Sexually Ambiguous

On July 29th 1992, Nicky Crane – National Front skinhead and Screwdriver roadie; who featured in the same Nick Knight photo essay as the V-flicker on a Morrissey t-shirt – came out as gay on the UK Channel 4 documentary, Out: The Skin Complex, that explored gay skinhead subculture.

On August 22nd 1992, the NME spent 5 pages denouncing Morrissey as a racist for playing 1 of 2 planned gigs with headliners Madness, at Finsbury Park, where he was heckled by a homophobic crowd while thrashing about a Union Jack flag in front of a Derek Ridgers art print of 2 skinhead girls.

https://illnessasart.com/2020/11/26/nme-22-august-1992/amp/

Despite lead singer, Suggs’s skinhead past and old Skrewdriver connections, Madness was deemed ‘unfortunate’ for attracting the racist crowd. Derek Ridgers worried that Morrissey had demeaned the girls in the art print, who WERE racist imagery. Flowered Up, another band on the bill, thought Morrissey had asked for trouble by ‘prancing around‘.

Most of the National Front supporters were outside Finsbury Park to oppose a march for a cause Morrissey supported, British troops out of Northern Ireland (he’s from an Irish Catholic family). The National Front’s most violent organiser, Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair, was a fan of reggae band UB40, and his loyalist paramilitary gang killed Catholics while listening to rave.

https://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/article/43221-madness-frontman-suggs-tells-life-story-at-2012-edinburgh-fringe/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/the-uda-killer-nicknamed-top-gun-behind-a-dozen-sectarian-murders-1.4628830

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/news-analysis/how-loyalists-got-out-of-step-with-fascism-28657619.html

https://ansionnachfionn.com/2011/09/16/fascists-neo-nazis-and-the-british-unionist-minority-in-ireland/amp/

But still the NME lied that Morrissey was a Little England British Nationalist, that his imagery was racist, that he was fanning the flames of race-hate, that Bengali in Platforms was a diatribe against assimilation, supportive of ex-Conservative Ulster Unionist MP Enoch Powell, inciting calls for immigrants to be deported, that he wanted a pre-immigration green and pleasant England, that he wanted an English ethno-state, that he was provoking genocide, and – in a technique that now dominates his coverage – cobbled together so many snippets of lyrics and interviews spuriously branded racist that to refute them all would look demented; no fire without all THAT smoke. Even his quiff was racist for being a 1950s style.

And, taking their cue from The Skin Complex, they speculated that he had a sexual fetish for racism, that he was getting vicarious skinhead thrills, that he was using real men, like skinheads, The Angelic Upstarts, as a cover; and noted that ‘Richard Allen’s skinhead chronicles are full of sickening accounts of violence against blacks. And for that matter, homosexuals’.

And for that matter, that was their real point.

Someone must have watched it, got excited, thought OH THAT’S WHAT HE’S UP TO and decided to disguise their usual prurient, repressed homophobic obsession with his sex life beneath a heap of lurid faux righteous anti-racism.

Dr Dinesh Bhugra, a psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry, speaking on Skin Complex, the Channel 4 programme to be screened on Wednesday, argues that gay men adopting the skinhead image is not surprising. In a society that is producing a tremendous amount of homophobia, you have to try and protect yourself by whichever means you can and if, in order to do it, it means you are identifying with the oppressor then people will do that in order to survive. (Independent, 26th July 1992)

Let’s not forget that the adolescent Morrissey used to be chased through the streets of Manchester at night by leering beer-boys, some of whom may have held NF sympathies, simply for being ‘different’. And he definitely spent a lot of time in Whalley Range, a multi-racial area. Is he now identifying with his former oppressors? Has he changed from the persecuted to the persecutor? Or, is he fascinated by the idea of racism, by the look of violent skinheads, to the extent of being oppressed so much he falls in love with his oppressors? (NME, August 1992)

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/reformed-fascist-ready-to-admit-homosexuality-martin-wroe-reports-on-the-conversion-of-a-right-winger-that-highlights-a-thriving-gay-fashion-1535856.html?amp

Maybe they wanted to kill his career.

Moz is history, and we’d all do well to learn it. (Andrew Collins, NME, April 1992)

Or ‘out’ him without risking a libel trial as catastrophic as The Face losing to Jason Donovan in May 1992 over their ‘Queer As Fuck’ issue.

https://gtmediawatch.org/1965/07/01/gay-times-may-1992/

Or both.

Sire had sidelined the Smiths in America after Rolling Stone labeled Morrissey gay.

A piece in Rolling Stone claimed Morrissey was gay, completely contradicting his stand against sexual roles and their divisive consequences. “That brought a lot of problems for me”, he recalls ruefully. “Of course I never made such a statement”, Immediately their American record company, Sire, recoiled from supporting The Smiths. “They were petrified”, he remembers with disgust. “I thought that kind of writing epitomised the mentality of the American music press. That sicking macho stuff. After it appeared in Rolling Stone it ran rife through the lesser known publications, which to me was profoundly dull”. (Melody Maker, November 1984)

https://illnessasart.com/2020/01/05/melody-maker-3-november-1984/

Saved by the success of Vauxhall and I, but battered by label, legal, personal and management issues; and excluded by the music press from Britpop, he moved to LA and built an audience of equally excluded Chicanos.

In 2002 the NME mournfully accused him of giving the illusion of intimacy while never discussing his sexuality, and of being ambiguous, unambiguous, brutally upfront and distastefully infatuated with racism.

In 2004, You Are The Quarry, gave him a brief respite.

… excised from the hearts of many, horrified by the messy “flirtation” with racist imagery. (VS, NME, November 1999)

… nevermind the shaky accusations of racism… all those years of being Mother Teresa for the clumsy and shy and suddenly he was being reviled for crimes he’d never committed. (VS, Mojo, May 2004)

But his shyness, difficulty with social norms and outsider art meant the press soon fell back on ridicule, demonisation, inflammatory headlines and witch-hunts.

For a spell his public image has fused with the forgotten Nicky Crane – a bad gay, toxic, shunned, unwholesome; his empathetic solo work unbelievably synonymous with Skrewdriver.

Nicky Crane on Psychic TV.

