Wednesday 12 December 2018

Ian O'Doherty: 'We've stumbled into a new Victorian era, in which 'liberals' stalk the land looking for things to ban'

'In a society which now seems more interested in erasing any 'problematic' cultural treasures from the past, rather than creating anything new for the future, the list of songs, movies, books and even sitcoms as bland as 'Friends', which are now seen to be out of step with the current fashion, seems to grow longer by the day' Stock Image: PA
'In a society which now seems more interested in erasing any 'problematic' cultural treasures from the past, rather than creating anything new for the future, the list of songs, movies, books and even sitcoms as bland as 'Friends', which are now seen to be out of step with the current fashion, seems to grow longer by the day' Stock Image: PA
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

The problem with hysteria is twofold. For starters, it's extremely infectious. Secondly, those who succumb to this most unfortunate condition seldom realise that they are being in any way hysterical. In fact, they tend to angrily deny any suggestion that maybe, just maybe, they are overreacting in quite a massive and extremely silly way.

It should probably come as no surprise that the old festive classic, 'Baby, It's Cold Outside', has been dropped by Christmas FM, the seasonal radio station.

In a society which now seems more interested in erasing any 'problematic' cultural treasures from the past, rather than creating anything new for the future, the list of songs, movies, books and even sitcoms as bland as 'Friends', which are now seen to be out of step with the current fashion, seems to grow longer by the day.

It's an arms race of moral one-upmanship masquerading as liberalism and tolerance when, of course, it is neither of those things.

According to Christmas FM's Garvan Rigby: "We actually drop songs every year. The main reason for dropping it was popularity. When you look at songs like ones from Mariah Carey and Wham!, they are the big songs. As far as I know, no one has ever texted in looking for it, while there are certain songs that people text in all the time looking for."

On the face of it, that's certainly fair enough, and it should be pointed out that they also dropped the song last year.

Every radio station has the right to decide its own play-list and if the owners of Christmas FM want to drop every version of the 1944 Oscar-winning classic, then that is entirely their right.

But, as always, the truth is more complex and, indeed, interesting.

Reminding us just how quickly the virus of hysteria can now spread across the world, the song hit the headlines last week when a radio station in Cleveland announced that it wouldn't play the tune because: "One or two people mentioned that the lyrics might not be suitable. Popularity was one of the main reasons but obviously the lyrics were of a different era."

The lyric which seems to have caused the most consternation comes when the female part of the duo sings: "Say, what's in this drink?"

This has been denounced as 'rapey' and accused of promoting date rape.

That the line was actually a humorous reference to the watered down drinks of the time cuts no ice with today's liberals, who now patrol popular culture like a secular version of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

They have decided, in their infinite wisdom, that nobody is safe as long as the song is played on radio and therefore it, alongside everything else they don't like, must now be erased from history.

In many ways, it's hard to summon up much enthusiasm to defend the song. After all, it's a 74-year-old staple which people either like or don't like - but even those who were never particularly fond of the tune would surely have thought it rather absurd to assume it was, all this time, a secret anthem for date-rapists.

Offence is in the eye of the beholder and if you want to be offended by something you will invariably find something to irk you, while also feeling good about yourself for being sufficiently morally aware to see something which eluded everyone else.

It's interesting to note that the station in Cleveland conducted a poll on their decision to drop the song and 94pc of their listeners disagreed with the decision. But the 6pc got their way and that is a perfect illustration of a society where it's not so much the tail wagging the dog, as the fleas on the tail wagging the dog.

We've somehow managed to stumble into a new Victorian era, in which people stalk the land looking for things to ban. Social media has amplified this crank's charter to the point where organisations are now terrified of their advertisers and sponsors being bullied by a small but hysterical group of mini-dictators who demand that their every whim be indulged.

But why stop at 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'?

If we are to run every Christmas song through the prism of these very modern, and frequently bogus, sensibilities of a few attention-seekers trying to further their own weird agenda, what about 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus'?

Surely that's exposing a minor to inappropriate sexual behaviour?

In fact, Santa himself is problematic, when you consider the fact that we expect small children to sit on his lap. Is that not the ultimate in stranger-danger?

Or how about the fact that he obviously promotes obesity at a time when we're worried about what our children eat?

The fact that Mrs Claus stays at home is obviously an archaic representation of a problematic, gender stereotype which only furthers counterproductive hetero- normative tropes.

As for poor Rudolph, who was bullied by his fellow reindeers because of his shiny nose? That's a case of 'othering' if ever there was one.

The greatest Christmas song of them all, 'Fairytale of New York', obviously normalises homophobic slurs ("you cheap lousy faggot") and while there have been numerous awful versions of the song with the offending line taken out (yes, Ronan Keating, we're looking at you), anyone who appreciates great music tends to roll their eyes and close their ears to such meddling.

Then, of course, there's the greatest Christmas film ever made, 'It's a Wonderful Life'?

Do people really think it's OK to use a mental breakdown and subsequent attempted suicide as an entertaining plot device?

People like Mary Whitehouse used to want to ban things in the name of conservatism. Today, the inheritors of her ignoble crown want to ban things in the name of liberalism, which is merely a different route to the same destination.

The problem our new morality police face is that most people (as the Cleveland poll demonstrates) are beginning to tire of such histrionics.

It has become clear that some activists are simply addicted to power and control - control over what we watch, read, think and say, and the power to get someone sacked or banned from social media.

After all, the screaming chorus of nay-sayers only ever seem content when they're making other people miserable.

That's why it should come as little surprise that there's now a counter-movement to get 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' to the Christmas number one slot.

That probably won't happen, but it should be seen as a reminder that most ordinary people are running out of patience with the kind of self-appointed cultural commissars who think they have the right to force their own neuroses onto everyone else.

Irish Independent

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