Feast of Fools

So, I downed tools to celebrate being a year older on Wednesday and, well, look what happened:

It seems that there is a fairly coherent story, which so far matches what I was getting from sources on the ground, and the eye-witness accounts I heard in the pub last night (at least 20-odd people who use my pub seem to have been there). It’s been told in several different places. Predictably, the story being broadcast by the Met is … well, exactly what we predicted. They’ve gotten really good at this: the Force under Thatcher already knew how to compress a peaceful protest until the panic triggers the herd instinct. They’re much better at it this century, particularly now that we (by which I mean sane people) have our own Fifth Column who do not subscribe to the politics of the protest but simply want a fight. It gives the police a firm grip on the pin in our own grenade, and there needs to be a debate about what we do to take that pin back off them.

Lots of people [1] are throwing their toys out of the pram fighting the ‘who started it’ perception war. We’ve got honest-to-god battles to fight now; I don’t have time for the cosmetic ones. [2] I was involved in the Gleneagles instance of this fractal blame-game. No, what I’m looking at is the failure of the hired men and troopers to restrain their own violent impulses. Ian Tomlinson died on my birthday. He was an innocent walking home from work. He was not a protester, nor was he the target of them. He was swept up in a police cordon, due to the over-eager rules of engagement and general rigorous squeezing of the protests by the Met, who (as we all know) were “Up for it!“. I went to a primary school in this country: I know what that means. Although Mr. Tomlinson was not involved in protesting, he had a heart-attack while being unable to escape through the police. After protesters had called to the police for help, he died.

Protesters called to the police for help. Against all evidence, they expected to receive it. These are not people who want to start a riot; they’re people who want their voices heard by a detached government, unaccountable and unresponsive due to a two-party Establishment with no viable opposition to the forces of Misrule. Britain’s faith in her own, 300-year stable democracy has been shaken by thirty years of protest being ignored. The marches and protest gatherings in the 1960s achieved nothing even close to the numbers or popular support we’ve seen in the 21st Century, and yet they were listened to. The government believed it could not stand against its own people.

Thatcher proved it could, provided it stood behind riot police and knew how to manipulate the media. But this time they’ve killed one of their own: an innocent Square Mile worker on his way home. The police policy of squeeze-then-crush has led directly to the death of a man who wasn’t even protesting, let alone a violent or vandalistic thug.

The system will protect the politicians. That’s what it is there for. But we, the people, will not forget Mr. Tomlinson, nor will we forget whose arrogance killed him.

[1] In the comments over on Libcon, for example. Once again I find myself agreeing with Alix on that one.
[2] Aphorism borrowed from The West Wing.



Filed under Content, Signal

3 responses to “Feast of Fools

  1. johnqpublican

    In further news, Richard Lawson, a GP, has collected an impressive suite of eye-witness, professional and pictorial reports reconstructing the narrative of how Ian Tomlinson died. Worth a read, worth following all the links.

  2. eithin

    [O]ur own Fifth Column who do not subscribe to the politics of the protest but simply want a fight.

    Then there’s the ones who’ll argue that “wanting a fight” is the essence of the politics of protest – either that it’s the right place to start in on the grand project of Smashing the State, or that it’s the only way to send a sufficiently strong message to said State.

    I can foresee Ian Tomlinson, rest his soul, being used for shroud-waving purposes on all sides. Thank you for those links – they’re really rather useful reading. Unfortunately.

    • johnqpublican

      Violent direct-action groups who are politically motivated are one thing. Based on Gleneagles and some of what I’ve heard from this time, the ones starting the fights aren’t politically motivated: they’re young refugees from the chav, ned and football hooligan communities who’ve figured out that it’s a good laugh to start a punch-up with several thousand police while there’s a huge crowd of innocents who can take the heat off you.

      There is a serious point to be made in the analysis of protest politics, which is that non-violent protest almost always works well when there is a threat of violent protest from someone else, and therefore the ones who claim the moral high ground through non-violence become the favoured option for the Establishment to deal with. Gandhi had Nehru, Dr. King had Malcolm X. But that depends on the violent ones having the same political goals as the moderates: thus, the moderates having the necessary influence to rein them in. As has become clear in Northern Ireland, this is not always true: and when your violent interlopers are not politically engaged at all, but are there only for the fight, we have no apparent leverage.

      The other side of it is that the peaceful protesters who were shouting at the bottle-throwers to stop were doing the right thing; trying to restrain apparent outbreaks of violence within their own ranks. But again, when the thugs just want a fight, how do you stop them short of taking them down? They’ll be just as happy to fight protesters as police (and the protesters will get the worst of it): and the police will happily use that excuse to barge in and ‘pacify’ the crowd, it’s perfect spin.

      I don’t claim answers; that’s why we need a debate, but the problem is harder to frame when people are using you as cover rather than being honest fellow-travelers with violent methods.