NAZI FARTSY : Earsay’s snippets (Channel 4) on Genesis P-Orridge et al featured an unexpected guest – a certain Nicola Crane. Crane, the neo-Nazi who by a series of errors made the front cover of ‘Strength Thru Oi’, turned out to be one of the ‘stars’ of a Psychic TV video film. Let’s hope the media are as quick to condemn this obviously deliberate airing for Crane as they were with that accidental airing three years ago. (Sounds, 22nd September 1984)

Side Note 1: Nicky was on the gay scene from 1984, made gay porn films, attacked a benefit gig that had the Smiths on the bill & drank in a gay pub, The Bell, in Kings Cross that Morrissey also frequented. The video for Our Frank, directed by gay filmmaker John Maybury, used skinhead extras & was shot around Kings Cross.

The Bell: https://www.gayinthe80s.com/2017/09/pub-bell-kings-cross-london/

The gig: https://pasttenseblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/today-in-londons-radical-history-striking-miners-anti-fascists-beat-off-nazi-attack-on-glc-festival-1984/amp/

Nicky: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25142557

Brief clip of The Skin Complex in a news report about another gay NF ex-member. https://www.channel4.com/news/neo-nazi-national-front-organiser-quits-movement-comes-out-as-gay-kevin-wilshaw-jewish-heritage

Gay History: https://timalderman.com/2018/04/30/gay-history-a-contradiction-in-terms-nicky-crane-and-kevin-wilshaw-gay-neo-nazis-part-1/

Side Note 2: the NME’s claim they were just as hard on Eric Clapton, David Bowie & Elvis Costello is untrue. Eric sailed past the letter appealing to his better self into 1980s rock aristocracy while still supporting Enoch Powell. The worst it got for David Bowie was the NME faking the picture of a Nazi salute that became gossipy rocklore. And the NME refused to believe that Elvis Costello could mean it when he called James Brown a “jive-arsed n——” and Ray Charles a “blind, ignorant n——.”

Eric: https://genius.com/Red-saunders-letter-to-the-uk-music-press-regarding-eric-clapton-annotated

David: http://www.chalkiedavies.com/blog/b9wr8hr5mr79wkkbx83lf8cd7p54f7

Elvis: http://www.elviscostello.info/wiki/index.php/New_Musical_Express,_October_30,_1982

Side Note 3: The Union Jack is ubiquitous in UK culture – at no point in our history has it ever been a clear signal of fascism or has it needed to be reclaimed from the far right, nevermind from Morrissey. Some on the hard left hate it as a symbol of the British Empire and the British State, it’s a minority opinion. Skinheads were a working-class subculture that spanned the political spectrum and listened to Reggae, Punk and their variants. They had widespread coverage in the press, including in the NME.

Madness film: https://youtu.be/cwWvKnU9zCE

The Teachers Are Afraid of the Pupils

For some reason not explained The Guardian decided that The Teachers Are Afraid of the Pupils – a narrative song about a teacher being menaced by their pupils to the point they long to be ‘finished’ – is like a Daily Mail editorial set to music – and more ‘evidence’ that Morrissey is reactionary rather than ‘right on’.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2007/nov/30/morrisseyfromsuedeheadtope#comment-4376616

What’s even more bizarre is that The Guardian (the favourite paper of all my high school teachers) has covered their concerns about violence many times.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2005/oct/11/schools.uk

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jun/11/ran-at-me-axe-teachers-facing-violence-schools

And the song is in no way polemical – it’s a psychological horror, much like Term of Trial, Unman, Wittering and Zigo or Absolution.

There’s too many people
Planning your downfall
When your spirit’s on trial
These nights can be frightening
Sleep transports sadness
To some other mid-brain
And somebody here
Will not be here next year
So you stand by the board
Full of fear and intention
And, if you think that they’re listening
Well, you’ve got to be joking
Oh, you understand change
And you think it’s essential
But when your profession
Is humiliation
Say the wrong word to our children…
We’ll have you, oh yes, we’ll have you
Lay a hand on our children
And it’s never too late to have you
Mucus on your collar
A nail up through the staff chair
A blade in your soap
And you cry into your pillow
To be finished would be a relief
To be finished would be a relief
To be finished would be a relief
To be finished would be a relief
To be finished would be a relief
To be finished would be a relief
Say the wrong word to our children…
We’ll have you, oh yes, we’ll have you
Lay a hand on our children
And it’s never too late to have you
To be finished would be a relief
To be finished would be a relief
To be finished would be a relief
To be finished would be a relief
To be finished would be a relief
To be finished would be a relief

I’m very glad the spring has come
The sun shines out so bright
All the birds that are on the trees
Are singing for delight

Faith Goldy

At a concert in Toronto on April 26th 2019 Morrissey said on stage:

I’m a very cosmopolitan person. I’m a Christian. I’m very well travelled. I’ve heard of Faith Goldy. (Audience boos) What? I said I’ve HEARD of her!

He later dedicated a song to Marrisa Shen, a child who may have been murdered by a Syrian refugee (the case is yet to come to trial).

His comments were interpreted as anti-immigrant.

But as Faith had recently exploited the murder of Marrisa in a failed bid to become Mayor of Toronto, and as Morrissey had recently come to believe that the press, the police and the state were ignoring crimes committed by ethnic minorities because it didn’t fit their ideological narrative while smearing anyone as a racist who wanted crimes to be fairly investigated – it was very likely something to do with that.

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.  (Morrissey, Central, April 2018)

And his suspicion was backed up by a review of his concert in which the reviewer lamented that he hadn’t highlighted a crime where immigrants were the victims rather than a perpetrator – as if the point of talking about crime isn’t to get justice, but to police public opinion.

Later, Morrissey dedicated a song to Marrissa Shen, a 13-year-old girl from British Columbia whose accused murderer is a Canadian resident of Syrian descent. The homicide trial has become common fodder for anti-immigration sentiment in Canada. Instead of a seemingly random reference, it felt like a harsh reminder of so many of Morrissey’s troubling political statements. Why not take the opportunity, for instance, to acknowledge the Bruce McArthur case, wherein the victims were largely immigrants? 

https://nowtoronto.com/music/concert-reviews/morrissey-sony-centre-toronto

It’s doubtful Morrissey knew much about Faith Goldy.

While he was refusing to appear on Jimmy Kimmel with Duck Dynasty because they kill animals, she was defending their right to hunt and be homophobic (Sun News Network, December 2013), while he was denouncing Donald Trump for not comforting the gay community in the wake of the Orlando massacre, she was was disgusted by gay sex and blaming the gay community for being against guns and homophobia (Rebel News video, June 17th 2016)

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/tv/tv-news/jimmy-kimmel-responds-morrisseys-duck-425046/

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jun/14/morrissey-trump-response-orlando-attack-anti-gay-pro-gun

By this stage in his North American tour, under pressure from relentless bad publicity, he seemed unwell, defiant, but confused, depressed, and disheveled.

