In London’s YUPPY circles, to admit you don’t like Radiohead is to commit sacrilege. I’ve never actively disliked the band, but I’ve never had any affection for them either. That was until this week, when their lead lyricist, Thom Yorke, humiliated Ken Loach for the latter’s ridiculous, insulting posturing on Israel.
Loach is a long-standing critic of Israel. Not just of the policies of the current Israeli government, but of Israel itself. The concept and the reality. Like many on the self-entitled wing of the Labour Party, Loach has a particular preoccupation with the Arab-Israeli conflict, despite knowing seemingly nothing about it. Devoid of the nuance of many of his films, Loach’s understanding of the issue divides into two categories: “goodies” and “baddies.”
In line with this half-baked thinking, Loach this week claimed that Radiohead, who will soon be performing a gig in the Liberal metropolis that is Tel Aviv, needed to decide if they stood “with the oppressed or the oppressor”. This carried all the usual menace of hard-left thinking – either you are with us or you are with “the enemy”, and if it’s the latter, we will marginalise you (at best).
Yorke’s response was more apposite than anything I have seen anyone produce on the issue for years. While retaining his criticism of the current Israeli government, Yorke showed he had none of Loach’s simple-mindedness or extreme thinking. Said Yorke:
We don’t endorse Netanyahu any more than Trump, but we still play in America. Music, art and academia is about crossing borders not building them, about open minds not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression. I hope that makes it clear Ken.
As this exchange happened on Twitter, Loach was able to depend on the usual army of demented anti-Semites who roam the discussion threads on that particular app. But in truth, Loach himself had no response to Yorke’s erudition. Presumably he was preoccupied with how well his film, I, Daniel Blake, was doing at Israeli cinemas. It’s interesting what happens when you push back against nasty, bullying rhetoric.
Perhaps Yorke’s stand signals a turning of the tide, towards a point where musicians and artists feel comfortable expressing a level of nuance and empathy about Israel that lies beyond people like Loach. Meanwhile, Loach himself might have some of Radiohead’s most famous lyrics ringing in his ears as he licks his wounds from his brush with Yorke.
But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo.
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.