Student riots are back – and they’re infecting the Left

Posted on March 25, 2013

The anti-everything student movement has plenty of practice at shooting itself in the foot. Attacking war memorials, smashing up taxpayers’ property, even burning down Christmas trees – you name it, they can turn it into an incident which discredits their already confused message.

It might have seemed reasonable to hope that after it turned out rioting wasn’t a good way to get Middle England on their side, they might have changed tactics.

Not a bit of it.

Occupy Sussex, the Sussex University branch of the Occupy Movement, are up in arms about plans to outsource 10% of the University’s admin. While their issue of choice isn’t exactly the moral equivalent of Tsarist serfdom in Russia, it doesn’t seem to have stopped the usual suspects rushing to rally against outsourcing and for “communism” instead. Eevidently the fresh air of Sussex is a febrile, revolutionary atmosphere.

For some reason, this has turned into a national student demonstration, held today. The ever-sharp Chris Snowdon raised the first concerns over the weekend that perhaps it wasn’t set to be the most productive event humanity has yet seen:

And, lo, it came to pass. What started with the usual pompous slogans…

…moved on to smashing up University buildings…

…burning files from Barclays…

  ….and, inevitably, trite comparisons between themselves and Martin Luther King. All in all, an impressive way to discredit their own argument, waste taxpayers’ money and divert the police and fire brigade from what they are meant to be doing. This trend of legitimate (if wrong-headed) lefty protests turning violent is a serious problem for so-called “progressive” campaigners. Owen Jones wrote this morning  that the Left needs a group as effective as the TaxPayers’ Alliance – which is why he is launching the People’s Assembly this week. Owen may be wrong about almost everything (apart from the TPA’s effectiveness), but he’s not stupid – he’s already declared his new movement will be mainstream, and reject the malign influence of the cult which is the Socialist Workers Party. He wants to build a hard-hitting but respectable movement. His problem is that almost the whole of the Left has now been to some extent infected by the unattractive attitudes and behaviour on display at Sussex University today. For example, here is a paid campaigner from Unite – one of the main backers of Owen’s new gang – inviting the Occupy Sussex rioters to speak from the People’s Assembly platform:

This just isn’t going to go away. Unless he and other prominent left-wingers denounce the violence and the burning that a growing number of lefties seem to fetishise, I suspect Owen’s bid to make socialism mainstream and acceptable will never leave the runway.

EU Nobel Peace Prize nomination in pictures

Posted on October 12, 2012

When Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, comedy songrwiter Tom Lehrer declared that satire had become obsolete. Today we learn that the Peace Prize has been given to the European Union –  accordingly, satire has now been dragged out of her retirement home and beaten by riot police.

In case you were wondering why the EU could possibly be given the Nobel Peace Prize, here is a short, pictorial summary of the peace Brussels has brought to Greece and Spain in the last 18 months:

The real problem with Laurie Penny

Posted on April 30, 2012

It can’t be easy being Laurie Penny.

For a start, being the self-appointed voice of the young must be a heavy responsibility – particularly when so many of the young keep thinking things you don’t agree with.

Then there’s the difficulty of carving out a media career in New York, a place somewhat less vulnerable to the British Left’s obsession with appointing new Messiahs of the Media every 6 months or so.

Even when you give in to the temptation to abandon your RiotGrrl anti-paternalism and write a traffic-hunting piece swooning over a Hollywood star who, you claim, saved you from death-by-traffic, irritating bloggers crop up pointing out that your story bears remarkable similarities to the plot of a Natalie Portman film.

Now, having inherited the seat left vacant by Johann Hari’s ignominious demise as the previous pen-wielding star of the young left, people start snooping around suggesting you have perhaps polished reality or even made things up to fit your articles. There’s even a hashtag, #pennygate, set up a couple of weeks ago by the guy who brought Hari down.

I must confess that as all of these things pile up, I can’t get too excited about whether Laurie is the new Johann or not. There is speculation, there are undoubtedly people hunting through her past works for fabrications or plagiarism, and who knows if they will find anything.

