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Jeers and loathing in Manchester

25tyetyIf war is politics by other, more violent means; then surely politics is war via the demonstration, the megaphone, the occupation, the ballot box, and occasional argy-bargy between rival parties and factions. Hence politics and violence go hand in hand. It has become institutionalised and routinised in Western liberal democracies, but the association – as much as our (establishment) culture pretends otherwise – is there and can bubble its way to the surface. Yet it is sporadic and comes in two directions. There are individuals and/or political groups looking for rucks on demonstrations, or have targeted someone or, as is more often the case, some thing for violent direct action. And then there is the planned violence dished out by the police and their agents provocateurs. The former is rare and is pushed by those at the margins. The latter is more common, but is no less political than the anarchist who trashes a shopfront window. Yet we know that one form of political violence receives kids glove coverage, while the other is blown out of all proportion by headline writers and news bulletins.

This brings us to the events unfolding on Twitter this afternoon as Tory tweeters went into overdrive/meltdown over the spitting at and intimidation of journalists and egging of conference goers. While nothing compared to the student protests of five years back, it’s all very stupid. Gobbing at and intimidating HuffPo and Telegraph journalists, and snarking at them the revolutionary armchair with imbecilities such as this is so utterly idiotic you almost don’t know where to begin. They weren’t the only ones. Kevin Maguire got some flak for his well-known Tory politics, and Michael Crick copped a wodge of gob too. In these circumstances, only one word will do: twattery.

That isn’t to say stupid behaviour on today’s demonstration is unknowable and mindless. Why, we might ask ourselves, have journalists (not all journos, as Laura McInerney observes) become a target? It’s pretty obvious. On the one hand, they are the bodies-on-the-ground for organisations that routinely misreport and distort the truth for the Tories. It doesn’t matter whether they’re from the Labour-friendly Mirror and HuffPo, they’re all seen as peas in a pod. On the other hand, as we know media firms are virtually untouchable. When Michael Crick files distorted rubbish about Jeremy Corbyn, or when the Telegraph competes with The Mail for the most ludicrous red-baiting stories, there is no comeback, no accountability. Social media and comment boxes offer simulacrum of holding journos to account, but the lie machine continues as before. This breeds resentment and frustration both, which some individuals then take out on the journos – as per today. Ditto for Tories, like our egged friend. Their government makes the lives of millions of people a struggle and a chore, but they avoided their electoral just desserts thanks to fearmongering, which was faithfully passed on for printing and broadcast. With the politicians out of reach, those nearer will have to do.

The twattery has proven contagious. Here are some Conservatives point-scoring off today’s events:

What a pathetic sight. Particularly ironic are the comments of the last, whose Twitter profile says he doesn’t believe in safe spaces.

I am tempted to say that if you don’t want “Tory scum” yelling at you when you gather for a conference, it’s probably a good idea not to pursue scummy policies. Nevertheless, this suits the Tory frame nicely. It’s grist to the mill of their new trade union project, and allows them to portray their opposition as a rabble – as all governments of whatever hue do when there’s a hint of trouble at a demonstration.

Yes, in the grand scheme of things, a slap here and a bit of goz there pail against the violence of the eviction, the care withdrawal, and the zero hours contract. If there is time and a place for trouble-making, today’s demonstration wasn’t it. The actions of a vanishingly tiny number have muddied the issue and gave the Tories a moral victory, even though there is an amoral vacuity at the heart of their programme. Meanwhile, the real story, the typical story of the demonstration, of tens of thousands of people – including families as per the snap from Newcastle-under-Lyme comrades featured atop this post – demonstrating their opposition to Tory policies has got lost.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid

Image Credit: Gareth Snell


  1. if there were attacks on journalists on the demonstration, they should be condemned. Even if only spitting.

    Simple question for the organisers, what is your view of this behaviour? its time to condemn it. There is no excuse, it is simply damaging.

    On Michael Crick, where is the evidence He has filed ‘distorted rubbish about Corbyn’? Only a few weeks ago this site was praising him for denying that entryism was to blame for the corbyn surge. Evidence on Crick please

    trevor Fisher.

  2. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    I remember both the miners strikes, the violent attacks by the police on the new age travelers and their families vividly and during the riots here of 10 years ago we had groups of very angry young men, (many from outside the area and unwelcome,) contesting the streets; which after my experiences in the 80s has somewhat restored my confidence in the police.

    I think these protests, are pointless, silly and profoundly immature, but then that’s the nature of young people and I’m reluctant to completely denigrate their passion or their sincerity but what are they trying to achieve really and what do they expect from it other than that wonderful sense of sometimes false camaraderie; “you had to be there and we were.”

