Christmas carols

Three versions of the song “Baby it’s cold outside” are getting airplay this Christmas, and appealed to the general public to overcome an effort to ban them.

The song’s lyrics, in which a man tries to persuade a woman to stay in with him after Christmas drinks, has come in for micro-analysis in the year of #metoo.

Asked about the criticism, the stage-charming Michael Buble, who produced a version in 2014, showed how difficult it is to please both sides.

Buble said conversations on such songs were “complicated”. “The song is dated. The times have changed, we have to change with them.” But he said that it was “very dangerous” when people start being “that sensitive and that outraged” over things. “If they want to take it off the radio, fine, take it off the radio. But where does it end?”

US and UK radio stations found a much easier response: they didn’t argue, they let their listeners decide. In the polls they held, on average about two thirds of listeners voted to keep the song being played. The stations continued playing songs.

That was enough for the end of this story, but something fascinating happened: the clear expression of public support appeared to license social commentators to swing in behind.

Opinion pieces then appeared, re-evaluating the lyrics as expressions of female sexual agency and liberation against reputation-smearing, and expressions of an age-old complicated game.

That’s the power, and necessity, of getting public support. It breaks the spiral of silence, permitting people to express an opinion they kept hidden because they thought it was not widely held, or was not okay to express.