“The silencing of the Munchkins” – what the BBC should have done.

Over at the Observer, Nick Cohen has done a brilliant piece on the BBC’s witlessness over what to do with Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead.

 The silencing of the Munchkins must rank as one of the most inept acts of censorship Britain has seen.


As for the BBC, what is there left to say about it? Can it show The Wizard of Oz again? Can it only run the film after the 9pm watershed? Must the announcer warn: “This children’s story contains Munchkin choruses that some viewers may find offensive”?

Nick is, of  course, completely right.

In and of itself, there is nothing offensive or unlawful about the Munchkins’ happy chorus: just watch and listen:

So unlike a song which explicitly insults or otherwise derides Thatcher – for example Morrissey’s  Margaret on the Guillotine – it is only the interpretation which is being placed upon the Munchkins’ song which can render it offensive to (some of) her supporters, and not the song itself.

It has been a strange week or so for those who are neither Thatcherite nor Anti-Thatcherite.

Twitter has been a battleground for a historical re-enactment of 1980s debates.  One side seems angry in part because they never actually defeated her, and the other side seem defensive as it was actually they who removed the only Tory leader since 1970 to win an outright majority for a full parliamentary term.

In all this, getting Ding Dong The Witch Is Deadto number oneemerged as a form of protest and celebration for Anti-Thatcherites.

This may well be distasteful; but there is something in this which must be satisfying for (some) Thatcherites.

It is a form of protest and celebration where the royalties go to some United States conglomerate.

And it is a form of protest and celebration by which Anti-Thatcherites indulge in a mass self-identification as Munchkins.

One rather suspects the ghost of Thatcher would find this amusing.

The ghost of Thatcher, however, would also be perhaps disappointed in how soft (some of) her supporters have become in contending that the Munchkin song is actually offensive.

They should harden up, one can imagine her spectre muttering, there are more important fights.

As for the BBC, their response should have been to do nothing different from what they normally would do; the record should have been treated just as another number one.

They should have neither drawn attention to it as a protest or celebration nor edited or censored it.

And by treating it as something which did not warrant any exceptional action, the BBC would have made a silent and effective point about those – like Thatcher but also many others – who seek to  interfere with the media  for political reasons.


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