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 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
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.
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.
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.