Bigmouth Strikes Again

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Former Smiths frontman Morrissey—scourge of meat-eaters and vivisectionists; author of such classic songs as "This is Not Your Country," "National Front Disco" and "Bengali in Platforms"—wades into the fever swamps of England's immigration debate, telling the British music magazine NME that the dear ol' blighty of Brideshead Revisited has morphed into a hideous ethnic bouillabaisse, full of people who don't speak English. Well, sort of. The Telegraph has the story:

The star, who has enjoyed a highly successful solo career since the band's split, reportedly told the music magazine NME that Britain had suffered an "immigration explosion", adding: "England is a memory now".

"The gates are flooded and anybody can have access to England and join in," he was reported as telling NME reporter Tim Jonze.

[…]

"The British identity is very attractive, I grew up into it and I find it quaint and very amusing," he went on. "Other countries have held on to their basic identity yet it seems to me that England was thrown away."

He said that while immigration does enrich the British identity, it meant saying goodbye to "the Britain you once knew. The 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 sun apart from the British accent."

He was challenged over the comments in a second interview, in which he insisted he did not intend to be "inflammatory".

"I find racism very silly," he said. "Almost too silly to discuss. It's beyond reason. And makes no sense and is ludicrous. I've never heard a good argument in favour of racism."

Now the gladioli-loving pop star says the NME's article misunderstood his famous Enoch Powell impression for real-deal xenophobia, and, being that the paper is published in London, he's slapping the magazine with a big fat libel suit. The Telegraph follows-up:

According to the magazine, the singer allegedly told a reporter that the British identity had disappeared as a result of immigration.

But the deadline passed without an apology from NME. "Their only response to this deadline was to say that they 'do not have time to respond to the allegations'," Morrissey's lawyers said. "We, Russells, are in the process of issuing legal proceedings for defamation on behalf of Morrissey against the NME and its editor Conor McNichols, which will be served tomorrow."

Countless bitchy threads on Morrissey's past comments on race can be found at his unofficial fan site Morrissey-solo.com.

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  1. The Mozzer and NME have had a long and angry relationship over the years, its no surprise really — you also have to remember that if you are scene as being racist/anti-immigration in the UK you can be held to account by a government agency whose name escapes me, so perhaps he’s filing suit as protection — the funny thing I find about the whole thing is that he was asked this in relation to why he no longer lives in England anymore but Rome and Los Angeles, LA being the ultimate melting pot of no accent whatsoever.

  2. Of course in Brideshead Revisited it was those awful Catholics . . (well, the book anyways).

  3. I recently spent a few years in Toronto and feel similarly about things there. I think Morrissey sums it up well. I don’t think it is racist to think what he thinks or say what he said.

    I was happy to get back to a place with a small American city type cultural identity (basically black and white), but I don’t think it is anything more intrinsically worthy than what they had going on up in Missauga. Just a matter of taste and what-you’re-used-to.

  4. Odd how the post forgot a more famous SmithsSong.

    Of course, we can forget Reason trying a deeper analysis of whether he’s right, whether the English have a right to maintain their culture, whether the issues he apparently didn’t raise at all are due more to immigration or to McDonald’s, etc.

    Reason’s whole raison de publier seems to be to support corporatism under a veneer of libertarianism.

  5. Moz is the English equivalent of an anchor baby (parents had just emigrated from Ireland right before he was born).

    He’s said some douchey things over the years, but I really can’t care all that much. The political opinions of pop stars are not terribly interesting to me.

    Coincidentally, I was listening to some old Morrissey last night and I was digging it. Come, Armageddon. Come, Armageddon, come.

  6. Apparently Morrisey wore a union jack two years before BritPop made such displays on nationalism acceptable. As was pointed out by Spur the idiots in NME have been out to get him for a time now.

  7. “We are the last truly British people you will ever know…” sang Moz, famously.

    seriously, the guy is a genius of pop-music. check out any of his albums.

  8. TLB,

    Which song are you referring to? Are you referring to the song “Killing An Arab?” If so, that is song is by The Cure and it quite obviously draws from Camus’ L’?tranger.

  9. I can’t wait to hear what he says about immigration in America.

  10. the britain i once knew also didn’t have bitchy whiny faggots who couldn’t carry a tune (sorry…couldn’t resist…his music is WAY overrated and his come-uppance is long overdue).

  11. TLB,

    BTW, I am really curious as to what song you referring to. I am a huge fan of the music of The Smiths and The Cure, BTW.

  12. the britain i once knew also didn’t have bitchy whiny faggots who couldn’t carry a tune (sorry…couldn’t resist…his music is WAY overrated and his come-uppance is long overdue).

