Julie Burchill: What makes a hate crime?


If you could put money on a word combo coming up empty on Google, one of the best bets would surely be "Dire Straits" and "hate crime". But apparently the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission has just amended a 15-year-old ruling that the Straits' "Money For Nothing" was unfit for broadcasting, due to three uses of the word "faggot".

At the birth in flames of rock and roll some half a century ago, when Elvis was so incendiary that he could be filmed only from the waist up, and teenagers tore up cinema seats in sheer molten excitement at the sight of Bill Haley's kiss-curl, it would have seemed somewhat surreal to think that, one day, Canadian bureaucrats would take 15 years to change their minds about what someone could say on a record. Especially when the only thing that ever seemed remarkable about Dire Straits was that they looked the only act where the roadies had locked the band in the dressing room and gone onstage in their place.

The commission has finally accepted Mark Knopfler's explanation that the lyric ("That little faggot's got his own jet airplane/That little faggot, he's a millionaire") was written from the perspective of an envious "bonehead" and was not in fact Mr Knopfler personally bitching about Elton John and Boy George. But the strangest thing of all is, perhaps, that this 15-year ban happened because ONE LISTENER complained.

Imagine if every song in which a woman had been belittled, insulted, threatened with violence and done to death was removed from broadcast after just one complaint! Talk about radio silence. From "Hey Joe" to "Smack My Bitch Up" taking in a positive legion of bitches, hoes and stupid girls, the abuse of women has been one of the backbeats of popular music.

And as someone who isn't bothered by abuse, can find it quite bracing even, I'm not whining for it to be stopped. But I am saying that the way sexist abuse is treated as a totally normal, even desirable, strand of popular culture while racist and homophobic abuse must be legislated and demonstrated against is a fascinating illogical phenomenon. If Nick Cave had bashed in the head of Eliza Gay rather than Eliza Day where the wild roses grow, there'd have been a right old kerfuffle up at Radio One.

Public schoolboys writing about rap get a tangible cowardly contact high from the endless abuse of women and never see fit to question it, but you can bet your booty that they will throw the full weight of their spoon-fed fervour behind the promotion of a new record by the reggae singer Mista Majah P who has recently released an album called Tolerance, which seeks to challenge homophobia in general, and the "murder music" of the Jamaican dancehalls in particular.

Refreshingly, he is not cursed with the knee-jerk anti-Americanism which warps the worldview of so many gay rights activists: "Being gay is taboo in Jamaica, but living in America I've realised what they taught me growing up in Jamaica was so wrong". He seems a sensible and sweet person. But the existence of "Tolerance" still makes the point that the abuse of women in popular music is so deeply ingrained and widely accepted that an equivalent record protesting about it seems quite unthinkable.

I'm old enough to remember Rock Against Racism and Rock Against Sexism, and the number and calibre of the acts who queued up to lend their talents to the first worthy cause rather than the second really summed up how much more importance is attached to stamping out the "hate crimes" of racism and homophobia compared to those committed against women.

Of course there are race and homophobic attacks and murders, but there are not two people a week, every week, being killed because of their race or homosexuality in the way that two women a week are killed by partners or ex-partners because of real or imagined infidelity (that'll be the "hoes"), spiritedness (that'll be the "bitches") or both. All violent attacks and killings are hate crimes, be they racist, homophobic or gender-related. And any songs which encourage or applaud them are all equally pathetic.

Vanessa Redgrave's strange alliances

Talking of gay rights, how interesting to see that the walking, talking, ranting, canting beacon of all things bullshit, Vanessa Redgrave, has seen fit to throw her weight behind the "strong, wise, warm and gentle" Travellers who are fighting for the right to stay put in their settlement at Dale Farm in Essex.

I find it fascinating that, as a woman who had a gay dad and a gay husband, Redgrave persists in backing cultures which find homosexuality an abomination – the Chechen nationalists, the Palestinian goons, those in favour of Irish unification and now the Travellers. Is this some unconscious hostility she is working out? Or like so many rich, posh Lefties does she automatically assume that there is one rule for her type and one rule for everyone else? Whatever, I am sure that the Zionist thug Sigmund Freud could have a field day with her.

Abortion has never seemed a more sensible choice

The reaction to the news of Beyoncé's pregnancy may seem a bit OTT, but that's because – when a quarter of 18 to 22-year-olds say they don't want to reproduce – being a mother has never seemed like such a dumb choice for a smart woman to make, considering world over-population, economic decline and the repulsive level of self-congratulation which seems to affect spawners.

On hearing of the amendment to make abortion more difficult, my first thought was that it surely made more sense to offer counselling to women who wanted to go ahead with a pregnancy, rather than end it, so illogical does this seem in the current climate. As the official Worst Mother in Britain (Daily Mail) I would urge all women currently considering taking this step to think carefully and not enter into it lightly. Parenthood, while seeming an easy option at the time, can potentially traumatise you for the rest of your life.