He hadn’t mentioned her before, and he hasn’t mentioned her since.

Irish Republican

In the Melody Maker, November 1984, Morrissey said:

The sorrow of the Brighton Bomb is that she (the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher) escaped unscathed. The sorrow is that she’s still alive. But I feel relatively happy about it. I think that for once the IRA were accurate in selecting their targets… They want us to believe that such attacks can only work in the government’s favour but I believe that’s utter nonsense. Immediately after the event Maggie was on television attacking the use of bombs – the very person who absolutely believes in the power of bombs. She’s the one who insists that they’re the only method of communication in world politics. All the grand dame gestures about about these awful terrorist bombs is absolute theatre.

He’s mostly annoyed that Thatcher was on television denouncing her own methods and the implication is that the IRA usually pick their targets badly, but the first sentence (usually the only one quoted) was enough to have him denounced as a terrorist sympathiser. The Smiths received death threats from Loyalist paramilitaries, the Irish Government insisted they play a scheduled Irish tour, and the IRA, not fussed about the ‘for once’, took it as a compliment.

https://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/the-smiths-were-ordered-to-play-the-north-by-irish-govt-26719453.html

https://lostinbelfast.wordpress.com/2018/12/16/13-barbarism-begins-at-home/

In May 2011 he was in trouble with conservatives in Ireland and the UK for saying the Queen should give the six counties back.

https://www.hotpress.com/opinion/the-existence-of-the-queen-is-against-any-notion-of-democracy-7901992

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/morrissey-tells-queen-to-hand-over-six-counties-1.573354

https://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/921

Even the UK left-wing press was sniffy – choosing to highlight his comparison of a constitutional Monarch with a dictator.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/may/18/morrissey-compares-queen-muammar-gaddafi

In April 2013 he got flack for mocking Thatcher’s death and for using a crass picture of the Queen.

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/morrissey-belfast-singer-under-fire-after-show-mocked-margaret-thatcher-and-the-queen-31094269.html

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/apr/10/morrissey-statement-margaret-thatcher

In a statement on True To You, 9th April 2013, he said:

The difficulty with giving a comment on Margaret Thatcher’s death to the British tabloids is that, no matter how calmly and measuredly you speak, the comment must be reported as an “outburst” or an “explosive attack” if your view is not pro-establishment. If you reference “the Malvinas”, it will be switched to “the Falklands”, and your “Thatcher” will be softened to a “Maggie.” This is generally how things are structured in a non-democratic society. Thatcher’s name must be protected not because of all the wrong that she had done, but because the people around her allowed her to do it, and therefore any criticism of Thatcher throws a dangerously absurd light on the entire machinery of British politics. Thatcher was not a strong or formidable leader. She simply did not give a shit about people, and this coarseness has been neatly transformed into bravery by the British press who are attempting to re-write history in order to protect patriotism. As a result, any opposing view is stifled or ridiculed, whereas we must all endure the obligatory praise for Thatcher from David Cameron without any suggestion from the BBC that his praise just might be an outburst of pro-Thatcher extremism from someone whose praise might possibly protect his own current interests. The fact that Thatcher ignited the British public into street-riots, violent demonstrations and a social disorder previously unseen in British history is completely ignored by David Cameron in 2013. In truth, of course, no British politician has ever been more despised by the British people than Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher’s funeral on Wednesday will be heavily policed for fear that the British tax-payer will want to finally express their view of Thatcher. They are certain to be tear-gassed out of sight by the police. United Kingdom? Syria? China? What’s the difference?

No one in the press has so far tried to explain why they believe he was an IRA supporter and a National Front supporter at the same time.

On a side note – The Guardian had to apologise for employing an IRA supporter who used his platform to smear a rape survivor.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-56292056

And on an even sider side note – in a weird quirk of fate – Scottish comedian Limmy, who called his Uncles ‘Orange Bastards’ and whose brother was jailed for anti-Irish sectarian racism, could drag Morrissey for British Nationalism.

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/tv-comic-limmys-brother-jailed-3006790

“devious, truculent and unreliable”.

In 1989, drummer Mike Joyce, started legal action against Morrissey and Marr to get the full 25% of past and future Smiths royalties that he claimed he was owed as part of a verbal contract with the band.

The case reached the high court in 1996 and after 7 weeks he won the case.

In his ruling Judge John Weeks called Joyce ‘honest’ and Morrissey ‘devious, truculent and unreliable’.

Morrissey appealed on the grounds that it was unfair to make a decision based on a character assassination, but he lost.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/209224.stm

Devious, truculent and unreliable is often cited as if it’s the legal verdict:

It’s one thing to hear Morrissey obfuscating with the press, and being his playful self. But to see him grilled by a barrister is something else. Because you can’t play pop-star games in the same way, and with the rhetorical flourishes that you normally do, because it just doesn’t work in the high court. It’s just straight question and answer. And where Wildean wit would work in an interview context, in the high court they just come back to you again and again: ‘Would you please just answer the question? (Johnny Rogan, Irish Times, January 2012)

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/music/2.681/putting-the-byrds-on-their-rightful-perch-1.445601

And Morrissey has never let it go, obsessively talking about John Weeks to journalist Lynn Barber in 2002, calling the NME devious, truculent and unreliable after a disastrous interview in 2007, and devoting around 50 pages to the case in his autobiography.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2002/sep/15/artsfeatures.popandrock

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/everyone-s-a-loser-in-the-morrissey-vs-nme-feud-1.989460

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-24562454

In one particularly gruesome article he was accused of exploiting children:

During the trial, it emerged that Morrissey had forced an agreement on members Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke to only receive ten percent of profits each … without actually telling them. When Rourke was trapped in a heroin addiction and in desperate need of cash, Morrissey then forced him to waive future claims to his fair share in return for a quick cash injection to feed his monkey (that’s slang for addiction, not an actual pet monkey). Oh, plus there’s the fact that when the band started Morrissey was a fully grown man of 23, while the other members were teenagers barely out of high school. If there’s a better word than “devious” for describing a man who rips off teenagers for tens of thousands of dollars … no, there isn’t.  

https://www.grunge.com/172120/messed-up-details-about-morrissey/

Bad Writer

Morrissey’s jokes can be cutting and unwise – but they’re nowhere near as spiteful or as unfunny, as The Quietus.

https://thequietus.com/articles/14213-morrissey-novel-extract

It reads as if their avowed anti-racism is sitting on a powder keg of repression because given half a chance to take a pot shot at the singer they’ve labeled a Nazi, they come out with horrors like this by David Stubbs, in January 2014:

However, these were the 1980s and an unspoken racism meant that it was hard for those whose skin was not disco-coloured to get booked on the programme. So, Norrissey hatched a plan. He and the band turned up at the BBC studios one Thursday evening in Afro wigs, their skins applied with burnt cork, minstrel-style. “Hi!” they said, jively, to the man at the door, waving their hands in the sort of way that makes some wonder if Britain is Britain any more. “The name of this here group of ours is The Blackfaces and we’re here to play our new single ‘Strut Your Superficial Stuff’.” Naturally, they were immediately allowed on the show.

