By Joshua Funnell
A lesson Learned from the “The Day of Rage” : The British Right are Delusional
According to a leading Twitter authority, I’m “a special kind of wanker”. AKA, a person that exercises their democratic right to protest, as enshrined in Article 11 of European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Conservative MP, Michael Fabricant went further, choosing his words delicately, he described protestors like me as “fascists”. Well, if you’re going to get personal Michael, it’s worth mentioning that Fabricant holds the unenviable accolade of having the second worst hair in the Conservative party and also weirdly looks like Kevin from Kevin & Perry…
He’s right of course. It is well known that when Hitler’s Nazis attempted to seize power in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, they did so with grammatically suspect cardboard signs, an old boom box on a trolley, plastic masks and their secret weapon, ‘rage’.
The UK is a funny old country. People never hesitate to self-righteously lecture on how a grandparent died in a war to protect democratic freedoms. However, it seems these rights are contingent upon right wing reactionaries giving protestors their permission.
Welcome to Britain, a country where you are only able to express political grievances by angrily pressing a pencilled cross into a box every four years. Political grievances beyond this extensive period of democratic participation must be dealt with by polite silence and passive aggression; like a sexually frustrated Priest privately screaming into a pillow, sobbing.
What is the British aversion to showing emotion in politics? How else can you react but with ‘rage’ when people are burned alive in a tragedy of a political making? Would people prefer a day of ‘mild irritation’? A day of being, ‘slightly ticked off’? Or should everyone be fitted with a mood ring when attending demonstrations available for inspection? “Ooops, sorry Sonny Jim, your rings gotten angry red, I sense too much Anakin Skywalker rage in you. Get it down to a light orange representing ‘mild displeasure’ and we’ll reinstate your rights – under surveillance, of course”.
These right wing protest-police are the same folk that find it amusing when the Foreign Secretary tries to throw an opponent on the floor during a live TV debate, or who show conspicuous indifference to their government’s selling of arms to a Saudi tyranny, or buying out political advertising space through dark money to undermine free discussion.
The truth is simple: Conservatives just don’t understand protesting. When you’ve never had to fight for anything, protesting is an alien concept. I guess it doesn’t require much rage to fight your way out of a prep school, so they’re ill-equipped. It would be as much a novelty for them to protest, as it would be for me to smash up a restaurant to gain acceptance to a prestigious gang of fine diners. The only occasion in my lifetime that I’ve ever seen them protest was in order to mutilate Foxes.
‘Overthrowing the government’ is just sexed up language. Trying to replace one democratically elected minority government with another, is how parliamentary democracy works. Simply change the word ‘overthrow’ to ‘oust’ and use the polite language of gentlemen and nobody would give a shit.
Unfortunately, through naivety and the sin of passion, the protest organisers have fallen into the law and disorder terrain of the crazies, much like entering long grass full of velociraptors. These crazies are the type of unreasonable, childish scaremongers, who cite death tolls of 90 million under Communism as a serious reaction to Corbyn’s suggestion that desperate homeless Grenfell families could be housed in temporarily requisitioned properties.
Protesting, after all, is one of many available tools in a democracy to achieve change. Another such tool is legal aid, which could have helped the Grenfell Tower community to challenge the KTMO and avert tragedy. An alternative tool, preferred by Tories, is using moneyed political lobbyists to change government policy – I’m told Dr Liam Fox has great expertise in this area.
For this reason, the ‘Day of Rage’ protest has confirmed a long-held suspicion of mine: the UK right is growing more and more nuts. They have normalised committing hard-line attacks on any form of dissent against their extreme capitalist orthodoxy. They are fanatics, behaving like a radicalised militia fighting back a Soviet Invasion in the film, Red Dawn. Except, this fight only exists in their vivid imaginations.
The dismissal of the ‘Day of Rage’ protestors has been truly disgraceful, with some horribly patronising class undertones. The Daily Mail, The Express – who are market leaders in hijacking grief, exploiting their own pre-manufactured prejudices, and stoking fiery rage for cheap political capital – dare to accuse protestors of “hijacking” the Grenfell Tower communities grief. This is based on an assumption that:
- A) the participants are all outside agitators not associated with Grenfell.
