“Bengali in Platforms”, “England for the English”, “Asian Rut”, and “This is Not Your Country” are quotes you’d expect from the mouth of Boris Johnson; but they are song titles by the king of alternative playlists, the heart of British indie, or the “second-greatest living British cultural icon” (according to the BBC in 2006).
This isn’t just an ageing old man sliding into the simmering bitterness and racism typical of many elderly Brits. Since the start of his career, Morrissey has been outspoken against multiculturalism and immigration, citing his fears of a threatened English identity. He has a historic hatred for foreigners and his fans need to do more to recognise his views and fight these messages.
In 1984 Morrissey famously said “all reggae is vile” in what may seem an innocent comment in isolation, yet it takes a more sinister form when considered amongst his consistent diatribe of bigotry. For example, a biography of the early formation of The Nosebleeds points out that around the same time Morrissey declared, “I don’t hate Pakistanis, but I dislike them immensely.” There is no nuance to be examined there. Morrissey had a brief punk career before stepping out with The Smiths, which included a band called Slaughter and the Dogs, which gathered a number of skinhead and suedehead fans.
In the early 90s, he famously took to a Finsbury Park stage, at a time when the area was overrun with race-based violence, wrapped in a huge Union Jack flag in front of an audience peppered with skinhead fans and National Front members. Morrissey’s audiences were often used as places for the NF and C18 to organise in the late 90s. His draping himself in the Union Jack quickly becomes nod toward fascism. He told Q Magazine in 1992 that he didn’t “really think, for instance, black people and white people will ever really get on or like each other”. In 1993 he released National Front Disco, which led to fans around the world singing along to racist chants.
In the early-2000s, Morrissey publicly lamented that “England is a memory now. The gates are flooded.” In language reminiscent of Goebbels, he moans on “…travel to England and you have no idea where you are”. You might expect a second-generation Irish immigrant, who now lives in Rome, not to spread such insidious xenophobia.
In the alternative and indie scenes where Morrissey’s legacy thrives, the demographics are starkly white. This scene is built up of politically active, ideological youths who have done much to dismantle homophobia, transphobia and sexism, and fight for animals and the environment. Yet with many scenes which are prevalently white, there has often been a blind-spot when it comes to race.
For example, famous for his no-tolerance stance on animal rights, Morrissey’s campaigns have often slipped into common racist tropes in environmental activism. There have (thankfully) already been rigorous critiques of white veganism and Morrissey represents all that is wrong with his movement.
Morrissey’s anti-semitic tendency to depict animal rights issues through imageries of Nazism and the Holocaust reared its head quite plainly on the True To You music blog, where he argued, “approve of the meat industry and you approve of Auschwitz. There is no difference.” Later, in 2011, in response to the far-right fascist attack in Norway Morrissey suggested: “That is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried shit every day.” His insensitivity spans from undermining the Black Lives Matter movement by wearing an “Animal Lives Matter” t-shirt (while also wearing leather shoes, by the way), to reducing the memory of Jewish people to livestock.
In 2010 he confidently, publicly said: “the Chinese are a sub-species” for being carnivorous, and never retracted nor apologised for his comments. When he was criticised in the press for this, he claimed he was being oppressed. It thus comes as no surprise that his animal activism has arrived at Islamophobia. Being outraged that Theresa May spoke of Eid as “a joyous celebration” while “millions of animals had their throats slit to mark the occasion”, he directs few of his vegan activisms toward the traditionally carnivorous Christmas or egg-centred Easter. Feeling justified by his animal rights activism, Morrissey explicitly spreads his view that Islam is not welcome in the UK.
“you cannot possibly vote for either Conservatives or Labour, because both parties support halal slaughter, which, as we all know, is evil. Furthermore, halal slaughter requires certification that can only be given by supporters of ISIS, and yet in England we have halal meat served in hospitals and schools!”
Of course, secular slaughter-houses somehow avoid the wrath of Morrissey. Jamie Oliver and Fish on Fridays warrant no political boycott.
The next stop on the Morrissey rollercoaster is classism. Attacking Mayor Sadiq Khan, he rants on:
“London is debased. The Mayor of London tells us about ”Neighborhood policin ” – what is ‘policin’? He tells us London is an ”amazin ” city. What is ‘amazin’? This is the Mayor of London! And he cannot talk properly! I saw an interview where he was discussing mental health, and he repeatedly said ”men’el ” … he could not say the words ‘mental health’. The Mayor of London! Civilisation is over!”.
