Thatcher opponents have driven the song ‘Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead’ to the top of Britain’s pop charts. Was the ‘retaliatory’ promotion of a 1979 punk song fanned by fans – or a good capitalist moment?
Two songs are battling to the top of the British music charts in memory of Margret Thatcher. One is, her supporters say, in bad taste, but the one adopted by fans of the late Conservative prime minister isn’t quite what it seems, either.
Opponents of Thatcher have campaigned successfully to have “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead”, a song from the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” composed by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, to reach the top spot Britain’s official charts.
The response from Conservative Party supporters was swift, with newspapers including The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph demanding that the BBC refuse to play the song. The BBC has said it will play a five-second clip of the song along with a news item explaining why during its official chart rundown on Radio One, Sunday.
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Equally irritated, though less outraged, Tories had another plan: counter Ding Dong with a song of their own. They chose the little-known 1979 punk number “I’m in Love with Margaret Thatcher” by the Notsensibles.
The British press loved it — and why not? It’s a good story, in a silly sort of way: a bit of political argy-bargy in a fun and digestible package.
The media didn’t exactly work hard to uncover the truth of the story, such as it is. A phone call to the band’s former frontman, Michael Hargreaves, was all it took to discover that the campaign predated the Tories’ adoption of it.
Hargreaves himself started the campaign with a Facebook page on Wednesday that soon garnered 8,000 likes. Surprisingly, though, by Friday it had been adopted by Conservative Party supporters as a counter to “Ding Dong.” Facebook, Twitter and Tory blogs lit-up with requests that people buy the song in order to keep the anti-Thatcher song from reaching the top spot in the hit parade.
Would Maggie be proud?
In some press interviews, Hargreaves has implied, rather unconvincingly, that he is a supporter of Mrs. Thatcher. But if the song is a hit, the royalty checks may represent some private enterprise Margaret Thatcher would approve of.
Hargreaves, an ex-punk rocker who now works with adults with learning disabilities, is an unlikely figure for adoption by Conservative Party members, though he did say “Ding Dong” was disrespectful. (Read a in-depth profile of Margaret Thatcher here.)
“My grandfather was [both] a Christian and a communist. I’m a fat, 50-year-old punk. You make your mind up about my political sensibilities,” he says.
Hargreaves, who is due to perform with his old band on BBC television news in Manchester on Monday, says he doesn’t really mind how high the song charts in the end, but that the experience has been fun. “We dunked a pebble in the lake and there seems to be a few ripples.”
Eighty-five seconds of the song were previously featured in the 2011 biopic movie “The Iron Lady,” starring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher.
“I find it hilarious that Tories have adopted it,” he says. “The song is a sort-of tribute and sort-of not.”
The Battlefield: Christopher Dodd was at one point an alleged elected representative of the people. As a US Senator he was charged with upholding the Constitution and laws of the people, and representing the interests of voters in his state of Connecticut – for 30 years. In reality, Dodd didn’t represent the people, and instead, represents corporate special-interests – and unfortunately, Dodd is not the exception.
In early 2011, it was announced that Dodd – after retiring from 30 years in the Senate – would take up a leading role at the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) for a $1.5 million annual salary. Immediately, the retired Senator would lead the charge to pass the notorious Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), with his incestuous business-government ties visibly rippling through the US House and Senate as well as through the corporate-dominated media.
Despite the obvious conflict of interests and dangerous precedent set by corporations commandeering elected representatives to leverage their influence and bend the law of the people to the will of big corporations, Dodd has been allowed to continue on with the charade. It was recently reported in Wired’s article, “Hollywood’s Total Piracy Awareness Program Set for January Launch,” that:
Beginning in a few weeks, the nation’s major internet service providers will roll out an initiative — backed by Obama and pushed by Hollywood and the record labels – to disrupt and possibly terminate internet access for online copyright scofflaws without the involvement of cops or courts. But that doesn’t mean Hollywood is done filing lawsuits or lobbying Congress.
“It doesn’t mean you give up on litigation,” said Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, speaking at an industry gathering here Thursday. “It doesn’t mean you give up on legislation.”
As stated in “Decentralizing Telecom,” to constantly fight the interests of mega-corporations, while thus far successful, is not a sustainable strategy. Reacting to the provocations of special interests as they relentlessly attempt to expand their already unwarranted influence and monopolies, must be replaced with a strategy aimed at the very source of their strength.