To remind you – it was Simon Reynolds and Frank Owen, journalists at the Melody Maker, who divided pop music into white indie (which was intellectual) and black music (escapist, showbiz, works through the body on the dancefloor). Morrissey answered questions based on their escapist v. intelligent binary and (rightly) thought that escapist would get more airplay because it’s escapist.

“Pop has never been this divided,” wrote Simon Reynolds in his much-lauded, recent piece on the indie scene, referring to the chasm that now exists between indie-pop and black pop… It’s a bit like the late Sixties all over again with a burgeoning Head culture insisting that theirs’ is the “real” radical music, an intelligent and subversive music that provides an alternative to the crude showbiz values of black pop… What (black music) says can’t necessarily be verbalised easily. It doesn’t seek to change the world like rock music by speaking grand truths about politics, sex and the human condition. It works at a much more subtle level – at the level of the body and the shared abandon of the dancefloor. It won’t change the world, but it’s been said it may well change the way you walk through the world. (Frank Owen, Melody Maker, Steptember, 1986)

Not content with racist jokes based on a faulty memory or no research, he went on to make homophobic jibes…

Stephan Partick Norrissey looked at himself longingly and bashfully in the bedroom mirror. He was 12, and in the throes of a shy infatuation with the boy who stared back at him… In the thrill of the moment, he wondered what his own genitals looked like – he averted his eyes when at the lavatory… He relished the warmth of his own backside…  In 2013, in a ceremony that broke down new barriers in terms of civil partnership, Norrissey married the one man who had kept faith in him, adored him quietly from afar, been his companion in times of loneliness, his only true friend – himself… some were sordid enough to wonder how they would manage to consummate the relationship. They need not have feared – for if anyone was able to insert himself up his own rectum, it was Norrissey.

He also jokes about fat women, because, satire…

An outsider, engulfed by modern superficiality yet destined to be adored by everyone except bitter, fat female journalists

And implies that if Morrissey wanted Jimmy Savile arrested, he should have gone to the police himself, as if it’s unreasonable to think that people who knew about Savile should have done something.

Now, rumours were rife about Jimmy Savile – the things he got up to – evil, disgusting things – but which no one dared to inform the authorities about. Norrissey, however, wasn’t intimidated by Jimmy Savile’s showbiz status – his image as a cigar-toting, yodelling big shot cut no ice with him. He would inform the police.

David Stubbs’ era of music journalism was racist, sexist, homophobic, and turned a blind eye to Savile – the fact that they tired to make it sound ‘positive’ and ‘fun’ doesn’t make it less bigoted.

Their excuse for the venom was Morrissey’s anticipated novel, List of The Lost.

When it arrived there was a glut of bad reviews and a bad sex award.

As soon as it was published last week, the internet erupted with the sound of a thousand contemptuous guffaws. (The Guardian, October 2015)

Even his autobiography, published in 2013, had been denounced, his memories questioned, and his left-wing crimes listed.

This kind of pretentiousness has been taken at face value for so long by the more credulous members of the pop media that it’s no surprise that Morrissey regards himself as an artist… Sixties Manchester was not heaven on earth. Nor was it the Dickensian dump Morrissey would have us believe. Whores did not tout for business in leafy Stretford and as for his memories of miserable schooldays, and teachers who liked to punish miscreants, these are overgrazed pastures. But this is the picture he wants people to see, of how the forces of repression turned him into the mardy little pup who never grew up, and there was nothing he could do about it… In three decades of unloading his misery on a world he finds too cold to take part in, few people have escaped his wrath. The royal family exists as a kind of dictatorship, judges are bent, patriotism is a joke, last year’s Olympic Games was barely a step away from a Nuremberg rally (didn’t you see those jackboots?), and the Krays, being working class, were misunderstood. And don’t forget, boys and girls: ‘meat is murder’... Shamefully Penguin fell for this ruse, and lent a spurious respectability to a mucky exercise. They must know they will never be allowed to forget it. (The Spectator, October 2013)

Not just a bad person, he was now a bad writer.

Jimmy Savile

In a hit piece in The Quietus in May 2017 – the lead singer of Gene, Martin Rossiter, added Jimmy Savile to the list of Morrissey’s heavily edited word crimes, writing:

Talking about the Jimmy Savile abuse investigation, saying: “2013 enlightenment can’t be applied to dark and dim nights of 1972, otherwise every singer who ever slept with a 14-year-old would suddenly be behind bars – and that would take a lot of bars”

The full quote is this:

As for Jimmy Savile, he is dead. He’s unlikely to care very much what The Daily Mail thinks of him. Savile has won. He got away with it, and he was obviously never a villain in his own eyes. What remains is the question of complicity, because he could not have been so successful a predator without co-conspirators. Who are they, where are they? What are the names of the police chiefs who ignored Savile’s victims? Savile was a profiteer, and those who protected him are still here. However, I’m not sure if witch-hunts against aged Radio Caroline DJs is quite the point. 2013 enlightenment can’t be applied to the dark and dim nights of 1972, otherwise every singer who ever slept with a 14 year old would suddenly be behind bars – and that would take a lot of bars. Any move against the will of another is wrong, but Savile must have imagined himself to be the kids that he assaulted, and he thought them lucky – such was the ego. (Loaded, February 2013)

Later he said:

Hot Press: How did you react to the recent revelations that M15 confiscated a paedophile dossier naming VIP figures, drawn up by Barbara Castle?

