Sunday, October 04, 2015

Me & The Government Are Very Sensible

Ah, our sensible centrists - a few twats lob eggs at a protest and it's the Texas Chainsaw Massacre all over again, but bomb a hospital and... well, it's all quite... complicated, isn't it?

Well, as is ever the case, racist UKIP candidates reflect badly upon UKIP, and EDL thugs are a problem for the British far-right, but whenever some prick somewhere is rude to a journalist, the entire left has to get down on its knees to apologise.  Ever thus.

So collectively, we're doing that thing with the noisy denunciations and disassociations that we always do when prodded, as if there's a vague chance that mass disapproval might save us from being held up as if we were all a kind of revenant parade of blackshirts.

And I understand the denunciations, because this kind of aimless aggro is stupid, unpleasant and counterproductive.  And had it not been for these egg-chucking fucks, the headlines tomorrow would've been all about the government's merciless dickishness and their intentional vandalism of the public services on which many of these people rely, right?

Oh, sure.  Maybe on page 12 of the Guardian, they would've been.

No, the sad truth here is that solemn anti-government protests are too boring to attract any kind of serious attention.  So what, a bunch of earnest kids and non-photogenic pensioners and civil servants disagree with the government?  Who cares?

Protests just don't get any positive attention these days, and they haven't had much attention of any type for a long time, unless they're violent or rowdy, or are aimed at an already-despised public figure or nation.  Still though, a few journalists getting hassled and spat at by a couple of crusties isn't so much an insignificant event, as it is actively immaterial.

I know this won't be a popular opinion, but let me lay this on you - the very best that any half-popular popular protest event from the left in the UK can expect, is to be ignored.

If it turns a bit nasty, all the reaction will be about the nastiness.  Note that the actual severity of the nastiness doesn't matter at all - if 95% of today's idiots had stayed away, the remaining 5% would've been more than enough to justify exactly the same response.

Remember, it's not so long ago that protests used to end in real violence and actual injuries, not this boo-hoo-woe-is-us stuff.  When I was a kid, these types of events regularly ended in full-scale riots and fist-fights, with mounted police and baton-charges, rather than a lot of whinging because some fucker with dreads called a reporter "Tory scum", or similar.

But even if a protest is as nice as a game of Pass-The-Parcel at a playgroup picnic, it'll just be ignored.  Any mention of it that does reach the public will only be negative portrayals of the protesters themselves - if they're young, they're daft poseurs; if they're old, they're dinosaurs; if they're posh, they're self-indulgent; if they're not, they're loutish and thick.

If a protest is about an insane bloodcurdling war, then the war is not the issue - the real issue is some fucking berk waving a Hezbollah flag.  If it's about austerity, then tsk tsk!  We already had an election to decide which version of the Thatcherite consensus would rule, thank you, and attempts by protestors to impose their will on the government is fundamentally immoral, if not outright fascistic.  Swish!

These responses are not about enlightening anyone.  They're about circumscribing politically permissible ideas, a police action on the outer edge of acceptable mainstream thought.  That's why nobody in this country who regularly writes political commentary along the lines of "Me and the government are very sensible, and everyone who disagrees with us is a lunatic" will ever go to bed hungry.

There's no way to win here folks, so just stop apologising.  If a few idiots lob eggs at a Tory, then a simple Yes, fuck those guys will suffice.

And on the specific character of complaints today, which have mainly been journalists complaining that some of the protestors called them Tories...  Again, fuck those guys, but this is probably a good point to assess why lots of young left-wing types believe that the press are instinctively lined up against them, if not actually in open collaboration with the government.

My experience of engaging with the press this last few years has mainly been one of being told that e.g. insane destructive wars that achieve nothing are very, very sensible indeed, and that being annoyed about such things is dangerously crazy.

Kids who are new to politics and even tangentially related to the Corbyn campaign have just spent three months watching every paper in the country indulge in a prolonged fit of gibbering hysterics, all of it aimed at portraying the new Labour leader as if he were a threat to the nation on par with Godzilla or the Black Death.

And when these kids open the paper tomorrow, they're not going to find much in the way of reportage about their aims in protesting the Tory Conference, but they're sure as hell going to find that they feature - as a pack of zoomers, extremists, jackbooted thugs and pantomime racists, or as a shower of preening Tarquins and Samanthas.

From this, they're only going to conclude that the press really are instinctively on David Cameron's side, and I have to say - even in my older, less excitable years - I can't really see how anyone would go about convincing them otherwise.


Anonymous said...

These days, my first and last response to the likes of the bespittled Crick, Glenda's little lad, and the Blairite Miss Havisham, John Rentoul, is this:

May it find life on Twitter if anybody thinks it might be useful.

ejh said...

I came into politics as a young unilateralist - I think the big 1981 London demonstration was the first, certainly the first of any size, that I had been on. (Also the first occasion I bought a pint in a pub, I believe.) I mention this not just because unilateralism appears to be topical again, but because that era, with its CND marches, its Greenham Commmon peace camp and the like was a time in not only the actions of demonstrators were overwhelmingly peaceful in nature (as they are now, of course) but also their tactics and beliefs. Non-Violent Direct Action, peaceful resistance and the rest - this is what we did. There was even training in it if you wanted, and many people did.

Did this lead to our arguments being treated more respectfully than they are now? Did this lead to us being portrayed as non-violent in the media?