It’s true that Laurie is almost unique among journalists in always happening to overhear the quote that perfectly and precisely proves her point, regardless of whether she’s in the middle of a riot, trapped in an alley by the EDL or having her bum pinched on a sweaty dance floor. Indeed, I questioned a couple of years ago whether all of her quotes, which tend to read like a poor Grange Hill script, are genuine. Maybe she’s just immensely lucky, all the time; maybe she has remarkable hearing superior to that of ordinary humans; or maybe there’s something more scandalous to it.

It would be interesting to know, but even if the worst was proved it would not be the most fundamental problem with her journalism.

The problem with Laurie is far more important than that.

Laurie’s journalism is flawed because of her worldview.

There’s nothing wrong with biased journalism. Whether you read the original gonzo journalists or, you believe truly balanced journalism is an impossibility, bias has plenty going for it. It is human nature.

Laurie’s worldview suffers not because it is biased, but because it is so hypocritical and so inconsistent.

For an investigative commentator who paints a picture of herself as a kind of war correspondent on the streets of London and New York, she has a remarkable dedication to double think. On Planet Penny, everything is a bit topsy turvy.

Those who loot shops are excused, having been forced into their crime by a wicked society; those who go to work or stay at home watching TV are bad, and by daring to enjoy the fruits of their own labour are personally responsible for forcing those looters to nick flat screen TVs.

Those who use violence against the police are protecting themselves and epitomising the beautiful flame of youthful rebellion; those policemen who hit back are not protecting themselves or others, they are simply autobots carrying out the personal orders of David Cameron/Rupert Murdoch/Andy Coulson to smash what is beautiful.

Those who are on the Left are well informed, have made their own minds up and base everything on evidence; those on the Right just think what they are told by their parents and have obviously never read any history. At worst, the Left are just keen on serving good; at best, the Right are genetically incapable of disobeying the master class.

Those are just some of the peculiar distortions that she embeds in her work. We can also consider the factual distortions inherent in her argument.

Take, for example, the idea that the West is at war with itself. To read Laurie’s work, you’d think every family is riven by violent generational hatred, every student is planning the downfall of the state, every relationship is one of power struggles, and every Primark lies empty because its ethos is so corrosive to the human soul that anyone entering a shop immediately tears at the hair and vomits uncontrollably.

This is, put simply, balls.

But you knew that, because you only need to hold up Laurie’s picture of the world next to the reality that you see every day to realise there is a remarkable discrepancy between the two. As much as she may hate the idea, most families are pretty happy, most people would like a successful career, most consumers enjoy the ability to buy new ipods or to prettify their house. Whisper it, most people are even willing to believe that their partners really do love them, rather than viewing them as foreign ambassadors negotiating a temporary inter-gender armistice.

I suppose it must be deeply frustrating to have to struggle every day to uphold an ideology that, no matter how strongly you promote it, keeps running up against inconvenient fundamental human emotions like aspiration, pleasure, loving one’s family and that kind of thing. Laurie has let that frustration disconnect her writing from reality.

In short, the problem with Laurie isn’t that some of her reported quotes or experiences may (allegedly) be untrue. It’s that all the things she asserts so strongly about human nature are untrue – and no journalism course can set that right.

CrashBangWallace at Conservative Party Conference

Posted on September 30, 2011

If you’re going to Conservative Party Conference in Manchester (and you haven’t had enough of my opinions through this site), I’ll be speaking at two fringe meetings:

“Should social media be controlled by the state?”
Sunday 2nd October, 10.35am:
I’ll be chairing this panel discussion with Robert Halfon MP, Christian May of Media Intelligence Partners and Sam Bowman of the Adam Smith Institute. In the aftermath of the riots, it was suggested that Government should be able to control and even close down social networks like Twitter – what are the threats to free speech, how does this threat impact on the explosion of online freedom, and could it even be done?

“The case for Fair Fuel”
Sunday 2nd October, 1pm:
I will be speaking alongside Robert Halfon MP about his campaign to bring down fuel prices for motorists in the UK – one for petrolheads, tax cutters and anyone interested in revitalising the British economy and helping ordinary motorists go about their business.