Morrissey: I didn’t even raise an eyebrow. The fact that the dossier is supposedly missing is immaterial. People read it and know what it says, and they couldn’t possibly forget the names that they read. Similarly, the ‘royal’ family have determined that the file on the famous Profumo case not be opened or made available to the public until 50 years after Prince Philip’s death. Draw your own conclusions from that. What becomes farcical is the way the modern Conservative government dictate to the public about tax and recession and recycling, and we’re expected to listen and obey, whilst that same government apparently has a history of paedophilia which they go to excessive lengths to hide, whilst telling us how naughty everyone else is. Last week the Pope announced that 2% of priests, bishops and cardinals in the Catholic church are known paedophiles! And this was the fifth story on the news! And we’re asked to have faith in the Catholic church! The world has officially gone mad.

Hot Press: A 1978 radio interview has just been unearthed in which John Lydon accuses Jimmy Savile of being “into all kinds of seediness that we all know about but aren’t allowed to talk about”. What were your impressions of Jimmy Savile?

Morrissey: I’m naïve on the subject of child abuse. I can’t even imagine what it is. My brain doesn’t lock into it. So, I think the Savile case has profoundly changed British society and obviously depressed everyone, but we’ll soon have a sterile Hollywood epic with Johnny Depp in a blond wig holding a fat cigar. Jimmy Savile worked a lot at the BBC in Manchester, and on the club circuit in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the older members of my family would always heave a sharp intake of breath at the mention of his name. I never knew why. But I think Operation Yewtree is unsurvivable for Britain. Imagine what the rest of the world is thinking. Imagine what small children are thinking. Once again, there’s no concentration on the police commissioners who ignored reports from Savile’s victims. They’re just as guilty – why not smoke them out? (Hot Press, August 2014)

Morrissey isn’t ignoring victims, he’s questioning the system that allows predators (who don’t see themselves as predators) to thrive – police, governments, the Catholic Church.

It’s the same position he has on the UK child abuse scandal that involved grooming gangs of mainly Asian heritage, and a brief spate of London acid attacks reportedly committed by (mainly) non-white people on (mainly) non-white people.

His focus is on the government, the media and the police – not (as assumed by people who say they’re anti-racist yet immediately jump to the most racist conclusion) on slandering all non-white people, or even on the perpetrators, who are criminals being criminal.

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. (Morrissey Central, September 2018)

Telford grooming gangs? Hardly worth a whisper in The Independent. (Morrissey Central, March 2018)

And he’s not wrong that the jails would be full of 1970s DJs and pop stars if all of them were prosecuted – Jimmy Page, David Bowie, Bill Wyman, John Peel… as well as those already convicted, Jonathan King, Gary Glitter…

The underage groupie scene was well-documented, and still celebrated right up until the Harvey Weinstein scandal:

IN THE EARLY 1970S, the Sunset Strip was a magnet for rock stars: Bowie, Zeppelin, Iggy Pop, Mott the Hoople, The Who. They all hung out in the VIP rooms of louche LA nightclubs like E Club, the Rainbow, and Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco. And with them, of course, came groupies. Scantily clad 14- and 15-year-olds like Sable Starr and Lynn “Queenie” Koenigsaecker sipped cherry cola, dropped pills, and evolved into pubescent dream girls for the platform-shoed rockers who could get anything and anyone they desired. 

Decades before Drake dissed Tyga for dating 17-year-old Kylie Jenner, and R. Kelly faced multiple allegations of having sex with minors, the most visible rock stars in the world blithely made it with girls who were barely out of junior high school. It was all glorified in the pages of a glossy magazine called Star, which reveled in the underage groupie scene for five issues. Other publications, such as the rock ‘n’ roll bible Creem, flicked at the Sunset Strip doings without so much as a wagged finger. Hell, in 1973, a leisure-suited Tom Snyder devoted an entire show to interviews with some of LA’s highly desired teenage groupies. (Thrillist, March 2015)

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/i-lost-my-virginity-to-david-bowie

Black Music

Morrissey’s September 1986 interview with Frank Owen in the Melody Maker created four scandals –

  1. Reggae is vile – conflated with a joke answer to a questionnaire in the NME in February 1985.

2. Reggae is racist – he’s racist for saying that reggae can be racist, despite it being influenced by Rastafarianism whose principles were defined (1977, Leonard Barrett) as including: the White person is inferior to the Black person, Jamaica is hell; Ethiopia is heaven, in the near future Blacks shall rule the world.

3. That he thinks there’s a ‘black pop music conspiracy’ to stop white Indie bands getting on Top of the Pops – actually all he was saying is that television and radio producers (almost none of whom were black in those days – or even now) prefer escapist music.

And – 4. that Morrissey hates black music.

vis-à-vis:

Frank wrote: Pop has never been this divided,” wrote Simon Reynolds in his much-lauded, recent piece on the indie scene, referring to the chasm that now exists between indie-pop and black pop. The detestation that your average indie fan feels for black music can be gauged by the countless letters they write to the music press whenever a black act is featured on the front page. It’s a bit like the late Sixties all over again with a burgeoning Head culture insisting that theirs’ is the “real” radical music, an intelligent and subversive music that provides an alternative to the crude showbiz values of black pop. Morrissey has further widened this divide with the recent single, Panic  – where “Metal Guru” meets the most explicit denunciation yet of black pop. (There is no evidence for Frank’s assertion that’s it’s about hanging black DJs, and he’s being cavalier if thinks hanging imagery would only be widening a musical divide.) “Hang the DJ” urges Morrissey. So is the music of The Smiths and their ilk racist, as Green claims?

Morrissey said: Reggae, for example, is to me the most racist music in the entire world. It’s an absolute total glorification of black supremacy… There is a line when defence of one’s race becomes an attack on another race and, because of black history and oppression, we realise quite clearly that there has to be a very strong defence. But I think it becomes very extreme sometimes… But, ultimately, I don’t have very cast iron opinions on black music other than black modern music which I detest. I detest Stevie Wonder. I think Diana Ross is awful. I hate all those records in the Top 40 – Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston. I think they’re vile in the extreme. In essence this music doesn’t say anything whatsoever.”

Frank wrote: But it does, it does. What it says can’t necessarily be verbalised easily. It doesn’t seek to change the world like rock music by speaking grand truths about politics, sex and the human condition. It works at a much more subtle level – at the level of the body and the shared abandon of the dancefloor. It won’t change the world, but it’s been said it may well change the way you walk through the world.

