Morrissey, as he’s wont to do, made headlines this week with a typically acerbic attack on his native England, this time blasting the London Olympics over “the blustering jingoism that drenches the event” and suggesting that the “spirit” of Nazi Germany no pervades modern-day Britain, all via a note posted to fan site True To You.
The remarks have drawn a sharp response from Billy Bragg — shown with Moz in the photo above, taken during The Smiths’ 1985 North American tour — who took to Facebook on Tuesday, noting that, “I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear that Morrissey is in the wet blanket brigade when it comes to the Olympics.” (He also tweeted a photo of Morrissey wrapped in the Union Jack, noting, “Is that Morrissey I hear complaining about all this bloody flag waving?”)
Bragg goes on to differentiate his fellow Brits’ prideful Olympic flag-waving from naked jingoism, noting, “We’ve been conditioned over the years to associate any flag waving with Nazism — as Mozzer does, breaking Godwin’s Law in the process. But the truth is that the waving of flags is all to do with context. … When Jessica Ennis does it, however, it speaks of a different society, one in which all can reach their full potential no matter what their background. ”
You can read both singers’ statements below. And, to throw another musician of the era into the mix, Lloyd Cole has come down on Bragg’s side (“Billy on the money as usual. Morrissey looking for trouble as usual,” he wrote on Facebook on Tuesday).
Morrissey (excerpt of longer statement):
And, yet! I am unable to watch the Olympics due to the blustering jingoism that drenches the event. Has England ever been quite so foul with patriotism? The “dazzling royals” have, quite naturally, hi-jacked the Olympics for their own empirical needs, and no oppositional voice is allowed in the free press. It is lethal to witness. As London is suddenly promoted as a super-wealth brand, the England outside London shivers beneath cutbacks, tight circumstances and economic disasters. Meanwhile the British media present 24-hour coverage of the “dazzling royals”, laughing as they lavishly spend, as if such coverage is certain to make British society feel fully whole. In 2012, the British public is evidently assumed to be undersized pigmies, scarcely able to formulate thought.
As I recently drove through Greece I noticed repeated graffiti seemingly everywhere on every available wall. In large blue letters it said WAKE UP WAKE UP. It could almost have been written with the British public in mind, because although the spirit of 1939 Germany now pervades throughout media-brand Britain, the 2013 grotesque inevitability of Lord and Lady Beckham (with Sir Jamie Horrible close at heel) is, believe me, a fate worse than life. WAKE UP WAKE UP.
I’m sure no-one will be surprised to hear that Morrissey is in the wet blanket brigade when it comes to the Olympics, but I’m posting his comments here in an attempt to nail the charge of jingoism that has been levied by those who feel uncomfortable at the flag waving joy that has accompanied our athlete’s success.
Jingoism is defined by it bellicosity, by it’s blinkered assertion that we are better than everybody else and you are rubbish because you are not us. I hate jingoism, but I don’t feel that’s the impulse behind the flag waving that I’ve seen. Yes, the home crowd are very enthusiastic when our athletes perform, but they’ve also shown a warmth towards those from other nations and not always the winners – witness the supportive response to Liu Xiang crashing out of the 110m hurdles this morning.
We’ve been conditioned over the years to associate any flag waving with nazism – as Mozzer does, breaking Godwin’s Law in the process. But the truth is that the waving of flags is all to do with context.
When the British National Party do it, it symbolises their bellicose, divisive views. When Jessica Ennis does it, however, it speaks of a different society, one in which all can reach their full potential no matter what their background. When our fellow citizens wave their flags with her, I feel that they are expressing their pride in the possibility of that diverse, open society.