Friday, 12 April 2013

The Death, and Bells, of Margaret Thatcher


I’m not a big one on politics. I have my basic views but the knowledge, particularly historical, is pretty lacking. But it’d be pretty impressive not to hear of the death of Britain’s first female Prime Minister.

Ding dong the… wait, more about that in a minute.

Okay so here is what I do know about Margaret Thatcher. I know she was Prime Minister from’ 79 to ‘90. I know she shut down the mines. I know that my parents dislike her, and suffered under her. I know that some people love her, and that one paper even reported her as the most loved Prime Minister of all. I know the guy at the train station today had to take 5 jobs to keep his family going under whilst she was in power. I know that she was re-elected twice, and is the longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century. I know she has the lovely nickname of “milk-snatcher”.

So, bit of an interesting character. I’m not here to discuss whether she was a good or bad influence on Britain; that’s been done, and it changes nothing. Actually nothing I discuss in this blog changes anything, I understand that, but it’s nice to write.  Plus, as I’ve said, I don’t know much about her and my dislike of her is purely ideological, and ideology is not sufficient grounds to discuss someone who had more than ideological influences. No, the issue I’m going to discuss is current and still under discussion.

In short, a campaign has sprung up to get the song “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” to the number one position on the downloads chart this week, in “celebration” of her passing. In case you were wondering, this is what it sounds like, although if you never saw Wizard of Oz as a child I feel sorry for you. Sure it’s filled with plot holes, but it just kind of essential viewing. I’m getting off topic aren’t I?

People have branded it hateful, and eventually the BBC decided to only play a 5 second clip of it, as well as an explanation of why a song from 1939 is in the charts.

There’s two facets to this argument which, sadly, I arrived a little late to, as I always do. First: Is the campaign justified? And secondly: Should the BBC have decided to play it? I’ll tackle the first one first, because my originality and zaniness knows no bounds.

When I first heard about this campaign, I laughed in the face of my friend who opposed it and cheered it on. Whilst I never uttered the words “stick it to the man”, I believe my feelings were on par with the meaning of that sentence (Although she was a woman, damn androcentric wording). But then I sat back and thought about it (I had a long train journey), and I found I actually don’t like this campaign. For one, she’s not died in office. Her death didn’t stop her in her stride; she left office 23 years ago. And the campaign changes nothing. If this song reaches number 1, the coal mines won’t re-open, the milk won’t magically appear in the hands of grasping infants, and the course of the Falklands war won’t change. And although it’s easy to see political figures and leaders as singular entities, somehow removed from the trappings of families and relationships, she has a family. It’s bad enough to know that your mum is reviled by half a country (I’m guessing here), but to have people actively cheer her death? To know that people have mobilised their resources to mark her passing with “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead”? That’s got to sting.

This is nothing short of a campaign of hate, and a fruitless one at that. I held back from buying the song off iTunes, no matter how enticingly cheap it would be to spit in the face of a woman who I hear nothing but scorn about (except for a few isolated individuals, but I am aware I’m probably isolated from contrary opinions because people tend to pick friends who have similar views. Psychology!) because actually, I don’t agree.

But should the BBC play it?

Here’s an interesting thing to think about next time you absolutely hate a politician, either current or historical; a lot of people had to like them to vote them in. Not a majority, because politics is often messed up, but if everyone hated them, if everyone saw how “obviously stupid” it would be to vote for them, they wouldn’t get in for you to rant about them.

And for this song to reach number 1, people would have had to have bought it. We can’t know why, of course, but they did. Much like an election, this song represents the views of people in a population. That view could be “yeah fuck Margaret Thatcher, because!” or “Personally I suffered under her so I wish to announce my satisfaction that such a baleful influence has been removed from this planet, even if the damage has been done,” or any other reason, but people made the choice to buy this song, made the choice to support the campaign and somebody, somewhere, chose to start it. If it’s number 1, that’s a lot of people. Should their views be silenced?

Bear in mind that, unlike “Killing in the Name” (a protest song I did support, if for no other reason it made Christmas a bit more exciting), “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” is not an offensive song except in this context. Or if you played it at a funeral, I guess. I watched the Wizard of Oz when… I can’t even remember the first time I watched it, said time was before my infant brain was up to scratch with formulating coherent memories. My point is it’s a children’s film and a children’s song. If the song chosen was nothing more than 4 minutes of “Fuck Margaret Thatcher” on repeat, then ban it by all means (if for nothing else, that song sounds terrible), but no-one swears in Oz, and no-one swears in “Ding Dong.”

And whilst the clip I linked was over 4 minutes, the song people are downloading is just 51 seconds. I could take 51 seconds of being horribly offended (yes, that is a challenge).

So I think yes, the BBC should play it, in its glorious, 51 second entirety. This the view of people, expressed in a song. I may not agree with the expression, and even questions with their motives, but the BBC cannot silence people’s views. 

You, dear radio listener, can. Turn Radio 1 off. Switch to Magic for a few days. If you get offended by the songs on Magic, there is no hope for you.


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