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?
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)
Neil Gaiman took the opportunity to suck up to the television industry as if he’d be thrilled by an episode that condemned him for potentially murdering the people of Skye because he was too dim to read the Covid rules:
Not that they would target Neil with anything that would hurt or exclude him, because whatever his personal issues, he does marketing, networking, online engagement, works with a vast number of people & might be able to shaft your career. Things Morrissey can’t do, due to shyness, anxiety, depression, dysmorphia, and/or clear-eyed horror at its fakeness.
The show probably took its character arc from a hit piece in The LA Times, based on hit pieces in the British press. There’s an accumulating list of misquotes and misinterpretations and every article will pick at least three, along with UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN labels like xenophobe, racist, far right, right-wing, British nationalist, British nativist, controversial, reactionary, toxic, anti-immigrant, hard to love, dead to me, or HE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED.
Nearly everything about him gets edited out & the rest is conflated, hyped & chanted.
For a start, he is an immigrant, not to the USA, but to England:
… my sister and I growing up, never really felt we were Mancunians. My Irishness was never something I hid or camouflaged. I grew up in a strong Irish community. Of course, early on I’d be teased about it, I was called `Paddy’ from an early age. I mean, there I was, born, braised and bred in Manchester but I was still always called `Paddy’. And this was back in the 1960s when it was a bitter and malevolent slur. But that’s how Manchester people are – they’re extremely critical of everything and everybody. (Morrissey, November 1999, Irish Times)
His current band, that no one ever talks about because they’re too busy pining for the all-white one, has immigrants:
I remember seeing you in a Chivas USA shirt. You have a strong association with Mexico. How do you think their people are treated in America? Oh, like kings! No, sorry, that was a joke. My guitarist Jesse, who’s been with me for 10 years, is Mexican. One night in Los Angeles the police approached us, spoke reasonably civilly to me, and then said to him “which restaurant do you work at?” I think that sums it up! One of the greatest guitarists of the modern age, but because his skin is brown it’s assumed he washes dishes for a living. He will one day, of course… (Morrissey, August 2014, Hot Press)
He’s mentioned immigration in general only a few times in his career, and he’s never attacked people, or demanded that immigration be lowered, stopped or reversed. What he frets about is the tensions inherent in identity. Who we are, why we are, can we kick against it, can we get along? Always on the side of the less powerful, although in his eagerness to attack government policy, he can forget the social norm of expressing pity for its victims while doing absolutely nothing genuinely helpful. He laments that culture is becoming generic esp in music. And he rails against tyranny and injustice; we need structure to make our lives function, but it can also oppress and brutalise us:
The infantile panic with which American immigration officials shout loudly and humiliate gleefully is designed to exert strength, yet it trumpets cowardice and it fouls notions of patriotism… The US government proudly boasted Zero Tolerance and implemented the scheme with zero intelligence. (Morrissey, 2013, Autobiography)
But his overwhelming concern is the meat industry:
The fact that the slaughterhouse or abattoir exists is the most obvious example of human evil. The slaughterhouse is the dead end for humanity, and as long as it exists we can’t possibly have any hope for the human race. If you’ve seen abattoir footage then you cannot possibly think that humans are anything other than evil pests…
He has always felt his opposition to the meat industry is opposed by power:
… If your views threaten any form of establishment interests, you are usually ignored or silenced or said to be ‘ranting, I have never ranted in my life. (Morrissey, June 2015, The Huffington Post)
And he clearly believed fringe crank, Anne Marie Waters, founder of For Britain, when she said she was being smeared as a racist and a fascist because she was talking about sensitive issues to do with veganism, secularism, animal rights, feminism, and gay rights. And that somehow she would stop the violence and polarization that was driving politics in the 2010s as social media funneled us into warring silos:
I despise racism.I despise fascism. I would do anything for my Muslim friends, and I know they would do anything for me. (Morrissey, April 2018, Central)
Yes, he could have been more savvy, she is entirely a product of polarisation, but she’s essentially an unelectable YouTuber. At the time of writing (April 2021) he last mentioned her two years ago in April 2019, and he first and last wore the badge of her ‘party’ (which he apparently didn’t join or vote for) in May 2019.
The timing of the show was cynical.
The Simpsons had been called out for using racial stereotypes and discriminatory casting.