With ageing racists whose political views may not be fit for the public eye, it can be difficult to distinguish between ignorance or insensitivity and outright xenophobia. For example, in 2017 Morrissey released a baffling T-shirt with civil rights’ activist James Baldwin’s face beneath lyrics from the song “Unlovable” reading “I wear black on the outside ‘cause black is how I feel on the inside.” These were retracted, with no comment made. He falsely claimed that “all acid attacks” in Britain are by “non-whites”, and he vehemently defends sexual abuse when the abusers are white, affluent men (see Kevin Spacey, David Bowie, Harvey Weinstein), while in the same breath calls Berlin the “rape capital” due to its relative openness of refugees. Sporting a “Je Suis Morrissey” t-shirt, he deems himself a bastion for free speech while calling for a ban on Eid celebrations in the UK.
Is he just committed to an out-dated Punk trend of being as outrageous and offensive as possible? Or is this just a blundering error by a 60-year-old man who still cuts the top four buttons off his shirts?
There are no excuses left for Morrissey. These comments bolster and respond to the structural racism prevalent in Britain and Europe today. This is the waxy, wrinkled, final-form of a man whose long history of deeply discriminatory views (and distaste for moisturiser) have never been challenged.
“Morrissey is Cancelled”, but he should have been cancelled 40 years ago. Let’s not pity this old man, he hasn’t lost his mind, nor is he being misinterpreted by the toxic “PC-gone-mad” press. Being blessed with social media, in recent years Morrissey is more actively pushing his views. Although having proudly never voted before, he has since started to give staunch and troubling support for a new far-right fascist party, For Britain.
“Please give For Britain a chance. They will bring an end to the modern Westminster mania for self-destruction. For Britain is the bulldog breed that will never surrender. Both Labour and Conservatives have already sold you down the river into righteous oblivion.”
Morrissey rose to fame for his morbid lyrics, but might we draw the line at his rejoicing at migrants dying in the Mediterranean? He blames immigration on both of the major British parties, calling for the public to vote For Britain and “stop the influx.”
“… Labour and the Conservatives have their backs to the sea.”
For Morrissey, the lives of thousands of innocent migrant men, women, and children fleeing deadly wars would happily be sacrificed for the sake of animal rights.
“There is a new party called For Britain. They have the best approach to animal welfare, whereas no other party even bothers to mention animal welfare. The EU will not protect animals from halal or kosher practice. For Britain seem to say what many British people are currently thinking, which is why the BBC or Channel 4 News will not acknowledge them, because, well, For Britain would change British politics forever … and we can’t have that!”
While platforming parties such as For Britain, Britain First, Knights Templar, and so on, is (quite rightly) avoided by many, Morrissey’s enormous fan-base makes his support for For Britain quite horrifying. Far-right parties are on the rise throughout Europe, and Britain is no exception. For Britain was founded by a group of people with close links to the BNP, the EDL, and other violent fascist networks including the self-proclaimed “anti-Islam party” Liberty GB. They are an extremist party who have called for the introduction of the death penalty, a country-wide ban on Islam, legalising hate crime, and ending migration to the UK. On the 13th of May, Morrissey wore the badge of For Britain on a show with an average of 1.92 million viewers internationally.
There remains few people that Morrissey hasn’t personally offended (or literally called for the death of). Even if you are not one of them, you need to recognise the harmful effects of his torrential hatred and fear-mongering. Stop liking his tweets, bin your t-shirts, stop listening to him.
As the “Father of Manchester”, heralded by Anglophiles around the world, Morrissey’s views have a huge impact. Manchester is famously multicultural, cosmopolitan, and has thrived as a result. It has seen violent attacks by Islamist extremists and far-right terrorists, it has faced rising levels of poverty, it has become the gay capital of Britain, it has welcomed refugees and asylum seekers, hundreds have arrived and left (including Morrissey). Like the rest of Britain, its identity and ideology are constantly being re-worked and re-written. British cities have become key sites for debates on immigration, cultural integration, and how we can all live together. Urban legends like Morrissey have a responsibility to combat the broadening culture of anti-semitism, sexism, anti-migrantism, Islamophobia, and general xenophobia in the UK, not add to it – and we have a responsibility to hold our idols to account.
Morrissey’s career has thus far gone unharmed and his views have not been collected. He has an overwhelmingly white fanbase, yet the alternative scene is not adverse to social justice and calling people out. I see a lot of activists in various political realms fighting great fights while failing to confront (or at least distance themselves from) The Problem of Morrissey. Alternative and indie scenes are about celebrating differences and calling out the dominant narratives. Racists are an embarrassment. Still, today Morrissey has just over 1.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify, and The Smiths have close to 4 million. He has 117K Twitter followers, and his tours and merchandise still sell out within 24 hours. We need to vote with our ears and call Morrissey out. We can’t separate art from the artist when the art sings “England for the English”.
This text is re-posted from Mangal Media