Thursday, 5 November 2015

Million Mask March: A (Qualified) Defence

Poor Dan Hodges, his descent from professional politics blogger to all-round silly goose is almost complete. Having built a career with the Tory press writing about how ghastly the Labour Party is, a new low was reached today with his 'If people can't protest peacefully, they shouldn't be allowed to protest at all'. His argument is that tonight's Million Mask March is bound to involve violence, so it should be banned outright. Extrapolating, it follows that if the organisers of any march can't guarantee peaceful behaviour, then tough - the police have every right to ban it. You can almost imagine a spokesperson for Vladimir Putin justifying the banning of a gay rights demonstration on exactly the same grounds.

Of course, Dan tries to be nuanced in his position-taking: "It may grate with some people, but we had a massive expression of our right to protest in this country back in May. Tens of millions of people took to the streets to make their voices heard. It was called a general election ... It is vital we protect our right to free speech. It is vital we protect our right to protest. Which is precisely why tonight’s “demonstration” should not be taking place at all." I do agree with Dan on one thing, violence does indeed threaten liberty. But absolutely nowhere in his screed is there a consideration of where the violence stems from. In true Tory fashion, intimidation and violence is always something perpetrated by protesters. Yet practically every regular *peaceful* demonstration-goer I know will tell you stories of appalling police behaviour that puts name-calling and argy-bargy firmly in the shade. The mainstream had a glimpse of it back in April 2009, when an out-of-control copper killed a passerby during the G20 protest. I'd take Dan's bleating a bit more seriously if he turned his acerbic pen to the thuggish riot cops for whom battering peaceful protesters is par the course.

That doesn't let those who engage in riotous behaviour off the hook. Noting that the policing of demonstrations is often heavy handed isn't the same as identifying anarchoid types up for a ruck as angels with beams of sunlight shining from their arses. But again, let's put this violence in some sort of social context. Dan is annoyed that a minority of tonight's demonstrators will turn central London into Beirut, inconveniencing people and businesses that just want to get on with their lives. Let us then consider another kind of violence. As Dan has likened the general election to a mass demonstration, he has green lit a consideration of the violent consequences of that event. Pray tell Dan, why does the prospect of a few bruised police cars trouble you when the fear and anxiety faced by millions of families thanks to the governments' proposed tax credits cut inspires nowhere near as much vitriol? Where is your condemnation of the violence of people being forced out of their homes thanks to the bedroom tax? The violence of not having enough in the cupboard and going cap in hand to the foodbank? The violence of the work capability assessment, of disabled people being branded liars, of having their dignity ripped away, and of families shattered by the suicides of relatives hounded by the DWP? Where's your concern for this violence, Dan? Why does the more serious, damaging violence of the government you helped get re-elected merit nary a comment while the comparatively inconsequential of smashed shop windows summons forth fire and brimstone?

Dan, like a great many of the paid-for commentariat are at all sixes and sevens. The collapse of politics-as-usual, and the subsequent rise of UKIP, the Greens, the SNP, and now the Jez-led Labour Party have knocked the foundations from under them. They don't know what to make of the fundamental uncertainties of politics in 2015, and they certainly don't like it. All they can do is flail around and pen rubbish nostalgically harking back to the old certainties. They are commentators with precious little to say. "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad", uttered Prometheus while tied to his rock. He might also have added 'gratuitously stupid'.

6 comments:

Phil said...

There was next to no violence at the march in Manchester; we know that, and the police know it too - they wouldn't have made a grand total of four arrests (one of them for drunken disorder) if violence had been kicking off all around. But Hodges shouted about The Violence! at the Tory Conference! at the time, and so it's now a proven fact that there was Violence! at the Tory Conference!

It's as I said at the time - violence isn't what the Left is all about; "we know that, and (judging from their firm but low-key presence, and those four arrests) the police know it too. But the Right believe it is, and the Right will always believe it, or affect to believe it. After all, what incentive have they got for not believing it? Define violence as illegitimate – as the mark of political illegitimacy – and then find reasons to denounce the Left as violent: there’s no reason this should ever stop working for them. And the way it works is to put us on the back foot, set us wringing our hands and writing earnest articles about how this sort of thing has no place on the Left."

And if that doesn't work (and apparently it hasn't worked, so there's that) they can always call for The Violence to be banned. Or for the police to go in and break a few heads, I mean maintain order.

David Timoney said...

The violence of the state can only be justified by the violence of the people.

The Neo- Kalashnikovs said...

An election isnt a protest its a well orchestrated con to fool people into believing they're free while in reality being completely indoctrinated. The Million mask march is a glimmer of the real, there is only one struggle and its for the collective and oppressive control of human potential. The overlords or who ever determines the game of life seem to want people to suffer. Lifes unavoidable tragedies are painful enough. Why do they deny the young a free chance in life no one wants to fight but we are driven to it because they seek to deny us everything hence the opposite is inevitable in a Hegelian sense, the negative and postive are linked and reinforce the other.

Alex Ross said...

Agree with you Phil on the Bedroom Tax, Tax Credits and Foodbanks....don't understand how a bunch of middle class posers in silly masks would contribute to changing any of those things...

This is the politics of narcissism - all "check me out - look how radical I'm being" rather than the sort of politics which could put forward sensible, economically feasible alternatives to austerity and potentially speak to groups of people outside the already converted.

On the violence question - one of my first, and most terrifying political experiences was being pelted with stones (intended for the police) on the Welling demo in 93...Fortunately (for me) none hit me...but there is a certain class of people on demos who relish violence. Some of the people I knew when in the SWP in Newcastle in my teens had moved straight from being football casuals to ANL activists - they weren't really interested in the politics - they just liked a fight.

ACTIVIST said...

Yes, but have you checked your privilege?

Robert said...

Dan Hodges is a conservative so he should do us all a favour, stop pretending and join the Tory Party.