David Thompson


Blog powered by Typepad

« Friday Ephemera | Main | Feesh »

March 29, 2011



No doubt the state’s “henchmen” will be raiding the offices of the Guardian as I type and Polly Toynbee will soon be hauled away, hooded and in chains.

I just need a minute to savour that mental image.

Sam Duncan

“When a state is threatened, it sends its henchmen out to quell it. ... And you – student or teacher, patient or nurse – are that threat.”

So the state is a threat to itself now?

Come to think of it, it probably is. But I'm not sure that's what was meant. I think Leftists genuinely don't see that the oppressive state is them - the teachers, nurses, doctors, council workers, civil servants, and politicians with their generous benefits and pensions - and the taxpayers (that is, the net taxpayers: the people paying through the nose for all this and receiving the bare minumum of “services” in return) are the oppressed.


The readiness to deform language is quite telling, as is the reliance on hyperbole and euphemism. Once again, a Guardian contributor claims to be “oppressed,” though by what she doesn’t say. Laurie Penny wants us to believe that hurling bricks and large metal objects through someone else’s windows (apparently regardless of whether anyone was likely to be inside) is something other than violence. And Leah Borromeo is all in favour of “people who choose to vent their anger in more visceral ways.” Well, one can only hope this doesn’t extend to other areas of life – say, domestic quarrels over washing-up or misbehaving children.


As far as I can tell, such people feel "oppressed" when other people not only don't agree with them, but actually say they don't agree with them.


carbon based lifeform

Laurie Penny: "Deleted last few tweets as they seem to be confusing people."

Yes, that's the problem. Other people are confused.

Horace Dunn

Borromeo says...

"We must remember that because cuts affect everybody, everybody is going to have a different reaction to them. Some may wish to fight back with local campaigns, others may wish to take more direct action."

And some may wish to express support for the cuts (such as they are) on the grounds that it is immoral to stoke up more debt for future generations in order to pay for a vast inefficient public sector today. Funny that Borromeo doesn't include people like me when she talks about us *all* being in it together. Proof, if any were needed, that the Guardian is really just the in-house journal for the lefty time-servers on the state's payroll. And a strong indication that this Borromeo is a peculiarly spiteful and selfish woman.


And some may wish to express support for the cuts (such as they are) on the grounds that it is immoral to stoke up more debt for future generations in order to pay for a vast inefficient public sector today.

But Horace, we don't count even if we're a majority.

"Guardian/ICM poll finds 57% support for current or deeper cuts, despite a fall in economic confidence. Despite Saturday’s protest march in London, public tolerance of cuts seems to be sustained. Only 35% think the plans go too far – a 10-point drop since ICM asked the question in November. Meanwhile 28% think the government has found the right balance and 29% say the cuts are not severe enough. That amounts to 57% support for current cuts or more."

Horace Dunn


Thanks for that!

It's depressing really, isn't it? There seems no other way of describing it. It's depressing. Consider this, too. Borromeo says:

"When faced with the reality that each and every one of us will live more desperate lives, the smashed windows of a multinational or a hotel that can charge £4,000 a night matters little".

What does she mean "more desperate lives"? This is surely just adolescent whining. And if she wants to speculate about our lives becoming more "desperate" perhaps she'd like to consider what might happen to our society if the state continues to expand without any secure means of paying for it?

Somehow, though, I can't see the Guardianistas exercising their minds in that direction. There's not a great deal of scope for sanctimonious posturing when you're forced to consider practicalities.


I object to what the elected government does, therefore I break things.

I object to other people's right to march and protest (for example the EDL) and am disgusted enough to send a spiteful comment to CiF.

I object to the way other regimes in far flung countries mistreat their population, demean women and prosecute gays and so I might mention it over cheese and wine at the next party.

I object to what the last government did with civil liberties and how they abused the economy... Wait, no, pass on that one. I can't object to absolutely everything, can I?


Dear, dear Laurie Penny is now falling back on the usual female Guardianista trick of claiming that 'she's being bullied on account of she's a girly, see..':



She followed that bit of utter nonsense up by inferring dark police misdeeds over the death of reggae star Smiley Culture:


"Whatever the facts are in Smiley's death, there will be many who suspect that it was not suicide. Even the right-wing Metro newspaper, reporting the case, put the words "stabs himself" in inverted commas, the textual equivalent of raising one eyebrow suspiciously. "

No, sweetie, they do this because, in the case of a suspicious death, the inquest hasn't yet been held.

Blimey! The 'New Statesman' is going to have to do something about her. She's more of a liability than Nir Rosen.



“…perhaps she’d like to consider what might happen to our society if the state continues to expand without any secure means of paying for it?”

I see no evidence that Laurie Penny or Priya Gopal or Leah Borromeo have thought that far. The scale of the problem and its primary causes, which predate the banking crisis, don’t seem to figure in their rhetoric. Perhaps they imagine that the state can simply expand indefinitely, until an electoral majority is either employed by it or dependent on it.

Possibly their thinking is like that of fellow Guardianista Lucy Mangan who reviewed Martin Durkin’s Channel 4 documentary on the deficit. Mangan managed to disapprove and signal her leftwing credentials while failing to address any of the points Durkin made. Points that Mangan admitted she had neither “the time or qualifications” to consider. Despite this handicap, she was convinced that Durkin’s message could be dismissed.


Over on this side of the Pond, the papers are telling anyone who'll listen that it was "anarchists" who were rioting for, um, bigger government?...

Never mind. It seems that in addition to not having any professional ethics, they're a bit dictionary-challenged as well.


