly judged. The use of the word "flooded" in relation to immigration is pretty much a no-no but other than that, there's little to get hot under the collar about. Surely he has the right to make the type of ill-conceived observation that tabloid columnists are making every day of the week.

NME's posturing is the strange part. It seems totally confused - its editor admits Morrissey's comments are not racist but are simply "nostalgic". However, it then gives these nostalgic witterings the full front cover treatment and creates a media frenzy around the issue of immigration and alleged racism.

If it really felt Morrissey's comments were dangerous, it simply wouldn't give him a platform. And the fact that no journalist is willing to put his name to the piece suggests a hatchet job aimed at courting PR, rather than a serious piece of rock journalism.

Rachel Summers said...

The comments that imply that somehow opining that one is racist is automatically unfair or immature or "crushing logical discussion" can, I think, be simply filed under "I don't agree with it, but rather than come up with a good counter-argument, I'm going to straw-man by claiming that there is no insightful/mature debate going on." Although, that's _exactly_ what we have here, a nice stimulating debate of such matters. Nice try, though.

"I don't think that can be achieved with this strange conception that you are either perfectly oblivious to cultural identities and differences or a racist."

It's not an either/or proposition...and we're speaking here of a supposed "national" identity, not simply a cultural one (though obviously the two can overlap). And sorry, but if the shoe fits, Morrissey gets to wear it.

"You see, when, for example,the Jews flocked to London in the days of Jack The Ripper, Britain was not a welfare state. If you arrived here with nothing,you had to find work, or you would end up homeless and starving."

Ah for the good old days, when government didn't give a damn whether people starved...sorry, I'll take the "welfare state" over that any day. To say nothing of the fact that a lot of people wouldn't _hire_ Jews (or Irish, or blacks, etc, etc).

Pelotudo's really adding to the hilarity: "I just want to tell you all at how easy it is to create a firestorm.
Look, I put together these crazy ramblings like a douche just to see the reactions...Experiment completed."

Oh please. I've seen this tactic used over and over by those on the losing side of an internet argument for years: "oh it was just an experiment, ha ha look at how clever I am, inciting debate on a controversial topic." The 12-year-olds on YouTube are particularly adept at this. Congrats..before you had some credibility as someone with an actual viewpoint (albeit an unpopular one), now you don't even have that.

BeforeEven assuming you really had nothing better to do than work on your Nick Griffin impression, what have you accomplished? Proving that people are interested in debating these issues? Whoa, how insightful.

"Now what I don't understand how come more people don't comment on the other stories from this great gossip site."

Are you really that obtuse? Of _course_ more people are going to be interested in discussing an issue like immigration and what it does or doesn't do to a nation, rather than the new gossip guy over at the Sun.

Bona Drag said...

I think it is a valid point to observe that accusations of racism are bandied about unhelpfully. We have moved beyond racism. I think very few people in the UK are still racist in the sense that they think their race is superior to others. I also think that most people have moved beyond discrimination, certainly pernicious discrimination. I do however think that many people still hold prejudices. Morrissey's comments indicate that he may well be one of them.

Although I do not consider myself to be particularly prejudiced I still think that I could be less prejudiced. I think many people are in that position but won't admit it, perhaps even to themselves. They don't want to be classed a 'racist' which is a great slur today (and it should be when applied correctly.) If you accuse someone who is merely a little prejudiced of being 'racist' they will recoil and deny the charge. If you accuse them of being 'a little prejudiced' they will be more likely to recognise that truth and then they can try to improve themselves.

Prejudice and discrimination are dirty words yet we all do both. I would never try to chat up a girl wearing a hijab. What she wears signifies to me that we have some seriously different views and I would imagine that she would not want to go out with a godless type like me. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this kind of discrimination. It may sound ridiculously flippant but I would also never chat up a girl wearing Ugg boots. It’s a prejudice I have and I would discriminate on that basis. I don’t think that’s quite what we mean when we say discrimination. If I was an employer and had a choice between a better qualified candidate who wore the hijab or a less well qualified candidate wearing clothes I liked, I would pick the girl in the hijab.

