One of the many reasons I love Steven Morrissey, and think he may be the most interesting superstar in popular music of the past quarter-century, is that he makes distinctions like "empirical history":
The NME have, in the past, offered me their "Godlike Genius Award" and I had politely refused. With the Tim Jonze inteview, the Award was offered once again, this time with the added request that I headline their forthcoming awards concert at the O2 Arena, and once again I declined it. This is nothing personal against the NME, although the distressing article would suggest the editor took it as such. My own view is that award ceremonies in pop music are dreadful to witness and are simply a way of the industry warning the artist "see how much you need us" - and, yes, the 'new' NME is very much integrated into the industry, whereas, deep in the magazine's empirical history, the New Musical Express was a propelling force that answered to no one.
Into the 90s, the NME's discernment and polish became faded nobility, and there it died - but better dead than worn away. The wit imitated by the 90s understudies of Morley and Burchill assumed nastiness to be greatness, and were thus rewarded. But nastiness isn't wit and no writers from the 90s NME survive. Even with sarcasm, irony and innuendo there is an art, of sorts. Now deep in the bosom of time, it is the greatness of the NME's history on which the 'new' NME assumes its relevance.
As Stereogum writes, "In matters of pens and swords, you're fencing with the best." You can follow the link for longer excerpts from Morrissey's letter.
Background here: the short story is that Morrissey gave British music mag NME an interview which was edited/presented to highlight statements that appear anti-immigrant/xenophobic.
Oh, Panic on the Streets of Birmingham. Do tell us what the Brits -- and the greatest Morrissey fan in the world -- think about all of this.