Monthly Archives: December 2010

The dark, untold history of Swedish crypto-imperialism and conspiracy

Reasonable people are asking reasonable questions about Sweden’s shameful and illiberal pursuit of Julian Assange.

Immediately, the mainstream media attempts to shout down the dissenting voices. Surely, they sneer, you can not be suggesting that Sweden, the country you’ve always looked towards as a beacon of liberalism is involved in any wrong-doing?

Fact: In 2006, Sweden invented perfection

The idea that Sweden is some sort of progressive paradise is a grand deception, built on decades of propaganda serving both the Scandinavian elite and its Anglo-American conspirators. The truth, for those willing to look for it, paints a picture of a Machiavellian ex-Imperial power, gripped by the hidden control of corporate interests and duplicitous in its depiction as a beacon of neutrality while eagerly equipping the American war machine.

Under this light, the explanation behind the events of the past few months becomes crystal clear.

History

Sweden: Kicking ass and taking names since 700 AD

Sweden was not always the small, unassuming state it’s (erroneously) considered today. In the 17th Century, Sweden had one of the mightiest Empires of the Old World, having conquered roughly half of the Holy Roman states during the “nightmarish” Thirty Years’ War. It wasn’t until almost two hundred years later, after a century of warmongering and defeat, when the Swedish Empire finally collapsed. With the broken nation unable to continue its hawkish policy, Sweden abandoned forever an overt military route to global power.

Not that this was the end of Swedish ambitions. Martial strength gave way to a more underhanded approach to increase their influence worldwide. Between 1850 and 1910, over one million Swedes moved to the US; in the early 20th century, more Swedes lived in Chicago (where Barack Obama started his political career as a community organiser) than in Gothenburg (Sweden’s second largest city).

Sweden remained ostensibly neutral during World War II – but, in fact, both aided the resistance forces of Norway, Denmark and Finland; and supplied resources to Nazi Germany.

Such perfidy left Sweden in a more than favourable position to profit from the murder and mayhem of the World’s most brutal conflict. Sweden exerted its influence, using its intact industrial base, social stability and natural resources to expand its industry as the rest of Europe attempted to heal. Regardless, such fortuitousness did not stop their US friends handing them $112.5 million (over $1 billion in today’s terms) as part of the Marshall Plan.

This tactic of simulating neutrality while secretly colluding with combatants continued throughout the Cold War, when Sweden publicly claimed impartiality but unofficially maintained a special relationship with the United States. Despite a global reputation for pacifism, Sweden has been involved in all major conflicts in recent history, including Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Cyprus.

Sweden avoided the influence of communism and fascism which swept through the rest of Europe. Indeed, their social democratic ideology has, famously, had a profound grip on the nation since 1889. Less well celebrated is Sweden’s long and sordid history of corporatism.

In his thesis, Explaining Swedish Corporatism: The Formative Moment, the distinguished political scientist Bo Rothstein wrote:

In an international perspective Sweden appears to have unusually numerous and powerful interest organizations. Moreover, these organizations are thought to enjoy considerable influence over public policy.

These “unusually numerous and powerful” corporations with “considerable influence over public policy” export weapons used by the US military in Iraq. You may be more likely to challenge Sweden’s pretence of enlightened neutrality when you discover that in 2008 Swedish arms exports jumped by 32 percent.

A century of saying 'whatever'

After the nineteenth century, Sweden retreated from attempting to assert their dominance through overt use of military muscle. Instead, they have pursued a far more clandestine strategy, seeking to extend their tendrils of influence across the world via cultural insemination.

In the 40s through to the 70s, many of Hollywood’s most popular faces (including Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo and Britt Ekland) were, in fact, Swedish. Although this influence waned at the start of the 80s, in the past decade, this cultural invasion has dramatically increased with little subtlety.

In 2008, the BBC invested serious time and energy promoting the hitherto unknown, fictional Swedish detective, Kurt Wallander. That the BBC might take a risk by introducing an obscure Scandinavian character into a prime time slot might not be so surprising. But what is so unusual is that the Wallander series was originally screened at the British Academy (where it was granted extra publicity by a Q&A session) before being simulcast on both BBC One and BBC HD, with supporting films and documentaries on BBC Four. Such a publicity blitz is unprecedented.

