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The annual Fairytale of New York debacle – #DefundtheBBC

Tom Winnifrith
Thursday 19 November 2020

There are certain parts of the Christmas ritual which seem to become more intense each year. I refer not, of course, to celebrating the birth of Jesus because that is an archaic irrelevance which has nothing to do with what is now termed “the holiday season.” Anyone who relates the winter holiday to Jesus, God, Angels or Mary and Joseph is a relic from the dark ages before Love island and the joys of modernity. But there are new rituals.

When will the first Church of England priest be slated by the tabloids for telling kids that Santa does not really exist? And when will the first academic from some new university issue a claim that Christmas is racist or somehow offensive to folks of other religions? There is a new annual event: a row over the censoring of the best selling Christmas pop song, FairyTale of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

The two words in the song which, it is claimed, might cause offence are slut, a reference to a woman who sleeps around, and faggot which has for more than a hundred years been a reference to a gay man.  There is some pretence that when the song was written, 1987, faggot meant a lazy man. That seems very wide of the mark. It was in 1914 when you can first find a gay man referred to as a faggot in literature and fag was a very commonly used term from the 1960s onwards.

Anyhow, over at the BBC, some folks always take offence. Radio 2 is playing the song uncensored. But on Radio 1 the word ‘slut’ is being muted and the word ‘faggot’ becomes ‘haggard’ as the station says that its younger listeners may be triggered.

I see that the dim Tory tweeter Emily Hewertson says this is ridiculous noting:

Just in case you needed anymore proof how out of touch the BBC is with the British public…
Here’s a reminder that the Fairytale of New York was voted the UK’s most popular Christmas song.
Is anyone actually offended by it?


Since Emily is neither a gay man or, as far as I know, a slut, she is unlikely to be the one offended. She is not really in a position to opine and neither, for the same reasons, am I. But what I might note is that within the context of the story told in this song the language is honest and it is exactly what the characters would have said. And that should be the reason why the lyrics should stand. If we go down the path of bowdlerising this song then what next? Might I suggest that the way Orwell refers to the Jews needs to be examined and a number of his books rewritten as a result lest they offend anyone who is Jewish? And then onto Shakespeare and Shylock?

Of course, I make no such suggestion. Orwell’s (repugnant) views on the Jews were very 1930s. You read his novels in context and judge him as a man of his time. I do not wish to censor Shakespeare and also not the Pogues.

That the BBC is so happy with censorship is another black mark (can I use that phrase?) for it is a week when it was also picked up for other matters relating to NewSpeak. In all male rugby matches the best participant on the pitch is no longer the “Man of the Match” but instead the  “player of the match”, even though, in such a game, the recipient of the award must be a man.  Meanwhile, Radio 4 has banned the term fishermen to describe those folks who work on trawlers catching fish and replaced it with “fisherpeople”.

The hard fact is that despite more and more women graduating from new universities with degrees in gender studies, the hazardous and poorly paid world of ocean fishing remains overwhelmingly male. Fewer than 3% of those working on sea going fishing vessels are women. Are they offended by how the BBC used to term them? There is no evidence for that. Nor that there is any great drive by the metropolitan liberal elites to correct the gender imbalance in this poorly paid and dangerous job.

That the BBC thinks it is an issue, which it must waste resources addressing, is, however, a sign of how out of touch it has become. And why it should be defunded at once.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
[email protected]
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