    Hear Hear.

  13. jimmy & ChicagoTom,

    Time to crank “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others.” 😉

  14. Moz is the English equivalent of an anchor baby (parents had just emigrated from Ireland right before he was born).

    I’m pretty sure his heritage is English though. If I remember correctly, his parents, or at least his dad, was English and moved to Ireland (or Northern Ireland) as a child. It’s been a long time since I read Morrissey and Marr, the Severed Alliance, but I seem to remember a story about how when his dad was a kid, they outlawed English Football in school, and they made the kids play Gaelic Football. In protest, his dad refused to ever use his hands when playing Gaelic Football. For some reason that tidbit stuck with me.

    I’ll have to look up that section against when I get home.

  15. jimmy & ChicagoTom hate it when their friends become successful.

  16. “We are the last truly British people you will ever know…” sang Moz, famously.

    Or better yet, “We look to Los Angeles for the language we use. London is dead.”

  17. Didn’t the last truly British people go by the wayside with the Anglo-Saxon invasion? 😉

  18. As I’ve establihed on these pages, my mind is a convoluted thing. The issue I see in all of this is the UKs stupid libel laws. Try that crap here and you get laughed out of court.

    Again, I’m weird.

  19. Anyway, all be ok once Arthur returns.

  20. the britain i once knew also didn’t have bitchy whiny faggots who couldn’t carry a tune

    I take it you never knew Oscar Wilde’s Britain?

  21. what makes you think oscar wilde couldn’t carry a tune?! i’d be willing to bet he could sing circles around moz. most bitchy whiny faggots i know have lovely voices.

  22. Wow. I know Peter Garrett stopped the “Beds are Burning” business for a career in politics, but…environment minister? If only Michael Hutchence was still alive. He always struck me as a potential Minister without Portfolio.

  23. ClubMedSux,

    Wilde was Irish. Of course Dublin was part of the UK at the time of his birth.

  24. Didn’t the last truly British people go by the wayside with the Anglo-Saxon invasion? 😉

    No, those were the Celts who’d only come up from Iberia a few centuries earlier. Perhaps the Picts were the last remains of the truly British, before they assimilated with the Scots (who’d been driven out of Ireland after immigrating from Iberia and Scandinavia).

  25. Rimfax,

    Well, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth they were Brits.

  26. now he knows how joan of arc felt

  27. Peter Garrett ran for some office (Senate–I had to look it up) like 20 years ago. I too pay almost no attention to a band’s lyrics. Midnight Oil circa 1977-1991 are one of my all-time favorite bands regardless of their politics. Ditto The Smiths.

  28. Without pointing out any thing he said…but just looking and listening at what he has produced as an artists is it still ok to call him offensive?

  29. Forget Morrissey’s un-PC outbursts: the most embarrassing thing he said are the lyrics to “Paint a Vulgar Picture”, in which he condemns greedy bands in an almost eerie foreshadowing of exactly how The Smiths behaved after they broke up.

  30. Anyway, all be ok once Arthur returns.

    I thought Arthur was a Roman?

  31. Bigmouth Strikes Again

    I don’t think that we need to announce it every time Edward shows up.

  32. joshua corning,

    That’s one hypothesis.

  33. Bigmouth Strikes Again

    I don’t think that we need to announce it every time Edward shows up.

    No, that would be “Dumbshit Strikes Again”.

  34. I only know Morrisey from listening to Henry Rollins rip on him. I’ll keep it that way.

  35. Still Ill:

    “I believe today that life is simply taking and not giving /

    England is mine, it owes me a living.”

  36. in which he condemns greedy bands

    Well, bands and record company execs. But yeah, he’s turned “reissue, repackage, repackage” into a bit of an art.

  37. Warty – like when Henry played “Boy with the Thorn in his Side” on MTV Europe, much to the dismay of the producers?

  38. Oh, Rhywun, it was really nothing…

  39. Syloson of Samos: I was refering to the refrain of this: youtube.com/watch?v=9AlH2oYedfk

    Although, I see now that an alternative explanation is available: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_%28song%29

    The explanation provided at the time was probably a smear, so as penance I offer this:

    youtube.com/watch?v=VI2m-EPZEJU

  40. “The British identity is very attractive, I grew up into it and I find it quaint and very amusing,” he went on. “Other countries have held on to their basic identity yet it seems to me that England was thrown away.”

    I think Morrissey is trying to tell us that their teeth are getting better.

    ZOMG! Kidz with straight teeth! Panic on the streets of Birmingham!