And for some grotesque reason a high profile television show decided to improve its image by taking pains – stars, songs, extras – to punch down at a low profile Indie singer. Which would have made a better plot.
To cap it The Sunday Times editorial, 25th April 2021, made it clear we hate it when our stars don’t give exclusive interviews:
This needs to start with Morrissey’s experience of immigration – which is erased in media narratives about him. His family were all Irish, apart from Morrissey and his sister Jackie, who were born in Manchester.
Nannie remains of Moore Street, in Dublin, of astounding memory and continual disgust… from thereon self-deflationary battles with life’s important truths, plus the usual Irish companions of shame, guilt, persecution and accusation… We are stuck in the wettest park of England in a society where we are not needed, yet we are all washed and warm and well-fed…
Ernie was my true Uncle, my mother’s favourite… Throughout his short and angered life he ached, like most people, to find something of value to do, and he cursed Manchester, and he cursed England through mists of pain, and he cursed the Christian Brothers who had blackened his eyes once too often in the name of heavy-handed holiness. Ernie sank into the army for identity, but lost his, and returned home to Manchester unhappily…
Bustle and fluster pad out these Dublin days, but as each year passes my sister and I are less willing to leave Manchester. Ireland is our soaring past – ruddy and cheerful, yet somehow the past. My parents will never let go, and it is not difficult to understand why. All around us the Irish deputation mourn the loss of the land, and how British liberality hobbles in comparison to the hearty warmth of Dublin’s outstretched arms…
Sometimes Jackie and I are the refugees, as Rita flits in and out of her secretive social whirl. There is only ever a sense of change and of slipping away, but never a sense of security or stability. Tomorrow is already a jigsaw…
We had waved goodbye to Mary at Manchester Airport, a US emigree in her nineteenth year, and to never again be a Manchester lass. We all cry uncontrollably as Mary’s flight is called – a much loved branch hacked away. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)
It’s easy enough to accept or reject someone who arrives in a country – it’s not so easy to cope with being accepted and rejected, as well as everything that’s been left behind, and what this means for who you are now.
In the UK even arts hacks are in the pulpit & punditry business. They expect clear moral commentary & when faced with none, they assume it must be in code. If it’s in code it must be socially unacceptable, ipso facto, Bengali In Platforms, must be a racist song.
Especially as it violates the norms of polite society by using the words Bengali, shelve your Western plans & when you belong here, routinely summarised as Morrissey saying that Asians don’t belong in the UK.
Further that it’s a terrible stereotype to say someone is friendly, might be wearing an unfashionable item, and might own a cornershop (with shelves) – because under the English class system what could be worse than being ordinary?
And if that fails to convince, even if it’s not racist, it’s patronising and condescending, as if a man who was mocked as a prat, as old-fashioned, as embarrassing, from the very beginning of his career could condescend to anyone.
So what’s in the song?
A gauche, eager innocent going somewhere new & trying to fit in.
Bengali, Bengali Bengali, Bengali No no no He does not want to depress you Oh no no no no no He only wants to impress you Oh…
Bengali in platforms He only wants to embrace your culture And to be your friend forever Forever
Similar to Half A Person:
Call me morbid, call me pale I’ve spent six years on your trail Six full years of my life on your trail
And if you have five seconds to spare Then I’ll tell you the story of my life Sixteen, clumsy and shy I went to London and I I booked myself in at the why W.C.A. I said I like it here, can I stay? I like it here, can I stay? Do you have a vacancy for a back-scrubber?
She was left behind, and sour And she wrote to me equally dour She said in the days when you were hopelessly poor I just liked you more
Harsh reality in the form of someone telling him life is hard & his plans won’t work out.