Both of these events are being held in the excellent Freedom Zone, run by The Freedom Association, in Bridgewater Hall (click for a map). The Zone is the home of free speech at Conference and increasingly recognised as the venue for the real fringe where ideas, principles and policies are debated and fought over. It’s well worth a visit and is outside the secure zone, just round the corner from the main Conference venue, so you don’t need a conference pass to get in. Conference delegates, the media and anyone else in the Manchester area who is interested in freedom are all welcome. Click here for the full timetable of Freedom Zone events.

I’ll be round and about at various other events – if you fancy a pint at any point, it’s probably best to tweet at me at @wallaceME

I’ll also be on the lookout for good stories, gossip and exclusives from the conference bearpit so watch this space for the latest news – and if you hear of anything good, let me know!

Jody tries to dodge responsibility

Posted on August 15, 2011

Jody McIntyre promised last week that he would soon be responding to the accusations made on this blog that he was inciting people to riot. It’s taken a few days but at last he has come out with it:

The entire controversy surrounds a tweet I made, before a single building was looted, supporting ppl in Tottenham protesting against police.

He’s got a few problems with that excuse, though.

First, let’s look at the claim that he posted his message innocently before any trouble had started. His tweet went up at 10:02 pm on Saturday 6th August. By that time the riot was well underway – large quantities of tweets and pictures had been posted during the previous hour about the firebombing of police cars, and even mainstream media outlets like Sky and ITV had been reporting the news for half an hour.

It simply isn’t true that Jody’s tweet was posted before rioting had begun – I don’t know if “a single building had been looted” but police cars were burning and bricks were flying well before he posted. For someone who is connected to social media, was online at the time, was evidently following the news from Tottenham and follows over 600 Twitter users including mainstream media outlets it is simply inconceivable that he hadn’t seen this news.

Unless of course that he is contending that burning police cars is acceptable and doesn’t count as rioting?

Second, there’s the tone and message of his original tweet:

Be inspired by the scenes in #tottenham, and rise up in your own neighbourhood. 100 people in every area = the way we can beat the feds.

That isn’t a tweet that says “protest against the police”, it says “rise up” to “beat the feds”. Given that by the time he posted it, the “scenes in #tottenham” to which he refers were scenes of police cars burning in the streets that’s a pretty clear and inflammatory message. Someone who wants a protest says they want a protest – not rise up to beat the police.

Thugs don’t smash shops, Tweeters do

Posted on August 11, 2011

The growing suggestions that Twitter is somehow to blame for the riots we’ve seen around the country mean I can’t help but think of Goldie Lookin Chain’s rap-comedy classic “Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do“. Maybe it’s time for a cover version:

Thugs don’t smash shops – Tweeters do

Ask any politician and they’ll tell you it’s true

It’s a fact, that Retweeting makes you violent

Carpetright would be fine if we’d all kept silent

You don’t believe me? Here’s my hype

No-one ever rioted before we could type

Look at the criminals, caused by this Tweeting

It’s a fact @johnrentoul left me bleeding

@stephenfry made me do street crimes

When we had FriendsReunited there were never bad times


Singh doesn’t mean “lion” for nothing

Posted on August 10, 2011

For 312 years, Singh has been the surname almost universally adopted by baptised male Sikhs. It means “lion” and judging by last night’s events it’s no exaggeration.

Like many others following the riots last night I discovered Sangat TV, a Birmingham-based, rather obscure Sky channel which apparently normally broadcasts recitals of religious texts. When rioting began in Birmingham, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, though, they changed their content.

A presenter and several of his friends and colleagues piled into a car with a microphone and a camera to travel around the West Midlands reporting on the riots and the actions of many Sikh communities to defend temples, shops and houses from the rampaging thugs.

If it sounds a bit haphazard, it was – jumpy footage, live interviews out of the car window and the driver intermittently wandering across the shot during set-piece broadcasts – but it was quite remarkable for two reasons.