  41. Both Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy wrote about a vanishing Britain.

  42. I heard on NPR today that now 1 out of every 8 Americans are foriegn born. Good bye United States, hello Mexico!

  43. For anyone who is interested, is a graph tracking foreigners as a percentage of the American population since 1850. In the 1850s-70s, it was nearly 33%!

  44. In regards to Henry Rollins slagging Morrissey, it is my understanding that much of his comments are tongue in cheek. He’s actually a fan who has said good things about The Smiths, and Morrissey in the past.

    People pay to see Henry be Henry, so he can’t come across as too devoted. However, he has all of the hallmarks of an agro Morrissey fan.

    I’m a huge Moz and Smiths fan, and having followed this story from the beginning on Morrissey-solo.com I find it utterly ridiculous.

    It’s ridiculous because it seems that the issue of immigration cannot be discussed without a degree of PC bullying, and the liberal use of the word “racist.” This seems all the more intense in the U.K.

    Also, the N.M.E. has lived up to the English standard of tabloid journalism by focusing on the issue, and essentially pulling a slight of hand. Morrissey should have know better since his lengthy avoidance of the publication was a direct result of the exact same treatment in the early 90’s.

    In particular, they focused on a lyrical phrase from one of his early solo songs called “Bengali In Platforms,” which read “Shelve your Western plans/and understand/that life is hard enough when you belong here.”

    Their interpretation was that he was suggesting that such a person does not belong in the culture, to which he later responded that a person would naturally feel that they don’t belong in a foreign culture.

    Morrissey also called for the fairly reasonable idea that The National Front should be given the right to march publically, since repressing them would only lead to potential violence.

    Of course, these issues are constitutionally protected in America, but apparently the idea is anathema in country as tightly wound as Great Britain.

    I would like to think that this whole infatuation with politcal correctness is slowly losing steam, but unfortunately, I’m much more cynical that that.

  45. Both Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy wrote about a vanishing Britain.

    As did Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson

    Edmund: Er, yes, right. Gentlemen, right… (reads from Harry’s notes) As you
    know, today we face the gravest crisis this country has known since
    the Roman invasion.

    (They all make sounds of protest: “Nonsense!”; “Rubbish!”; etc.)

    Lord 1: What about the Viking invasion?

    Lord 2: …and the Norman invasion?

    Angus: …and the Swiss invasion?

    Edmund: Er, well, the greatest crisis for some time.

  46. For anyone who is interested, is a graph tracking foreigners as a percentage of the American population since 1850. In the 1850s-70s, it was nearly 33%!

    It appears you looked at the “millions of foreign born” scale. The “percentage of the US population” scale is on the right, and the percentage peak in the latter 1800s is closer to 15%.


  47. It appears you looked at the “millions of foreign born” scale. The “percentage of the US population” scale is on the right, and the percentage peak in the latter 1800s is closer to 15%.

    Got it. But the point remains, theres nothing really unprecedented about the % of Americans that were born in other countries today.

  48. It’s OK, he feels black on the inside.

  49. Someone stole my “Panic in the streets…” line. So, I’ll have to settle for hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ….

  50. I’d like to know what song TLB was referring to, as well. Seems to me the most famous Smiths song, at least in the US, is “How Soon Is Now?.” And what would the lyrics from it have to do with this issue?

    “Son and heir of nothing in particular?”

    If so, I think it’s a stretch to regard this as a comment about *national* identity.

  51. I’m not sure that 1850-1870 were heady times for the US (look at the film Gangs of New York, mmm, now that’s a Great Society). In fact you might argue that US power and influence rose in exactly the period when the % of pop. foriegn born was on the big decline.

    I’m not saying there is some direct causal connection, but it sure makes the “immigration made us great” argument a bit harder to make (it usually has rested on the following argument:
    1. We have had lots of immigrants at times
    2. We became great
    3. Therefore it was immigration that made us great!

  52. I’m not sure that 1850-1870 were heady times for the US (look at the film Gangs of New York, mmm, now that’s a Great Society).In fact you might argue that US power and influence rose in exactly the period when the % of pop. foriegn born was on the big decline.

    Did you even bother to look at the graph? Those immigration levels as a percentage of population were maintained all the way through World War I, by which time US power and influence was a fait accompli.

    it usually has rested on the following argument:
    1. We have had lots of immigrants at times
    2. We became great
    3. Therefore it was immigration that made us great!

    3. Therefore immigration was not harmful to the greatness of the US

    Fixed.