Do I have racial prejudices? Yes, I do. I would like to say I didn’t. However while we do not live in an integrated society I am not sure if I could, or would even want to eradicate the small racial prejudice I have. I am more likely to share beliefs and interests with another white man than a brown-skinned man. If you put me in a room with two men identical except for their skin colour I would be ever so slightly more inclined towards the white man. That’s because the brown skinned man’s skin colour symbolises (even though it is a generalisation) that he is likely to have less in common with me than the white man. Note, if the white man was a skinhead in bovver boots and the brown-skinned man was well turned out in a suit I would be inclined towards the brown-skinned man. Equally if I identified more strongly with the generalisations I apply to brown-skinned men, I would be inclined towards the brown-skinned man. But until we are integrated to an extent that white or brown skin has absolutely no connotation about culture my prejudice will remain.

I don’t know if this makes me racist. You could certainly argue that I am. I think that it would be grossly over-simplistic to use the same word, ‘racist’, to describe me, as you would to describe the views on race held by Adolf Hitler. I would be greatly offended by the comparison. I would like to think that the root of my racial prejudice is external to me. You may disagree but hopefully what I have written will show just how complex this is and why it’s unhelpful to just throw that word ‘racist’ around. It might make you feel better about yourself: “He’s a racist and I’m not, therefore I am a good person”, but I don’t think it aids progress or understanding in these sensitive areas.

Rachel Summers said...

"We have moved beyond racism."

That made me chortle...and made me think of the time I got a message on a MySpace-type site from a British woman calling me slurs and complaining about me in terms of being a "convenience-store owning Paki" who was somehow ruining England (despite being a) American and b) mainly of European descent as far back as I'm aware). I'm sure everyone who's very recently been attacked verbally or physically as a result of their (real or believed) ethnicity/nationality would be gratified to know that it was in all their head, since we're all "beyond racism" now.

Simon's already specified that if Morrissey's guilty of racism, it's the sort of 'soft' racism that one's parents would hold, so it doesn't hold water to infer that people are being equated with Hitler.

"I am more likely to share beliefs and interests with another white man than a brown-skinned man."

See, that right there just makes me blink and scratch my head. I don't automatically assume that I have more in common with a white person than a non-white aside from a possible shared heritage (i.e., they might also come from French stock). It seems incredibly antiquated to me to think that because someone "looks" the same in terms of their similar colour, they have similar interests.

The very language used by Morrissey and others here points to certain preconceived notions that are inherently racist: a "national identity" that is somehow "diluted" (which is always used in a pejorative sense) by the presence of immigrants, even if they themselves are citizens and therefore part of the "national identity".

I think the accusations of racism have been helpful in that it's shown that the phenomenon still exists, it's just that its symptoms in those it afflicts are more subtle than that of the usual neo-Nazi stereotype.

"It might make you feel better about yourself: 'He’s a racist and I’m not, therefore I am a good person'"

That's not it. But I'll explain the difference....

When I find myself thinking or acting in a prejudiced matter (or on those occasions when it's been pointed out to me), I stop and consider why I've just said or done that, and then I take steps to correct said behaviour. As a white American, I know I have prejudices I'm probably not even aware of due to societal conditioning. But I'm open to discovering them and changing/removing them, rather than becoming overly defensive or rationalizing away what I feel ("everyone else does it and they're liars if they say otherwise", "I _can't_ be racist/homophobic/etc, some of my best friends are...")

But to be fair, it's a hard and unpleasant sort of introspection to indulge in, which is why a lot of people (apparently) choose not to do so.

bona drag said...

Hmm, I hate to use another argument you would accuse of being a "straw-man" but I don't think you really engaged with what I wrote. You quote two sentences out of context and rebut them ably but ignoring most of the complexities that I tried to navigate.

What you did acknowledge is that you feel you have a capacity for "thinking or acting in a prejudiced matter." I genuinely believe the current climate surrounding this issue makes it difficult for people to make that acknowledgement and yet it is crucial for people to do so in order that they can challenge their own prejudices.