It was music journalists who framed it as an Indie v. Black issue, as if no black person could ever make Indie music, and as if they (or any artist) can have total control over the direction of their art at every stage of their career.

80s Whitney Houston wasn’t happy with her music:

“Sometimes it gets down to ‘You’re not black enough for them. You’re not R&B enough. You’re very pop. The white audience has taken you away from them.’” This was Whitney Houston, reflecting on the first significant setback of her career, when she was booed at the 1989 Soul Train Awards.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jul/07/not-black-enough-the-identity-crisis-that-haunted-whitney-houston

Mariah Carey wanted to break free:

I always resisted their push to make me fit in a neat adult contemporary category… I created an alter-ego artist… I was playing with the style of the breezy-grunge, punk-light white female singers who were popular at the time. You know the ones who seemed to be so carefree with their feelings and their image. They could be angry, angsty and messy, with old shoes, wrinkled slips, and unruly eyebrows, while every move I made was so calculated and manicured… I wanted to express my misery – and I also wanted to laugh. (The Meaning of Mariah, Mariah Carey, 2020)

Prince thought Morrissey had a point:

I like what Morrissey said about how, isn’t it funny how all the acts go to number one? They go on the cover of Rolling Stone after one release. It took me four albums. The record companies, they have become like carjackers. (Prince, The Independent, June 2011)

And while Morrissey could be sniffy about Prince’s music in the past, when he thought Prince’s veganism was being censored, he wrote a robust defense of his life and work:

Despite his over-the-top fury at the Queen’s press – his main point has always been – that the culture is curated and he doesn’t like the process:

There are no bands or singers who become successful without overwhelming marketing. There are no surprise success stories. Everything is stringently controlled, obvious and predictable and has exactly the same content. We are now in the era of marketed pop stars, which means that the labels control the charts, and consequently the public have lost interest. It’s rare that a record label does something for the good of music. We are force-fed acts such as Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, which at least means that things can’t possibly get any worse. It is sad, though. There’s no spontaneity and it all seems to be unsalvageable. (Morrissey, Thrasher, July 2015)

It wasn’t about black music v. indie – it was about art v. commerce.

He was treating 80s black pop stars as peers, loving/hating their work the way he did with everyone’s work.

It’s often insulting, but there’s no racist pattern:

You were chosen to compile a new Ramones compilation. But didn’t you write a letter to Melody Maker in 1976 where you said they didn’t have much talent?
Morrissey: No, I didn’t say that! I said they had NO talent! Once I had posted the letter I went home and played the album again and it hit me like lightning. It’s great to be wrong occasionally. When Melody Maker printed the letter I felt so disgusting. I should have been killed in a canoe accident. So ashamed! I deserved a spike in the forehead». (Morrissey, La Repubblica, October 2014)

Do you like jazz?
“It’s boring. I like something spirited.”
Something like gospel?
“‘Oh Happy Day’ sung by hundreds of people who are living in dire poverty in Birmingham, Alabama? No thank you.”
Heavy metal?
Even soft metal I find repulsive, because it completely bypasses the cranium for the loins. The loincloths. I don’t like anything that insults the intelligence.”
Have you ever been to a rave?
“Rave is the refuge of the mentally deficient. It’s made by dull people for dull people.”
Classical?
“I have a lot, but I don’t understand a great deal of it. I don’t understand the musical terms, but I’m learning. I think it’s something I’ll manage to perfect over the next thirty years. Right now I like Jaqueline Dupré – she’s a cellist. But I like anything that’s basically sad.” (laughs) “I don’t like marches.” (Details, December 1992)

“It is actually fraudulent, and the exact opposite of erotic. Edith Piaf was seven inches high, always wore a modest black dress, and sang without stage sets or lights, and her voice roared above the wind, with the most incredible powers of communication. I’d like to see McDonna (Madonna) attempt that.” (Billboard, July 2011)

The Face: “If I put you in a room with Robert Smith, Mark E. Smith and a loaded Smith and Wesson, who would bite the bullet first?”
Morrissey: “I’d line them up so that one bullet penetrated both simultaneously (chuckle). Mark E. Smith despises me and has said hateful things about me, all untrue. Robert Smith is a whingebag. It’s rather curious that he began wearing beads at the emergence of The Smiths and (eyes narrowing) has been photographed with flowers. I expect he’s quite supportive of what we do, but I’ve never liked The Cure… not even ‘The Caterpillar’.” (The Face, July 1984)

“Fire in the belly is essential, otherwise you become like Michael Bublé – famous and meaningless.” (Billboard, July 2011)

Alternative Nation: You’ve talked about American politics quite a bit before, but your music focuses on politics in the UK and that region. Do any politically-charged songs made in America really connect with you and bring your spirit into this country? Morrissey: Of course there has been a great deal of rousing political songs about the American condition … most famously Buffy Sainte-Marie singing “Moratorium”, Bob Dylan’s “The Time’s they Are A-Changin’”, Edwin Starr singing “War”, Joni Mitchell singing “here in good ol’ God Save America / the home of the brave and the free / we are all hopelessly oppressed cowards “… bits of Melanie Safka I thought were very cutting, ​Phil Ochs, Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit … and of course I’m not inspired by rap but I can see how ‘Fear Of a Black Planet’ or ‘Mamma, Don’t You Think They Know?’ jumps ahead with everything Nina Simone was doing with ‘To Be Young, Gifted And Black’… I think rap has scared the American white establishment to death, mainly because it’s true. James Brown once sang “Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud”. No pop artist would ever be allowed to say that today … they’d be instantly dropped from the label. If Billie Holiday approached Capitol Records in 2015 they wouldn’t entertain her for a second. Also, yes, I feel that I bring my spirit to America, and I feel very much a part of it and I’ve played in most cities big or small. America has been so important to my musical life, and the audiences have always been incredible. I’ve always felt privileged even though I know I’ve been locked out of mainstream considerations. That’s life! Me and Billie Holiday, good company, at least. (Morrissey, Alternative Nation, June 2015)

The Frank Owen interview is still selectively quoted, conflated paraphrased, and used to attack him.

One complaint is that he never apologizes – but most of these scandals are slow-burners, by the time they’ve reached their final tagline, it’s years later and they’re wildly out of context.

It’s peculiar to keep harking back to insinuations from 1986 esp. if an apology is enough to make a person acceptable even for using direct slurs.