File sharing is not wrong, and it most certainly is not theft. One would not consider sharing a purchased book with a friend, “theft.” Technology has simply made it possible to share that book with millions of “friends.” File sharing operations making money off of other people’s work might constitute a target for industry and government alike, but file sharing online is also done for absolutely free, through peer-to-peer software.
The answer to sagging business models effected by file sharing is not litigation and legislation, but rather to innovate – something big-industry certainly has the resources to do.
Open-source, crowd-sourced, innovative software, media, and hardware businesses already exist, and are already turning profits while creating local jobs. More importantly, they are opening up markets to consumers who can now become producers, essentially creating “wealth redistribution through entrepreneurship” rather than government subsidies.
These emerging business models prove that jobs, profit, and commerce are not impossible within the new, emerging paradigm people like Dodd work tirelessly against. It does prove, however, that the days the special interests Dodd represents can horde for themselves control over human creativity and the wealth it generates, are coming to an end.
The Battle Plan: By no means should people already engaged in anti-monopoly campaigning give up. People campaigning against SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, and many other forms of legislation represent the minefields upon a battlefield, slowing the advance of the enemy, and denying it access long enough for a counteroffensive to be mounted – but that counteroffensive must eventually be planned and executed.
Dodd’s MPAA “Copyright Alert System,” described by Wired as an “ISP search-and-disrupt operation,” will use the Internet and telecom monopolies to target file sharing. Previously reported on “mesh networks” would easily complicate the enforcement of such a measure. Also, as one keen Wired reader noted in the comment sections:
Too bad the MPAA/RIA know that more sharing happens from portable hard drives than through torrents. So this is a lot like closing the barn door as the horse is leaving…
He would elaborate in a second comment that:
Those file come from the same place as torrents, one person buys it, rips it and shares it. The funny thing is there are less options to get one file (maybe one person you know has it vs. hundreds of torrents) but when you borrow a hard drive you can get more files in a couple of hours than in a year of torrenting.
And indeed, for those looking to get around the corporate-fascist collaboration between government, big-film & record studios, big-software, and big-telecom, a portable hard drive network could easily be organized, expanded and used to sting back even worse than online file sharing already has.
However, such networks, be they mesh or hard drive sharing, are still only countermeasures. To go on the offensive against the special interests behind this campaign, particularly because they still possess almost unlimited finances and political backing, is to avoid taking them head-on and instead attack their supply lines.
We need not travel far to reach these supply lines – for we the consumers of their products and services constitute the sole source of their wealth, with which they buy their influence across governments and the media. Cutting ourselves off, thus cutting their supply lines and leaving them to starve, is as simple as boycotting and replacing them.
We can begin (and in many cases already are) boycotting and replacing them with superior, and more importantly, open alternatives. All things being equal, people would rather watch a free movie than pay for one on Netflix. One rather listen to a free MP3 than pay for one on iTunes.
By crowd-sourcing, crowd-funding, and producing free entertainment online leveraging improved, and increasingly cheaper hardware and software, such alternatives are already emerging. Campaigners against the likes of Dodd, the MPAA, and their SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA travesties, may also consider going a step beyond merely naming those corporations involved, and promote a full-spectrum, permanent boycott (and here), while promoting open-source, innovative alternatives.
Websites featuring open-entertainment could be organized by genre, or contain a variety to choose from. These could be open-versions of iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon, that run on ads, feature donation and referral buttons for artists, and more importantly, remain free and open for all. Live events could be organized and revenue raised for artists and organizers that way.
Design houses and studios using open-source software for commissioned work could augment their income by arranging training workshops and consulting services for other companies to switch over from expensive propriety solutions to open-source. The more people involved in open collaboration, the greater the benefit for all those involved.
Artists have and will always ply their trade for passion. Many are rediscovering the process of working for commissions rather than for royalties, and are using the open-sharing of their work as an advertisement for their commissioned services, live performances, and physical merchandise related to their intellectual efforts.
The arguments of copyrighted industry revolving around the promotion of innovation, art, and entertainment, as well as the creation of jobs, are already falling apart in an emerging, open-paradigm. People like Christopher Dodd whose blatantly compromised agenda makes a mockery of representative governance, embodies an industry and a paradigm that does not deserve perpetuation. Through boycotting and replacing it, by us all becoming open-producers and collaborates instead of consumers bellied up to the corporate troughs, let us ensure a deep enough hole is dug for them, so that when they finally are rolled into it, they never emerge again.