In 1965, the British government announced that The Beatles had been awarded with MBEs (Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire).
It was a masterstroke by Prime Minister Harold Wilson who could demonstrate that he was “down with the kids”, and it probably didn’t harm him when he called a snap general election the following year either.
Those fuddy-duddies who had already received an honour from the Queen, and were so upset that the mop-tops had now got one too, probably shouldn’t have been so hasty to return theirs to the palace.
Because, just four years later, John Lennon decided he also didn’t want to be an MBE any more.
Here is the letter he sent Her Majesty (who is a pretty nice girl, but she doesn’t have a lot to say):
I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts.
With love. John Lennon of Bag
Do you see the mistake Lennon made? He rather undermined his protest against the Nigerian civil war and US involvement in Vietnam with his cheap quip about his latest single falling down the charts. It was clearly an off-the-cuff comment, made in the spur of the moment without proper consideration.
And it made John Lennon look a bit of a wally.
Today, in unconnected news, Barack Obama has announced new sanctions against several North Korean organisations and senior officials.
Personally I was a bit surprised. I mean, wouldn’t you expect there to be some pretty tough sanctions against North Korea, already?
Some of the reasons Obama gives for the new sanctions seem pretty sound to me: repression, human rights abuses, etc etc…
I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies of the Government of North Korea, including its destructive, coercive cyber-related actions during November and December 2014, actions in violation of UNSCRs 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094, and commission of serious human rights abuses, constitute a continuing threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, and hereby expand the scope of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466 of June 26, 2008, expanded in scope in Executive Order 13551 of August 30, 2010, and relied upon for additional steps in Executive Order 13570 of April 18, 2011.
Did you notice they slipped in the reference to “destructive, coercive cyber-related actions during November and December”? They mean the hack against Sony Pictures, which the White House is pinning on the North Koreans although many observers remain highly skeptical that any such thing has been proven.
When I read that, I remembered John Lennon saying something silly when he returned his MBE. It felt like Obama was perhaps undermining what could have been a very valid point, making a stand against human rights abuses and repression.
After all, the White House knew that it was the Sony hacking link that would capture the media’s attention. And the administration knew the public would view them in a positive light, taking a tough stand against the North Korean bogeymen.
Of course, there will always be some skeptics.
Anyway, at the very least it’s good to see the US administration taking a tough stand against “destructive, coercive cyber-related actions”.
Presumably they aren’t going to engage in such things in future, then? No doubt Iran is looking forward to a sincere apology over the Stuxnet worm.