The series has since spread to 14 other countries across the world (a French language series is also currently being pursued) and triggered a massive increase in sales of Wallander novels.

Part 205 in our 'fictional Swedes packing heat' series

Speaking of novels, currently sitting at number 1 in Amazon’s list of best selling books of 2010 is the third part of Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. This book is joined in the best selling list by the rest of the trilogy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (at number 2) and The Girl Who Played with Fire (at number 6). The original Swedish movie adaptation grossed $104 million worldwide. An American version starring George Clooney is due 2011 – sure to be a box office success. When was the last time such charts were so utterly dominated by neither American nor Briton?

More importantly, why would Britain and America be so keen to promote products of Swedish culture? Could this, along with the aforementioned leap in Swedish arms exports, be its reward for acting as the willing lapdog of Anglo-American Imperialism?

If you’re still not convinced civilized Sweden is capable of unscrupulous behaviour when it furthers their own interests and those of their American friends, there’s more. It’s a little known fact (typical of this artful, secretive nation), that Sweden was home to one of the most elaborate and disputed conspiracies of the 20th Century: Konspiration 58.

Konspiration 58

It must be real. I done seen it on the telly.

Conspiracy 58 (Swedish: Konspiration 58 or KSP58) is a controversial theory, claiming that the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden never really happened. Evidence was presented purporting to prove World Cup ’58 was staged as a television and radio event between American and Swedish Television, the CIA and FIFA as part of a Cold War strategy. A documentary, never broadcast outside Sweden, was made in 2002 exposing this mind-boggling hoax. Expert witnesses claimed that Sweden did not have the economic or technical resources to promote such an event. Americas involvement, according to the theory, was to discover if televisual propaganda had any influence on viewers and “if such methods could be used as political weapons”.

Revelations from this shocking documentary are described below.

A large amount of evidence was presented. For example, there was analysis of television recordings at the matches, where houses can be seen in the backgrounds that never actually stood there. The programme also analyzed how the shadows of the players in the field were falling, and were angled in a way that is not possible in Sweden if you study the position of the sun at the time.

The Chairman of the association, Bror Jacques de Wærn, who was employed in the Swedish National Agency for more than twenty years, claims that he has looked for evidence that the tournament really took place, but didn’t find anything.

You can find out more here.

The Yellow Janus

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They say the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. Hidden behind Sweden’s facade of neutrality and pretence of social democracy lies one of the most malign international influences of the past century.

If Wikileaks has achieved only one thing by releasing the US cables, it’s shedding light on one of the greatest hidden conspiracies of the modern world.

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Who’s really in charge: the people, the politicians or the media? (British Social Attitudes Survey Part IV)

What I find interesting is whether politics and the media follow or form public opinion. Certainly some results from the British Social Attitudes Survey (BSAS) seem to conflict with the predominant political view of the time – secondary schools are doing a decent job, for example. Other long-held views seem to be completely detached from the mainstream political and media narrative – most notably that income inequality is too great, which has been the opinion of roughly 80% of us since 1987 despite rarely being discussed and no great attempts being made to fix it.

The decreasing support for increasing welfare could be seen as a response to Tory rhetoric and media horror stories. However, the proportion of people who agree government should spend more on benefits has been in steep decline since 1991. My view is that most people’s opinions are shaped more by personal experience and word of mouth than media stories and political spin. Of course, people will then choose to believe or deny what they read in the papers or see on TV depending on how well it fits their expectations. But, ultimately a kernel of a belief needs to be in place first (I suspect, for millions across Britain a friend of a friend knows someone who, it’s rumoured, has a new plasma TV, three kids, has never worked a day in their life AND is going on holiday TWICE this year).

It’s strangely reassuring to see that politicians and the media are merely grossly distorted reflections of public opinion rather than creators of it.

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Is it time to scrap the old political dividing lines? (British Social Attitudes Survey Part III)

I don’t meet many people who fit nicely into a right-wing or left-wing bracket. Such caricatures of political ideology tend to find their niche either in the fringes, in parliament or in newspaper columns. In my experience, most people are nuanced, indecisive and will find themselves agreeing with varying ideas from across the political spectrum.