- B) That the participants have no political agency of their own, are credulous simpletons and have been duped and radicalised by a bunch of white guys selling a fringe Socialist newspaper that most left wingers ignore.
Secondly, how dare the conservative right claim to be the champions of the emergency services and the public sector who are under so much strain during this difficult time. The hypocrisy is staggering from people who have advocated the wholesale destruction of the public sector, people they have characterised its workers as lazy leeches that must be cut to ribbons. Please read this article in full from Toby Young in 2009, where he lambasts the public sector for having a bad attitude and not showing due respect to middle-class patients like him and his friend, “the ambassador” don’t you know! He states:
“there really was a time, not so long ago, in which the social hierarchy of modern Britain was preserved in the NHS. If you were a professional person of some standing — an Oxford don, say — nurses would show you a good deal of respect.”
The pompous infuriating passages are too many to quote, but this one is a personal favourite:
“It’s not JUST (my emphasis) NHS staff who are guilty of treating people as barely tolerated irritants. The attitude you encounter — bored, impatient, a sense that the person would rather be anywhere else — is typical of the way all public sector employees treat their ‘clients’”
Yet now, Toby Young (who looks like Harry Hill, except is completely unlikeable and lacks any humour) along with his posse of Zac Goldsmith et al, suddenly become the champions of the beleaguered public sector. They are shamelessly attempting to protect their weak, maligned, flailing fragile government from righteous dissent and, yes, rage. They dare to discredit protestors by claiming they are harming public sector workers, public sector workers like my mum, who they have built careers spitting down on from upon high in Fleet Street.
Some of the claims I have read about the protest since yesterday have been nothing short of scandalous. I have one advantage over some critics: I WAS THERE! I find myself shouting at my computer like a war vet “you weren’t there man! You don’t know!” after reading smear after smear.
As one participant said, “the rightwing press’s modus operandi is to debunk protests” Through smear, they try and strip the protest of credibility and kill the soul of the message and its ability to inspire the imagination of the public. Whether its right wing media, dark money, business support, or propaganda tactics, Tories fight and often win by shamelessly rolling in the dirt.
The underwhelming reality of protest
As I stood outside Downing Street awaiting the march, I expected to feel the ground tremble and see the windows shake free from their frames as an onslaught of humanity poured into Whitehall. The press pack started to assemble like the brave 300 waiting to face down the great Persian Army. The photographers are lovely, shouting at us “move out the fucking way” because we, actual protestors, were obstructing their money shots. The Mirror, the Guardian and the Express, all provided live minute-by-minute updates on ‘The Day of Rage’ after being hyped for a week in advance. There were almost as many paparazzi and journalists, as protestors themselves.
When they finally arrived, the Persian hoard consisted of a small eclectic group of concerned people. So small, in fact, I thought there must have been a diversion. Needless to say, if this had of been a battle scene from Gangs of New York, CGI extras would have been added.
Some people were animated and boisterous, but not violent. One argument broke out with the police, by a guy called Howard who just wanted them to watch his bike for him briefly – the battle of Gettysburg predicted it certainly was not.
Another MINOR scuffle, was caused by protestors trying to calm down another protestor. The crazies pre-protest narrative was so potent, that protestors were desperate not to give the press an ‘excuse’ or ‘what they want’. In a word: violence. After hearing charges of protestors wishing to incite violence prior to the demonstration, I can now say with confidence that the only people trying to incite violence were the themselves.
A lot of people will remember the sad photo leaked of Theresa May during the election: an isolated woman, in a depressing gravel car park, flanked by signed wielding party zealots like extra in a TV show. It revealed how small in scale and media managed Theresa May’s campaign was.
There is an irony here: media were willingly complicit in framing a stage-managed event to grant undue scale and gravitas to the government. However, contrastingly, when there is a small protest sold by the right wing press as an example of violent left-wing militants, then they distort the true scale and construct an image of mass unrest. Consequently, or by design, it helps the government: they can present an image of structure and order vs. unruly mob besieging our democracy.
