Taste the diffidence
Well, I don't think Oasis or Blur ever combined waving a Union Jack, singing "England for the English" and standing in front of a 20-foot high photo of two skinheads all at a gig where they knew there would be a strong contingent of old skins in the crowd.
True. Then again, I think Chloe Veltman summed it up by saying the flag itself could be taken as "a symbol of arch nationalism", and in the NME article they make mention of the flag being unacceptable in the multicultural "Euro 90s". So any of the Britpop acts who waved the Union Jack ought to have been seen as offensive almost by definition. At the very least there should have been angst about it-- the NME should have published a similar article ("Oasis: Flying The Flag Or Flirting With Disaster?").
Poor journalism is neither here nor there, IMO. Morrissey could have helped himself by not laying his cock quite so obviously out on the slab.
Well, you've really hit on what it's all about, haven't you? Here you seem to agree with Andrew Collins and a number of other journalists and critics. It's also the line taken by a number of posters on this site. The argument is pretty simple: sticking to the facts doesn't matter because Morrissey is clearly guilty of some amount of racism.
I'm guessing if Pat Long were informed that he'd made a mistake about "Bengali In Platforms" being played at Madstock, he would shrug it off. Something like: "Well, okay, he didn't play it, but, look, he did write the song, and it's pretty obvious that Morrissey's opinions about race are dodgy..." That was Andrew Collins' attitude. Defenders of Morrissey argued in pennies, the NME dealt in pounds. Should the article contain a distortion or two, maybe some opinions disguised as facts, a couple of quotes shorn of context-- who cares? The grubby little fans wouldn't utter a peep if they could have seen the look on Dele's face when he walked into the NME offices that day...
Here's the problem. When journalists stop caring about facts, they aren't journalists anymore. Instead of upholding public discourse centered around facts, we have a bunch of competing editorialists. If we can't agree on what the truth is, anything goes. People can say anything they want and get away with it. It's definitely true in the U.S., and I'm guessing it's true in the U.K. Nobody cares if the story is less than accurate about Morrissey. He's just a pop singer. But in the bigger picture it makes a hell of a lot of difference when people speak about racism, or injustice of any kind, because in a fact-free environment everything is read as opinion whether it's true or not.
There are many causes for this state of affairs, and the NME is no doubt a tiny part of the problem. In any case, the thread in common to them all is this. The perception among a lot of people is that there's a group of right-thinking, politically correct people who sit on high, self-righteously passing down judgments based on how they "feel" or what they "just know". You can argue the facts with them up to a point. Then you pass a threshold and objectivity gives way to an implacable, intuitive certainty which allows for no argument whatsoever. In the public sphere, the result of this is confusion, but it's a kind of confusion that nearly always tilts sharply toward the Right. Political correctness was long ago seen to be opinion, not fact-based. Hence it was bullshit; hence any discourse that sounds like political correctness, even if it isn't, can be dismissed out of hand as whiny liberal complaints. It's what happens when journalists imagine they can peer into the souls of their subjects instead of sticking to facts.
I will say this again: the facts did not paint a rosy picture of Morrissey's attitude toward race. I believe the NME could have put out a thoughtful, well-argued, solidly-backed piece, using only the facts, exploring the potential dangers of Morrissey's "flirtation" with far right-wing imagery. I'm not trying to suggest that Morrissey is totally blameless, or that there aren't problems with some of his artistic choices. The point is that the NME strayed from the facts, and now, twenty years on, we get garbage like The Believer and Pat Long's account of Madstock.