Sunday, April 14, 2013

Okay, let's take this very slowly. 

1: In pantomimes, the baddie is often called "the Witch" or indeed "the wicked Witch." The goodie is often "the Fairy", "the good Fairy" or "the fairy Godmother".  

2: In Frank Baum's anti-Christian parable "The Wizard of Oz", the heroine Dorothy (accidentally) causes the death of a character called "The Wicked Witch of the East". All the Hobbits are pleased that "The Wicked Witch of the East" has died, because she was wicked. 

3: In the 1939 movie version of "The Wizard of Oz", they sing a song of celebration. It is a very catchy song presumably suggested by the operatic version of "Hansel and Gretel". "The "Wizard of Oz" is the very epitome of camp. It is very much in keeping with this tone that the little people sing a funny happy song when someone dies. 

4: There is also a Wicked Witch of the West and a Good Witch of the North. 

5: Mrs Thatcher was an English politician. She became Prime Minister in 1978 and remained in office until it became clear that she had become insane and was ousted by members of her own party. [The neutrality of his section is disputed.]

6: She died last Tuesday.

7: The Daily Mail Apocalypse Cult, with the full support of Her Majesty's Alleged Opposition, has announced that mourning is compulsory, that anyone criticising T.B.W in any way is part of  "The Left" and therefore an un-person. 

8: The Left, who, on this definition, represent the overwhelming majority, are not bloody having it. They felt that the singing of a happy camp song celebrating the death of a Baddie in a children's movie would be an amusing counterpoint to the compulsory mourning. They bought lots of copies of the record from I-Tunes, in the hope that the BBC would have to play it on the Radio 1 Chart Show which I understand is a bit like Top of the Pops only with fewer paedophiles.

9: The point of playing a camp happy song celebrating the death of a baddie in a children's movie is that it is a camp, happy song celebrating the death of a baddie in a children's movie. The point is not that all females or all female politicians are witches. Neither do the left, on the whole, think that female neo-pagans should have houses dropped on them. Everybody knows that wiccans do not wear pointy hats or fly on broomsticks, in the same way that everybody knows that members of the Society of Friends don't particularly like porridge. 

Lighten up, for god sake, can't you. Bloody Chumbawamba use "ding dong the witch is dead" as part of the soundscape on their Thatcher album. Trying to be more right-on than Chumbawamba is like trying to be more catholic than the bloody pope. 



10 comments:

  1. Beautifully written. Succinct. Pithy. Well argued.
    I agree on the whole.
    Not sure about the use of Witch though. I think the feminist thought may have a point. We don't use other forms of 'Baddy' because although we'd always done it, and most reasonable people knew what was meant, it is now considered racist and unacceptable. (Im no expert tbough.)

    Andrew Walker
    I think. I. Might not know enough about Chumbawumba. Were they the skeletons?

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  2. Beautifully put.

    Had I been more organised, I would have bought a copy of "Ding Dong..." just as a protest against the people protesting about it...

    Maybe next week.
    Brian.

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  3. Chumbawamba. Disco punks turned acoustic folkies. Not skeletons to my knowledge.

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  4. Well, fair enough. Let's not forget the Tory skinheads who disrupted the London Olympics opening ceremony on the grounds that it was propaganda for the NHS.

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  5. "7: The Daily Mail Apocalypse Cult, with the full support of Her Majesty's Alleged Opposition, has announced that mourning is compulsory, that anyone criticising T.B.W in any way is part of "The Left" and therefore an un-person."

    Have they really declared that mourning is compulsory, or have they just said that it's unseemly to criticise her after she's just died? Contrary to what you seem to be suggesting, the idea that you shouldn't badmouth the (especially recently-) dead is an old and widespread one, and not a plot invented by the Daily Mail.

    "8: The Left, who, on this definition, represent the overwhelming majority, are not bloody having it."

    Hmmm...

    "Overall 25% said Thatcher was a great Prime Minister, 27% good, compared to 23% who said she was terrible and 7% poor. Just 10% said average. Her ratings were not vastly different across the social spectrum, both men and women rated her highly, and while younger people born after she left office are less likely to have an opinion, those that did were still more positive than negative. Opinion gradually becomes less positive as you go northwards, but not drastically so – even in the North 49% have a positive opinion of Thatcher, 35% negative. Only in Scotland is the balance of opinion negative."

    Source: http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/7258

    So overall 52% of people think that Thatcher was a great or a good Prime Minister. Tell me again about this overwhelming majority of yours.

    “They felt that the singing of a happy camp song celebrating the death of a Baddie in a children's movie would be an amusing counterpoint to the compulsory mourning.”

