The left is on the move again. Not another leadership election (not yet anyhow) but a march; a protest, a demonstration, just like the old days.
And these terrifyingly modern days too, come to think of it. Because history is repeating itself, only this time with the distortion and hysteria turned up even more. And to some that means it’s time for a get-together.
And that’s fine if that’s your thing. As a former member of the Green Party (since fully recovered) I used to march a lot, about anything really. It was good fun, I got to hang around with people who agreed with me (although never quite enough) and then shout a lot, usually in favour of things I didn’t know how to explain (tritium for instance, is still a mystery to me).
I can’t remember who posed the question: at what point does protest become hobby? but we protested a lot. It was what we did, like others do their weekly shop or go fishing. We’d protest even when there was nothing to protest. The hard left protested everything. Come to think of it I can’t quite remember what I was in favour of, I just got a warm feeling from it. Does that make it a hobby?
We even protested against people talking. I remember turning up to doorstep Paddy Ashdown as he came to speak at the local university. Approaching him, it was only when I was a few feet away that I realized I had absolutely nothing to say. He knew it, and I knew it. I muttered something, he told me to go away (he laughed and was exceptionally decent) and I was in no position to argue.
Protesting against people talking, or “no-platforming” is pathetically standard these days. Back then it was new, which in hindsight made us Avant-garde, but now it includes such extremists as Germaine Greer, and Peter Tatchell.
But at least Mr. Ashdown provided a valuable lesson (albeit one that took me considerable time to learn). Having a point, getting to it, and understanding that some points need longer to explain that a mere sound bite or slogan.
Which brings me back to the left and the Labour Party, and their demonstration (sorry, “celebration”), and my issue with the poster (tweeted by Labour) they’re using to promote it.
I perhaps shouldn’t have bothered getting into a lengthy Twitter conversation with a local academic who said he couldn’t see any wrong with it. And you’re free to agree that there’s noting in it to imply those who voted to leave the EU were somehow racist. But you know how Twitter is. Actually I know how Twitter is too. I should have known better.
But my view, which the Twitter debate helped me sort in my head, was that it implied that leave voters were just that. A “Unite for Europe” badge, alongside an anti-Trump logo (lazy, and intended to be provocative), was among the three causes that, if you took any sort of contrary view, for any reason, would, by their logic, make you a racist. This was about “3 issues, one voice” after all.
The reality though is more nuanced: you can have concerns about immigration, be pro-Trump, and against the EU, and still march against racism.
Why bother with all this? Only because words are important, and when the word racism is used so casually, as if a possession belonging only to the ideology of the left, and is spent on a whim, it becomes an indiscriminate weapon. No, voting Trump does not automatically make you a racist, nor does voting to leave the EU. No “solidary against racism” march, for all it’s good intentions, makes that true.
The academic on Twitter took on the task of explaining things to me, pointing out there was no suggestion of racism, and that I was over reacting. And besides, what was I doing for the good people of Seasalter, which people say a lot on Twitter when they need to change the subject.
He said I was glib, but I meant it when I said…
It’s too easy to say Leave voters are racist, and too easy to assume the world is ending because of it.
I thought the poster was insidious in what it implied. The three issues are immigration, Trump and the EU. I think it’s quite clear who they think the right-thinking good guys are.
It might suit some to suggest that Leave voters are racist, or that all Trump supporters are too. But it’s a false friend if you’re looking for an explanation as to why so many people would disagree with you.
Of course racism should be challenged. But when you march against it, under a banner of anti-Trump and pro-EU, you make a big assumption about what your opposition thinks.
Instead there are the same old blanket assumptions, which don’t invite discussion, they just make those involved feel good, albeit after a few hellos and a bit of shouting. Very much just like the old days – a hobby but nothing more.