See also by Carl Horowitz: Lana Del Rey: Too Good Or Too White? and “Is This A Sovereign Nation / Or Just A Police State?” Eric Clapton, COVID, And Immigration
Is it possible to dislike one’s countrymen yet still love one’s country? Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken had no problem with that paradox. Neither does Steven Patrick Morrissey aka “Morrissey,” who for 40 years has been one of rock’s finest performers. More recently, he’s been an outspoken voice of sanity on race and immigration in his native England, on English culture and identify, even on acid attacks and Islam. Of course, the mob wants him Canceled, or at least held “accountable” for telling the truth about the sad pass at which his homeland has arrived. Good thing is, Morrissey just has too many fans.
For the past few years, the hard Left in Britain and elsewhere has waged a campaign to wreck his career for a string of “racist” comments (meaning they were entirely accurate). These activists claim few if any achievements in that quest. Indeed, to their frustration, Morrissey’s profile is still sky-high. His records still sell briskly. He and his band play to sellout crowds worldwide. He was the subject of a 2017 feature film, England Is Mine.
For those unfamiliar with “Moz,” here’s a brief rundown:
A second-generation Irish Catholic born and raised in Manchester, the 63-year-old singer is witty, forthright, and at times savage in his opinions, whether expressed through song lyrics or interviews. As during his tenure fronting the Smiths, 1982-87, the breakup of whom some fans still can’t forgive, he isn’t short on ideas. His cabaret-influenced vocal style, roughly comparable to David Bowie and Bryan Ferry, remains immediately recognizable.
It is a longstanding cliché that Morrissey’s career is one long self-pity party. He’s “the Pope of Mope.” I believe this interpretation is quite wrong. Some of his songs convey a depressing outlook on life, but many others don’t. Every Day Is Like Sunday and I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris sound like a man basking in life’s pleasures.
Whatever his moods, Morrissey embodies the loner-hero archetype of Colin Wilson’s classic nonfiction 1956 book, The Outsider. The “outsider,” explained Wilson, is possessed of “a distressing sense that truth must be told at all costs (italics author’s), otherwise there can be no hope for an ultimate restoration of order.”
How did Morrissey come about his contrarian views?
- First, being English of Irish ancestry, dual loyalty was ingrained. Yet he came to reject that identity. His 2004 single, Irish Blood, English Heart, explains:
Irish blood, English heart, this I’m made of
There is no one on earth I’m afraid of
And I will die with both of my hands untied.
- Second, he despises human cruelty. Growing up shy, bookish, and observant, he rejected the tribal call of gangs roaming Manchester streets. He saw something of himself in these insecure rough misfits even as he knew they were not heroic. Songs such as Rusholme Ruffians were the result.
Similarly, Morrisey is a vegan, and has long campaigned against what he believes is the cruelty of slaughtering animals for food. Since its released in 1984, The Smiths’ Meat Is Murder has been an anthem for animal rights activists.
- Third, Morrissey is from “oop north.” England’s centuries-old North-South economic, political and cultural divide, though exaggerated, is very real. Boundaries differ, but the unwritten rule remains: “South wins.” A newcomer to London from Leeds, Manchester or Newcastle is seen as of lower status, the dialect being the giveaway.
Yet Northerners don’t necessarily have an inferiority complex. Salford-based radio disk jockey Stuart Maconie explains:
There’s no conception of the south comparable to the north. Good or bad, “the north” means something to all English people wherever they hail from … [to southerners] it means desolation, arctic temperatures, mushy peas, a cultural wasteland with limited shopping opportunities and populated by aggressive trolls. To northerners it means home, truth, beauty, valour, romance, warm and characterful people, real beer and decent shops. And in this we are undoubtedly biased, of course.
This is Morrissey’s world. And for all his lyrical allusions to Austen, Belloc, Dickens, Eliot, Wilde and other giants of the English literary canon, his strongest influence is the late playwright-screenwriter Shelagh Delaney, a Salford native herself. Through dramas such as A Taste of Honey and The Lion in Love, she expressed many of the daily frustrations common to Northern folk.
“I’ve never made any secret of the fact that at least 50 percent of my reason for writing can be blamed on Shelagh Delaney,” Morrissey admitted decades ago [The Smiths—The Stories Behind All 27 Of Their Provocative Album And Single Sleeves, by Emily Barker NME.com, August 3, 2015]. Her photo adorns the cover of the Smiths’ retrospective 1987 double-LP, Louder Than Bombs, and a subsequent single, Girlfriend in a Coma.
Morrissey doesn’t have much use for politicians, however—including those on the Right. His first post-Smiths album, Viva Hate, contains a track, Margaret on the Guillotine, concerning a certain Mrs. Thatcher. Much later, in November 2017, he said he would assassinate President Trump “for the sake of humanity” [Morrissey: I would kill Trump ‘for the safety of humanity,’ by Rebecca Savransky, The Hill, November 27, 2017].
For the first 25 years of his career, Morrissey’s acerbic wit did not breach the Left-controlled boundaries of his country’s National Question. But in November 2007, Morrisey came out of the closet on England’s National Question. During an interview with NME, he asserted that mass immigration was corrosive of English identity:
England is a memory now. The gates are flooded and anybody can have access to England and join in. Although I don’t have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears. …
If you travel to Germany, it’s still absolutely Germany. If you travel to Sweden, it still has a Swedish identity. But travel to England and you have no idea where you are.
[Morrissey Sparks Row Over Immigration, Aislinn Simpson, The Telegraph, November 28, 2007 (paywalled)]
Morrissey sued NME for libel because the interview, he alleged, misconstrued his remarks as being anti-immigrant and portrayed him as a racist. The publication apologized before trial [NME says sorry to Morrissey for the misunderstanding over 2007 article, June 12, 2012].
