In the wake of the horrific terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, United Kingdom, an unlikely famous Mancunian offered perhaps the most sober analysis of the situation. It was Morrissey, the mopey symbol of a wallflower generation, who let loose on Facebook to confront his country’s abysmal record on and response to radical Islamic terror. Here’s what the former Smiths front man had to say:
Celebrating my birthday in Manchester as news of the Manchester Arena bomb broke. The anger is monumental.
For what reason will this ever stop?
Theresa May says such attacks ‘will not break us’, but her own life is lived in a bullet-proof bubble, and she evidently does not need to identify any young people today in Manchester morgues. Also, ‘will not break us’ means that the tragedy will not break her, or her policies on immigration. The young people of Manchester are already broken – thanks all the same, Theresa. Sadiq Khan says ‘London is united with Manchester’, but he does not condemn Islamic State – who have claimed responsibility for the bomb. The Queen receives absurd praise for her ‘strong words’ against the attack, yet she does not cancel today’s garden party at Buckingham Palace – for which no criticism is allowed in the Britain of free press. Manchester mayor Andy Burnham says the attack is the work of an ‘extremist’. An extreme what? An extreme rabbit?
In modern Britain everyone seems petrified to officially say what we all say in private. Politicians tell us they are unafraid, but they are never the victims. How easy to be unafraid when one is protected from the line of fire. The people have no such protections.
23 May 2017.
There is a lot to unpack here. First and foremost is his frustration at a British government whose policies do not put its own citizens’ safety first. It isn’t clear if Morrissey’s criticism of Prime Minister Theresa May’s immigration policies is rooted in her promise to reduce immigration, or her failure to deliver on that promise. What is clear is his belief that May is not willing to name the victims. She is not willing to fully accept the consequences of a vastly changing United Kingdom, and the dangers that are becoming increasingly apparent.
His criticism of the mayors of London and Manchester is much clearer. They will not name the evil that killed 22 people, including children as young as eight years old. They will not call it radical Islamic terrorism. They call it extremism, but as Morrissey points out, “an extreme what? An extreme rabbit?” It’s a damning line, quick and cutting, as is his style.
Morrissey says we all know who is committing these attacks and why, but politicians are too fearful to say it. Although he does not use the term “political correctness,” the implication is obvious. The lyricist who has never been afraid to speak unpopular truths is calling out the British government for coddling the terrorists who kill kids.
No Excuses for Religion Gone Rabid
Morrissey’s politics have always been hazy. He is a fervent anti-monarchist who wrote the lyrics for an album called “The Queen Is Dead.” He also penned a song about Tory Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher called “Margaret on the Guillotine.” On the other hand, his song “National Front Disco” calls for “England for the English,” and nothing in the song mocks that position.
Predictably, the progressive music zines have been quick to attack Morrissey. Here’s Spin Magazine: “[R]ather than simply extending sympathies to the families of the concert attendees who died and were injured, the singer-songwriter’s comments focused on his own ‘anger’ at the situation, and what he deemed an insufficient response on the part of British leaders, including Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth.” Well, God forbid he criticize the government. We can’t have that.
His statement in the wake of the concert attack is clearer than his song lyrics, and it’s not the first time. In the wake of the Orlando massacre at a gay nightclub, Morrissey had this to say:
Although the gunman who massacred 49 people at an Orlando gay club is said to have been ‘repulsed’ by homosexuality, he nonetheless left behind a slew of self-adoring ‘selfies’; a handsome man gazing enchantedly at his own face. It is therefore acceptable for him to lovingly admire his own maleness, but it is not OK for other men to like other men. Does Islamic scripture say it is fitting for a man to sit alone taking adoring photographs of himself? I doubt it.
The finest lyricist of his generation has just about had it with Islamic terrorism and its apologists. These constant attacks do not “happen to be committed by Muslims,” they are committed by Muslims because a perverse version of that religion has spread far and wide. As he is quick to condemn the sins of the Catholic faith he was born into, he is equally quick to condemn Islam’s faults.
This is a lesson we would all be wise to learn. We don’t need to treat the people of Mohammed with kid gloves any more than we treat the people of Abraham or Christ that way. When in the pursuit of religious goals we repress, oppress, or kill, we are at odds with the nature of our faiths. Morrissey’s demand that Islamic extremism be called Islamic extremism is of a piece with his many criticisms of Catholicism. That criticism of his own people’s faith puts him in an excellent position to criticize the excesses of other faiths.
The Poet’s Truth
Poets put into succinct and meaningful words those things we struggle to express. They play in nuance and moments, allowing us some clarity. Throughout his remarkable career, Morrissey has always done so. “Everyday Is Like Sunday” can be viewed as a song against nuclear proliferation, just as “Reel Around The Fountain” can be heard as a pro-life anthem.
Morrissey’s statement on the Manchester attack is as clear as anything he has ever written. And we should heed it. We are vulnerable. People want to kill us, and while politicians live safe and sound the people live under the threat of terror. This terror has a name, whether we are willing to say it or not.
When I heard of the attack on Manchester, even before reading Morrissey’s statement, my thoughts turned first to his words. In his song, “Suffer Little Children,” from the Smiths’ first album, he writes: “Oh Manchester, so much to answer for / Edward, see those alluring lights? Tonight will be your very last night. / A woman said, I know my son is dead, I’ll never rest my hands on his sacred head.”
The song is about the Moors Murders of the mid-1960s, in which five children were murdered by a disturbed couple. The atrocity happened during Morrissey’s greenest youth in Manchester and left a mark on the man. Now, in his twilight, Morrissey has once again seen innocent children massacred. He will not be shy about placing blame where it belongs—on Islamic terror—and we shouldn’t be shy about it either.