First, that it is now technologically and financially feasible for a couple of guys with a car and a camera to become frontline TV reporters apparently funded by advertising from a sofa shop and a ghee (butter) company. Thanks to the low costs of entry into the media market and the viral nature of Twitter, the channel, its presenter and his message were soon becoming famous in a way that would previously have become impossible.

Secondly it was remarkable for the scenes and messages Sangat TV was broadcasting. Time and again the car would pull up to hear from Sikhs who had left the safety of their homes to protect the religious sites, property and homes whole community, regardless of religion. These were people who felt a strong and deep responsibility to the communities they live in and a strong revulsion for crime, looting and carnage and were willing to risk their own safety to put those principles into action. They weren’t vigilantes – they message was overwhelmingly that their religion forbids striking the first blow, and the channel repeatedly broadcast safety messages and warnings not to carry weapons or provoke trouble. They were just brave, decent people.

Of course sadly we’ve seen the deaths of three men reportedly killed while trying to protect a mosque last night.The full facts will come out in due time but before anyone rushes to condemn them putting themselves in harm’s way, consider whether you would prefer people stood aside and did nothing to stop attacks on their community.

Where the police weren’t able to step in, I for one am glad and proud that others were willing to do so. The alternative of shrugging and doing nothing to help is the philosophy of the rioters, not the British public who are under attack.

In between these interview stops the presenter’s commentary was utterly opinionated and utterly inspiring, the highlight of the night for me being:

Whether you support Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea, there is only one team to support-the Three Lions, Great Britain.

He also made the point that this crisis is the latest in a series of occasions when Sikhs have shown their self-sacrificing nature for the national good – not least during their long and loyal service in our Armed Forces.

Having set out to commentate on the night’s events, the Sangat team even put their money where their mouth was, helping police officers catch up with and arrest some looters:

You couldn’t imagine a better way to refute the racist bile that’s been flowing from Nick Griffin and chums over the last few days. It’s inspiring to see true British heroes do the right thing in a just cause for their country. Lions indeed.

Guest Post: The Guardian seeks to be Rosa Luxemburg with a Twitter Feed

Posted on April 02, 2011

I’ve been on holiday this week, hence the lighter posting than usual. From Monday it’ll be back to business as usual.

For now, though, here’s a guest post from “Mr X”, a political journalist who has been considering the moral failures of the Guardian in it’s coverage of last weekend’s riots. For reasons that will become obvious in his piece, he’d rather remain anonymous.

Rosa Luxemburg with a Twitter feed
By Mr X
ONE turns to the Guardian’s comment pages with a mounting sense of dread, disbelief and some queasiness. There were high hopes a few years ago that when Seamus Milne (Winchester and Balliol, father BBC DG, big fan of the Iraqi “resistance”) left his perch as the Guardian’s comment editor that his particular brand of lunacy would disappear from a title that still has an important place in our political life.
The Guardian’s quest to replace The Times as the paper of record would be helped by not having a Stalinist wing-nut overseeing those pages, it was thought. Alas – those hopes were misplaced.

I can just about put up with George Monbiot’s articulate-but mad-as-cheese diatribes against capitalism. One sighs and moves on when a Hamasnik or scion of the dynasty that runs Tunisia’s Muslim Brotherhood franchise is given space to spout off. If The Guardian would rather not take sides in the secularist/obscurantist debate building in the Middle East then that’s an offence against the paper’s great liberal heritage but predictable.

The reality, though, is that just like how the collapse of communism in Milne’s dear old USSR led to the KGB taking over, so Milne’s ideological munchkins have retained control after his own theoretical departure.

Libby Brooks is now the Guardian’s deputy comment editor. Her recent piece on violence and non-violence is not extra-ordinary in its nuttiness. Most of her stuff is like this. But those who do not read the paper every day will be astounded by the sheer loony-leftiness and sloppiness of this particular crock of manure.

Where to start? Well, historical illiteracy is as good a place as any. If one is making the case that “direct action” works, the Chartists are a pretty poor example – given that the 1867 Reform Act contained few of their demands and occurred almost 20 years after their heyday. 