    Never forget that Tony Blair and Jack straw were both if my memory serves me, members of CND for example.

    Personally I think that more than anything else Labour now need to win back both the trust and respect of the electorate, (to become something more robust and relevant to most people than another middle class talking shop and career opportunity for various politicians wives and, children etc,) and that the way to do this is not by making yet more fine sounding , well reasoned and compelling speeches, (to a complacent and like minded audience of the more or less converted,) or by sound and clever arguments or even by organizing protest; but by helping on practical level, by actually getting out of their sanitized and Bowdlerized little worlds of family, career, security and BMWs, etc and actually getting their effing hands dirty, (but now in a good way, for a change,) and by engaging directly with real people, (such as the young mother above,) to provide the kind of help and support and a real alternative, that has traditionally been part of Labour’s core remit, even from a certain perspective perhaps it’s very, raison d’être.

  3. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    (such as the young mother above,)

    Refers to a previous post describing the predicament of a young black family of my knowledge, currently being subjected to unremitting intimidation, abuse and aggression by their neighbors, whose situation this sort of thing will improve not at all.

  4. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    For me anyway the decency and the genuine compassion, practical help and also their political commitment, of the small number of people, (not the homeless charities which are most scams of one sort or another,) who try to provide some kind regular help and support of the growing numbers of sick and homeless people now being forced to live rough on the streets of Manchester, (like most major cities,) is worth far more than a bunch of middle class kids and bored academics running about waving black flags or red and then getting back into their mum’s BMWs and driving home to the suburbs having achieved nothing.

  5. John reid says:

    lol, the idea that those who spat, threatened violence or threw eggs, were police agent provocateurs, trying to get people to fight and then blame the protesters for starting it ,so the police hit them back, what of the police officers at the student protest 4 years ago, knocked unconscious, with a snooker ball, hitting his head,or the fire extinguisher thrown off a roof

    saying protest is o.k if violent as it’s self defence and that its agent provocatuers, really doing it, reminds me of when nick Griffin said it was another black person who killed stephen lawrence

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      Actually that really happens; the agent provocateur thing, and I’ve seen it with my own eyes, British Policemen hurling half bricks into a crowd of predominantly peaceful, (even pacifist,) protester comprised of a young children and the inevitable pregnant women, it isn’t an urban myth, believe me trying to get it kick off so they could have some, “fun.”

      But that’s also in my experience a small and unrepresentative minority among the police as well, but they do stick together and who can really blame them, (some of the time.)

  6. David Ellis says:

    These people are fucking with peoples’ livelihoods.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      I’m not saying that if the protesters started running out of spit or any of the other byproducts of human metabolism for that matter; that I wouldn’t be perfectly happy to make a donation, after all that’s pretty much exactly what the Tories are now planning to do to the rest of us.

  7. James Martin says:

    There is another factor at work right now that goes beyond spontaneous behaviour by individuals on a demo. Joke organisations like ‘Class War’ were always completely infiltrated (if not controlled and financed) by the secret services, and until recently they had little use for them and they had retreated to a small Viz nostalgia society. Now we have a socialist as leader of her majesties opposition and a fast growing Labour Party all of a sudden they are out in large-ish numbers and very active. Coincidence? Of course not, they are the agent provocateurs of the left used to discredit marches in particular and the labour movement and left in general.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      That much is true; but it’s no real revelation along with unremitting hostility of all the press it’s just yet another obstacle the left will have to surmount, still so far to my knowledge no one has suggested rounding us all up and incarcerating us all in the Manchester United Stadium.


      “I have never believed much in luck, and my sense of humor has tended to walk on the dark side.”

      Hunter S. Thompson

    2. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      Also for all their antics above and their mystique the British Secret Services have really never been that competent or even credible; from the 1950’s onward they were riddled with Soviet spies and even funnier still Kim Philby, (himself a Soviet Spy,) was employed as a consultant by the Americans when they were setting up the CIA, A fact that subsequently led one deputy director of the CIA having a more or less complete nervous breakdown.

      But you mustn’t laugh.

      No really.

  8. Bazza says:

    Yes it is infantile behaviour by a very tiny minority of the ‘left’ (usually middle class) who are more interested in self- actualising (feeling good about themselves).
    Someone once argued that anarchism is a selfish middle class ideology “Me, I” and has much in common with Thatcherism.
    It only gives the vile Right ammunition and as the post says distracts from important points being made by others (but is more exciting for the media).
    Wouldn’t put it past the rich and powerful to use agent provacteurs (but you need evidence) – democratic socialists are simply better human beings than this!
    As the Tories continue to go Back to the Future to 19th Economic Liberalism, Labour heads for grassroots, bottom up, democratic and participatory politics for the 21stC!

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