Don’t blame me Don’t hate me Just because I’m the one to tell you
That life is hard enough when you belong here That life is hard enough when you belong here Oh… Shelve your Western plans Oh… Shelve your Western plans ‘Cause life is hard enough when you belong Life is hard enough when you belong here
Similar to You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby:
If you’re wondering why All the love that you long for eludes you And people are rude and cruel to you I’ll tell you why I’ll tell you why I’ll tell you why I’ll tell you why
You just haven’t earned it yet, baby You just haven’t earned it, son You just haven’t earned it yet, baby You must suffer and cry for a longer time You just haven’t earned it yet, baby And I’m telling you now
An unsuitable object of desire – the platform boots
A silver-studded rim that glistens And an ankle-star that…blinds me A lemon sole so very high Which only reminds me; to tell you Break the news gently Break the news to him gently “Shelve your plans; shelve your plans, shelve them”
Like the platform boots dowdy Morrissey hadn’t dared to wear in 1970s Manchester:
Jon Daley walked along Great Stone Road towards the Hardrock wearing silver knee-length boots… So striking is he that a passing lorry slows down beside him and gruff voices call out in order to throw Jon off balance (well, this is the North) – a compliment of sorts, since it proves just how much you are getting at people, pinging their own self-doubts… my own slavishly dull school uniform is wretched compared to Jon’s intergalactic grace… Jon has no friends at all. (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)
And fame itself that pulls a Mancunian to London, to America, and makes them tour the world:
If you’re wondering why When all I wanted from life was to be Famous I have tried for so long, it’s all gone wrong I’ll tell you why I’ll tell you why I’ll tell you why I’ll tell you why But you wouldn’t believe me
You just haven’t earned it yet, baby You just haven’t earned it, son You just haven’t earned it yet, baby You must suffer and cry for a longer time You just haven’t earned it yet, Baby And I’m telling you now I’ll tell you why I’ll tell you why
Today I am remembering the time When they pulled me back And held me down And looked me in the eyes and said You just haven’t earned it yet, baby You just haven’t earned it, my son You just haven’t earned it yet, baby You must stay on your own for slightly longer You just haven’t earned it yet baby And I’m telling you now
Time that binds:
Bengali, Bengali It’s the touchy march of time that binds you
Morrissey’s attitude to time is bleak. It takes us from the safety of home, past early promise to failure & death. From My Hurling Days Are Done:
Time will mold you and craft you But soon, when you’re looking away It will slide up and shaft you Oh, time Oh, time No friend of mine
Mama, mama and teddy bear Were the first full firm spectrum of time Now my hurling days are done And there’s no one to tell and there’s nowhere to run
& what binds us? Family, friends, history, community, love. Morrissey is Northern, English & Irish Catholic. His work struggles with the themes of attachment to people and places verses the want for autonomy & control. And with the relationship between the country of his birth & his old country.
In Back To The Old House:
I would rather not go Back to the old house I would rather not go Back to the old house There’s too many bad memories Too many memories there
When you cycled by Here began all my dreams The saddest thing I’ve ever seen And you never knew How much I really liked you Because I never even told you Oh, and I meant to Are you still there or have you moved away? Or have you moved away?
In A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours (which is often added to his list of racist crimes):
A rush and a push and the land That we stand on is ours Your youth may be gone But you’re still a young man So phone me, phone me So phone me, phone me, phone me
In The Queen Is Dead:
Oh! Take me back to dear old Blighty, Put me on the train for London Town, Take me anywhere, Drop me anywhere, Liverpool, Leeds or Birmingham ‘Cause I don’t care, I should like to see my…By land, by sea.
Farewell… to this land’s cheerless marshes Hemmed in like a boar between archers Her very Lowness with her head in a sling I’m truly sorry but it sounds like a wonderful thing
In Mountjoy (an Irish prison where the British who ruled Ireland executed Irish Nationalists):
What those in power do to you Reminds us at a glance How humans hate each other’s guts And show it given a chance
We never say aloud the things That we say in our prayers Cause no one cares
Many executed here By the awful lawfully good But the only thing that makes me cry Is when I see the sky
Brendan Behan’s laughter rings For what he had or hadn’t done For he knew then as I know now That for each and every one of us We all lose Rich or poor, we all lose Rich or poor, they all lose
In This Is Not Your Country (about the troubles in Northern Ireland & often added to his list of racist crimes):
We’re old news All’s well And thirty years could be a thousand And this Peugeot ad Spins round in my head British soldier pointing a gun And I’m only trying to post a letter A short walk home becomes a run And I’m scared, and I’m scared, I am scared
Old news All’s well BBC scum You’ve got more than the dead, so zip up your mouth Zip up your mouth
& in Irish Blood, English Heart (sometimes adapted to Racist Blood, English Heart in articles featuring his list of racist crimes):
Irish blood, English heart, this I’m made of There is no one on earth I’m afraid of And no regime can buy or sell me
I’ve been dreaming of a time when To be English is not to be baneful To be standing by the flag not feeling shameful Racist or partial
Irish blood, English heart, this I’m made of There is no one on earth I’m afraid of And I will die with both of my hands untied
I’ve been dreaming of a time when The English are sick to death of labour and Tories And spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell And denounce this royal line That still salute him and will salute him forever
Only an Irish person would care about Oliver Cromwell, or be that angry at the Royals. They’re the villains of Irish history.