Morrissey further magnified his troublemaker status in 2010 in an interview with The Guardian. “Did you see the thing on the news about [China’s] treatment of animals and animal welfare?” he asked. “Absolutely horrific. You can’t help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies” [Morrissey interview: Big mouth strikes again, by Simon Armitage, September 3, 2010].
Also outraging multiculturalists was his rebuke of Islamic cruelty. In a 2018 interview posted on his Morrissey Central blog, he swung this scimitar:
Labour are no different from the Conservatives in that they do not object to FGM [Female Genital Mutilation], halal slaughter, child marriage, and so on…If you have any concern for animal welfare, for example, you cannot possibly vote for either Conservatives or Labour because both parties support halal slaughter, which, as we all know, is evil. Furthermore, halal slaughter requires certification that can only be given by supporters of ISIS, and yet in England we have halal meat served in hospitals and schools! UK law is pointless!
[Morrissey brands halal meat ‘evil,’ YahooNews.com, April 17, 2018]
Near the end of the interview, he Went There:
London is second only to Bangladesh for acid attacks.[These are mostly Muslim on Muslim attacks in which a man throws asicd in a woman’s face, a custom imported from Pakistan.] All of the attacks are non-white, and so they cannot be truthfully addressed by the British government or the Met police or the BBC because of political correctness.
[Morrissey’s most controversial quotes, The Week, May 31, 2019]
For almost anyone else in England, such words might lead to jail.
About that time, the lifelong non-voter endorsed For Britain, an upstart patriot party. Founded in 2017 by Anne Marie Waters, an Irish-born former activist in the United Kingdom Independence Party, For Britain campaigned against Muslim immigration in ways timidly avoided by Nigel Farage and other UKIP leaders. Unable to gain traction with voters, For Britain disbanded in July.
Morrissey didn’t hide his support. Performing on the May 13, 2019 segment of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, he wore a “For Britain” button [Morrissey Supports Right-Wing Extremist Group While Performing On The Tonight Show, by Tom Breihan, Stereogum, May 14, 2019].
Leftist English folk singer Billy Bragg, for one, was not pleased with Morrissey’s political choice, and said so on Facebook:
Worryingly, Morrissey’s reaction to being challenged over his support of For Britain, his willingness to double down rather than apologise for any offence caused, suggests a commitment to a bigotry that tarnishes his persona as the champion of the outsider. Where once he offered solace to the victims of a cruel and unjust world, he now seems to have joined the bullies waiting outside the school gates.
Bragg also wants Morrissey held “accountable,” although one wonders what “accountable” would mean [Billy Bragg on free speech, Morrissey and the resurgence of the far right, by Thomas Barrie, GQ, July 11, 2019].
Even more obnoxious was Leftist journalist Darya Rustamova [Tweet her]. “He [Morrissey] has a historic hatred for foreigners,” she brayed, “and his fans need to do more to recognise his views and fight these messages.” By “do more,” she got specific:
“Morrissey is Cancelled,” but he should have been cancelled 40 years ago. Let’s not pity this old man, he hasn’t lost his mind, nor is he being misinterpreted by the toxic “PC-gone-mad” press. Being blessed with social media, in recent years Morrissey is more actively pushing his views.
[Morrissey Isn’t Senile, He’s Always Been a Racist, Mangal Media, May 25, 2019]
Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times declared himself bewildered that Morrissey’s fans are uninterested in his “anti-immigrant” and “white nationalist” sentiments [Morrissey is anti-immigrant and backs a white nationalist political party. Why don’t fans care?, October 24, 2019]. He quoted Los Angeles culture writer Melissa Mora Hidalgo, author of Mozlandia: Morrissey Fans in the Borderlands
The bad rhetoric that Morrissey espouses, and that the [For Britain] party espouses, on these shores would be Trumpism. On these shores that would be MAGA.
Morrissey backs white nationalists. Why don’t his fans— including many Latinx supporters— seem to care? https://t.co/LWKr8Mxq2s
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) October 25, 2019
Groused Jack Whatley, editor and founder of the British webzine Far Out: “It is only through his left-wing views in the Eighties that we can note just how screwed up his opinions in the 21st century are” [The uncomfortable truth about Morrissey, 2021].
They all fail to grasp that a nation is not an idea or proposition, but a particular people of a particular ethnicity, language, culture, and historical memory, guarded by territorial sovereignty. A nation is possessed of an identity. Propositions might complete but do not lay a nation’s foundation. Universalist Americans might love this country, but their love is more a never-ending infatuation than a marriage. To them, distinguishing between desirable and undesirable immigration is downright un-American.
And to Morrissey, it’s downright un-English. He believes England is a distinct place that comprises a distinct people, reprehensible as they may be. But because his audience is large, loyal and international (he’s huge in Mexico!), he can galvanize opposition to nonwhite mass immigration without fearing cancellation. How many politicians anywhere in the West can make such a claim?
A consummate Outsider, Morrissey is properly outraged at immigrants who abuse his country’s good will and at those who enable the abusers. Whether England is the Greatest Country in the World matters far less than the fact that it is his country.
Notwithstanding his reckless blasts at Margaret Thatcher and Donald Trump, Morrissey is a patriot. Still making excellent records— California Son and I Am Not a Dog on a Chain—he is determined to defend England. And he’s pointing a finger at the Left, where it belongs, for trying to destroy it.
We Americans might be asking, “Where’s our Morrissey?”
Carl Horowitz [Email him] is a veteran Washington, D.C. area writer on immigration and other issues.