For a while it was believed Morrissey had dissed Stormzy via a video on Central (July 2919) – nothing came of it; we don’t even know if he knows about it – but while Twitter was anticipating a feud and taking Stormzy’s side, no one felt the need to mention the 3 years Stormzy spent using homophobic language.

Later, when British Somali feminist and social activist, Nimco Ali, tried to use him as an example of excused bigotry, while she was being condemned as a homophobe for accepting a job as a government adviser on violence against women, she was dismissed:


It would seem more performative and tribal than anything else.

As if Morrissey’s real crime is not chatting to journalists down the pub.

On a side note – Stormzy’s effective PR distressed fellow Grime artist, Wiley, so much that he accused his own manager of being part of a Jewish plot to replace black artists in their 40s with black artists in their 20s. This mid-life crisis – and actual conspiracy theory – received support from newspaper The Voice.

https://www.thejc.com/news/uk/the-voice-publishes-inflammatory-interview-with-wiley-1.502053

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jul/24/wiley-accused-of-antisemitism-after-likening-jews-to-ku-klux-klan

Future Crimes

Tweeting.

No longer leonine or otherworldly, simply another schtick puppet jiggling through his own schtick in the schtick zoo for the amusement of people on trains who are too afraid of their own thoughts to look out the window. That’s not the Morrissey we want. But it’s the Morrissey that Twitter has in store for us. (Vice, May 2014)

(As of January 2021, he has not engaged on Twitter)

Harassment

Morrissey has yet to be implicated in the post-Weinstein reckoning. (Overland Literary Journal, November 2017)

(As of January 2021, no accusations have been made)

Sacrifice

Morrissey In Satanic Baby Record Sleeve Shocker… (he’s) been painted as a few unpleasant things in his time – Nazi, control freak, skinhead-appeaser, reggae-hater, sanctimonious vegetarian… More disturbing, though, is the baby that he’s holding. Whose is it, for a start? Ponder that, and look at the baby’s forehead… what on earth are those lumps and bumps, arranged in a suspicious pattern?  Might not they be a pentagram carved into the poor mite’s perplexed noggin? (The Quietus, December 2008)*

(As of January 2021, the child is unharmed)

*Although The Quietus say they’re ‘joshing’ – insinuating that there’s something disturbing and suspicious about a gay man (as they label him in a later article) holding a child, taps into a very ugly stereotype, and the joke doesn’t have any other target. Their self-declared anti-fascism has a serious blind-spot.

Der Spiegel

“Most interviews I have been very displeased with because, obviously, you don’t have any control. You can be very merry in an interview and it can come across as being very dour. Or you can say something flippantly which will be written in blood in the music press and it sounds as though you’re deadly serious. You’re throwing yourself on the mercy of a journalist who can be friendly during the interview but can turn out to be something of a behemoth in print.” (Morrissey, 1983)

https://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/morrissey-ueber-brexit-kevin-spacey-und-merkels-fluechtlingspolitik-a-1178545.html

In November, 2017, Morrissey gave an interview in LA to Der Spiegel journalist, Juliane Liebert.

The way she framed the questions and the way she wrote up the answers would lead to Morrissey being accused of threatening to kill Trump, being a rape apologist, and hating refugees.

He’d been through all this before – the press taking his meandering thoughts about politics, or his lyrics, and turning them into inflammatory rows about child abuse, racism and violence, blaming him for the anger generated by their own journalese, when his main interests are animals, the misuse of state/media power, and music.

Signs of trouble (from the audio):

He directly relates news to mental health – & she doesn’t ask if or how it affected him.

He speaks very gently & gets written up as if he’s ranting.

She’s been told not to ask about politics – she asks anyway.

He tells her he’s exhausted by journalists saying he means something that he doesn’t mean, happily talking to him & then morally correcting him in print. Which is what she does.

He’s not sleeping. (She would write that he kept her waiting as a power move, when it’s far more likely he was too tired.)

She calls Jackie a stupid song & laughs when he says he tries to look good – which is when she should have been politely shown the door.

He reads 8 or so books at a time but has never heard of the BDS movement so he might have ideas but he’s got no grassroots experience.

He’s talking about political structures & she’s talking about Twitter shitstorms.

The vast bulk of the interview is about animals & music; his main purpose is getting abattoirs banned – he compares it to Auschwitz again (which always goes down badly because most people can’t imagine seeing animals as equal). He doesn’t like generic songs. Most of it is cut.

She asks him if he would kill Trump. He says he would. (It’s hypothetical, but in December 2017, he would claim that the American security services had questioned him about making death threats)

She asks if he’s been following #MeToo, he says, ‘to some extent, yes, but then it became a play.’ He says nothing about Weinstein at all. He talks about keeping perspective, clumsy courtships & later twists back on to the casting couch in general.

Other celebrities would make stronger points (most of them memoryholed).

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/metoo-matt-damon-taron-egerton-jason-bateman-henry-cavill-sean-penn-a8643286.html

She asks about Kevin Spacey being replaced in a film. He’d been accused of sexually assaulting a 14 year old in his bedroom after a party when he was in his 20s. Morrissey questions the circumstances based on music’s groupie scene. She mentions David Bowie who slept with 14 year olds in his 20s. He condemns all forms of sexual violence. But thinks this story doesn’t ring true (probably because of Bowie) and that Spacey might have been unfairly attacked.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/david-bowie-and-rock-n-rolls-statutory-rape-problem

The press/Twitter would claim that he was robustingly defending Weinstein and Spacey, callously blaming the victims, while in full possession of the facts of their cases.

The interview moves on to politics. She thinks bad leaders look like cartoon villains. He thinks the EU is the German Empire. (It does have the most clout.)

He talks about countries retaining their own identity – language, laws, common ground, things that people have fought for – it’s not really controversial, but multiculturalism is one of those buzzwords where you’re not allowed nuance – you must be wholly for or against – because that makes it quicker to write an opinion piece. (Dorian Lynskey, in The New Statesman, will write that this means Morrissey approves of the Nazis.)

After Labour was defeated in the December election of 2019, the left would start to grapple with identity in exactly the way (Irish Catholic English) Morrissey has always been grappling with it.

In parts of the left, there is an unattractive blind spot that misses the importance of collective attachment to an inherited landscape, both physical and emotional. That landscape is not immutable but it shapes a sense of belonging and context. For many Leave voters, particularly those who have traditionally voted Labour, the emotional landscape of “England” has offered a way to express communal values neglected during 30 years of excessive individualism, licensed by both left and right. (The Observer, January 2021)

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/17/proud-to-be-english-how-we-can-shape-a-progressive-patriotism

He then takes a jab at Angela Merkel’s handling of the 2015 refugee crisis and said Berlin had turned into the rape capital of Europe (which is either hyperbole or a viral story he picked up from somewhere). He was blaming Merkel for the chaos, but it was taken as an attack on refugees.

