Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Carry On Margaret: Still Playing in Theaters Near You

The Carry On films were a series of 31 very popular low-budget British comedies (more films than any other British series), made between 1958 and 1992, which spoofed various typical social characters and cultural icons -- Carry On SergeantCarry On NurseCarry On Teacher, etc.  By 1978, after 20 years and 30 movies, the series wore quite thin. After that year, when the penultimate Carry On Emmanuelle (thin, indeed) was made. there was a break of fourteen years. Then, in 1992, thinking there were still tickets to be sold, producers tried to resurrect the series with Carry On Columbus (nodding to the Columbus cinquecentennial), which turned out to be the last unfortunate gasp. It was one of those franchises that just did not want to admit its own demise.

"By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them" is the way the Gospel of Mark (7:16) puts it.  "By their friends ye shall know them" is a similar aphorism, which derives from Aesop's fable of "The Ass and His Purchaser."  Both are apt in considering who still buys into, and carries on, the shopworn legacy of the departed Baroness Thatcher.

A selection of symptomatic remarks on her passing:

“Thatcher on feminism: "I hate feminism. It is a poison."
Thatcher on Mandela: "He is a terrorist."
Thatcher on Pinochet: "Welcome."”

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/swanstonmuir/status/321292318701391873

My favorite piece of Thatcher wisdom: "Those who believe South Aftica will one day be ruled by the ANC are living in cloud cuckoo land" 
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/TonyKaron/status/321231770865516544

Remembering this chant from early '80s Tory youth conf: "Thatcher, Reagan, Botha, Pinochet"
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/TonyKaron/status/321236750754271232

We have closed comments on every #Thatcher story today - even our address to email tributes is filled with abuse
Original Tweet from the editor of British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph: https://twitter.com/gallaghereditor/status/321288984858869761

Not a lot of love for Margaret Thatcher in Ireland. As an enemy of the state she sits somewhere between Oliver Cromwell & Thierry Henry.
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/colmtobin/status/321275289135099904

"Asked in 2002 to name her greatest achievement, Thatcher responded: 'Tony Blair and New Labour.'" http://t.co/aFI729LtD4
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/resnikoff/status/321311515405856768

PM Netanyahu: Margaret Thatcher was a woman of greatness. She was a staunch friend of #Israel and the Jewish people. http://t.co/ogzaLgAyY1
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/IsraelLA/status/321290578233012224

"Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan ...  Michelle and I ... carry on the work to which she dedicated her life..."
--Statement of President Barack Obama

Thatcher was absolutely right that her greatest achievement was Tony Blair and New Labor, and -- as  Obama's encomium makes quite explicit -- there's a fine parallel in that her partner, Reagan's, greatest achievement was setting an agenda that Clinton, Obama and the new, "centrist" Democratic Party still carry on. Thatcher-Blair-Brown, Reagan-Clinton-Obama.  Hands across the sea.  Yes, unfortunately, to this comedy-if-it-weren't-a-tragedy  they are still selling tickets.

And, no, I do not accept that one must not "speak ill of the dead" when the deceased is a public figure whose death is the occasion of innumerable, insufferable praiseful elegies to her political legacy.   Glenn Greenwald has it right:
That one should not speak ill of the dead is arguably appropriate when a private person dies, but it is wildly inappropriate for the death of a controversial public figure, particularly one who wielded significant influence and political power... the protocols are fundamentally different when it comes to public discourse about the person's life and political acts. ...
[T]hose who admire the deceased public figure (and their politics) aren't silent at all. They are aggressively exploiting the emotions generated by the person's death to create hagiography. ...Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death. When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with loathing Margaret Thatcher or any other person with political influence and power based upon perceived bad acts, and that doesn't change simply because they die. If anything, it becomes more compelling to commemorate those bad acts upon death as the only antidote against a society erecting a false and jingoistically self-serving history.
So, please, let's not use Margaret Thatcher's death to further extend her legacy, but to insist that it's long past time to pull the plug on its run.

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