Overwhelmingly, the British Social Attitudes Survey (BSAS) survey paints a picture of Britons as predominantly compassionate and fair-minded, not self-interested, single-minded crusaders brainwashed by the right-wing (or left-wing) media. In other words, not the type of people you generally get writing comments on websites, phoning the Jeremy Vine show or sitting in the Question Time audience.

The left and right labels were an invention of the French Revolution. Even in 1789 I’m sure they proved to be clumsily imprecise. Most political theorists now accept a liberal-authoritarian political spectrum on top of the left-right economic spectrum. This makes everything even messier, but still not clear enough. When you consider that few political parties fit nicely into their supposed political alignment, you can see the lazy classification is pretty much broken.

I love this Confucius quote:

“If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”

The danger with woolly categorisations in politics is that it limits the debate and causes friction when none is necessary. This seems to be particularly true in America, where the left-right divide is far more polarised and politicians are dismissed as RINOs or DINOs (Republicans/Democrats in Name Only). This “with us or against us” mentality (aka Extremism) can be seen by the way the Left turned on those they once called comrades who supported the Iraq war.

Groupthink replaces people deciding for themselves and dissent is ignored. Issues are ‘owned’ by one side or the other and loyalists dutifully spout the appropriate talking points. If you self-identify yourself with one political side or another, you’re basically damned to argue things you don’t really believe or agree with for the rest of your life (unless you’re especially good at self-deceit).

What an affront to free-thinking. I’ve always wondered why seemingly unconnected beliefs are all shared by completely different individuals, who just happen to sit on the same wing of the political spectrum. To be a right-wing commentator you must hate big government, believe Israel does no wrong, deny climate change, support the Iraq war, oppose abortion and decry multiculturalism while being pro-American and anti-European. To be a left-wing commentator you have to be anti-American, pro-European, pro-Immigration, pro-choice while hating Israel, crusading against the Iraq war, believing in global warming, supporting the students, criticising the police and thinking Assange is the new Obama.

You could argue there’s a degree of logical consistency. I suppose Christian dogma may underpin the Right and liberalism the Left. But when those commentators are neither Christians or liberals, you have to wonder what’s driving their beliefs. And there are enough exceptions to show this phenomenon is far more illogical. For example, right-wing champions of a free market being against open immigration and the European Union (arguably the greatest free market exercise in history). Another example: right-wing liberals complaining about an authoritarian socialist ‘nanny state’, while demanding stricter rules on abortion, drugs and alcohol. An example from the left: arguing the ‘climategate’ emails were illegally obtained and a ‘damp squib’, but not applying the same thinking to the wikileak cables.

The few people who escape the mould are seen as mysterious and untrustworthy; nobody really knows where their allegiances lie and they are reviled by fanatics on both sides.

I suppose there’s some sort of instinctive, monkey-brained social behaviour underlying this, but I’m certain our unsophisticated political classification exacerbates the problem. It may even be the case that people who would otherwise be keen to get involved in politics are frightened away by the insularity.

Ironically, this is not much of a problem within political parties, but is positively endemic on the internet and in the media. It’s about time we scrap the old nomenclature and adopted something with a broader scope to reflect the scattergram of political opinion real people represent.

Sure, this won’t stop twats being twats, but at least we’ll know where they stand.

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Does Britain bust a left or hang a right? (British Social Attitudes Survey Part II)

I think we can safely assume the majority of Brits don’t define themselves in crude political terms. So, let’s look at some of the detail of the British Social Attitudes Survey (BSAS) to understand how closely the sympathies of Britons align with the aims of the coalition and the right-wing press.

Inequality and Fair Pay

A majority believe the gap between those with high incomes and low incomes is too large, that this contributes to social problems and that it is the responsibility of the government to reduce income inequality.

The government are not ignorant of this, having commissioned Will Hutton to produce a report looking at fair pay. However, the report’s remit was restricted to the public sector with the brief to investigate a pay ratio of 20 to 1 – according to the BSAS, people think the ratio should be 6 to 1.

