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Morrissey offends, well, at least one Guardian journalist

By | Published on Monday 6 September 2010

The Guardian went a little bit Daily Mail this weekend in response to what was basically a throw away remark made by Steven ‘Let Me Say Something You Might Find Slightly Offensive’ Morrissey in a new interview with poet Simon Armitage published by the broadsheet on Saturday.

The paper decided to take offence because Mozza wrote off the entire Chinese population as being a “sub-species”. So far, so racist, except when put in context, perhaps. The singer made the sweeping statement while discussing animal rights, or the lack thereof, in China. He told Armitage: “Did you see the thing on the news about their treatment of animals and animal welfare? Absolutely horrific. You can’t help but feel that the Chinese are a sub-species”.

An unwise expression no doubt, but surely not that surprising when coming from a famous advocate of animal rights angrily commenting on a society that has very different views on the issue to him. Armitage himself, while quoting the remark to demonstrate that the former Smiths frontman is still prone to mouth off, only mentioned it in passing, and didn’t seem to challenge the singer over his tendency to say things others are prone to label as “racist”.

And, of course, it’s because Mozza has a history of saying things others deem to be racially offensive – most recently when discussing immigration into the UK in an interview with the NME in 2007 – that the “sub-species” remark is newsworthy.

One Guardian columnist took particular offence.

Writing a response to Armitage’s interview, Tom Clark argued that “there really is no defence” to Morrissey’s ‘sub-species’ remark, adding: “Loyal fans might, perhaps, plead in mitigation that these cruel words were unleashed in outrage about the mistreatment of animals, but there are aggravating factors, as well. He’s caused enough upset on race in the past to know perfectly well that he ought to take care with his public remarks. But he hasn’t. So, if the charge is causing racial offence, the only feasible judgment is guilty”.

He continued: “What, however, should we do next: call on him to resign? The truth is that there is nothing more to be said, apart from insisting – in defiance of any expectation that he will listen – that his wilful testing of race-related taboos really ought to stop. That joke isn’t funny any more. In fact it never was, not even in the distant days when it took a slightly subtler form, as when he made his reported claim that ‘all reggae is vile'”.

Clark went on to ponder whether Morrissey had expressed his frustration of China’s woeful record on animal rights in this way simply to get some media exposure ahead of the previously reported 20th anniversary re-issue of the singer’s ‘Bona Drag’ compilation, out later this month. Though to be honest, I suspect Mozza would be happy to make such unnecessarily sweeping statements any month of the year, with or without a record to sell.

Publishing an anti-Morrissey rant online on a Friday night in a bid to drive sales of your Morrissey-interview-containing newspaper the next day though, that I can see happening.