Let’s move on to economic illiteracy and the claim that the anarchists engaged in 1990s “Stop The City” riots predicted the global financial crisis. Yes they did. But so did every tinpot Trot and the fact is that the UK is still vastly more wealthy that it was in, say, 2002.

Then there’s her description of the farce at Fortnum’s as “civil disobedience”. That implies disobedience directed at the civil power. But that particular episode of juvenile situationism was targeted at a private enterprise. It represented seizing another person’s property. Libby needs to go back to Locke and see what he says about the fundamental essences of liberty. But Libby doesn’t think too highly of property.

She writes: ‘It’s important to interrogate the description “violent protest”. Certainly, firecrackers, smoke bombs and raucous teenagers with faces obscured make for dramatic footage against the night sky. And they are undeniably threatening. But the vast majority of damage on Saturday was sustained by property, not persons; nor was this vandalism mindless, but targeted at banks and other emblematic high street institutions.’

Well, that’s okay then. I’m sure – using that reasoning – Libby wouldn’t mind me popping round to her flat (I’m guessing it’s in Stoke Newington) and smashing it up as a protest against writing rubbish in The Guardian. It surely wouldn’t be “violence”.

Libby seems to have a bit of thing about violence. She quotes – with implicit approval – Clive Bloom who writes that “violence can be successful, but you need an argument too.”
Maybe it’s the likes of Libby who see themselves as providing those arguments. She will be the theoretician and propagandist of a great revolt. Rosa Luxemburg with a Twitter feed, perhaps. But the very fact that such thinking is going on in the heart of the British left and in the mind of a great newspaper is deeply depressing. For those of who fear that Libby’s readers will start to see themselves as Baby-Meinhofs, it should also be rather worrying.

How close are we to seeing an anti-cuts terrorist group?

Posted on March 29, 2011

It’s pretty clear now that Saturday’s riots – like most riots – were counterproductive for the anti-cuts movement. That’s good news; had the public somehow been moved to support violence and vandalism there would be something very wrong indeed.

It does raise a serious concern, though. How will the hard core of anti-cutters and so-called anarchists (who actually want a bigger state, which is far from anarchism as you can get) react as their failure becomes clear?

The psychology of these agitators is complex but worrying. They have a persecution complex, they fetishise violence and crime and they are utterly convinced that everyone agrees with them, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

In their world, any Government that doesn’t do what they want must be a Gaddafi-style dictatorship, and any indication that the public don’t back them is a sign of an oppressive bourgeois establishment who are just as bad as the totalitarian Government. They seem increasingly divorced from the real world and antipathetic to wider society.

Add into that the hefty leavening of sociopaths who gravitate toward extremism and wanton destruction and you have a potent mix.

I fear that this core – not, I should emphasise, the wider halo movement around them – could easily tip over the edge from public order crime to much more sinister activities.

They have already started widening their list of targets whom they judge legitimate – just look at the absurd attack on charity-owned Fortnum & Mason.

Only a few years ago, SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) were following scientists and investors far down the business chain to their homes and attacking and intimidating them and their families. Plenty of people in the anti-cuts hard core will be students of that terror campaign – and even the small core of the anti-cuts mob have more people and resources than SHAC.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, on the Continent a mass leftwing movement spawned groups with a very similar psychology and rhetoric to the rioters we see in Britain today. Their response to failure after failure was to become more and more extreme – shedding those who thought they were going to far, and following their “war against society” philosophy to its logical conclusion: terrorism.

It’s not inevitable – it may not happen in this case, or if it does it could be stopped – but we don’t seem too far at all from spawning a Baader Meinhof Gang or a Red Brigades for the 21st Century. 

That’s a scary prospect, and everyone, from the police and the Government to the Unions, UKuncut and the vast majority of peaceful, democratic anti-cutters, must work together to nip any tendency like that in the bud.

A good start would be for the Left to denounce the violence we saw on Saturday – something UKuncut signally failed to do on Newsnight last night.