Of all the 80s new wave bands, The Cure was..not one of my favorites. However, I loved "Fascination Street" (still do), and I distinctly remember the "Killing An Arab" controversy. This was an incident from 1986/7 when the Cure was forced to "label" an obscure song from ten years earlier that was based on Albert Camus' book, The Stranger. They later capitulated to the American Arab Antidefamation Committee and had the song pulled from later song collections.
Lost to obscure band history that only rabid fans would know, I recalled the incident last year during the Cartoons controversy. The arc of the stories are similar, although I'd admit the Cartoons controversy was global and just a wee bit more violent:
- Someone starts the meme of offense and victimhood
- It’s picked up by an "advocacy" group
- The media broadcast the "advocacy" group’s talking points
- The offender is taken completely by surprise and shrugs off the absurdity of it all
- "Advocacy" group threatens
- Offender submits
Is there a direct line of evolution from 1986 and 2006? Probably not, but some of the individuals involved in the Cure controversy have gone on to associate with Sunni extremists front groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, that helped stoke the Cartoon firestorm last year.
From January 1987, the Cure capitulates:
ROCK GROUP WITHDRAWS `ARAB' SONG
21 January 1987
Los Angeles Times
(Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times 1987 All Rights Reserved)
In a reversal of the usual process, a rock group and its record company are requesting radio stations not to play one of its songs.
That's one element of an agreement reached Tuesday between the British band the Cure and the Washington-based American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee over the group's song "Killing an Arab."
In addition to sending letters to radio stations asking them to refrain from playing the song, Elektra Records will apply a sticker to all copies of the Cure's "Standing on a Beach" album with a statement from the band's Robert Smith that reads:
"The song `Killing an Arab' has absolutely no racist overtones whatsoever. It is a song which decries the existence of all prejudice and consequent violence. The Cure condemn its use in furthering anti-Arab feeling."
Smith's disclaimer will be printed directly on the packaging of future copies of "Beach," a 1986 compilation LP that leads off with the 1979 recording of "Arab."
Although the song, based on Albert Camus' novel "The Stranger," decries killing, the ADC had urged Elektra Records to delete the song from the Cure's album, on the grounds that the title could be easily misinterpreted. The controversy escalated last fall when a New Jersey disc jockey introduced the song with a derogatory comment about Arabs.
The agreement was announced at a press conference in New York attended by representatives of ADC and the Cure's manager Chris Parry, who read a statement from Smith that said in part, "It has been brought to my attention . . . that the song . . . is being used increasingly by certain reactionary factions of the media, most notably by some particularly brainless and irresponsible deejays, as part of a wave of anti-Arab feeling currently existing in some parts of America. . . .
"I would therefore like it to be known that I and the rest of the Cure totally condemn this misrepresentation and consequent misinterpretation of the song and have agreed wholly to have the track withdrawn from all radio air play."
The Cure has also offered to divide the proceeds from one of its American concerts this summer among designated orphanages in America and Lebanon.
Following the press conference, Parry commented on the subject of censorship in a phone interview with The Times.