Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Morrissey: "I'm not a racist"

Morrissey has issued a statement denying everything:

On Friday of last week I issued writs against the NME (New Musical Express) and its editor Conor McNicholas as I believe they have deliberately tried to characterise me as a racist in a recent interview I gave them in order to boost their dwindling circulation.

Although, of course, McNicholas stressed in the paper that they didn't think he was "a racist", but then this is an argument where close attention to detail should be important, but just isn't happening.

Take, for example, the constant conflating on all sides of "a racist person" - someone whose political beliefs have an element built on the supposed superiority of some races, and "something being racist" - a thought or an action which has been dictated by an awareness of racial difference rather than because the architect of that action is "a racist." Nobody much believes that Morrissey is a racist, but much of his thought on immigration is racist. It's very easy for Morrissey to stand up and say "I'm not a racist" - but that, really, isn't the point:
I abhor racism and oppression or cruelty of any kind and will not let this pass without being absolutely clear and emphatic with regard to what my position is.

Racism is beyond common sense and I believe it has no place in our society.

Which is clear, and unequivocal, and heartfelt.

Mozzer suggests he's being stitched up because he turned down the chance to headline an NME gig:
To anyone who has shown or felt any interest in my music in recent times, you know my feelings on the subject and I am writing this to apologize unreservedly for granting an interview to the NME. I had no reason whatsoever to assume that they could be anything other than devious, truculent and unreliable. In the event, they have proven to be all three.

The NME have, in the past, offered me their "Godlike Genius Award" and I had politely refused. With the Tim Jonze interview, the Award was offered once again, this time with the added request that I headline their forthcoming awards concert at the O2 Arena, and once again I declined it. This is nothing personal against the NME, although the distressing article would suggest the editor took it as such.

That's quite a bold claim: that Conor McNicholas has been motivated purely by malice.

Although quite how McNicholas' malice would lead Morrissey to start talking about immigration isn't clear.
My own view is that award ceremonies in pop music are dreadful to witness and are simply a way of the industry warning the artist "see how much you need us" - and, yes, the "new" NME is very much integrated into the industry, whereas, deep in the magazine's empirical history, the New Musical Express was a propelling force that answered to no one. It led the way by the quality of its writers - Paul Morley, Julie Burchill, Paul du Noyer, Charles Shaar Murray, Nick Kent, Ian Penman, Miles - who would write more words than the articles demanded, and whose views saved some of us, and who pulled us all away from the electrifying boredom of everything and anything that represented the industry. As a consequence the chanting believers of the NME could not bear to miss a single issue; the torrential fluency of its writers left almost no space between words, and the NME became a culture in itself, whereas Melody Maker or Sounds just didn't. Into the 90s, the NME's discernment and polish became faded nobility, and there it died - but better dead than worn away. The wit imitated by the 90s understudies of Morley and Burchill assumed nastiness to be greatness, and were thus rewarded. But nastiness isn't wit and no writers from the 90s NME survive. Even with sarcasm, irony and innuendo there is an art, of sorts. Now deep in the bosom of time, it is the greatness of the NME's history on which the "new" NME assumes its relevance.

We're not entirely sure why Morrissey is so keen to share the history of the NME, and I'm not sure its entirely accurate. Unless Morrissey is surprised that a magazine no longer features writers from fifteen or so years ago, he seems to be claiming that the people who wrote for the NME in the 90s have vanished from the face of the culture: Andrew Collins, Stuart Maconie, Danny Kelly? Gavin Martin was in the Mirror talking about Cerys Matthews only yesterday. Paolo Hewitt is still knocking out two or three Paul Weller books every year.
It is on the backs of writers such as Morley, Burchill, Kent and Shaar Murray that the "new" NME hitches its mule-cart, assuming equal relevance. But the stalled views of the "new" NME sag, and readers have been driven away by a magazine with no insides. The narrow cast of repeated subjects sets off the agony, a mesmerizing mess of very brief and dispassionate articles unable to make thought evolve; a marooned editor who holds the divine right to censor any views that clash with his own.

