Artwork

What Went Wrong With… Censoring Entertainment During The Removal Of Racist Statues?

A side-by-side of the toppling of Saddam Hussein's and Edward Colston's statues

After the racist murder of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, people everywhere, famous and non-famous, have been reassessing their role in society and how it may uphold bigotry. Since police brutality is an extension of institutional and historical racism, any aspect of society that upholds an archaic idea of inequality has been brought into the argument. The idea of anything which endorses or validates racism, has quite rightly been questioned and this has now extended to the removal of public statues which has in turn (thanks to a reactionary and spineless media) morphed into the apology for and removal of offensive scenes from films and TV shows. These two things are completely different however, and the latter issue has been created not by society but by the people in charge of the mainstream media, who have to some extent hijacked the concept of striving for equality.

There is a distinction to be made here: films, television shows, and songs are art, statues are merely 3-dimensional depictions of historical figures. The sculpting element of a statue is art but the object itself represents the glorification of the subject. A domineering statue is placed high above us to signify its importance and to gain respect from the masses. A statue does one thing and one thing only: to let everyone know this person is important enough to cast in bronze or stone; their ideas, opinions, and achievements should, as the material they’re created with, stand the test of time. Sure, an annotated or amended plaque under the statue may be a compromise but the shear size and almost-indestructible material is a message in itself: this person is noteworthy and everything they did and said is worthy of admiration by all. A tiny metal sign under Winston Churchill for example (that in all likelihood will be written by committee) will not undo what the statue itself represents: the idealisation and idolisation of a historical figure and the disregarding of any element that tarnishes his character.

After the statue of Winston Churchill was annotated by protesters with the additional line “is a racist” (see the Priti Patel article for more information), news presenters kept asking their guests “do you think he’s racist”? This was of course a diversion tactic: Churchill’s racism is not in dispute, he was a racist, and asking black and white people their “opinions” on facts is part of the fucking problem. Dividing people by race is idiotic when what we’re supposed to be doing is acknowledging the wrongs in society and coming together as one to rectify them. But I digress.

Statues glorifying bigots are in full view of the world and are unavoidable. It’s not just the white, right-wing “patriots” who walk past them, people of colour, all genders, and people from all sides of the political spectrum pass them on the way to work and to and from home, therefore an unbiased description should be visible to all. Is it right that a statue of Robert Milligan (a so-called slave-factor) should be in multicultural London, in a place named “West India Quays” of all places? The West Indian Docks is where cargo from locations such as Jamaica came, and that included sugar from white “owned” plantations. After the subjugating and pillaging of everywhere from the Caribbean, Africa, to Asia, is it right that descendants of this oppression now have to glance at their ancestor’s oppressors as they go about their day? Ethnic minorities aside, in this day and age, should white people (who claim to be history buffs) be ignoring their heroes’ bigoted opinions and wrongdoings? I initially agreed with the idea of adding or amending the plaque beneath these statues but the fact that their removal only angers the worst parts of society, I say to hell with it, get rid of them. So fuck all the lazy comparisons to Islamic State, we’re not dismantling history here, we’re placing these statues in museums which is where any outdated idea belongs.

Let me remind you that morons in the United States who are so against the removal of Confederate statues were absolutely fine with toppling Saddam Hussein’s statue, and morons in Britain who speak about the “good and the bad” of history were tickety-boo with Jimmy Saville’s grave being vandalised and his plaque removed even though there were similarly good things about him too (including his supporting of charities). The losing and winning of battles and wars alongside the changing of morals and attitudes makes any modern society in a constant state of flux. To declare our Western, multicultural society as modern whilst simultaneously upholding ideas of the past is contradictory to say the least. Keeping the statues where they are (in a place of importance) means outdated ideas regarding race, gender, sexual orientation, class, war, equal rights, and everything in-between should remain stagnant. An evolving society should never be afraid of tearing down outmoded beliefs and replacing them with neoteric views. Like I’ve already said, it seems to me that the only people vehemently defending these statues are to put it mildly: arseholes.

Just look at the recent “counter” protest in London in which the far-right, white, male, heterosexual twatdom came to the city in full force, fighting the police and causing all sorts of disruption. Before this counter protest took place, the white-right were on Twitter claiming the moral high-ground, declaring that they weren’t racist or bigoted but instead veterans, football lads, and patriots who were there simply to protect British history. The subsequent violence proved not only that white people feel comfortable confronting the police without the fear of death (which in turn legitimatises the BLM protests) but also that the type of people who refuse to change are the most abhorrent, hypocritical people in any country.

Just look at news clips of wankers on mobility scooters kissing a statue they in all likelihood know nothing about, or a bunch of racist white nationalists who tweet nonsense like #AllLivesMatter or #BlueLivesMatter every time a case of racist police brutality is protested against. Red-faced gammon draping the St. George’s Cross on the statue of Robert Baden-Powell as seen on Sky News revealed the parallels between white, right-wing bigotry and a one-sided history of this country. You know exactly the kind of person who wants these statues to stay; just look at the comments below this YouTube video:

Some of the highlights include the racist “Leave our history alone”, the racist and sexist “Doesnt need a barrier to protect it, just a dozen hard Saxon men will be enough”, and the painfully ironic “Proud Brits standing up for what they believe in, beautiful to see”. These kind of comments show that white people on the right think this country in which we were all born as inherently theirs and their race and side of the story is more important than ours. And what does being “English” have to do with it anyway? Are the people graffiti-ng Winston Churchill’s statue not English? And then they have the nerve to say they’re not far-right or racist. Half of these fuckwits wouldn’t know Churchill the prime minister from Churchill the insurance dog but as long as “SJW snowflakes” disapprove of him, their position is automatic and their views adamant. All that aside, which Black Lives Matter protester wanted a statue of the founder of the scouts (who enjoyed reading Mein Kampf) to be removed? That really is low-hanging fruit. It couldn’t be the media just stirring shit up now could it? Cough, cough.