You say that "It seems incredibly antiquated to me to think that because someone "looks" the same in terms of their similar colour, they have similar interests." I disagree. Before I have anything else to base a judgment on, I base it on appearance. I am aware that this is only a process of crude generalisations but that does not stop me making it. If I saw someone wearing exactly the same clothes as me I would make a judgment about them in the same way. I was trying to explore if, because skin colour is so sensitive when introduced into this, it makes that whole mental process something we must attempt to stop ourselves doing. If we were to draw up a list of the “average” white man’s interests, values and beliefs I think there would be differences to that of the “average” brown-skinned man. If you do not refute that then you must consider this process of snap judgments and if you think them racist when they involve a person’s skin colour.

Rachel Summers said...

"Before I have anything else to base a judgment on, I base it on appearance. I am aware that this is only a process of crude generalisations but that does not stop me making it."

*nod* And everything tends to reflexively do that, no problem there.

"If we were to draw up a list of the 'average' white man’s interests, values and beliefs I think there would be differences to that of the 'average' brown-skinned man. If you do not refute that.."

Actually, I _do_ refute that. There are a lot of other factors to consider besides simply apparent race here.(I say 'apparent' because one can't always tell race by looking at someone..for example, there are plenty of Americans who are half-black yet who "pass" as caucasian)

This hypothetical white person and hypothetical brown person (let's call them 'Bob' and 'Ted', respectively), for instance, might have a great deal in common with each other due to shared job/economic strata, the region they were raised, their religion, their sexual orientation, etc, etc....so much so that Bob may actually have more in common with Ted than he would with another white person who makes a great deal more or less money, was raised in a completely different area, with a completely different culture, is straight while Bob and Ted are gay, etc, etc.

Of course, whether Bob ever bothers to find out about this will depend a great deal upon whether or not he instinctively and automatically reduces things to matters of race/colour.

Random R&B Bitch On The Hook said...

can someone explain to me the need, when presented with two people, to immediately decide based on appearance which one you would connect with better?

Anonymous said...

Where I grew up in London I was very much in the minority being white and it gave an interesting insight into race relations, kind of seeing it from both sides. The first thing that strikes me looking back is where were all the white liberals in my area? Did they all decide by chance to move out as they didn't like the scenery? Where were their kids in my schools? Immigration has positive aspects and negative aspects and that's kind of obvious I guess. Move out to a "good" area, put your kids in a "good" school and shout "racist" at anyone who complains about some of the more negative aspects (which tend to be more local) doesn't make you as much of a left wing liberal as maybe you'd like.
Where I studied at college the Indians tended to stick together and avoid the Pakistani groups and vice versa. Religious differences and tensions about Kashmir etc. I had a guy of African origin warn me about mixing with people from Jamaica because they were all lazy and never amounted to anything. Likewise someone from Jamaican origin saying the Africans were all thieves. What many of the groups thought about women left a lot to be desired. I was invited into the house of an Indian friend and his family came out to greet me, saw my white face and turned round and completely blanked me as (my friend later admitted) his family would only deal with Brits if they were forced to on business. But the only group it seems at times that is capable of prejudice are whites.
What this attitude of whites being the only ones capable of prejudice has achieved is we've created a generation who feel it's ok to hate white people simply because of their colour. It's kind of like the only "politically correct" form of prejudice but it's only serving to increase the divide.
We have to be able to raise these issues of negative effects of immigration too if we're going to make things better. Yes, it adds to the economy and Britain has benefitted but also you need extra local investment for education, language etc. It seems that anyone who raises their hand to talk about this gets shouted down by liberals trying to earn extra PC points. We have to talk about this in a grown up manner.
For some, the eroding of UK culture IS a negative aspect and why (if it's taken as part of a balanced, rational point of view) can't we allow that person their say as you would defend a person from an ethnic community defending their culture?
We have to bring these issues into mainstream politics and be able to talk about them like grown ups. Back bending liberals trying to score PC points are at times not helping. The end result of suppressing people's views will be that you'll push them into the hands of parties like the BNP.

Michael said...

Anonymous said...

"For some, the eroding of UK culture IS a negative aspect..."

But this is the point! There is NO SUCH THING as the erosion of UK culture, it is evoulution of culture.

Mikey said...

British culture has been eroded by lots of waves of immigration - for example the Normans, the Vikings, the Hugenots, the Irish, West Indians, Asians, and (for all I know) a stealthy invasion of Martians.

