He's always been off-putting; it's part of his charm. But sometimes in the recent past, Morrissey has devolved from an ostensibly well-meaning, foot-in-mouth-prone elder statesman to a tone deaf, get-off-my-lawn crank.
The singer's incendiary comments about the Norwegian massacre exposed him to international condemnation on a level he never faced before, but Moz's habit of framing his remarks with a toxic combination of snark and self-righteousness has long been offending even those inclined to agree with him. "I admire his consistency and his willingness to do or say what might (quite reasonably) be considered ‘the wrong thing’ for entirely the right reasons," a die-hard fan posted to one of Moz's fan site message boards. "I wince and applaud at the same time."
Morrissey steps in it with great regularity, usually following up his controversial remarks with statements that are meant to clarify but basically just make everything worse. We've compiled some of his recent gaffes, in order of awfulness.
The insultee: Victims of the Norway massacre
The insult: After the massacre in Norway, Morrissey, a longtime animal rights activist, told a concert audience in Poland, "We all live in a murderous world, as the events in Norway have shown, with 97 dead. Though that is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald's and Kentucky Fried [Expletive] every day."
Level of general outrage, on a scale of 1 to 10: 9
The follow-up statement that just made everybody more mad: Morrissey told a fanzine, "If you quite rightly feel horrified at the Norway killings, then it surely naturally follows that you feel horror at the murder of ANY innocent being. You cannot ignore animal suffering simply because animals 'are not us.'”
The insultee: The Chinese
The insult: In an interview with journalist Simon Armitage last fall, Morrissey, in reference to China's treatment of circus animals, asked, "Did you see the thing on the news about their treatment of animals and animal welfare? Absolutely horrific. You can't help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies."
Level of general outrage, on a scale of 1 to 10: 8
The follow-up statement that just made everybody more mad: In remarks reported by the Guardian newspaper, Morrissey claimed, "If anyone has seen the horrific and unwatchable footage of the Chinese cat and dog trade, animals skinned alive, then they could not possibly argue in favour of China as a caring nation.”
The insultee: British citizens
The insult: In a 2007 interview with NME magazine, Morrissey reportedly complained about English multi-culturalism: "The gates of England are flooded. The country's been thrown away," he (allegedly) said. "If you walk through Knightsbridge you'll hear every accent apart from an English accent."
Level of general outrage, on a scale of 1 to 10: 7
The follow-up statement that just made everybody more mad: Morrissey, who has been dogged by allegations of racism since his early days in the Smiths, sued for defamation, telling the Guardian, "I abhor racism and oppression or cruelty of any kind and will not let this pass without being absolutely clear and emphatic... Racism is beyond common sense and has no place in our society.”
Insultee: Queen Elizabeth II
The insult: In response to the Queen's recent visit to Ireland, Morrissey, whose parents are Irish, wrote in a piece for Hot Press magazine: "The very existence of the Queen and her now enormous family — all supported by the British taxpayer whether the British taxpayer likes it or not — is entirely against any notion of democracy, and is against freedom of speech. For a broad historical view of what the Queen is and how she 'rules', examine Gaddafi or Mubarak, and see if you can spot any difference. You won't be able to."
Level of general outrage, on a scale of 1 to 10: 5
The follow-up statement that just made everybody more mad: None.
The insultee: Morrissey
The insult: "I am sorry that [his '09 B-sides collection] 'Swords' was such a meek disaster. It was proposed and accepted as a budget-priced CD, yet emerged everywhere as the most expensive CD in the racks. It was poorly distributed and didn't stand a chance, and ranks as the lowest chart position I've ever encountered." He went on to complain about the fate of his song “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris,” which didn’t chart in France.
Level of general outrage, on a scale of 1 to 10: 1
The follow-up statement that just made everybody more mad: None