These self-appointed defenders of history need to realise that history is written and re-written all the time, and ideas and events are always being erased from history. Ask the people living near the Pyramids or close to Stone Henge what these monuments are for? They don’t know because invading armies, successive leaders, governments, and immigration changes every place over time. History is sometimes a mystery, in fact hypothesising over structures is part of their lore and allure. Of course this doesn’t apply to the aforementioned statues since they’re all being placed in a museum for bigots everywhere to enjoy. For me, the removal of confederate statues in the United States and the elimination of the confederate flag at NASCAR is progress, especially since most of these erections were incepted way after the Civil War which means they shouldn’t even be displaying a flag of a defeated army.

It’s curious that the media want us to argue over statues of dead people but surely there’s bigger fish to fry? Statues of people who benefited from slave labour or indentured workers are to me, the same as the Queen and the Royal Family who still own the Star Of Africa. Why are we neglecting to acknowledge the Windsor’s Nazi-sympathizing and their benefiting from slave-labour? Like the Star Of India, shouldn’t Queen Elizabeth’s stolen jewels also be in a museum rather than on some crown or sceptre of a castle-dwelling lizard?

Statues out of the way: film and television is another thing entirely. Whereas a statue is unavoidable, a TV show or a movie is our individual choice to view: watch it and agree with it, watch it and disagree with it, or don’t watch it at all. After the BLM protests, TV studios the world over began editing or removing shows and this has included HBO Max removing the movie Gone With The Wind, reality show Cops literally being cancelled, and UKTV removing an episode of Fawlty Towers which contained repeated use of the N-word. In addition to this, we have a reboot of Looney Tunes in the works which will include Yosemite Sam (a wild-west gunman) without guns. This fake-liberal blitz of art is completely unneeded and detracts from the issue at hand. All this reminds me of the films, TV shows, and songs that were censored after the September the 11th attacks… pointless.

A racist disclaimer alongside a removal disclaimer for racist television

UKTV’s statement regarding the removal of a racist episode (left) and a more preferable solution by Warner Bros. (right)

A statue which doesn’t mention a complete history is the same as censoring art. Everyone from Winston Churchill to Robert Baden-Powell gets their wrongdoings expunged because their plaques lack the complete truth but similarly, removing anything offensive from cinema and television falsely represents the creators of artistic bigotry. Keith Lemon in blackface, Ant & Dec in yellowface, Jimmy Fallon in blackface, it all happened but we’ve recently had lots of fake apologies at the most convenient moment (still waiting for one from Sacha Baron Cohen, Sarah Silverman, and those two twats from Little Britain). These spineless celebrities at the very least, need to get their flip-flopping mocked; I and other people who thought they were offensive at the time when they were created were ignored. We were told we were “easily-offended” when in all actuality we were merely voicing our opinion of a commodity – something a free society should have no problem in dealing with. Flash-forward a decade or so and all of these fuckwits and their wanky fans are playing morality catchup. Now everyone realises that racist “comedy” contributes to racist ideas in society. Who laughs at black, brown, red, and yellowface but a bigot? Why were these celebrities trying to attract those people in the first place? It couldn’t be because they’re bigots themselves, surely not?

So instead of recognising and praising those celebrities who made prejudice-free comedy at the same time, we allow casually racist celebrities to say hey, that’s how it was back then, followed by a few “sorry’s” and everything they’ve done is washed away. Fuck that! These apologies are faker than the actors doing an anti-racist PSA called “I Take Responsibility” when all of them were fine working in an unfair and unequal Hollywood as long as their pockets stayed lined. But I digress once more.

Bigoted people don’t just get to edit out their opinions and omit them from history. If this kind of censorship continues, watching TV shows and films from the last century will falsely make the past seem free of prejudice which it quite clearly wasn’t. People who had a racist, sexist, or homophobic opinion shouldn’t be able to erase their prejudiced output. From Leigh Francis, John Cleese, Connie Booth to Victor Fleming, David O. Selznick, and Sidney Howard, these bigots don’t just get to apologise or retrospectively edit-out their art from history.

That is why these two ideas are mutually exclusive: a statue which omits the subject’s bigotry is the same as expunging racist celebrities’ shows. If you want a plaque amending or a statue to be relegated to a museum, you should want televisual or cinematic examples of racism, sexism, and homophobia to stay unedited too. People should feel uncomfortable as they watch Bo Selecta! or Fawlty Towers in the same way as they should reading a complete history of Winston Churchill. Making the worst aspect of your favourite celebrity disappear, whether historical or present-day is the same thing: it doesn’t paint a complete picture. It’s a lie.

Nothing Is Set In Stone.

1 reply »

  1. Just watching the latest adaptation of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads and surprise, surprise, they’ve edited out certain racist lines. A book, play, film, or TV programme should remain unedited as a historical record of an artist’s output and a representation of the time it was created. Another bunch of white, middle-class, fake liberals sanitising art off the back of Black Lives Matter. Maybe employ more people of colour instead of hiding away random pieces of art. We never asked for censorship, in fact the tearing down of statues was for this very reason: making a famous person or a period of history seem like it wasn’t bigoted. Fuck the BBC and whichever arseholes edited these scripts.

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