The faux outrage of The 1975

S Thayaparan, Malaysiakini

“The way towards simplicity is through outrage.” – William Golding, Darkness Visible

To be clear, I know next to nothing about current popular culture. I had never heard of the band, The 1975 nor its lead singer Matt Healy.

So, when this issue came up, I did what any rational person would do before commenting – a little research.

Muda deputy president Amira Aisya Abd Aziz said something really queer. She advised businesses affected by the cancellation of the Good Vibes festival to sue the band.

Really? Here is a band whose frontman is a vocal LGBT advocate, drinks on stage as part of a rock star persona (which he claims his fans are in on the act), was banned from Dubai for a similar incident and generally engages in various provocations on stage.

And we are to believe everyone is shocked about this? That the numerous people who are saying that they don’t need Healy white knighting for them are shocked by this incident? That the festival organisers and The 1975 fans are shocked by the antics of this band’s frontman?

Everyone was totally clueless expecting a chaste show, for local consumption free from rebellion or social disruption, in concert with a group whose frontman has been vocal on what he thinks about regimes which demonise the LGBT community.

All you have to do is read the interviews he has given and you will understand where he is coming from, in his art and personal life.

This brings me to Bersatu’s Wan Saiful Wan Jan wanting Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil to step down and take responsibility for this “lewd act”.

Excuse me, isn’t Perikatan Nasional supposed to be the guardians of morality in this country? Shouldn’t Wan Saiful, who was once Bersatu information chief, be aware that such a group was performing in Malaysia and its frontman was a known LGBT activist with a penchant for very public provocations?

If anything, Wan Saiful should step down for not organising street protests because a foreign band was in town, with a frontman who supports a deviant lifestyle. I mean if you cannot rely on a religious coalition to police morality, who can you rely on?

Impressionable minds

And of course, MCA needs to chime in. MCA vice-president Ti Lian Ker asked Madaniville to have a heart and not cancel the concert.

He said: “Indeed the act by the performers must be condemned, our laws must be upheld to protect our young and impressionable, and Healy and The 1975 must be penalised.”

Yes because our young and impressionable do not watch porn on their handphones or film themselves on their handphones. Because our young and impressionable are so sheltered they do not understand the varieties of human sexuality out there.

Because our young and impressionable do not organise sex and drug parties which are routinely busted by the coppers, who sometimes hold such parties themselves. Because our young and impressionable do not produce unwanted pregnancies and baby dumping. Our young people are not impressionable, most of them are ignorant and whose fault is that?

Which is more damaging to young minds struggling with their emerging sexuality? A raucous concert by a pop band affirming the varieties of human sexuality or political and religious operatives who through the legal and cultural process demonise the LGBT community, even though what separates Asian and Western values in this specific issue, is hypocrisy?

Speaking of which, Fahmi continues to spout the most ridiculous soundbites. Take this quote. “There will be no compromise on any parties who challenge, mock, and defy Malaysia’s laws,” he said, but this is complete horse manure.

The news cycle is dominated by political and religious personalities, who spew racists or bigoted vitriol and nothing happens to them. There are enough laws in place which regulate speech in this country, but strangely there is much compromise when it comes to political and religious personalities.

Indeed, beyond the usual meet the coppers news item, these racists and bigots continue spewing their filth knowing nothing is going to happen to them for defying the laws of this country.

Indeed the Madani government is so fearful of spooking the Malays, more often than not the people speaking out against racism and bigotry are sanctioned or cautioned against touching on sensitive issues for the Malay community.

Freedom of expression?

And of course, there is this clunker. As reported, Fahmi said “… the government is committed to supporting the development of the creative industries and freedom of expression, he warned artistes to not touch on the sensitivities of the community, especially those that go against local cultures and values.”

This is just really dumb. On one hand, you say you support the creative industries and freedom of expression and on the other, you warn people not to go against local cultures and values. This is Madaniville attempting to have it both ways.

Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, meanwhile, still does not put much thought into what he says. He said: “So it is the responsibility of the organiser to assess a performance so that it is compatible with local cultural practices and sensitivities.”

Do you know what kind of performances would be compatible with local cultural practices and sensitivities? We could have all manner of racial supremacist and religious bigots performing here because racial supremacy is a major part of local cultural practices and sensitivities.

Everyone is clutching their pearls, saying that one band should not ruin it for everybody else when this band was doing exactly what it is they do to earn their keep and raise their public profile.

Indeed, so spooked are so-called progressives in this country, they fret about how this will impact the state elections.

You do know that people who want a theocracy are going to vote for a coalition that is going to give them one and that is like half the electorate, right?

You do know that gerrymandering and unequal vote weightage favours the “Green Wave”? I mean what do people want here, a Pakatan Harapan which is going to give the PN base exactly what it wants? I know some folks want solutions but don’t you know the solutions, the people you vote for, represent your solutions?

The state security apparatus is investigating the incident. I hope they are as concerned about the improvised explosive device under lawyer Siti Kasim’s car as they are of this kiss between two men.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum – “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”