Wednesday 23 October 2019

Ian O'Doherty: Song controversy is about control so let's stop indulging 'moral guardians'

Controversy: The Pogues singer Shane MacGowan with Kirsty MacColl back in 1987. Photo: Tim Roney/Getty Images
Controversy: The Pogues singer Shane MacGowan with Kirsty MacColl back in 1987. Photo: Tim Roney/Getty Images
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

There has been acres of coverage devoted to the controversy surrounding both 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' and 'Fairytale of New York'.

The furore over 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' is easier to dismiss than the Pogues classic, because it is so utterly stupid. It's also a grim reminder that someone, somewhere, lies awake at night worrying that someone else is having a good time.

But it does remind us of the cultural amnesia which has afflicted society.

In much the same way that the Khmer Rouge instituted Year Zero, and declared that everything that had gone before was now null and void and only today's rules matter, we seem to have entered a phase in our social evolution when everything from the past which doesn't conform with the fashions of the present must be first demonised, then discarded forever.

The 'Fairytale' controversy was a bit more interesting because the word 'fa**ot' is such a loaded term. But it also reminds us that the concept of personal responsibility has gone by the wayside.

It's really very simple - if someone calls another person a 'fa**ot' on a night out, they can't complain if they get a lash of the tongue for their troubles.

But no song ever made someone use a term that they wouldn't ordinarily use.

It's simply wrong, on every rational, objective level, to apportion homophobia to a song and to state, as some of the more hysterical campaigners have done, that anyone hearing the song over the Christmas period will become some gay-hating bigot.

Life just doesn't work that way, although the more the usual suspects complain about things, the more evident it becomes that they have little understanding of how the real world actually works.

But if we do accept that we're in our very own Year Zero, our unelected moral guardians are in for a rather busy time trying to erase all the wrong-think from our culture.

After all, on Strictly Come Dancing the other night, the band played Dean Martin's 'Ain't that a Kick in the Head' - if ever a song promoted domestic violence, then surely that is one of them.

The big mistake is assuming this is political-correctness-gone-mad, or whatever the latest shop-worn cliché happens to be.

This is actually about control, and people who want to project their own neuroses on to the rest of us.

Where does it end? Well, we could stop indulging their fatuous temper tantrums, for one.

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