Is it really the case that Burchill and Kent are so important to the current NME? Sure, the magazine trades on the name and brand which those writers helped to build up - but look at the NME, with its Frank Gallows cool lists: do you really think it is selling itself to an audience who revere Charles Shaar Murray, Morrissey?
The editorial treatment given to my present interview with the "new" NME is the latest variation on an old theme, but like a pre-dawn rampage, the effects of the interview have been meticulously considered with obvious intentions. It is true that the magazine is ailing badly in the market place, but Conor doesn't understand how the relentless stream of "cheers mate, got pissed last night, ha ha" interviews that clutter every single issue of the "new" NME are simply not interesting to those of us who have no trouble standing upright. Strangely enough, my own name is the only one featured in the "new" NME that links their present with the NME's distant past, therefore a Morrissey interview is an ideal opportunity with which to play the editorial naughtiness game.

Really, Morrissey? You're the only 'old' NME name who gets covered in the current paper? What about Ian Brown? What about Jarvis? What about Shaun Ryder? The eye-wateringly awful 'get the Sex Pistols to number one' campaign of a couple of months back?
This, regrettably, is what has taken place with this most recent interview, which, it need hardly be said, bears no relation in print to the fleshly conversation that took place.

'Fleshy conversation' and 'editorial naughtiness' - it's like he's morphed into an ITV impressionist doing Stephen Fry.
I do not mean to be rude to Tim Jonze, but when I first caught sight of him I assumed that someone had brought their child along to the interview. The runny nose told the whole story.

Jonze is lucky he doesn't mean to be rude. God alone knows what he'd have got then.
Conor had assured that Tim was their best writer. Talking behind his hands in an endless fidget, Tim accepted every answer I gave him with a schoolgirl giggle, and repeatedly asked me if I was shocked at how little he actually knew about music. I told him that, yes, I was shocked. It was difficult for me to believe that the best writer from the "new" NME had never heard of the song 'Drive-in Saturday'; I explained that it was by David Bowie, and Tim replied "Oh, I don't know anything about David Bowie." I wondered how it could be so - how the quality of music journalism in England could have fallen so low that the prime "new" NME writer knew nothing of David Bowie, an artist to whom most relevant British artists are indebted, and one who single-handedly changed British culture - musically and otherwise.

It is, indeed, depressing and surprising to hear Jonze didn't know the song - although we suspect that claims to not know "anything" about Bowie might have been hyperbolic.
Tim's line of questioning advanced with: "What about politics, then ... the state of the world?" - which, I was forced to assume, was a well-thought-out question. It was from here that the issue of immigration - but not racism - arose.

Fascinatingly, while taking quite some time to detail the David Bowie conversation, Morrissey skates over who first brought up the topic of immigration. Did Jonze lead him down the street, or did Mozzer happily volunteer the observations?

He doesn't say, instead deciding to highlight Jonze's poor grasp of London geography:
Me: If you walk down Knightsbridge you'll be hard-pressed to hear anyone speaking English.

Tim: I don't think that's true. You're beginning to sound like my parents.

Me: Well, when did you last walk down Knightsbridge?

Tim: Ummm....
Knightsbridge ....is that where Harrods is?

So, Tim was prepared to attack and argue the point without even being clear about where Knightsbridge actually is! The "new" NME strikes again. Oh dear, I thought, not again.

This is a splendid piece of misdirection. Again, it's embarrassing for Jonze to apparently not be aware where Knightsbridge is, but it's hardly important - the NME story wasn't built on the question of Morrissey suggesting that a particular London postcode had been lost; that Jonze isn't familiar with the area isn't the actual point.
I chose to mention Knightsbridge because it had always struck me as one of the most stiffly British spots in London.

Morrissey, presumably, isn't that familiar with the area either, then: given the presence of the Egyptian-owned Harrods, a number of tourist attractions and a slew of foreign embassies, surely Knightsbridge is anything but?