    Well then, they were wrong. Not only was there no “compulsory mourning” (again, “don’t badmouth people who’ve recently died” isn’t “compulsory mourning”, it’s just common human decency), but singing a happy camp song to celebrate somebody’s death isn’t amusing, it’s grossly inappropriate. If you don’t like Thatcher’s policies, there was a perfectly appropriate time to celebrate. That time was in 1990, when she was forced out of office. Now that she’s been out of power for twenty-three years, her death makes no difference whatsoever to the course of British politics. The only reason for celebrating it is vindictive malice.

    Incidentally, Andrew, I take it you’ve abandoned Christianity recently. If not, could you perhaps point me to the bit in the Bible where it says “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, unless they happen to be popular with right-wing newspapers, in which case you should all go out and have a big party when they die”? Thanks.

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  6. When Elrond Hubbard died, one person, I think in Interzone said "Actually, his early sci-fi wasn't at all bad: why not let the evil that he did be forgotten about, and remember him for that." I think that is a good attitude. But once the Scientologists are using the event as a huge celebration for and advertisement for their cult, then I think it becomes fair game for other people to say that Scientology is a load of rubbish and Hubbard was a fraud. Because the celebration is no longer about the individual; it's about the cult he represented. (Similarly, when Albert Peirrpoint died, there would have been a strong case for running a small news item saying "Popular Lancashire Publican Dies" and leaving it at that. But the idea that you might do a big feature but only include pro-capital-punishment views to be included -- and indeed, to imply that every one agreed with capital punishment, except a few "traitors", "reds", "bigots" and "lefties"...well, no. In so far as the death is a public event, I mean: what his family say at his funeral is their own business.) How far do you take the "speaking ill of the dead" thing, by the way? Only pro-serial-killer sentiments to be expressed when Ian Brady pops his clogs.

    I think that the parties were in poor taste; I actually thought that the Wizard of Oz record was fairly unfunny (and said so). The Chumbawamba album was better judged, cleverer, and while it had more bile, it also had something to say.) But I think that the people who went to turn their backs on the coffin; and the idea of doing something silly to puncture the pomposity and solemnity was entirely appropriate.

    In medieval times, the "King" was said to be two people -- the person appointed by god who made constitutional decisions and performed ceremonial functions, and the doubtless fallible human who ate and slept and went to the toilet. (That is why monarchs still use the plural when speaking in an official capacity -- "I am fond of my corgis", "We are going to open parliament.") Every celebrity is in that sense two people -- the public figure, the one who appears in the press, and the individual who is known to friends and family. It is entirely possible that Mr Hitler genuinely was a charming man if you met him socially -- many people have have said so; but that's hardly relevant: if you or I think of Hitler we are using him as a symbol or short hand of a particularly terrible period of European history. What the Daily Mail Apocalypse Cult and the Labour-Tory-Liberal hive mind were celebrating was Thatcher the symbol of everything I most hate and despise in modern Britain; and it was that celebration decent minded people wanted to make a very loud, rude, scatological sound in the middle of. The old lady who was Carol and Mark's mum I know nothing about, and if they had wanted to lay her to rest in private (as, it can hardly be said too often, has been done with the last six dead Prime Ministers) every one would have maintained a respectful distance.

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  7. It is certainly true that T.B.W was good at winning elections.

    But keep in mind that the British parliamentary system works like the American electoral college system. Where American Presidents sometimes don't have a majority of the popular vote, English Prime Ministers almost never do.

    But we are a simple folk, and we take it for granted that being ruled by the largest single minority is the natural way of doing things: David Cameron claimed that he couldn't understand how any other set up could possibly exist.

    In 1983, when T.B.W was at her most popular (as a result of the Falklands incident), when the opposition was split (as a result of an perceived take-over by "Militant" and the defection of the moderates to the briefly successful Social Democratic Party) and when the Labour Party was being led by a brilliant but catastrophically un-telegenic Marxist, T.B.W managed to secure 43% of the popular vote, on a 73% voter turnout.

    Put another way, 31% of the electorate voted for her, 42% of the electorate voted for someone other than her, and 27% of the electorate didn't vote for anybody.

    An election winner under the system that we use, certainly. Universally popular. Nah. It's just not like America where absolutely everyone loves Obama.

    I will say this for TBW though, she did make the trains run on time.

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  8. Perhaps I’m misremembering slightly, but I was under the impression that the parties started before David Cameron said Thatcher would get an official funeral. So I don’t think you can brush them off as a protest against the funeral decision.

