note: this was originally posted on my tumblr in 2013
Content note: this piece discusses – and contains – homophobic and racist slurs, as well as discussing Thatcherite policies.
In December 2007 there was a national outrage when the BBC decided not to broadcast the word “faggot” being used as an insult on daytime radio. The reasoning was that it was offensive to a minority group, and causing offence is not what daytime radio is for: the audience is wide and unpredictable, and although some, if not most, people are not offended by homophobic slurs being broadcast on national radio, some people are. And in the same way the word “n*gger” was not broadcast when Radio 1 played Kanye West’s ‘Golddigger’ song, and racist jokes are removed from repeats of ‘Only Fools and Horses’, refusing to broadcast this word was deemed to be appropriate.
It may be clear from my tone that I supported the BBC’s decision in that matter. It’s not censorship or removal of free speech, because the song was freely available in its unedited form, well, almost everywhere else (including on Radio 2).
Fast-forward five-and-a-half years, and we have a similar situation. Radio 1 is refusing to broadcast in full a song which will cause offence and insult to a group of people. And in this case, a rather larger group of people than in 2007. The song itself is not offensive, but the emotional reaction it will cause, if broadcast, to a large number of people is not the sort of emotional reaction the BBC is supposed to bring about. (And to those who argue that refusal to broadcast the song is equally offensive and “censorship”, I say this: go and buy the song on iTunes, or wherever you like, or download it illegally and listen to it.)
I want to be clear: I hated Margaret Thatcher and everything she stood for. I am glad she is dead. When I first heard the news, I tweeted “SHE IS DEAD! REJOICE!”. Many of her policies and ideologies remain in Britain today, and I hate her and her memory and her followers for that.
I hope Thatcher fans are offended and hurt by so-called death parties. I hope there are protesters at her funeral and that her family and her supporters are offended and insulted.
We have the right, and I say the duty, to offend supporters of this woman who did untold damage to us. The poll tax hurt us. Right to Buy hurt us. Deregulation of school meals – of everything – hurt us. We have the right to hurt them in return, symbolically, by mocking their great hero on the occasion of her death.
The BBC doesn’t have that right.
- The song I refer to in the first paragraph is ‘Fairytale of New York’ by Kirsty MacColl and the Pogues.
- The song I refer to in the third paragraph is ‘Ding! Dong!’ from ‘The Wizard of Oz’.