Morrissey then details the extent of what he says was a stitch-up:
When my comments are printed in the "new" NME they are butchered, re-designed, re-ordered, chopped, snipped and split in order to make me seem racist and unreasonable. Tim had told me about his friend who did not like the 1988 song Bengali In Platforms because the friend had thought the song attacked him on a personal level. I explained to Tim that the song was not about his friend. In print, the "new" NME do not explain this, but attempt to multiply the horror of Tim's friend by attributing "these people" and "those people" quotes to me - terms I would never use, but are useful to the "new" NME in their Morrissey-is-racist campaign because these terms are only used by people who are cold and indifferent and Thatcherite. 

All of the people I spoke to Tim about in the interview who are heroes to me and who are Middle-Eastern or of other ethnic backgrounds were of no interest to either Tim or Conor. Clearly, Tim had been briefed and his agenda was to cook up a sensational story that would give life to the "new" NME as a must-read national if not global shock-horror story. Recalling how Tim asked me to sign some CD covers, I do not blame him entirely. If Conor can provoke bureaucratic outrage with this Morrissey interview, then he can whip up support for his righteous position as the morally-bound and armoured editor of his protected readership - even though, by re-modelling my interview into a multiple horror, Conor has accidentally exposed himself as deceitful, malicious, intolerant and Morrissey-ist - all the ist's and ism's that he claims to oppose. Uniquely deprived of wisdom, Conor would be repulsed by my vast collection of World Cinema films, by my adoration of James Baldwin, my love of Middle-Eastern tunings, Kazem al-Saher, Lior Ashkenazi, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and he would be repulsed to recall a quote as printed in his magazine in or around August of this year wherein I said that my ambition was to play concerts in Iran.

Once again: owning a collection of world cinema DVDs doesn't mean your veiws on immigration aren't racist, and running over to the bookcase to show you can't be bad because you like Toni Morrison books isn't exactly engaging with the question, either.

And - since Morrissey claims to be so intolerant of people twisting and turning the truth - how come he just assumes that McNicholas would be "repulsed" by his world cinema films? And if so, why did Conor grant him space to mention them in the disputed piece?

What does a desire to play in Iran have to do with whether you believe people from other countries, other cultures have any place in the UK?

And, while we know that it was intended as a joke (a rare glimpse of a well-humoured man who has long since disappeared), is it really wise for Morrissey to suggest that he's a victim of Morrisseyist forces? To compare having an interview printed with a negative spin to being the victim of racism? At the very least, it suggests a lack of empathy and self-importance.
My heart sank as Tim Jonze let slip the tell-all editorial directive behind this interview: "It's Conor's view that Morrissey thinks black people are OK ...but he wouldn't want one living next door to him." It was then that I realized the full extent of the setup, and I felt like Bob Hoskins in the final frame of The Long Good Friday as he sits in the back of the wrong getaway car realizing the extent of the conspiratorial slime that now trapped him.

But then, like Bob Hoskins, you did get into the car of your own volition, Morrissey.
During the interview Tim asked if I would support the "Love Music Hate Racism" campaign that the NME had just written about and my immediate response was a yes as I had shown my support previously by going to one of their first benefit gigs a few years ago and had met some of their organizers as well as having signed their statement. Following the interview I asked my manager to get in touch with the NME and to pledge my further support to the campaign as I wanted there to be no ambiguity on where I stood on the subject. This was done in a clear and direct email to Conor McNicholas on the 5th of November, which went ignored and last week we found out that it had never even been presented to anyone at the campaign as that would obviously not have suited what we now know to be the NME's agenda. I am pleased to say that we have now had direct dialogue with "Love Music Hate Racism" and all of our UK tour advertising in 2008 will carry their logo and we will also be providing space in the venues for them to voice and spread their important message, which I endorse.

This, presumably, explains LMHR's sudden yanking of the web posting condemning Mozzer, then.
Who's to say what you should or shouldn't do? The IPC have appointed Conor as the editor of the "new" NME, and there he remains, ready to drag the IPC into expensive legal battles such as the one they now face with me due to Conor's personal need to misstate, misreport, misquote, misinterpret, falsify, and incite the bloodthirsty. Here is proof that the "new" NME will twist and pervert the views of any singer or musician who'd dare step into the interview ring. To such artists, I wish them well, but I would advise you to bring your lawyer along to the interview.