Just about everybody wants to live in Britain, because it's the best place on Earth and I admire anyone who has endured enormous privations to get here from China or wherever.

Which British culture does Morrissey advocate we return to? Morris dancing? Druids? Painting ourselves with woad?

Rachel Summers said...

anon: "The first thing that strikes me looking back is where were all the white liberals in my area? Did they all decide by chance to move out as they didn't like the scenery? Where were their kids in my schools?"

This is a good point; I've said myself that if white people (or anyone, for that matter) wish to support diversity and multiculturalism, they must be willing to live in those neighborhoods, keep their kids in state schools, etc, etc. And there are plenty of liberals who feel this way, though it destroys your useful generalization.

anon: "But the only group it seems at times that is capable of prejudice are whites."

Not at all--as you've demonstrated, albeit with anecdotal evidence, non-whites are capable of prejudice as well. I don't believe anyone in this particular part of the debate has said otherwise. However, whites are still the dominant cultural majority and the ones with the most legislative power and so when allegations of racism are made or considered, there is often the underlying assumption that actual power of the dominant majority is involved.

anon: "It seems that anyone who raises their hand to talk about this gets shouted down by liberals trying to earn extra PC points. We have to talk about this in a grown up manner."

PC points? What prizes can I get with those, and where do I turn them in? Or could it just be that said liberals are simply expressing their opinions, just as you are? And compared to quite a few other debates I've witnessed, this is actually a very grown-up debate...I don't see much in the way of name-calling or outright flaming. It seems more that you are annoyed that the debate is not going your way; however, if you head over to the Sun online, it seems that the majority of the readers posting there on the topic agree with you.

anon: "For some, the eroding of UK culture IS a negative aspect and why (if it's taken as part of a balanced, rational point of view) can't we allow that person their say as you would defend a person from an ethnic community defending their culture?"

I believe that for many of us, the crux of things is whether it really is a "balanced, rational point of view" to defend some nebulous idea of UK culture (which seems to mean "homogenous, white, and therefore superior"). Also, the difference is that an immigrant practicing their cultural traditions (assuming they are not breaking any laws) is not infringing upon the rights of a white native-born English citizen to practice his or her own white traditions. Attempts to preserve a "British national identity" by complaining that immigrants are present with the implication that they need to--who knows? blend in completely? move back home?--is infringing upon their rights to live as they choose. (Not to mention laughably petty in some cases..."they have accents!" Oh, the horror...)

anon: "Back bending liberals trying to score PC points are at times not helping."

I would advise resisting such labelling (back-bending? to whom? surely not to those we're debating...to those dominating immigrants then?); it brings down the level of debate. The other side could also just as easily talk about "goose-stepping conservatives" but this would be just as defamatory and unfair.

anon: "The end result of suppressing people's views will be that you'll push them into the hands of parties like the BNP."

In other words, "give the angry white folks what they want or they'll take out their anger on the immigrants". First off, when Morrissey and others make poorly-thought-out comments like he has, they're already playing into the hands of the BNP. Secondly, no one's views are being suppressed; I haven't seen anyone say that Morrissey should just shut up or somehow be prohibited from speaking his mind(and would disagree with them if they did). In fact, I would like him to elaborate _more_ on his views; at the very worst it could clarify and add to the ongoing dialogue re immigration and his actual viewpoint, and at best it might turn out that he's a much better man than his own occasional kneejerk statements make him out to be.

Mikey: "Which British culture does Morrissey advocate we return to? Morris dancing? Druids? Painting ourselves with woad?"

Well-put..we have similar concerns here in the States regarding a possible "dilution" of American culture, even more hilarious considering we're only a country of around 200 years as a democracy and were pretty much founded and built by immigrants.

Some of us by way of response have taken to wearing T-shirts bearing pictures of Native Americans with the caption "The original Homeland Security". :]

Anonymous said...

Rachel Summers: And there are plenty of liberals who feel this way, though it destroys your useful generalization.
Well, not really as it was just that: a generalization. Generally it holds true even though you may be able to cite individual examples.

Rachel Summers: PC points? What prizes can I get with those, and where do I turn them in?
I think it's the moral pat on the back that gives the kick.