You have to question whether the government’s aim with this report is really about fair pay. Both the Tories and the right-wing media appear more concerned about government spending and mythical “public sector fat cats” than income inequality across the whole of society. The right-wing media, in particular, are strongly against government involvement in reducing income inequality across the private sector.

This puts the British public further to the left than the Tories and completely at odds with the right-wing media.

Just over half of people believe the government should provide a decent standard of living for the unemployed, but only 27% believe more should be spent on welfare benefits for the poor.

The 27% figure is the statistic most favoured by the right-wing press. And it is significant, especially considering support for higher welfare spending has decreased from 58% in 1991. However, considering this survey comes off the back of a Labour government which has increased welfare over the previous decade, the massive drop doesn’t necessarily reflect a desire to greatly reduce benefits.

This finding is therefore inconclusive. Other findings of the survey show that people aren’t unsympathetic to the poor and, in fact, favour distinctly un-Thatcherite policies: 62% want better education or training opportunities to enable people to get better jobs, 54% want the minimum wage increased, and 40% want higher income taxes to be increased.

Investment in public services

Secondary schools have been seen to improve in every way under Labour and there is widespread support for an increasing emphasis on non-academic areas including practical and life skills.

While Tory (and Lib Dem) rhetoric before the election uncontroversially focused on limiting top-down interference over schools, the policies of Michael Gove since then seem at odds to what the public clearly perceive as a successful decade for education under Labour.

In particular, Gove’s peculiar fixation on ‘traditional’ lessons (including Classical Greek, Biblical Hebrew and Latin) is not shared by the people, 72% of whom believe the teaching of life skills is more important than academic subjects.

While happy to trumpet the parts of the survey that support with its own agenda, the Daily Mail sneers at the ‘alarming complacency’ suggested by the nearly three-quarters of people who think our schools teach basic schools well.

Regardless, it’s not obvious how Gove’s plans will improve schools in the way people want. His anachronistic baccalaureate idea and intent to abolish coursework conflicts with the view, agreed with by six in ten people, that “schools focus too much on tests and exams and not enough on learning for its own sake”.

Satisfaction with the NHS is at its highest level ever, reflecting that people recognise and value the improvements made by Labour, particularly the successful introduction of maximum waiting times targets.

I never understood the right-wing war against NHS targets, especially considering (if my memory serves me correctly) they were introduced as a result of right-wing media pressure.

When Labour entered office in 1997, satisfaction with the NHS was at the lowest level (34%) since the survey began. In 2009, satisfaction reached the highest level since the survey began (64%). Even among Conservative supporters, satisfaction with the NHS is at its height.

Against this backdrop, you really have to wonder why the Tories are embarking on a highly controversial and extremely risky reorganisation of the NHS. Many would suggest the motivation is ideological. If this is the case, Tory ideology (and that of its right-wing supporters) is clearly not shared by the British public.

So what?

This is just a scraping of findings from the report’s executive summaries available online. Still, I think it’s pretty damn supportive of New Labour’s record and suggests the Tories should be careful.

The unexpected ambition of their education and health reforms are controversial at the moment. Considering they are completely out of line with what the public actually wants, when they are introduced the shit, as they say, could well and truly hit the fan.

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Is the person sat to your left a Thatcherite? (British Social Attitudes Survey Part I)

Both the Mail and the Telegraph leapt on NatCen’s British Social Attitudes Survey (BSAS), released today, to declare public support for the coalition’s policies and a sharp swing to the right. Finally, they breathlessly claim, Thatcherism has emerged victorious. Suffice to say, it’s not quite as straightforward as that.

To be fair, this is the conclusion of John Bartle, co-author of the BSAS report, who writes,

“We interpret the reverse after 1997 as a further shift back to the right (and pretty sharp it is too)… it suggests that the public are now less supportive of ‘big government’ than at any time since the late 1970s”.

Far be it from me to challenge the expert opinion and mind-boggling methodology of one of the people responsible for producing the report, but I do question the assumption across the right-wing press that this is good news for Tories.