My own place, now and forevermore, shall not be with the "new" NME - and how wrong my face even looks on its
 cover. Of this, I am eternally grateful.

Impassioned stuff. What's missing, though, is any explanation of what he actually said. Yes, the interview may have been written to show you in a terrible light; yes, your interviewer might not have known about Bowie or Knightsbridge - he may even have had a runny nose.

But you don't deny your comments about how "the gates are flooded" or that "the British identity has disapperared" following an "influx". You don't seek to explain what you meant; to contextualise your words. Given an unfettered platform, you simply ignore the part of the interview which genuinely upset and disappointed people.

A masterpiece of misdirection. You have proved that you're not a racist - something you've not been accused of. You have done nothing to engage with the claims that your views on immigration and 'British identity' have racist undertones, though. The support for Love Music Hate Racism is welcome, but if you're going to start throwing firecrackers about immigration around, you should at least have the guts to continue the discussion when challenged.


Anonymous said...

I think a lot of the coverage of this story is verging on the demented. Saying Britain is losing its identity and its gates are flooded is not a racist statement. It's a belief that Morrissey or anyone else is perfectly entitled to without the weight of criticism we're seeing now. Racism is the belief that enthic differences define one's superiority over others. Plain and simple. "Racism" is the 21st Century "Witchcraft" of The Crucible, and its wilful bandying as an accusation does its cause no favours at all.

Morrissey might well adhere to right of centre views on immigration, but that's not a crime. He's not advocating anyone be 'sent back to where they came from'. He might well believe that some of our national identity is being lost to multiculturalism, and perhaps he'd be right. The conjecture is surely over whether this is a positive or negative national evolution. Either belief is completely acceptable, according to the law, providing you're not inciting any kind of hatred. Lamenting the past is not necessarily throwing bricks through the window of the present.

Morrissey might not live here anymore but he remains as 'British' an artist as any we've produced, and the Britain he evokes in his work is a traditionalist view, the Britain of Charles Hawtrey and Suzie Burchill. It is this lost land that he romanticises, an ambiguity he'd perhaps have been wise to avoid given his "-ist and -ism" history with the NME, but vilifying a man for statements that frankly pale into insignificance behind daily scaremongering headlines in the Mail and the Express, is wrong. Ultimately, people tut-tutting at racist finger-pointing plays into the hands of the BNP and their ilk.

Mikey said...

I think what Morrisey is trying to say is that it's not that he's a racist: It's just that the NME was better in the old days and you could leave your front door open and the coppers are getting younger an that doctor he had to see for the trouble in his back bottom was as black as your hat.

How old is he again?

Anonymous said...

Agreed on Morrissey sounding like a "sad old bitter man" (where's Nicky Wire when you actually need him?)...he's only pushing 50, too.

Latest apologist anon: stating that Britain has a "national identity" (i.e., white) and implying that it's a shame that immigration and multiculturalism is changing that, is most certainly racism. Hell, that's essentially the BNP's platform.

I don't know if Morrissey is racist per se, but he has a long history of dubious comments that, at the very least, are incredibly poorly worded. Some say that he's just pointing out facts; the difference is that while some of us shrug and go "So? Foreign accents and customs...how is this a problem?", some seem to feel that the higher commonality of said accents and customs _is_ in itself a problem and therefore an undesirable alternative to a "purer" Britain of yesterday.

It all depends upon whether one believes that this "lost land that he romanticises" was better in days of yore without all the foreigners, and if the increasing prevalence of foreign accents and different skin colouration somehow worsens things. If one does feel that a completely homogenous all-white ("traditionalist") culture is superior to a modern, ethnically diverse one, sorry--that's racism, albeit unintentionally so. And by your own definition.

Anonymous said...

"but much of his thought on immigration is racist"

So can you explain exactly what style of thought on immigration you would not consider racist?

I get the distinct impression you're from the school of thought where any argument that dares claim immigration has a detrimental effect on the country, is a racist argument.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

You know I couldn't last:

Aha. Yes, calling people on their views of immigration is "playing into the hands of the BNP" - whereas, of course, saying that "Britain is flooded" isn't.