What do you think?

Phil said...

While you were on the QTWTAIN, you might also have asked, did it lead to you being treated non-violently?

Which is part of why the twitterstorm over yesterday's march surprised (and irritated) me so much. The place was crawling with police, and they were doing nothing. They were looking a bit less cheerful at 4.30 (when I left) than they had done three hours earlier - and they were doing a bit more purposeful sidestreet-blocking in places, as distinct from just standing on the kerb - but still, standing there was all they were doing. I saw a TAU van move off down the road at one point and thought things must be kicking off somewhere else, but apparently not. Basically what I'm saying is, this was such a non-violent march, even the police were non-violent. The police did nothing (active) in part because they didn't need to do anything. People walked down the road, people blew whistles and shouted slogans, people carried on walking down the road, and when they'd done that for an hour or so they got directed straight back to the coaches - it was a thoroughly well-disciplined and contained protest.

Luke said...

"When I was a kid, these types of events regularly ended in full-scale riots and fist-fights, with mounted police and baton-charges..,"

I'm sure that's true. I'm less sure that it's a good thing. When I was a kid, adults routinely dished out violence to children that would get them locked up today. (I remember a friend's father throwing a claw hammer at him with serious intent.) I don't celebrate that fact, or wear it as a badge of pride. I think "we're getting better."

I don't entirely disagree with all you say, but (always a but) I do object to laddish shouty types who regularly go to football matches (by definition people who revel in aggressive shouting matches) telling other people when they should or should not feel intimidated.

I live near the Arsenal stadium. I'm not as macho as you give the impression of thinking you are, but I'm used to the crowds. A couple of years ago some colleagues came round just before a CL game. Aimiable slightly drunk Dutch/German (I forget which) fans were milling round, shouting, singing. My colleagues (two women, one large South African amateur body builder ) *were * intimidated. Not for me to say they were wrong/chicken. Likewise not for you to tell people to man up because there wasn't a riot, and they didn't have their heads kicked in.

flyingrodent said...

I'm sure that's true. I'm less sure that it's a good thing.

I didn't say it was a good thing, and I'm happy to clarify that I think this type of thing was very bad.

I do object to laddish shouty types who regularly go to football matches (by definition people who revel in aggressive shouting matches) telling other people when they should or should not feel intimidated.

The point was - protesters either get no press, or very bad press, dependent on whether there's any ruckus. The actual pitch and frequency of that ruckus is more or less irrelevant to how it'll be reported, although obviously it'll carry further if it can be summed up in a single image or video clip.

If anything, I'm probably hinting towards a general belief that organised marches are pretty much pointless these days, on anything other than a local level.

des von bladet said...

What the press here shares with the Very Serious People of Foreign Policy passim (in and out of the press) is that there is no feedback mechanism in place to correct what we take to be their errors and misconceptions.

Or rather, that the feedback mechanisms they do currently experience route fairly precisely around people like us. Protest won't fix it, voting apparently also won't (it being a bipartisan consensus), angry green-inked missives to editors won't help, forming little counterbubbles of like-mindedness on the internets is of fairly modest, if welcome, solace.

Anyone have any cousel of non-despair?

ejh said...

Re: Luke's interesting posting above, I had a similar experience myself around fifteen years ago (I could put a date on it if you want) when on the way to a match at Hartlepool. This happened to be on the same date as the derby match at Sunderland and having therefore found myself on a train full of very loud and aggressive Newcastle fans, I started noticing the reactions of the other people in the carriage and thinking Christ, how do we come over to other people? There was no violence, nobody was hurt or arrested, but I didn't like it, or didn't like it any more. Of course I'd spent the previous decade and a half watching fifty games a season and writing about the game, sometimes for actual money.

I didn't have an epiphany or anything though: at the same time I was aware that standards of fan behaviour were much better than they'd been before, it was just that I was looking from an angle I'd not previously looked at properly.

Now Luke says I don't celebrate that fact, or wear it as a badge of pride. I think "we're getting better." Up to a point I agree with that. But beyond that point I start asking whether the general trend isn't, in fact, much more important than the individual incident, if not perhaps to the people on the receiving end: because that's what having a sense of perspective is all about: and we would also like decent standards in media reporting, because those matter too. With football, I recall that back when I started watching the game, it wasn't at all uncommon for "hooligan" to be used unashamedly as a synonym for "fan" (I once wrote an angry letter to John Naughton at the Observer when he did this) regardless of the rality that most football fans had nothing to do with hooliganism. You don't get that very much now, and I guess that's partly because watching football is considered a normal thing to do, and the sort of journalists who don't at all mind talking about Manchester as if it were the zombie apocalypse either go to games themselves or know people who do.

The other reason, naturally, is that these people have no current reason to talk about football with anything other than good faith (occasionally current rugby-comparison snobberies apart). But where the Labour left, the left in general and political protest are concerned, it isn't normally a good-faith conversation.

ejh said...

(God knows, looking at that, how I ever got paid for writing a language I can barely touch without mangling. Jesus.)

Luke said...

OK, probably ranting a bit. I think you understand what I meant. Please keep posting.

gilbert wham said...

Anyone have any cousel of non-despair?

Not really, no. Fantasies of revanchist brutality are pretty much the only thing that gets me through the day any more.