I’ve never liked Morrissey. His band the Smiths all but wrecked Brit alt-music in the 1980s. And then there was his penchant for dodgy statements about race and ethnicity.
“Reggae is vile,” he sniffed. “Obviously, to get on Top of the Pops these days one has to be, by law, black,” he whined. He flirted with skinhead imagery. He draped himself in the flag. And there was “Bengali in Platforms”–a song the NME called “a convoluted diatribe against assimilation”–featuring the line: “Life is hard enough when you belong here.”
And “We’ll Let You Know,” in which Moz serenaded soccer hooligans as “the last truly British people you’ll ever know.”
Of course none of this proved Morrissey is a racist. His legions of fans pleaded that we give him the benefit of the doubt. And so we did.
And for a while it looked like Morrissey might be okay after all. He moved to America and wrote the song “America Is Not the World”–a statement that shocked Americans but was heartily appreciated by the rest of the planet. He wished death on President Bush. He backed Kerry. He compared U.S. immigration officials to Nazis. Hell, it looked like Morrissey might be a good bloke after all.
And then, a couple weeks ago, Moz gave an interview to the NME during which he vomited up the sort of ill-informed stupidity about immigration that one often hears from embittered and pig-ignorant old idiots, usually prefaced with: “I’m not racist but … ”
“These days you won’t hear an English accent in Knightsbridge,” said Moz–a bit rich, coming from a son of Irish immigrants who now lives in Rome.
“The gates of England are flooded. The country’s been thrown away,” he moaned, sounding horribly like some vote-grubbing anti-immigrant politician.
There was more, and it was all Joey Vento-esque, illogical and ignorant bullshit. Like me, Morrissey grew up in Northern England alongside immigrants, in an England founded by immigrants and shaped by immigrants. Like me, Morrissey benefited from such wonderfully non-English cultural invaders as rock ‘n’ roll, decent food and sexual liberation.
In a recent PW article about the English/Sri Lankan artist M.I.A., Caralyn Green wrote, “Hybridity is the new authenticity.”
The English have always been good at hybridity. We’re a hybrid people. Total mongrels. It’s our greatest strength. It’s what makes us English. It’s astounding Morrissey has never grasped this.
Morrissey is talking shit. And–given the rise of racist anti-immigrant rhetoric on both sides of the Atlantic–it’s dangerous, poisonous shit.
But should we be surprised that the man who more or less invented indie (and who more than anybody else personifies it) should turn out to have such sterile, reactionary, monocultural views?