Now, you can argue that Morrissey's position on immigration is correct, you can argue that its incorrect, but I don't think you can argue that it isn't racist - he's conjuring an "us" that is being overwhelmed by a "them". Your definition of racism is simply too narrow.

I find it irritating that you accuse me of "bandying [racism] as an accusation". The implication that I've gleefully latched onto some sort of stone-throwing without so much as a thought is somewhat insulting; apart from anything, in posts on this subject I've been careful to argue against seeing 'racism' as a solid, single force.

Your assertion that "racism is the 21st century witchcraft" is almost amusing it's so ahistorical. Witchcraft accusations were directed at outsiders in a society (often, though not always, older, single women, or people new to the village or town) who were adopted as easy scapegoats around whose punishment communal order could be reaffirmed. Being accused of racism isn't like being accused of witchcraft. Being singled out for a kicking, or frozen out of a community, because your skin colour, parentage or language is different is.

Your invoking of Charles Hawtrey as being an example of the 'Britain' Morrissey laments is interesting: a man who was legally barred from expressing his sexuality, a chronic alcoholic whose illness was laughed at rather than treated; who was routinely exploited by his employers. Its worth noting, as well, that the Carry On films went into decline in the mid 1970s because Britain had changed, and they hadn't. Which suggests that, if this is Morrissey's England, it had vanished by 1975 (Just before Carry On Behind), which makes blaming immigration in 2007 for its loss seem a little odd.

Likewise, Suzie Burchill, whose time on Coronation Street coincided with Weatherfield being apparently the only northern mill town in all of England without a black resident.

Having said that, there were, of course, the Cheveskis who predated Burchill on Corrie by a few years - but then, that can't be right, can it; aren't the Poles in England part of the "swamping" which is wiping out the England of Burchill?

He hasn't committed a crime. He hasn't advocated repatriation. Nobody has suggested that he has. What he says does fit well within the law - but then, nobdy has called for his arrest. What people would like him to do would be to actually talk about what he believes, rather than drop broad statements about gates and influxes and then howl when people pick him up on it.

He had the opportunity to do that in his statement; all he did was show off his DVD collection.

Yes, he does pale into insignifcance besides the tabloid press. But "he's not as bad as the Daily Express" is hardly a ringing endorsement of anyone's position, is it?

Anonymous said...

Rachel - so "foreign customs" like honour killings, sharia law, female foetal abortion, blood feuds, female circumcision = all good?

"the higher commonality of said accents and customs" - ie. different people, more of them.

Leave aside the accents and customs for a moment, what about the sheer impact of lots more people coming to live in your local area? How about the shortages of housing, education, healthcare and other essential services that this brings?

Both are worth more than a cursory "shrug" of the shoulders, don't you think? I'd be genuinely interested to hear how you would engage with such negative aspects without appearing racist.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...


"I very much get the impression that..." - my, it's surprising how this debate brings out so many people comfortably jumping to conclusions.

What sort of debate about immigration isn't racist? How about a socialist one where, instead of complaining about the accents you hear on your way to Harrods, the limits to immigration are based on needs and abilities?

How about a debate where the language isn't about "influxes" and "flooding" and panics about a never-specified "identity" being lost in a nation whose very strength is drawn from five thousands years as a crossroads for the world?

I do reject the argument that "immigration is detrimental", but not because it's a racist argument (it isn't, not necessarily) but because it's simply wrong. And a little pathetic. But then that's probably my French ancestry.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

boyfriend in a coma:

Leave aside the accents and customs for a moment, what about the sheer impact of lots more people coming to live in your local area? How about the shortages of housing, education, healthcare and other essential services that this brings?

But equally, what about the shortages in education, healthcare and housing if we threw out (or had refused entry to) the immigrants working on building sites, in the NHS, and other essential services? That you assume that immigrants are just taking rather than contributing to the national good says it all, really.

And female circumcision, female foetal abotions and honour killings? Are you really suggesting that, as a result of immigration, Britain has turned from a nation of slightly drunk comedy actors to one where female circumcision has become the norm?

ian said...

