Is he or isn't he?
Racist, that is.
While the answer should be obvious, we currently inhabit a world gone bat-shit crazy where every man, woman and their dog is far-right. Anyone who disagrees with an increasingly dangerous leftist agenda must (following the illogic) be racist, right?
To be fair views formed without any touch-point in reality spin throughout the ideological spectrum.
Regressive-leftists, as Maajid Nawaz termed them, think there are seventy-four genders (plus or minus), while right-wing conservatives believe Trump isn’t betraying the ideals Washington, Lincoln and Superman built the United States on... freedom, truth, justice… the American Way.
And into this quagmire where nothing is logical Mr. Spock, wades Morrissey.
The latest uproar has been in response to his “Fuck the Guardian” T-shirt unveiled at a recent LA gig. The Guardian being one of many mainstream papers where honesty and journalism have evaporated in favor of propagating a politically correct agenda.
As Morrissey points out: "We are all called racist now, and the word is actually meaningless. It’s just a way of changing the subject. When someone calls you racist, what they are saying is ‘hmm, you actually have a point, and I don’t know how to answer it, so perhaps if I distract you by calling you a bigot we’ll both forget how enlightened your comment was’.”
The lyrics and imagery of the Smiths are forever draped in post-industrial mid-eighties Manchester, a city that struggled to find purpose following the demise of the Northern textile mills. The Kitchen Sink dramas of the 1960s. Scooters and stovepipes. Rain-soaked footpaths and cardigans. The literary legacy of Wilde, Yeats and Byron. Englishness.
If you’ve ever visited modern London or the North of Morrissey’s childhood (and I have), then you’ll understand how the takeover by Islam and consequent dilution of England society would cause a sense of loss that he, the most obvious musical proponent of Englishness would feel more acutely than anyone. Where once there were corner pubs stand mosques. Halal meat everywhere. Where once young women dressed in the candy-colored mini-skirts of the swinging sixties, women are cloaked in burkas.
Speaking on the subject of acid attacks, Morrissey said: “London is second only to Bangladesh for acid attacks. All of the attacks are non-white, and so they cannot be truthfully addressed by the British government or the Met Police or the BBC because of political correctness. What this means is that the perpetrator is considered to be as much of a victim as the actual victim. We live in the Age of Atrocity.”
He has every right to be miffed and is speaking for the millions of English working class who have seen their culture swamped, who were not asked permission, and cannot say anything for fear of being crushed by an oppressive ideological machine.
But is speaking out about the disintegration of your culture… and racism the same thing?
Rather than instantly vomiting fake outrage, virtue signalers like Billy Bragg, staff at the Guardian, or "fans" on morrissey-solo.com need to do just two things. First, actually read or listen to what he said and wrote, and second—understand what the word racism means. The Oxford Dictionary perhaps?
It describes racism as: “Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.”
Encyclopedia Britannica similarly defines it as “any action, practice, or belief that reflects the racial worldview—the ideology that humans may be divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called “races”; that there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural and behavioral features; and that some races are innately superior to others.”
Britannica points out an additional fact often missed in any discord over race—that since the late 20th century the notion of biological race has been recognized as a cultural invention, entirely without scientific basis.
Race is a social construct. We are all in fact, the same. A blow perhaps to Neo-Nazis and regressive-leftists alike?
You can search through Morrissey’s lyrics for hints of “racial worldview” and this will all boil down to three songs, out of several hundred. Bengali in Platforms, Asian Rut and National Front Disco. The first two, even at a casual reading, identify with the outsider, and the latter an ironic romp ridiculing a dark subculture in the same vein as the Ramones' The KKK Took My Baby Away. Does this mean Joey Ramone wanted to don a clan hood? Probably not. I also suspect Morrissey didn’t harbor a desire to run away and join the NF. It’s art.
Failing to grasp artistic expression, Merseyrail, the company that operates the rail network in and around Liverpool, removed posters promoting Morrissey’s last album following a customer complaint: “It’s very Third Reich, isn’t it?” Morrissey responded. “And it proves how only the feelings of the most narrow-minded can be considered within the British Arts. We are not free to debate, and this in itself is the ultimate rejection of diversity.”
Many whimpers of racism stem from Morrissey’s support of political party For Britain. “The UK is a dangerously hateful place now, and I think we need someone to put a stop to the lunacy and to speak for everyone. I see [For Britain leader] Anne Marie Waters as this person. She is extremely intelligent, ferociously dedicated to this country, she is very engaging, and also very funny at times.”
Anyone can read the For Brittan manifesto online. Not a trace of Nazism. No Anti-Semitism. No funny walks. Not even a toxic male. The party’s deputy-leader is an ex-Muslim woman; its leader a gay woman. Groups which traditionally suffer under sharia law. It’s far from far-right to oppose FGM.
Unless you’re a Guardian "journalist", that is. And in making stuff up—they feed the fake news rhetoric of the right. Wouldn’t it seem logical at a time when you’re getting accused of fake news, to stick to the facts and leave agendas at the door? Well, no… apparently.
