Following on from the last thought of the day, when we bemoaned the fact that idiots were buying Ant & Dec’s ‘Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble’, propelling it to a peak position of #1 which it never got on its original release, ruining an accurate snapshot of pop music in 2013, something both its proceeding and its successor #1s did, this week the official charts brought about a much more controversial download-campaign-based scandal.
As everyone is probably aware, last week Margaret Thatcher died. Many people view her as the wicked witch of the West for all the bad things she did.* Thus, in 2007, when this kind of download campaign was still in its relatively infancy, with legal downloads only properly starting to take off and at nothing like 2013 levels, a Facebook campaign was started to get ‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead’ to #1 the week Maggie kicked it. In principle, this is all very well and good. Freedom of speech, power to the masses, ironic, yada yada. Brilliant. But put into practice it just looks grotesque. An old senile woman has died; a mother, a friend, and a legend. And some ‘hip’ twenty-something year olds, who were either only just born or not born at all during Thatcher’s reign, think it’s the height of witty participatory speech and ‘people power’ to send the song to the top of the charts. No. It’s distasteful and, in irony that seems to be lost on its participators, would probably have pleased Maggie due to the fact they had to pay 79p to participate in the protest!!!
To further confuse the situation, we also think that the BBC’s decision not to play the song in full is wrong. A weakened BBC post Savile-gate pandered to the Tory press and decided not to play the 51-second #2 charting song in full, putting the song amongst a (very small) but notorious list of other censored songs, and thus ensuring both the song and the campaign more publicity.
Freedom of speech is all very well and good and we are certainly not against people protesting against things. We wouldn’t say we are against people protesting at Maggie’s funeral. Because it’s actually getting up off your arse and doing something to show the way you feel. Because it’s in some small way actually doing something to demand and/or create change and/or reflect your own opinion. But a download campaign to celebrate her death is seriously one of the most apathetic, puny, unoriginal, distateful and downright spineless ways we can really think of achieving what you (presumably) wanted it to. To those who downloaded the song: did you feel better when you clicked ‘download’? When your 79p whizzed off to Apple? Did you feel like you were doing something good? Did you feel like you’d voiced your opinion, and went off to the pub safe in the knowledge that you made history? No. ‘Download campaign’ culture needs to change. And it needs to change right now. It’s abhorrent.
*(In the interests of editorial fairness, many other people think she did good things and don’t view her as the wicked witch of the west. But this outlook isn’t relevant to this article.)