Even more embarrassing for the archaic old codger, it seems that despite his criticism of Jonze for not knowing where Knightsbridge is, Mozzer himself seems to believe that it's the road what Harrod's is on. It's a bit rich of him to criticise Jonze for not being completely au fait with an A-Z when Mozzer doesn't know that Harrod's is on Brompton Road. Two can play at this nitpicking misdirection game.

Anonymous said...

Simon; yet again a real issue is knocked aside as a joke.

21,000 girls at risk in the UK, according to that report. 66,000 women affected by it. I don't knwo how many are currently on Equity's books under the comedy acting section.

What I object to is the glib "shrug" which Rachel suggests is the way we should deal with "foreign customs". Clearly some foreign values are abhorrent to a modern, secular democracy. Sharia Law for example. Yet rightful or justified objections to such are all to often suffocated beneath the cosy blanket of multiculturalism. This unquestioning "foreign customs: so what?" approach has stifled debate and allowed this issue to become so politically charged.

As for my "assumption" about immigration and public services; well then I must have imagined stories such as this http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7048205.stm

Anonymous said...

Sorry those links are:
and http://www.fgmnetwork.org/gonews.php?subaction=showfull&id=1192046597&archive=&start_from=&ucat=1&

Simon Hayes Budgen said...


Except your links prove the complete opposite to Morrissey's case.

Morrissey claims that British culture is being "swamped" by immigration - that those who come in are obliterating the native British way of doing things, whatever that is.

However, the report you link to talks about an abhorrent practice taking place in immigrant communities. If we're to believe Morrissey, if the 'English ways' were being forced out by this swamping, you'd expect to see evidence of FGM spreading to other communities. It hasn't happened. This is something happening in Britain, yes. And it's unpleasant. But it's alongside the dominant culture, not becoming part of it, or supplanting it.

Indeed, I'd suggest that the passing of two pieces of liberal legislation in 1985 and 2004, coupled with serious investigations by the Met Police (resulting in no prosecutions) is probably exactly the sort of leftist, well-intenioned, benevolent paternalism that many people would have expected in post-war, Carry On England.

As for the report on BBC News site you link to, you might have been better off linking to the actual Regional Consulation on Impacts Of Migration [pdf document link] which, away from the reading of David Davis, actually is a very mild read. Some of the regions welcome the younger profile of current migration; the North West points out migrants account for 13% of all NHS staff in their region; worries are expressed that some migrants are living in bad housing in some places; yes, there's been a small rise in low-level crime in some places, yes, there's been a rise in translation costs, but generally it's a pretty positive document, not a sky is falling prognosis.

ian said...

The real issue, boyfriend, is Morrissey's overt racism, and his pathetic deflections and denials thereof. No-one's claiming that it's all wine and roses elsewhere, but that doesn't excuse him. But I suspect that you'd defend Morrissey's behaviour if he were goose-stepping around in a moustache.

Anonymous said...

"Taking place in immigrant communities"? Oh, thats ok then ! One happy rainbow nation under a groove. Doesn't quite fit in with true multiculturalism though does it? Or make for a terribly healthy society?

I raised the example in answer to Rachel Summers' suggestion that "Foreign accents and customs...how is this a problem". And yes while the victims of such practices are undoubtedly immigrants, who pays for their treatment, for their support, for their rehabilitation? Everyone does - yes, other migrants too [those who pay tax]. It's an *example* of *a* negative aspect of migration - Britain has essentially imported a third world problem and that problem is now our own. There are dozens of other examples, that obviously is one of the more serious. It is not racist to acknowledge that migration has led to the import of certain cultural practices which do not fit into our country, or culture. And its not enough to wave down from your chichi little Highbury loft over the morning Guardian and "shrug your shoulders" at the concerns of the real world.

I'm perplexed by your assertion that this is happening "alongside the dominant culture, not becoming part of it, or supplanting it."
What is Britain's "dominant culture?" Is it the same thing you dismiss as a 'a never-specified "identity"'? Or your implicitly sceptical mentions of 'Britain' and 'English ways'?