Rachel Summers: I believe that for many of us, the crux of things is whether it really is a "balanced, rational point of view" to defend some nebulous idea of UK culture (which seems to mean "homogenous, white, and therefore superior").
That's quite a nasty conclusion to jump to and not based on anything I actually said. Britain has always been a multi cultural society and I and the people I count as friends wouldn't have it any other way. To admit there are problems within the groups, talk about them and try to find solutions has nothing to do with that. I don't think I stated much in the way of conclusions but to save you jumping to any more, I would say that Britain is having a hard time coping with the level of immigration going on at the moment. We have to streamline the whole asylum system and try to curb illegal immigration. Also that the EU was expanded too rapidly and the whole process should have taken place over many more years. Certainly not that people should be sent "back home" but the way you immediately jump to that conclusion is just the kind of thing I was talking about.

Rachel Summers: However, whites are still the dominant cultural majority and the ones with the most legislative power and so when allegations of racism are made or considered, there is often the underlying assumption that actual power of the dominant majority is involved.
Well, yes but the ethnic minorities are now very sizeable groups and have considerable economic and social clout. If you live in those areas you care less who holds the balance nationally. All I'm saying anyway is both sides can be equally prejudice or racist. That's obvious I believe. We have to deal with issues of racism on a "people" basis not on a "colour" basis otherwise we just divide people further by teaching one group that another group hates them because of their colour. Imagine we as a community learn that there are instances of prejudice and racism and how to tackle that together. Apart from being more like the truth anyway, wouldn't that be a more unifying approach?

Rachel Summers: In other words, "give the angry white folks what they want or they'll take out their anger on the immigrants".
Actually yes, this is exactly what I'm worried about. Immigration has a benefit and a cost. Where there is a cost this has to be addressed by mainstream politics without politicians facing these kinds of reactions just for broaching the issue. We've seen in the last years a steady rise of the far right in France, Holland, Belgium and the UK and this should worry all of us. They are actively wooing voters who are not getting answers from the mainstream. The "Le Pen" camp in France got a drubbing this time round because according to the reports I saw (BBC, not the sun) the French mainstream are now starting to tackle some of these issues.

Rachel Summers: Some of us by way of response have taken to wearing T-shirts bearing pictures of Native Americans with the caption "The original Homeland Security". :]
Well, at least you got the T-Shirt. That should help things a lot. ;-)

Mikey: Which British culture does Morrissey advocate we return to? Morris dancing? Druids? Painting ourselves with woad?
Spanish people quite like and would probably like to maintain their culture but I don't think anyone would advocate them installing a gladiator ring just because the Romans were there 2000 years ago. It's a clever sounding line though but I don't think it's too relevant.

Rachel Summers said...

anon: "I would say that Britain is having a hard time coping with the level of immigration going on at the moment. We have to streamline the whole asylum system and try to curb illegal immigration. Also that the EU was expanded too rapidly and the whole process should have taken place over many more years."

I have no problem with these views as expressed; the problem is that Morrissey has not said anything as specific or eloquent. He's instead made very broad statements which he then poorly defends (as when he blew his chance to defend "Bengali In Platforms" in Sounds).

anon: "We have to deal with issues of racism on a 'people' basis not on a 'colour' basis otherwise we just divide people further by teaching one group that another group hates them because of their colour."

Because they haven't already been taught that another group hates them by the BNP, by people stating or implying that they're shiftless layabouts, by people stating or implying that they're taking jobs away from native-born and white English citizens, by people complaining about having to hear their accents in Knightsbridge, by getting beaten up....yeah, sure.

anon: "Well, at least you got the T-Shirt. That should help things a lot. ;-)"

Wearing of said T-shirts is, of course, supplemental to more obvious activities such as voting, peaceful protest, and more direct challenge of opposing viewpoints such as this wonderful discourse here. It was also more aimed at Mikey; I didn't expect those on the opposing side to particularly appreciate it.

As I've said before, legitimate concerns regarding the strain immigration puts on finite resources is one thing, the statements that have been made by Morrissey and some others in this debate--with their underlying assumptions that immigrants are in some way fundamentally undesirable because of what they're doing to the "British national identity" or "culture" (NOT the economy, mind you, the CULTURE)--are another thing entirely, smack of racism, and so those making them are being called on it.

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