  53. it usually has rested on the following argument:
    1. We have had lots of immigrants at times
    2. We became great
    3. Therefore it was immigration that made us great!
    3. Therefore immigration was not harmful to the greatness of the US

    Fixed.

    Thanks, thats the argument I was trying to make with that graph. The corollary to it is, having large numbers of immigrants in American history has been the rule not the exception. Europe is having problems because they are homogeneous societies, and therefore it has been the exception instead of the rule.

  54. So, “Boy Racer” was a total whitie? The bigotry of the Left never ceases to amaze ne.

  55. “Sometimes I feel more fulfilled/Making Christmas cards with the mentally ill.”

    Greatest humorist in pop history.

  56. Who knew so many Hit & Runners were Moz fans. And Rhywun makes that best point: “Reissue, repackage, repackage.” And as the Telegraph story notes, Morrissey is coming out with yet ANOTHER greatest hits comp in a few weeks.

  57. “England is a memory now”

    It just wasn’t like the old days anymore.

  58. Greatest humorist in pop history.

    Hulmerist, surely.

  59. Indeed.

  60. Ah, now I see TLB’s post about *Panic*

    The controversy over the song was stupid. Even without knowing of the specific event that inspired it, anyone should be able to listen to the song or read the lyrics and realize its meaning was straightforward – that he was actually stating how he feels about much of popular music.

    “Greatest humorist in pop history.”

    That and much more.

  61. Moz’s comments were just the usual point of view of Brit expats. I’ve often thought the same myself. Why go back to something that’s not there any more? If I want to go to shops and restaraunts where the staff don’t speak English there is lots of cheaper places with better weather.

  62. I am glad that I live in America, where Mexicans are constantly trudging over hot sand, back to the work benches, where my clothes are woven.

  63. “Therefore immigration was not harmful to the greatness of the US”
    Yeah, but the argument “we are great despite immigration” is not quite the rallying cry one may want. And again I point out that on the graph the period of American rise as a SuperPower starts with and follows the one where we had the steepest and most sustained decline in the % of the population foriegn born (which itself was preceded by a rather strong and at times ugly push against immigration)…

  64. I agree that what pop musicians think is very important.

  65. I think that Moz should be bludgeoned in his bed. Or at least have every tooth in his head smashed.

  66. Yeah, but the argument “we are great despite immigration” is not quite the rallying cry one may want.

    There are so, so many reasons to support free migration that are not bound up with all variables that enter into US greatness, that I don’t find the effort of building the stronger rallying cry worth it. Making the point that the US is great even with past immigration is enough to rebut the whine that future immigration will obviously hurt US greatness.

    And again I point out that on the graph the period of American rise as a SuperPower starts with and follows the one where we had the steepest and most sustained decline in the % of the population foriegn born (which itself was preceded by a rather strong and at times ugly push against immigration)…

    Are you seriously making the claim that the US was not a global power after World War I, or that the rise to global superpower that happened with World War II and the Cold War would have been different if the number of immigrants was different?

    Hey, look! The lowest immigration rate as a percentage of US population happened in the 1960s, clearly causing the US to get mired in Vietnam, the oil and economic crises of the 70s, and Nixonian Keyensianism. Thank goodness the rate climbed back up by 1990 to a level adequate to guarantee the dissolution of the Soviet Union. And now that it continues to rise, the US is far and away the most powerful nation on the planet!

    You’re right! This graph speaks volumes. Now if you’ll excuse me, my tea leaves are ready.

  67. plus 1 for the headline, hopefully an oppotunity to use shoplifters of the world unite will present itself next

  68. I agree with MikeP.

  69. Epi: code red or towels-with-bars-of-soap?

  70. Epi: code red or towels-with-bars-of-soap?

    Full Metal Jacket all the way, Eich.

  71. I am fed up with people becoming hysterical each time you talk about immigration. Speaking about it would involve you are a racist? Hello? Some people need to go and see a psychiatrist.Did Morrissey evoke race? No.
    So, could you please stop criticizing a man who tells what the majority thinks. I think that the people who culpabilize others are racists, as they see the problem of race everywhere. And was is disgusting is that accusations of racism are always thrown upon white people, never against blacks or metis. They can do the most horible things to white people, and it seems normal.No one dares to criticize them.
    The people who criticize Morrissey are BIG HYPOCRITS.Did they criticize Abu Hamza, who, in the name of freedom of speech,during many years, tell the muslims they should kill white people and not even use a gun for that, but cut them in two pieces? Wasn’t that racism, that? Did you say something then to defent freedom, you idiots? I diod not hear anything!!The sound of silence was astonishing. YOU BIG HYPOCRITS,YOU BIG MONSTERS, YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH CAUSE YOU ARE COWARDS, AND CAUSE YOU CRITICIZE WHITE PEOPLE ONLY.
    Morrissey has the freedon of speech. And I don’t see why he should shut up. He is English, he has the right to say what he thinks without being criticized by cowards.
    If you are against racism, fight islamism instead. The problem is that it requires courage.
    I have the impression we live in a soviet regime with assholes like you.