Either there is a dominant culture in this country, one which of course racists think should be defended at all costs, or there isn't. Which way do you want it? Something "never-specified" can hardly be threatened, can it? This, of course, may be your point, but I simply don't see how you can also use it as a defence that migration has not changed Britain. Even if you do agree that a british culture exists, how do you even reconcile the idea of immigration happening "alongside... not becoming part of it". It's not the strongest endorsement of multiculturalism I've heard, to put it mildly.

Anonymous said...

"No one's claiming it's wine and roses" - well they kind of are !

Defend Morrissey - sorry but that's bollocks. He used poorly-chosen words. Were they racist? Quite possibly. The ramblings of a washed up, addled old expat about as in touch with the real world as the Queen Mother? Definitely.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...


Well done for winning our spot prize for first 'lazy stereotyped sneer at Guardian readers' - your monogrammed Daily Telegraph wine club is in the post.

In what way did I suggest that Female Genital Mutilation is "alright"? I don't know if you're really don't understand the point, so I'll try to explain one more time in as simple terms as possible:

Morrissey says 'Britain is losing its identity because the nation is being swamped' (I'm paraphrasing)

People who actually live in Britain say 'that's not true'

You say 'what about female genital mutilation, eh? that's happening in Britain'

I respond that, yes, it does happen in a limited but still distressing number of cases, but it's not a cultural trend that has spread beyond a few immigrant communitites - that the occurrences of FGM in the UK haven't displaced any aspect of British identity at all. Which, you might recall, was what Morrissey was supposedly so worried about in the first place.

I'm perplexed by your assertion that this is happening "alongside the dominant culture, not becoming part of it, or supplanting it."
What is Britain's "dominant culture?" Is it the same thing you dismiss as a 'a never-specified "identity"'? Or your implicitly sceptical mentions of 'Britain' and 'English ways'?

Are you really perplexed by that or merely employing a rhetorical device? Let me try and explain that simply, too:

when I refer to 'a never specified identity', I mean that Morrissey and many of his supporters talk about Britain losing its identity without ever offering up a vision of what it is they feel to be under threat. We might have laughed at John Major and his old maids pedaling to church when we heard about them while we lived on an estate populated by murderers on licence cycling from deal to deal, but at least Major was able to articulate what he saw as 'Britishness', divorced from reality though that vision may have been.

You are right to pull me up on the use of 'dominant culture' - that should be pluralised, of course, as there are many. Perhaps that's why you don't understand why it's possible to say there are some groups who live within the nation without becoming part of the myriad of larger communities which make up the nation.

Either there is a dominant culture in this country, one which of course racists think should be defended at all costs, or there isn't.

You're progressing from a misreading of my point: what I doubt is the existence of a 'Britain' that Morrissey seems to believe in, not that there are some aspects of British culture that are more dominant than others.

This, of course, may be your point, but I simply don't see how you can also use it as a defence that migration has not changed Britain.

Who said migration hasn't changed Britain? Of course migration has changed Britain - I wouldn't be living in Britain if it hadn't; my wife wouldn't, my aunt wouldn't; half the people I work with wouldn't. Morrissey, bless him, wouldn't have experienced Carry On films if migration hadn't changed Britain. But part of what I believe British culture to be is that, for five thousand years, it has welcomed forces from without, absorbed, changed, adapted. British culture isn't swamped by foreign accents on Knightsbridge streets - that's precisely what it is, in a large part. Morrissey believes immigration swamps; I believe it nourishes.

It's an *example* of *a* negative aspect of migration - Britain has essentially imported a third world problem and that problem is now our own.

You see, I think this is the problem: I think that female genital mutilation is a crime against human rights wherever it takes place; I think it's all our problems regardless of it happens in Highbury or Somalia.

Yes, migration can bring with it problems - nobody's denying that. But Morrissey didn't say "Ooh, I'm worried that there are some negative aspects to practices some migrants use" - his argument was specifically about British culture being swamped by outsiders. That's what I'm calling him on.

Anonymous said...

anon: "so 'foreign customs' like honour killings, sharia law, female foetal abortion, blood feuds, female circumcision = all good?"