John Bartle continues to say,

“…according to our estimates, the electorate were nearly as ‘right-wing’ in 2009 as 1979, the year that Mrs. Thatcher came to office…”

Despite increased disillusionment with ‘big government’ following the New Labour years, the coalition is still facing a country less right-wing than that which welcomed their spiritual leader. So, the Tories are on shakier ground than Thatcher, yet are intending to go ideologically further than even she dared.

Chapter 9 of the report explains that “between 1979 and 1997 [the political centre in Britain] moved to the left”. Basically, the result of Thatcherism was to drive the country leftwards. Considering in 2009, after more than a decade of New Labour, it had supposedly shifted back rightwards, I would guess these findings are better reflective of disappointment with the government of the day rather than long-term changes in supposed political alignment. People turn off solutions when they don’t live up to that which is promised.

The broad conclusion that Britain is ‘right-wing’ is therefore ultimately meaningless. If we are unfortunate enough to face a decade of Tory ‘small government’, I’m sure Britain will drift leftwards again.

So, don’t worry. You’re not surrounded by children of Thatcher. Just ruled by them.

Oh… maybe we should worry.

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What can we learn from the failure of the student protests?

Although I suspect I may be preaching to the damned here, if (and that’s a big IF) Labour’s opposition isn’t purely political and the student protesters aren’t simply aiming to rage against the machine, there’s a lot that we could learn what NOT to do by looking at the campaign to fight the coalition’s rise in tuition fees – if you can call it a campaign.

What went wrong?

1. Lack of a clear objective: there was no clear argument being made by protesters and those who supported them. I heard people saying the demonstrations were against high increases in tuition fees, any increase in tuition fees, the existence of tuition fees, the scrapping of EMA, the extreme cuts to university funding, any cuts on principle, the pace and/or extent of the coalition’s cuts, the haste with which the vote went into the commons, and the broken promises of the Liberal Democrats. With such fragmentation of purpose it’s difficult to achieve anything.

2. No real alternative was pitched against the coalition’s plans. Subsequently, the Tories have emerged from this ordeal virtually unscathed. Without the challenge of a fairer, more agreeable alternative, no real pressure was put on the government.

3. No command structure: nobody took responsibility for organising the opposition to the fees increase. This resulted in mixed messages and chaos in the streets. To their credit, the NUS seems to be attempting to tie everything together, but their efforts are clearly not enough. Maybe mass demonstrations would have been better concentrated in key constituencies to sway floating Liberals and, indeed, Conservatives? Maybe the Tories would have been more reluctant to drive this forward if, instead of students, their traditional middle-class supporters were the ones doing the complaining (as we saw during the child benefit fiasco)? The point is the passion of those involved could’ve and should’ve been used more strategically.

4. The campaign was misdirected. I never felt the protesters really hit the government where it hurts. For starters, the attempt to gain the sympathies of the police against a common enemy was destroyed when people started throwing rocks at them. Hopes of attracting wider public support was damaged when people started defacing national monuments. In terms of trying to halt the cuts, George Osborne may still prove to be a weak link in terms of embarrassing the coalition, but he’s clearly intransigent with regards his economic plan (at least overtly). There was no way he would back down. Similarly, Nick Clegg and his fellow Liberal ministers were determined not to retreat on this (although the effectiveness of getting Clegg ‘on side’ by burning an effigy of him has to be questioned). Arguably, given the right leverage, Tory backbenchers are the weakest link of the coalition. Regardless, no attempts were made to go for the jugular. Time, effort and blood was wasted.

What would I have done differently?

Firstly, my chosen objective would have been the lowest-hanging fruit: the hasty nature of taking this vote to parliament before Christmas. Labour would’ve needed to take the lead and request the vote to be held off for a few months. This request could’ve been made to appeal to all parties: it would have given Labour more time to develop a saleable alternative, it would have given the Tories more time to convince the voters their policy is the fairest one, and it would have given the Liberals a stay of execution. A reprieve would also have given protest groups greater opportunity to rally wider public support around their cause.

If students, politicians and media were united behind the same purpose, it would have seemed extremely unreasonable for the government to refuse. If they did, Labour could have justifiably blamed the riots on the government’s arrogance. Still, Labour could have argued a Nay vote would not have reflected a total rejection of the coalition’s proposal; merely a desire for a longer period of public discussion and the chance to consider other options.

