Behold My Virtue (2)
December 08, 2008
The Guardian’s Leo Hickman shares his wisdom on today’s security breach at Stansted Airport, courtesy of activists from the environmentalist group, Plane Stupid:
When I first heard about protesters breaching the perimeter fence at Stansted airport on the radio this morning, my first reaction, given Plane Stupid’s previous actions, was to wonder why the campaign group hadn’t done something on this scale earlier in the year.
My first reaction was to wonder whether those inconvenienced by this self-aggrandising display would be able to demand compensation from the airport’s security provider. Using a snowplough to shift protestors is faintly amusing, I grant you, but in an age of terrorist attacks on airports, five hours is a long time to wait and firearms might have expedited matters. A second reaction came to mind after seeing this on the Plane Stupid website: “Plane Stupid welcomes actions in its name, provided they are non-violent and accountable.” Accountable, eh? Presumably, then, the fifty or so middle-class hippies and student eco-poseurs would have no objection in principle to facing whatever legal action might be taken against them individually by the airlines, by the airport and by each and every one of the inconvenienced travellers. And, presumably, the protestors will soon be offering to personally reimburse the thousands of people affected by their actions. Even, one hopes, to the point of destitution.
Mr Hickman continues:
The protest has caused, on average, 90 minutes’ worth of delays at the airport. In other words, not too dissimilar to any normal day at a British airport.
Actually, the effects of the protest, which began at 3:15am, are still being felt as I type, with stranded passengers being interviewed live on television some eleven hours later. Some 56 flights have so far been cancelled, affecting thousands of passengers, and disruption is expected to continue for up to three days. Mr Hickman doesn’t seem inclined to linger on the possibility that quite a few of those passengers may have been travelling on matters of urgency and personal or financial import – weddings, funerals, job interviews, business meetings, etc – and that their needless delay may have serious consequences. Instead, Mr Hickman’s attention is on much loftier matters:
Non-violent direct action rubs against the grain of popular opinion in order to get itself noticed amid a sea of self-interest, apathy and day-to-day distractions.
Ah, the protestors wish to be noticed. Sorry, they wish their cause to be noticed.
It is born out of desperation and frustration that the normal democratic processes have failed, are flawed, or are corrupted by vested interests, despite clear evidence that the current path is dangerous or unjust.
It’s odd how some are so keen to dismiss the “normal democratic processes” in favour of undemocratic, criminal - and much more exciting - avenues. Specifically, avenues unburdened by details like persuasion, verification and reasoned argument, and which instead hold passengers to ransom with a display of theatrical onanism. One wonders if Mr Hickman would be similarly well-disposed to other fringe groups, perhaps groups antithetical to his worldview, which nonetheless deem their cause of such importance that discussion and legality are readily dispensed with.
How many people now see Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and Emmeline Pankhurst as criminals rather than heroes, despite the fact they all broke the laws of their day to protest for what we now see as worthy causes?
At this point, comment is perhaps unnecessary.