Morrissey hasn’t gone “far-right”. The “left” has become increasingly “far-left”. He’s exactly where he was politically in 1985. Morrissey hasn’t moved. The goalposts have. Thirty years ago listening to the Queen is Dead, I would have proudly been labeled a leftist. A far-leftist, perhaps. A Marxist, not Leninist-Marxist (there’s a difference). An avid reader of Camille Paglia… Germaine Greer… Simone de Beauvoir and others from the second wave of feminism… Interested in the environment and animal rights.
And slowly over time the latter has become problematic with the regressive-left. Because if you don’t believe in religiosity, if you call out backward gibberish for what it is, you have somehow to be far-right. Religion in itself, in its entirety—is nonsense. Anything that privileges superstition over reason is vile. Being expected to indulge ideas such as Mohammad flying to the moon on a winged horse or Moses parting the Red Sea is ludicrous.
Morrissey has tended towards critique of Islam. Which isn't a race. It's a religion or ideology. Go back to the dictionary meaning of the word racism. Criticizing religion cannot be racism. Case closed?
Well, not so fast.
What strikes me most is there’s an immaturity and lack of intellectual rigor to political correctness. It has little intellectual basis and the people promoting it are on the whole, not smart. Their arguments are as shallow as a teaspoon; hence they quickly cry “racist”.
Political correctness by design protects and promotes stupidity and eschews facts. People are made to say and do things they know in their heart to be wrong, enforced by corporate HR departments and university elitists. Words are invented to cover all that conveniently fall though the gaps. Far-right. Islamophobia. Hate speech. What these words echo are dark age blasphemy laws—which were created to keep humanity backward children. I suspect there will come a time in the future when a little kid will ask: "And what did you do dad/mum to stand up to this madness?" Although he will probably never have one, Morrissey could at least say to this fictitious child: "I spoke the truth, and a few didn't like it."
Even woke godfather Barack Obama has had enough of call-out woke culture “I do get a sense sometimes now among certain young people ... that the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people and that's enough.” Obama said. “That is not activism, that is not bringing about change. If all you're doing is casting stones, you are probably not going to get that far.”
On halal slaughter Morrissey gets a bit haughty. After all Meat is Murder: “Both [Labour and Conservative] parties support halal slaughter, which, as we all know, is evil. Furthermore, halal slaughter requires certification that can only be given by supporters of Isis, and yet in England we have halal meat served in hospitals and schools.”
If we are going to have a serious grown-up conversation about equality, then species equality is long overdue. I don’t believe your average white, black, male, female, gay, bisexual, straight, or transgender human being has greater or lesser moral worth than your average animal about to be slaughtered for Christmas. With incompetent leadership, global warming and people living their lives in phones, it would be a difficult argument to make that humans are smarter and somehow deserving of special status. If you’re looking for suffering or victim-hood—then start with the little lamb on a hill. Humans can by and large, take care of themselves. No one’s coming to eat them. Jeffery Dahmer. RIP.
There’s a part of me which feels all this talk over racism and sexism is shallow, selfish, self-serving and moot as long as other living creatures are treated as objects to be abused, used and eaten by humans who narcissistically virtue signal by wearing social justice causes on their sleeves.
Morrissey’s closest comment to reaching the racist threshold, has to be taken in context and that is the anguish over the painful death of animals in China. “Did you see the thing on the news about their treatment of animals and animal welfare?” he said. “Absolutely horrific. You can’t help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies.”
I would defy anyone to sit through a video (and there are some on YouTube) showing animals being skinned alive in Chinese fur farms, their living bodies thrown twitching on piles to die an agonizing death, and not come away with the same conclusion—that those who torture animals are poor excuses for humanity. That’s not racist. That’s simply not being an a-hole. That's reality.
If you’re a regressive-leftist and virtue signal your anti-racism by opposition to Morrissey, but still subsist on the suffering of another species, the ultimate form of superiority and hatred, then you’re a speciesist with a long way to go, baby.
That Morrissey isn’t racist should be evident to anyone. B-grade musicians, Guardian "journalists" and virtue signalling leftists will live out their lives without ever accomplishing anything close to what Morrissey and his cohorts did in the space of a handful of years. Jealousy is a fragment of the puzzle.
Regardless of whether you're a fan of his music today, during the 1980s Morrissey and Johnny Marr gave the world four studio albums, and Morrissey together with Stephen Street and Vini Reilly one album—which transcend the pop/rock format, touch countless lives in deep and lasting ways and are... purely and completely... art. Five of the greatest albums. Ever.
For that alone, the world should shut up, listen and be grateful.
I’m wondering if there’s one lasting influence I took from the Smiths songs–essentially Morrissey. At a show I attended in Wellington, he passed the mic around and one girl commented that his music changed her life, and another said she is a vegetarian because of him. I’m a vegetarian–though that’s largely due to seeing a large animal that escaped from a meat works, chased around a field and murdered when I was a child. Yet it’s amazing Morrissey has had this effect on people so far away, for the better.
His lasting influence for me is the importance of being an outsider. It’s the celebration of not being one of the “cool” crowd, one of the masses. It’s the importance of not fitting in, not going with the tide, not saying yes when you mean no. It’s that being “uncool” is actually very very cool.
Shane Filer is the author of the critically acclaimed indie novel Exit from Ohio University Press, and writes comics for various publishers.