Unlike my joke of a president, I don't believe in marching into other countries and demanding that the natives change their ways to suit me. If you are referring to these specific customs being brought to England, show me where I said that immigrants should have the right to break the laws of the country that they move to. When I spoke of 'foreign customs', I was thinking of, say, a Hindu woman choosing to wear her sari. What _you_ came up with says a lot about your view of those savage, inferior foreigners.

anon: "what about the sheer impact of lots more people coming to live in your local area?"

That would actually be a valid point to explore, whether by Morrissey or anyone else. Unfortunately, Morrissey instead makes very broad statements without any data to back himself up. If one fails to explain themselves adequately, one shouldn't be surprised at the ease with which they get labelled.

Simon: "That you assume that immigrants are just taking rather than contributing to the national good says it all, really."

Agreed. In this debate, there has been the constant implied assumption that immigrants all flout English law by bringing customs like bringing female circumcision with them, and that they all refuse to contribute by getting jobs. Concerns about adequate resources because of more people--regardless of their origin--is one thing, automatically assuming that they're all worthless layabouts is another thing entirely.

anon: "And yes while the victims of such practices are undoubtedly immigrants, who pays for their treatment, for their support, for their rehabilitation? Everyone does - yes, other migrants too [those who pay tax]."

And you see this as unfair. But what about the costs for treatment and rehabilitation visited upon the taxpayer by white native-born English? You must also feel that it's unfair that your taxes go to pay for the treatment of white heroin addicts and white football hooligans, yes? Or for anything that afflicts someone in a way that doesn't affect _you_..or is it one set of rules for whites, another for non-whites? Going by this logic, I'd be justified in complaining about my tax money going toward medical treatment and education of any and all children, since I don't have any. You also don't seem to be considering that many of foreign origin can and do pay taxes, and so at some point will be helping to help pay for _you_ in some fashion.

anon: "It is not racist to acknowledge that migration has led to the import of certain cultural practices which do not fit into our country, or culture."

It is if you are speaking of customs that do no harm and are not even breaking the law. But I find it difficult to believe that there is some huge epidemic of people coming to England and then expecting to practice _all_ of the same customs that they did in their land of origin, even the ones that are in direct violation of English law.

Simon: "But Morrissey didn't say 'Ooh, I'm worried that there are some negative aspects to practices some migrants use' - his argument was specifically about British culture being swamped by outsiders."

Says it all right there.

Anonymous said...

Hey Simon, Did you get this many comments when Dannii Minogue said more or less the same sort of thing a year or so ago?

Anonymous said...

Karlt: Personally, I wasn't reading NRRF then, but I did a search out of curiosity for the aforementioned Minogue comments and found the "one girl, a Muslim, was shaking" comment regarding "The X-Factor" but that's pretty tame compared to Morrissey's latest bout of foot-in-mouth. There _was_ also all the stuff about Jean Marie LePen and the BNP's support, but that was in 2002.

Which tells us one of two things: folks don't care half as much about Minogue as Morrissey, or Simon's gotten a lot more readers over the years. Or possibly both...

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

I think, Rachel, it's more likely to be the first of those two - back in 2002, when Dannii not only said she could "understand" why the French were supporting LePen but also "observed" that there were signs in Arabic in some parts of Australia, the reaction was smaller (just generally, not simply round here) because people weren't as emotionally invested in her. I think there was as much surprise that the editor of the Independent was interviewing her in GQ as at her views.

Of course, when Jo O'Meara sat around cackling and making up limericks with 'paki' in them, there was a similar burst of fans who desperately clung to anything they could think of to 'prove' that Jo wasn't a racist bully.

Anonymous said...

Someone can post on this blog 20 times that Morrissey said that we were being "swamped" by immigrants.

However many times they post it, it doesn't make it true that he said that.

Maybe they should read the NME article.

Anonymous said...

Amer: Someone can also post twenty times arguing to the contrary, while not making it true. Do you have any actual new arguments to add to this discussion?

And if you've read the entire NME article, feel free to quote anything new from there that you feel adds needed context.

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