Accordingly, as the protestors arrived at No.10, the camera crews dashed around like cocained mosquitoes. They tried to grab dramatic low angles and contrived misleading scenes of pandemonium and aggression with close-ups and opportune moments. Journalists scurried around too, suddenly coming to life like animated scarecrows when something tense occurred. I caught the eye of one and gave him the Corbyn headmaster stare and he looked away embarrassed.
These are the same photographers and journos who work for the papers that hyped up the violence days before the demo. It creates the perfect self-fulfilling prophecy business model. It reminds me of a pay per view channel that promotes a boxing match and then has to edit together a dramatic highlights package after an anti-climatic ‘battle’. ‘The Day of Rage’ was the protest equivalent of Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao (SPOILER ALERT: it sucked)
It’s quite an incredible experience to witness first hand the mundane reality compared to the tabloid movie trailer. It is a clear lesson in the pernicious influence of media to create baseless propaganda narratives that take hold to undermine and delegitimize dissent. As I stood there, unimpressed by the numbers, I imagined the millions of people around the country angrily ranting about this controversial non-event with so much bile and outrage, using words like ‘disgusting’ and ‘disgraceful’.
The protest took place on a Wednesday. Right wingers had been very keen to point out that any law-abiding patriot, who loved Her Majesty and her Corgis, would be down the mines putting in a days graft, not gallivanting around subverting the finest democracy the world has ever known!! Of course, class didn’t in any way motivate the abuse; the fact that the same professional protest critics raised no such objection to the corporate class at Ascot the same day, was purely a coincidence.
The right, evidently disappointed by the poor showing from the ‘welfare scroungers’ have since decided to move the goal posts. The Twitterati began abusing telling off protestors for not believing in their cause fanatically enough and for being too ideologically lazy to attend. They are a tough crowd to impress: First, protestors weren’t allowed to show rage, but then they were criticised for not showing enough commitment and passion… Or, maybe, just maybe, a lot of people that wanted to protest were, SHOCK HORROR, at work too?
A photographer told me, off the record, that it shows the media’s herd mentality he routinely observes. Like Orwellian group think, every commentator and politician suddenly starts to pile on condemning an imagined threat. Corbyn and McDonnell were forced to condemn a hypothetical riot, all because someone wrote the word ‘rage’ on a leaflet.
At times like this, I imagine what goes on inside the hollow void where a right -wingers brain should reside. I envisage a Borrower sized bigot, alone in the dark, blind, with a stick, lashing out wildly with paranoid assertions and prejudiced accusations at phantoms.
One thing right-wingers won’t rant about, were Tory agitators that turned up to provoke protestors and incite violence. One guy, drunk, suited and booted, bustled into a crowd populated by those affected by Grenfell. He then started boasting about how he’d been at Ascot all day as they pointlessly protested and that the government had nothing to answer for. When the crowd turned on him, he was cautioned and lead away by the police. When they released him, I followed him and recorded him laughing and joking with a friend about what he’d done – like it was entertainment to provoke grieving angry people. And make no mistake, a large group of those on the protest were affiliated to Grenfell themselves, despite what you may have read.
After the protest, other activists and myself found Boris Johnson in the media paddock after his car crash interview. We did our best to question him on his cuts to the fire service as mayor. Perhaps the media could have done the same? Instead, they seemed hell bent on exerting all their energies into smearing, discrediting and character assassinating those exercising their democratic right to protest. They were protesting a shocking, politically induced tragedy. In doing so, they are complicit in helping to protect a discredited mandateless government that is largely responsible.
The Day of Rage, that wasn’t, proved that it is the right that have truly insulted Grenfell, the emergency services and democracy itself. By reacting like a malfunctioning Catherine Wheel when confronted with any dissent, they are becoming more and more like the American Republican party – bat shit crazy.
Let’s hope that more and more people become aware of this smear tactic. As Ishmahil Blagrove from Grenfell put it “people are immune – they’re in bullet proof vests to all the billionaires in the media, Rupert Murdoch and all those other motherfuckers”
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