As I’m sure you are all aware the Iron Lady (Margaret Thatcher) has passed away, following a stroke in her suite in the Ritz on the 8th of April. Well the news spread like wildfire – once again showing the effectiveness of social media for spreading information though it were a virus. Of course the reaction was immediate, some were celebrating others mourned and many more people just took the piss. The song ‘Ding Dong! The Witch is dead’ became stuck in many people’s heads and while celebrating Thatcher’s death made me uncomfortable, I admit I was singing it.
Only a few hours after her death it was announced that she would be getting a state funeral. The uproar was instant and it wasn’t until much later that the claims of her state funeral were corrected. Thatcher isn’t getting a full state funeral but is getting a military march and a nineteen gun salute. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be thinking “yeah, I didn’t like her nor her policies and I definitely don’t like privatisation, but she was the first female prime minister we’ve had – that’s worth something.” Of course it was only later that I discovered that the funeral is costing ten million pounds, which I’m sorry considering the debt we’re in and the austerity measures being taken to reduce that debt, the government has no right throwing that much money away so frivolously.
The reaction to her funeral if you haven’t already seen is the organisation of a protest on the day where people are going to simply turn their backs as the coffin passes them in the street. Whether or not you agree with funeral protests this seems to me to be a very symbolic gesture and as long as nobody gets stupid and starts smashing stuff up it could be a very powerful one. I’ll leave you to decide what it shows for yourself, after all you may feel that it’s nothing but disrespectful.
Shortly after Maggie’s death something else occurred. As I already mentioned after her death people all over the UK began singing ‘Ding Dong! The Witch is dead’, people also began downloading the song – this quickly became a web campaign. It is a credit to social media, in 2009 a Facebook campaign fought to get Rage Against the Machine “Killing in the name of” to the Christmas number one they succeeded in their attempt and the campaign became a fantastic example of what social media can be used to do, another example is the 2011 summer riots which used Facebook and BBM to evade police capture.
Last week a similar campaign materialised: ‘Ding Dong! The Witch is dead’ for number one but this happened differently – the campaign itself was six years old, and until the song became broadly bought, it was just people buying the song which received the attention of the press, who debated in the papers and on the telly, which did advertised what was happening and more people went and purchased the song. I think that this shows exactly how the nation feels about the Thatcher era, because the song reached number two before the chart show without anybody running the campaign it was nothing more than word of mouth and over hearing the idea on the news.
And here we reach the title subject; the BBC decided not to play the song during the chart show because it has been seen as being disrespectful and is seen as a “personal attack on someone yet to be buried” I quote Ben Cooper, the BBC radio 1 controller. Ben does not view the track as being a political statement and therefore decided not to play the whole track on the grounds that it is not just a personal attack but is also disrespectful towards the grieving family.
But I feel that we must ask: was that fair? It is music’s nature to be expressive and reflective of the current culture, for example two songs in the charts directly related to Margaret Thatcher’s death ‘Ding Dong’ was anti-Thatcher and the pro Thatcher song ‘I’m in love with Thatcher’ by the Notsensibles and while ‘Ding Dong’ is not necessarily reflective how much people celebrated her death. It representative of how she was viewed, this could be proved by the fact that ‘I’m in love with Thatcher’ did not get as high in the charts, topping out four places behind ‘Ding Dong’ in number six.
So while the song “Ding Dong” isn’t itself political, the sentiment behind it is and therefore pasting over this by refusing to play the entire song could be viewed as undemocratic censorship by an institution supposedly owned by the people, or was it a just decision to protect a grieving family? I actually don’t know, which bugs me because I’d like to conclude this article with a definitive answer.
I feel – very strongly – that censoring the song was wrong. People feel very subdued in the current climate and people resent Thatcher for her actions in the eighties and her death could be viewed a momentary release – a chance for people to show their feelings toward the government and past governments. It was – in many ways – a peaceful protest, a big “fuck you” to the (wo)man, without breaking stuff and in that way it was wrong for the BBC to decide what is appropriate and what is not.
But that is just my opinion, what do you think?