Big media seems to always whitewash the sins of recent leaders upon their death, as of Margaret Thatcher on April 8. Even this story about how the BBC refused to play the #1 top selling iTunes song as they did every single week because it demonstrated insensitivity to the “illiberal” politician. If you can’t express your true feelings even when they are gone, when can you ever?
In a massively myopic understatement of Thatcher’s destructive acts and the ire it naturally inspired, the Santa Fe New Mexican instead turns the story into the upbeat
Quite a few British citizens viewed her 11-year term as prime minister from 1979-1990 as insensitive to the needier members of society. Learning of her death, many of them adopted as an anti-funereal anthem the song “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead,” which composer Harold Arlen and lyricist E. Y. “Yip” Harburg wrote for the film The Wizard of Oz. Downloading the song, as performed on the movie’s soundtrack by Judy Garland and the actors playing the Munchkins, became a political act, and social media fanned the flames.People of the De mortuis nil nisi bonum school were predictably aghast, and this particular mode of speaking ill of the dead — or in this case, singing ill of the dead — reached a mini-crisis when the publicly funded BBC had to finesse what to do on its Sunday radio program that every week plays the current top 40 musical hits. The powers that be arrived at what they described as a “difficult compromise”: they played only an excerpt from the song, as part of a news report about its surging popularity.
Ernie Harburg, son of the late lyricist, says his father father would have been amused. “W. S. Gilbert and George Bernard Shaw taught Yip Harburg, democratic socialist, sworn challenger of all tyranny against the people, that ‘humor is an act of courage’ and dissent . Yip said, ‘Humor is the antidote to tyranny’ and, ‘Show me a place without humor and I’ll show you a disaster area.’
Yip believed tyranny is caused by the policies of austerity, imperialism, theocracy and class supremacy, which deny most people human rights and economic freedom from poverty and want. A song — music and lyrics — allows singers and audiences to ‘feel the thought’ of the lyric. ‘Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ is a universal cry against the cruelty of tyrants and a protest against the ban on laughter at that cruelty.
For the 99 percent, laughing and joy are required at the funeral of a tyrant. According to Yip, humor gives us hope in hard times.”
Of course the Santa Fe New Mexican buried the story in a headline and feature “From Depression to optimism: lyricist Yip Harburg,” calling it all a “tempest in a teapot.” And for as long as media like BBC and Santa Fe New Mexican keep the lid on what the public really want to hear: it will certainly remain so!