  72. To show how concerned you are with the dangers of racism, why not use your indignation against that guy? That would be more courageous!!!!
    In what world do I live? I can’t believe how stupid white people have become.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4690224.stm

  73. I find this fascinating, considering one of Morrissey’s biggest fan-bases is (and has been for quite some time now) Mexican-Americans. It struck me as quite odd the first time I attended a Moz concert in Los Angeles and was in the minority as a white guy. But after numerous concerts since, it now makes perfect sense. He has always spoken to the alienated outsider.

    It should also be noted that almost none of his songs can really be taken as his point-of-view. The lines in his early “racist” songs that irked people the most were almost always sung in some other character’s voice. He also has a wicked sense of humor that gets easily misinterpreted by less intelligent people.

    Morrissey has embraced his Mexican fans, and undoubtedly personally supports at least that form of immigration. For his honest views on that topic, look no further than his recent B-side titled “Mexico.”

  74. His songs can’t be taken from his point of view? You’re joking, right? Morrissey’s lyrics, performance style, gender identity, etc. are all wrapped up in a “is-he-or-isn’t-he?” enigma. Is he the charming man or the jumped-up pantry boy? All of his songs make you unsure whether he’s singing about himself or about another guy who’s a lot like him and whether these people are actually the same person.

    So he’s flirted with racist imagery (the skinhead picture at Madstock is closest, imo), but that’s hardly new in rock. Siouxsie Sioux once wore a swastika, Patti Smith sang “Rock ‘n Roll Nigger,” and David Bowie gave the sieg heil salute. People have done far worse than what has been imagined of Morrissey.

  75. good for morrissey. defend free speech,

  76. Morrissey sells papers its basic business sense Morrissey + dodgy headline = cash.

    Morrissey talks of an England that he remembers. If I spoke of milkmen doing milk rounds I am not saying dont buy milk from your local Asian shop I am simply remembering the things from my past.

    I have been to America and other countries where they are allowed and proud to fly their national flag with pride. In America all races stand behind the Stars and Stripes as they are Americans. Why am I not allowed to do this in England? Is it because I might offend someone who probably wont be offended but some do gooder has taken it upon themselves to invent people who might be offended.

    Only last week the reformed Spice Girls were pictured with a Union flag does this make them racist bitches who should be tied to a stake and burnt alive??

    Make your own minds up but I personally think the NME (which is more like Smash Hits these days) did this whole thing to sell more issues of a publication which is itself a poor imitation of the once great music paper NME.

  77. I’d thought that his so-called racist songs had been explained by now, but I may as well try try again.

    Panic-
    Not at all a racist song. The explication offered on Wikipedia of the song’s lyrics is widely accepted, and moreover, it’s somewhat unclear how it could possibly be interpreted as racist.

    Bengali in Platforms-
    In this song Morrissey expresses sympathy for a immigrant who feels isolated! The song cannot be analysed by looking at tiny snatches of the lyrics, or even properly without listening to the song.

    The National Front Disco-
    This song is about a politically naive boy who get wooed into buying into BNP racism. the “racist bits” aren’t in the first person; they aren’t Morrissey’s message but the opposite of it.

    I don’t know the particulars of this latest frenzy-and nor does anyone else, judging by the way in which every story written on it thus far is based another report from another publication, but I can guarantee that it will be explained and someone, whom i doubt will be Morrissey, will end up looking dumb.

    Particular mention must me made of Moynihan’s incompent reporting; all of the songs he mentioned in the above story are understood, by those with half a mind who have intelligently listened to them, to not be the least be racist.

    Shame on Reason for a stupid article, shame on the NME for being sensationalists to sell magazines, shame on the public for gross misinterpretations, shame on Morrissey for expecting people to be smarter than they are.

  78. Apparently Morrisey wore a union jack two years before BritPop made such displays on nationalism acceptable.

    Weller did it before Moz, and he celebrated the Queen’s Jubilee when all the punks were bashing the Queen. Of course he got bashed and associated with the National Front for that, too.

    Anyway, the Who messed with Union Jack imagery before any of them, and it’s quite clear that it’s never been about nationalism for any of the musicians. It’s a pop art statement.

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