And it’s a sign of how complicated immigration can be that the English media singled out an Irish Catholic to demonise for holding a Union Jack (nicknamed the Butcher’s Apron by Irish Republicans) – leaving him more agonised about his background. The song’s right – life is hard enough when you belong here – because here won’t understand how you feel. And here won’t let you tell them.
As Sands starved to death in protest at being tagged a ‘criminal’ and not a ‘political prisoner’ by the Thatcher government, the Queen sat in her Palace and said nothing. If the Queen had any human feelings for the Sands family or other hunger strikers then she did not express them… The Queen also has the power to give back the six counties to the Irish people, allowing Ireland to be a nation once again. The fact that she has not done so is Fascism in full flow. What else could it be? Name one other European country that is controlled by its neighbour? (Morrissey, Hot Press, May 2011)
What these songs are doing is asking important questions without easy answers. What are we? How do we fit in? What’s allowed?
There’s really no doubt that Bengali In Platforms empathises with the man from Bengal. What it doesn’t do is put on a cod Indian accent & speak over him, or soothe him – & us – with nice slogans.
So why someone from Bengal & not Ireland?
He was a Loudon Wainwright fan, so could have taken a cue from East Indian Princess:
East Indian princess lives in a western dream Happy like a child, her mother is a queen You know she’s safe as a cow on a Calcutta street This English way of life has got that other life beat
And reading magazines, she sits in straight backed chairs She’s got a common welfare, she’s got a queen that cares She’s got meat on her bones, she doesn’t starve at least Not like the folks back home, not like the folks back east
Yeah, but this Indian is English, no matter how she tries You know the sari and the sandals, it’s just a bad disguise She got a mark on her forehead, she got a stud in her nose Yeah, but this Indian is English and I’m afraid it shows’
Cause you can see her at Wimpey’s and on a movie queue line Her river’s not the Ganges, it is the Serpentine East Indian princess, she got the western pain She got the western mind, that girl has gone insane
Or could have been inspired by film or tv. – A Passage To England (1972, 1975), My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) and countless others from the 60s to the 80s.
Or news, like the strike in Brick Lane:
Or he wanted someone who outwardly didn’t fit in, but inwardly was keen to join, to echo the dilemma in Dial A Cliche, also on the album Viva Hate, where the narrator could outwardly ‘be a man’, but he inwardly doesn’t feel it:
Further into the fog I fall Well, I was just Following you
When you said, “Do as I do and scrap your fey ways” Dial-A-Cliché “Grow up, be a man, and close your mealy-mouth” Dial-A-Cliché Dial-A-Cliché Dial-A-Cliché
But the person underneath Where does he go? Does he slide by the wayside? Or does he just die?
And you find that you’ve organized Your feelings, for people Who didn’t like you then And do not like you now
But still you say, “Do as I do and scrap your fey ways” Dial-A-Cliché “Grow up, be a man, and close your mealy-mouth” Dial-A-Cliché
“The safe way is the only way” “There’s always time to change, son” I’ve changed, but I’m in pain Dial-A-Cliché
Which seems connected to Morrissey’s own search for evidence that men are attracted to other men, while trying to avoid being attacked or shunned for it. Another identity crisis:
Partial disclosures of male closeness fascinate me, because it’s something that is nowhere in the life around me. All males are adversaries in muggy Manchester…
I represent filth. I am forbidden to live – by religion.
(of a PE teacher) he is obsessed with homosexuality – that it should be traced and uncovered, named and shamed. This tirade goes on and on for more years than could be thought possible, and I am not surprised that I am regularly the butt of his bombast… (Morrissey, Autobiography, 2013)
Or if we’re taking a creative leap based on words – the British have been accused of two genocides via famine, in Bengal and in Ireland. A person from Bengal and a person from Ireland would both be trying to belong to a country that tried to starve them.