This would’ve given loyal Liberals cover to vote against and found sympathy amongst Tory backbenchers (remember, the Tories also had an anti-tuition fees stance until relatively recently).

Whether the vote is postponed or not, Labour and those opposing the coalition cuts are seen to have achieved a small victory. The image is one of a hasty, reckless government ignorant of the social turmoil their policies are causing, against a considerate and cautious union of politicians and public, aiming to reach a consensus.

Of course, the onus is then on Labour to work with student organisations to develop a viable, preferred alternative and sell it to the public. If they can’t… well, that would be pretty damn embarrassing and I guess they’d have no choice but to stop their whining and support the coalition’s plans.

So that’s what I reckon, but I may be speaking shit. I would love to hear what you think could’ve been done differently.

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Student riots: so, what’s next?

In what is becoming a depressing trend, the left’s position on the student riots is another example of polemical cul-de-sac. Their approach so far has had limited (if any) positive impact; yet their rhetoric promotes further chaos without constructive solutions.

Already the media is asking whether water-cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas should be used to control future protests. The less extreme alternative I’ve heard involves the police monitoring social media accounts and arresting potential troublemakers at the first sign of trouble. Based on the discussions I’ve seen on Twitter, blogs and the news, both these options would be seen as an act of provocation by protesters.

Revelers

But what else can the police do? If the propaganda of some on the left is to be believed, the violence is an understandable reaction to the coalition’s “cultural vandalism”. The suggestion is that it is not only unsurprising, but inevitable. It may surprise these commentators to learn that such language would not invite a softer approach from the police.

If we ignore the fatalists and instead listen to those we might call the determinists, the student violence is a direct consequence of the actions of the police. This line of argument goes: you buggers started it; if you stop bashing us with bats, we’ll stop tearing up central London. Determinists know the police are the problem. The negative energy generated by all those badges and batons drive good middle-class girls and boys crazy.

You only have to remember the storming of Millbank Tower to spot the flaw in that line of thinking.

With neither side backing down, we’ll either end up with the kind of authoritarian police state radical lefties have wet dreams about, or a continuation of the misdirected aggression that will eat away at public support until talk of loony lefties and militant socialists destroy all the credibility built up by the progressive movement over the past decade.

But there could be a middle ground. Protest leaders should work with the police to confirm a mutually acceptable route and accept responsibility to ensure that route is followed. Any groups who break away from this route are NOT protesters, and can assumed to be in “breach the peace”. If they refuse to rejoin the protest proper, they should be immediately arrested. Sounds harsh (and mighty simplistic), but if this can be done quickly and efficiently there is no need for violence to overshadow the cause of the genuine protesters.

There are a few glaring problems with this.

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The first being: lefty-liberals won’t like the idea. Mass arrests. Officially-sanctioned protest routes. I may as well suggest they glue identification cards to their foreheads. Many will prefer rioting. They seem to agree with Donald Rumsfeld who once said (much to left-wing derision, I might add), “Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.”

The second problem is that I get the feeling the police were actually attempting a more liberal approach to this already. From what I understand, the theory behind kettling is that it contains a potentially unruly crowd without the bad press of arresting a whole lot of innocent people. At the moment, the police study CCTV footage after the event to identify criminals. I assume they do this to avoid inciting more trouble by dragging teenagers into police vans in front of their mates. If the less heavy-handed version of my compromise plan already enrages the left, a concerted effort to ‘beat’ the police’s change of tactics will be a certainty.

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The third problem arises if the vast majority of protesters, even those who flee down side streets to escape the agreed route, are genuinely peaceful. I, for one, don’t buy the idea that these protests were infiltrated by a small group of thugs (European-anarchists have been blamed, but the worst example was on Newsnight. They blamed the violence on “London gangs” and attempted to back up this claim using a shot of a few black kids wandering through the crowd). The unapologetic language of virtually every student group and left-wing organisation, twitterer or blogger I’ve seen tells me that even if it was all the fault of a few bad apples in the pot, there’s no real desire to have them removed. However, if it really is a minority who are the problem and the majority would gladly see them identified and detained, the ‘middle ground’ approach is too broad a brush and innocent people will likely be wrongly arrested.