There had been reports of increased sexual assaults, which wasn’t surprising considering how many refugees were young men without any family support.

“Crimes committed by [asylum-seeking] immigrants saw a disproportionate increase last year — there’s nothing there we can gloss over,” said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière. He said when it came to violent crimes there were “about 90 per cent more immigrant suspects in 2016” than in the prior year. (Financial Times, April, 2017)

https://www.ft.com/content/b5a8867e-28ea-11e7-bc4b-5528796fe35c

And Merkel’s policy was so disastrous, in terms of resources, organisation and logistics, that in March 2016 the EU negotiated with Turkey to stop refugees from crossing into Europe.

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/legislative-train/theme-towards-a-new-policy-on-migration/file-eu-turkey-statement-action-plan

Morrissey’s stance on these things is macro, the refugee crisis shouldn’t have happened; because there shouldn’t be global inequality, we shouldn’t wage war & we shouldn’t destroy the environment.

In his roundabout way, it’s class-based socialism.

The destruction and abandonment of labor politics means that, at present, immigration issues can only play out within the framework of a culture war, fought entirely on moral grounds. In the heightened emotions of America’s public debate on migration, a simple moral and political dichotomy prevails. It is “right-wing” to be “against immigration” and “left-wing” to be “for immigration.” But the economics of migration tell a different story. (Angela Negle, American Affairs Journal, November 2018)

Liebert says he’s against all immigration.

Morrissey tries to clarify, no, he isn’t, with a squeal, but it’s too late.

Journalists are under no obligation to print everything & only have to prove you said those words, however they edited them. Interpretation, however unfair, is fair comment.

He reacted badly to the way it was sensationalised:

(Posted on Facebook)

Der Spiegel released the audio, timestamping the most controversial passages, so that most people would miss the lead up and follow on.

He had talked about Trump, Refugees and Spacey and that was enough for everyone to declare that he had been caught lying.

He released a sorrowful video on his nephew’s YouTube account, in December 2017:

Suddenly, I was sympathizing with sexual harassment. I was apparently sympathizing with pedophilia, I was sympathizing with rape, I was sympathizing with everything that would persuade anybody on the planet to stop listening to me. Of course, none of those assumptions were true. I do not support anything like that. You can hear it even in the tone of my voice… However, this is the world we now live in with the print media. It seems to me that, in the first place, they get very angry or very excited if you stop to say something that people are listening to or that reflect the will of the people. They get very nervous. They won’t allow it. They shut it down and so forth… But also, it seems to me that, in England at the moment, the right wing has adopted a left wing stance, and the left wing has adopted a right wing stance, so everybody’s confused, and nobody seems to know what people mean. This shuts down free speech. This shuts down any open debate about anything. And consequently, we’re all in a mess, and we don’t know where we stand… So I fear that the campaign for Low in High School and for the surrounding singles was derailed and damaged purposely by the haters. They’re not listening to the music. They’re not listening to anything, really. They see my name, and they want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. And as I said, in many ways, they do succeed. There’s not really that much you can do about it.

It’s been argued that if he can’t explain himself in a way that chimes with popular debates in the press, then he deserves all he gets. But that means you’re limiting who can participate in the arts to people who are good at press and marketing, which would also restrict the type of art they’re likely to make.

And although he wasn’t part of the culture war – his political focus is relentlessly on animals, and anyone who thought he would become a pundit was sorely disappointed – he had picked up on a real problem.

The left was behaving very much like the right. Anyone who tells you that virtue signalling on Twitter is a good thing, is someone who depends on likes and RTs for their living or their self-esteem. It’s had a catastrophic impact on public life. Polarizing debates, hounding people for saying problematic things, or even for being friends with someone who has, pushing people to the right for solidarity, and rendering us incapable of understanding that good people can have different ideas and experiences from our own fiercely held tribal positions.

One grandstands when one makes a contribution to public moral discourse that aims to convince others that one is “morally respectable.” By this we mean that grandstanding is a use of moral talk that attempts to get others to make certain desired judgments about oneself, namely, that one is worthy of respect or admiration because one has some particular moral quality—for example, an impressive commitment to justice, a highly tuned moral sensibility, or unparalleled powers of empathy. To grandstand is to turn one’s contribution to public discourse into a vanity project. (Justin Tosi, Brandon Warmke, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Summer 2016)

The internet… has encouraged us to hole ourselves up in ideological fortresses; to build moats around our value systems, to pull up our mental drawbridges; and to fire verbal arrows at anyone with a different perspective… with little room for uncertainty or nuance. The way we are pressured to “cancel” public figures we once admired is spiteful and reductive… It means many of us have a predetermined position on news stories even before they break. (Dani Garavelli, The Scotsman, October 2020)

While fluid­ity of iden­tity, plur­al­ity, and mul­ti­pli­city are al­ways claimed on be­half of the VC mem­bers — partly to cov­er up their own in­vari­ably wealthy, priv­ileged, or bour­geois-as­sim­il­a­tion­ist back­ground — the en­emy is al­ways to be es­sen­tial­ized. Since the de­sires an­im­at­ing the VC are in large part priests’ de­sires to ex­com­mu­nic­ate and con­demn, there has to be a strong dis­tinc­tion between Good and Evil, with the lat­ter es­sen­tial­ized. No­tice the tac­tics. X has made a re­mark/has be­haved in a par­tic­u­lar way — these re­marks/ this be­ha­vi­or might be con­strued as trans­phobic/sex­ist etc. So far, okay. But it’s the next move which is the kick­er. X then be­comes defined as a trans­phobe/sex­ist etc. Their whole iden­tity be­comes defined by one ill-judged re­mark or be­ha­vi­or­al slip. Once the VC has mustered its witch-hunt, the vic­tim (of­ten from a work­ing class back­ground, and not schooled in the pass­ive-ag­gress­ive etiquette of the bour­geois­ie) can re­li­ably be goaded in­to los­ing their tem­per, fur­ther se­cur­ing their po­s­i­tion as pari­ah/latest to be con­sumed in feed­ing frenzy. (Mark Fisher, Exiting The Vampire Castle, 2013)