We might find out if Morrissey’s notebooks ever become public – but it’s absurd to think that a racist would write a song about a friendly man, who wants to embrace your culture, cruelly being told to shelve his plans by someone who knows this news would make him ‘hate’ him & ‘blame’ him.
A racist song wouldn’t frame the person telling the immigrant to shelve his plans as blameworthy and hateful, and the immigrant as friendly and embracing.
And part of the wincing reaction to the song is probably because it makes you feel sorry for the rejected immigrant, without giving you the moral solace of the narrator being told he’s wrong.
All you get is the pain.
Which is closer to life than a tagged on comeuppance.
He’s got issues with organised religion esp. when it comes to sexuality, but he doesn’t hate the faithful.
From his autobiography, 2013:
On the Orlando shooter, 2016:
His attitude to borders is left-wing.
In his autobiography, 2013, uses strength to mean confident & ordered, not draconian & racist:
In his disastrously pull-quoted Morrissey Central interview with his nephew in April, 2018, when he wondered why the press had decided he was an unacceptable racist, he was still emphasizing order:
“If borders are such terrible things then why did they ever exist in the first place? Borders bring order.”
As the son of immigrants, he’s acutely aware of the identity crisis that comes from having two cultures. It’s one of the reasons he has a strong Chicano fanbase. Like him, they left their Catholic country (Mexico/Ireland) to live in a Protestant/Secular country (America/England) that often doesn’t acknowledge, like or understand them.
“my family has myriad tales of living in a golden Mexico during the 1940s and 1950s. Those stories helped foster a deep-seated melancholy within me about where I truly belong. Not quite American; not wholly Latino, living in all the spaces in between. Growing up in rural Ohio, these duelling identities caused me an incredible amount of angst, as I tried to traverse the space between home and school. It’s easy to see where so many of Morrissey’s songs that deal with identity crisis, with a sense of alienation, of being an “other”, would appeal to people such as me. Feeling ostracised, not part of a homogeneous American culture – that’s enough to make anyone morose and woebegone.” (March, 2016)
“Morrissey’s ‘Irishness’ is partly contained in this idea of the ‘outsider’, a fascination with writers including Oscar Wilde, his black wit, and as he has says” – “Ireland has always been a very credible and very poetic place, with no-one under any illusions about themselves – we all end up in the same bucket etc.” (August, 2006)
Moz seems to have been silent on Hebdo, but in November 2015, 128 people were murdered, most of them in the Bataclan music venue, and the motivation of Islamic State seemed to be more about killing unbelievers than freedom-fighting.
In paying tribute to the victims at a gig on 11th November in Santiago, Morrissey reportedly said, “As you know, as you’ve heard, the war of religion is upon us, or the religion of war is upon us. And we say ‘no thank you, no, no, no, no, no, no, no’.”
At the same time there was a refugee crisis in Europe & no coherent policies to deal with it. Extremism was increasing in badly managed camps. Troll campaigns exaggerated or fabricated refugee related crime. And Erdogan was using refugees as leverage, deliberately sending high numbers over the border to cause resource breakdowns & local stress.
The left was struggling to cope with a fascist group from a non-Western background & with complex problems that couldn’t be papered over with a slogan.
& social media had turned us into witch hunt junkies.
So what did Moz actually say?
That he was angry. That words didn’t make up for broken bodies. That May (famous for a hostile environment policy that could deport your Grandmother but not a terrorist) had bad policies. And he takes pot-shots at politicians, the press, the Queen & Islamic State.
Comedian, Michael Legge, whose 2008 blog could easily be paraphrased to mean all Muslims are f**king nutters who are potential bombers who should be locked in asylums…
Talking about it, he said: “because I do look back in anger! I would have sang ‘World Peace Is None of Your Business’ or ‘Life is a Pigsty’ – or something truthful and meaningful. If my child had been killed at Manchester Arena I wouldn’t be lighting candles and swaying… I’d be in a complete rage.”
World Peace would likely have been seen as divisive.
And even though one thing we know Moz & Islam are in total agreement on is that eating pigs is a bad thing (for different reasons) – pig in a song title is likely to have been interpreted as a racist insult.
Once the torches are lit & the pitchforks are sharpened, it’s very hard to avoid being chased to the windmill.