The Simpsons Do The Snuffs

On April 18th 2021, The Simpsons, aired an episode about Morrissey.

They set it up as an affectionate tribute made by fans:

https://variety.com/2021/tv/news/simpsons-morrissey-benedict-cumberbatch-1234953472/

Then they trashed him as a fat, ugly, old, nasty, meat-eating, gay, racist.

They were righteous about the bait and switch in their live tweets:

RT’d by Matt Selman

Morrissey’s manager made bewildered Facebook posts:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-56806312

Morrissey published a statement that was his usual mix of jokes and wounds:

https://www.morrisseycentral.com/messagesfrommorrissey/hello-hell

Some tweeters gloated:

Some pundits called him humourless:

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:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-52697289

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.

It’s like he dumped them all by text message.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2019-10-24/morrissey-anti-immigrant-white-nationalist-hollywood-bowl

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)

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/paddy-english-man-part-1-1.252576

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/paddy-english-man-part-2-1.252578

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)

https://www.hotpress.com/music/a-piece-of-his-mind-morrissey-interview-12107062

Boz Boorer, Jesse Tobias, Morrissey, Mando Lopez, Matt Walker, Gustavo Manzur

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)

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/morrissey-animals_n_7588034?ri18n=true

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)

https://www.morrisseycentral.com/messagesfrommorrissey/i-ve-been-dreaming-of-a-time-when-the-english-are-sick-to-death-of-labour-and-tories

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.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/matt-groening-the-simpsons-white-actors-nonwhite-characters-exclude-b920972.html

https://eu.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/tv/2021/03/21/the-simpsons-creator-matt-groening-talks-700-episodes-future-apu/4754144001/

Hank Azaria had apologised for voicing Indian character, Apu… for 30 years.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-56731420

And they recast gay Cuban character, Julio, with a gay Cuban actor.

https://hypebeast.com/2021/4/the-simpsons-recasts-gay-cuban-character-julio-with-gay-actor-tony-rodriguez

Which does make their joy at (as far as we know) straight, Benedict Cumberbatch, making a homophobic ad-lib as the ‘Morrissey’ character bigoted peculiar.

‘The Batch’ **high fives everyone, we got this** has previous; using an outdated term to refer to black actors, moaning that it’s hard being posh and playing a trans character for laughs.

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/jan/26/benedict-cumberbatch-apologises-after-calling-black-actors-coloured

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/8978114/Benedict-Cumberbatch-being-posh-can-ostracise-you.html

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/zoolander-2-benedict-cumberbatch-s-cartoonish-transgender-character-prompts-call-film-boycott-a6743891.html

But it doesn’t matter.

This is about clout.

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:

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)