    Also, it’s quite easy to say “Margaret Thatcher did a lot of damage to this country and doesn’t deserve a public funeral” without crossing the line into “I’m glad she’s dead”. Now, I generally try to avoid speculating about complete strangers’ motives, but if you go around throwing parties, waving placards saying “Rejoice! Margaret Thatcher is Dead” and playing a song called “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”, it looks quite a lot like you are actually celebrating somebody’s death rather than saying that they weren’t a good PM. Even if you aren’t actually doing that, it’s still a reasonable conclusion to draw, and it’s simply perverse to try and claim that only brainwashed hive-minded apocalypse cultists could possibly have a problem with what you’re doing.

    As for the speak ill of the dead thing, I’d say it’s proper to wait a few days at least before you start trashing someone. Not only does this show respect, it also has the added bonus of letting everybody get over their initial reactions and (hopefully) write more sensibly when they do come to assess the dead person’s life.

    I’m not sure what your second post is meant to refer to, given that nobody has claimed Thatcher is universally loved or that she got more than fifty per cent of the popular vote. However, given that 52% of people have a positive view of Thatcher’s government, as opposed to 30% with a negative view, it’s clearly false to claim that the protesters represented the “overwhelming majority” of people in this country.

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  9. 1: I did not attend any Thatcher parties, and I only participated in the Wizard of Oz stunt after the Daily Mail Apocalypse Cult and tried to force the BBC to ban the record.

    2: I think that the parties were in relatively bad taste, although I think that it depends in what spirit they were being done. (If we could have persuaded a lot of people to put on party hats, eat jelly and twiglets and possibly dance the conga in an orderly fashion, I would have seen that as a sort of political performance art -- pretending to have a party to make a political point. Actual celebration, not so much.)

    3: My argument, which either you have not read or I have expressed badly, is that some kind of protest or show of dissent against the Daily Mail Apocalypse Grief Fest were in order, and that frivolous protests -- parties, comedy songs, rude noises -- were the best kind. To refute this argument, I think you would need to take the following line:

    a: The Grief Fest was simply a celebration of Mrs Thatcher the wife, mother and granny, and nothing to do with her political legacy.

    or

    b: The Grief Fest was indeed a stunt to promote the Conservative Party, but for ten days after Mrs Thatcher's death, only Conservative Party opinions should be expressed in public.

    c: The Grief Fest was a stunt to promote the Conservative Party, it was entirely appropriate to show dissent from this, but only if you did it in po-faced and solemn fashion -- stunts and jokes were in bad taste.

    This seems to be a lot like the line some people take about religion: "of course you can criticise the church" they say "but only if you do it in a very po-faced, serious way, and only if you don't actually say anything bad about God or Jesus or Mohammed". Which of course pre-supposes that a: there is a category of things called "sacred" b: that things in that category can't be criticised or joked about c: that religious folk get to tell non-religious folk what those things are.

    P.S

    Mrs Thatcher was perfectly okay with a clown standing up at one of her conferences and shouting out "Nuke the Russians" and "Kick Michael Foots Walk Stick Away". So I imagine she'd be okay with people "poking fun" at her posthumously.

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  10. “1: I did not attend any Thatcher parties, and I only participated in the Wizard of Oz stunt after the Daily Mail Apocalypse Cult and tried to force the BBC to ban the record.”

    First of all, I think you mean “to not play the record on a particular music show” rather than “ban”. Let’s try and keep a sense of proportion here.

    Secondly, two wrongs don’t make a right. Even granting for argument’s sake that the Daily Mail over-reacted, that doesn’t imply that people should join the protestors (or, even more ludicrously, try and make them out to be the German Jews to the Daily Mail’s Nazi Party – see under “sense of proportion”, above).

    Thirdly, given that Daily Mail readers, whatever their other faults, don’t organise big parties when Labour Party politicians die, I don’t think you can really claim the moral high ground in this instance.

    “I think that the parties were in relatively bad taste, although I think that it depends in what spirit they were being done.”

    The parties started before David Cameron announced the official funeral, so a lot of the party-goers clearly weren’t just protesting about the funeral arrangements. Actually, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure the campaign to make people download “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” also started before the funeral was announced. So I don’t really think the facts support you in this case.

    “My argument, which either you have not read or I have expressed badly, is that some kind of protest or show of dissent against the Daily Mail Apocalypse Grief Fest were in order, and that frivolous protests -- parties, comedy songs, rude noises -- were the best kind.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by “Grief Fest”. If you mean the funeral, then I’ve yet to see evidence that the majority of the protests were actually about that. If you mean expecting people to treat the news of her death solemnly, that’s just normal behaviour.

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