The fourth and final problem is that, so far, I’ve seen no evidence the organisers of the protests are willing to accept any responsibility for the chaos. They all fall into either the fatalist or the determinist camp and talk about the protests as if people randomly turn up and do whatever they want. In other words, it’s not really their problem and they don’t care. This is a failure on two levels.

  • One: as Malcolm Gladwell explained in his controversial article about social activism, movements succeed by utilising rigid, almost military-like command structures. If there is no central force organising the protest they’re not only inviting anarchy onto the streets, but the movement as a whole is also likely to fail.
  • Two: this makes it far more difficult to achieve a middle ground between police and protesters. Without a clear idea of who’s organising the campaign, the police can not properly plan for it and will therefore have to resort to less sophisticated, more reactionary measures to cope. Without control over the situation and a working relationship with the police, protest leaders can’t protect those who want nothing more than a peaceful demonstration, which could result in more people being hurt (by both club-happy rozzers and brick-hurling agitators).

And so we’re stuck in a game of chicken between the protesters and the police. One in which neither seem keen to back down in. You could argue the police literally can’t back down. They’ve tried hands-off and it was a disaster. At best they could move sideways and try to refine the current techniques, without resorting to more exotic tactics. I hope (but don’t really expect) they can find a way to quickly spot and remove the ringleaders, without stirring up more animosity in the process. I believe the left has far greater leeway to tone down their inflammatory language and help isolate the firebrands. But to many that would be seen as surrendering to the coalition and Police State UK.

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It’s easy to lose sight of the fact there’s tens of millions more people in the UK watching these protests on their TV screens than there are taking part in person, or in their own particular echo chamber on the infoweb. There’s millions of royalists appalled at the attack on the Prince’s car. There’s millions of nationalists disgusted by the desecration of our national heritage. There’s millions of bemused, ordinary people who aren’t too fond of the cops in a vague British fashion, but also reckon (in a level-headed, detached, not unsympathetic kind of way) that if you rush head-first into a line of riot police carrying clubs, you’re probably going to get smacked. There’s also millions of people whose families have never gone to university, never expect to go to university and are wondering why they should pay for a bunch of feral, narcissistic idiots to get a better career and earn more money than they could ever dream of.

The real battle isn’t between protesters and police. It’s not you versus them. It’s winning the hearts and minds of voters and politicians. Explain to me how the behaviour we’ve seen over the past month has helped achieve that.

Photo credits: honeylotus, guerillaphotography

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When a violent mob doesn’t change things, it’s obvious democracy doesn’t work

Hypocrisy is a fact of politics – arguably even more so amongst activists and opinionaters than the sleazy MPs. But still the intellectual inconsistency of the left following the student fees riots surprises me*. The left believe the rise in tuition fees represents a failure of democracy; ipso facto, it’s understandable (maybe even commendable) that people are rioting, smashing property and assaulting police to get their voice heard.

For a second, let’s ignore the fact that 65% of voters in the last election (known as “a majority”) democratically supported parties promising to follow the recommendations of the Browne report. Instead of looking at the inaccuracy of the leftist position, let’s look at their hypocrisy.

Lefty-liberals are not averse to demanding politicians rise above populism when it comes to drug policy, immigration, Europe, speed cameras, prisons, and restrictions on civil liberties designed to prevent terrorism (to provide but a few examples). When it suits their own agenda, they appear to expect politicians to make the unpopular decisions rather than give in to the demands of the misguided masses. They know that doing what’s right for the country (as far as they’re concerned) is not always the same as what the people want.

And yet now, when riding on the waves of (apparent) popular support, they seem to be championing mob rule.

Here’s my message: Grow up, realise democracy doesn’t mean getting your own way all the time, and don’t expect everyone to support your fucking hissy fit when the government does something you disagree with.

It’s worth pointing out that the Tories, after collecting the most votes for their manifesto during the last election, have since retreated on a host of policies. They have been praised by the left for doing so. Isn’t this also a betrayal of democracy?

* It’s evidence of my blatant bias that hypocrisy from the right does not surprise me.

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