The Metro is right wing? Goodness, I thought it was just a free rag given away on public transport to entertain commuters.

But, no doubt a left wing freebie will be along any moment...


It's depressing really, isn't it?

It's like they've just forgotten about the famous Labour note: "I'm afraid there is no money left".


I've asked the question, on several other forums, if these dingbats truly understand the consequences of their ‘might equals right’ philosophy.

No replies, obviously.

If I organise 500,000 people to march in a ‘pro-cuts’ march, does that morally trump your 250,000 ‘anti-cuts’ march?

If I organise 300 violent thugs to smash up the TUC headquarters, and the homes of the yahoos who smashed up the offices of a state-owned bank on Saturday, does that make me morally superior?

I think we should be told.

Horace Dunn


"I see no evidence that Laurie Penny or Priya Gopal or Leah Borromeo have thought that far".

Indeed, but not only have they failed to think that far, but their thinking seems to lack a degree of ...erm ... subtlety. Consider Borromeo's doom-laden remarks about the police - the state's henchmen, right? I wonder what she makes of all those senior state henchmen, Chief Constables and so forth, who seem forever to be droning on about how government cuts will endanger their community outreach programmes. You'll find a few examples of this kind of thing in the pages of the ...erm ... Guardian. So are they government henchmen? Or are they hard-working public-sector employees with families to bring up in desperate times? Or maybe they're just Essex skin-heads who've found their calling. Either way, shouldn't one feel at least slight qualms before firebombing them?


Ah yes, the famous "no money" note. One can't help feeling that the political philosophy of Borromeo and her chums is a kind of Lennonish fantasy - "imagine there's no money..." Man, that would certainly free us of the capitalist yoke.


"But, no doubt a left wing freebie will be along any moment..."

That remark is so deliciously tart that I now feel much less depressed about the whole thing. Thank you.

Andrew Zalotocky

It's depressing really, isn't it?

Maybe not. Look at the Guardian and the New Statesman and you see a state of intellectual and moral collapse. They are no longer capable of presenting a serious argument or even of understanding when seriousness is required. All they can do is radical chic posturing.

Look at the Labour Party and you see a bunch of spivs who don't believe in anything except the pursuit of power. They cannot offer a coherent alternative to this or any other government.

Look at the trade unions and you'll see fat-cats living off the taxpayer. All they have to offer is a cynical defence of greed, privilege and rent-seeking.

The modern left looks very much like a political movement in terminal decline.

Chris S.

"I have no problem with principled, thought-through political ‘violence."

Oh, so you mean, when you've thought about doing violence, plan it, then go through with it. Last I checked pre-meditated ends up with much longer sentances. I think the other term for it was "cold blooded".

Chris S.

Also, one would think that a group of masked individuals running amok in a BANK, might result in a more forceful response by bank security. Or do I just lack the nuance/spidey sense of the security to see the difference between this sort of protest "action" and say the initial stages of a robbery.

Or can I assume that if they had managed to open up one of those ATMs they were having a go at, they'd just leave the dirty capitalist money laying there?

Nate Whilk

One leftist says, 'Smashing windows is property damage. That’s not the same thing as violence.'

Another leftist says, 'To try to make distinctions between a “peaceful” and a “violent” protester is inherently flawed. Dissent is a violent reaction. Saying “no” is resistance… So – many apologies to those who wish to distance themselves from the “violent minority.” But we’re in this together.'

So "dissent" is "violent", but smashing windows isn't? It must be my bourgeois ideas about logic and reason that makes me think there's an inconsistency there.

Horace Dunn

Andrew Z

One might wish that the left, or at least the section of the left under discussion here, was in decline, but I fear not.

The fact is that the current UK government is making very modest cuts to public expenditure. So modest are these cuts that the national debt continues to rise. Yet, when Labour politicians appear on the most powerful media organisation in the English-speaking world, the BBC, they are allowed to state, without challenge, that the coalition government is attacking working people and making swingeing cuts on essential services. Ed Milliband, the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition addressed the march last weekend with tub-thumping rhetoric comparing the marchers to the suffragettes, the American civil rights movement and the anti-Apartheid movement and was not called out for the insufferable fraud that he is.

Meanwhile, let’s not pretend that the likes of Borromeo, with her spiteful and blinkered view of society – as David says “My violence doesn’t count” – are of marginal influence. The Guardian remains the voice of the leftist establishment and Borromeo’s pernicious pro-violence polemic will have been seen and approved by sub-editors and others on the editorial team who chose to let it pass. As Anna pointed out, the people in this country who have accepted that a reduction in the national debt is necessary are in a majority, yet we will continue to be demonised by the media.


@Nate - and yet another leftist claims violence is justified because the cuts are 'socio-economic violence'.

So dissent is violent but good, smashing windows is not violent and ok if the right people are doing it, and only balancing the budget is both violent and bad. Take that, logic!



Hurling objects to break things because one is in a passion and wants one's way is violence. Don't knw where she gets her strange ideas, but they have nothing much to do with the English language.


Oh and it practically goes without saying they'd all consider tea partiers to be extremists.

Wm T Sherman

Where were the fire hoses? Their use is not violence. It's a free government water park.


This incident may amuse.

“It was the first cuts protest I had attended. I was on the regular march [TUC-organised] and then I met three friends. We decided we wanted to join UK Uncut, so we went inside Fortnum & Mason… I did not think I would be arrested at any point, I had not even thought about it… I worry that if I get a criminal record, it could affect my work. I want to keep working in education and you don’t want the kids reading about this sort of thing or their parents – they could make a fuss.”

Who’d have thought that criminal damage and aggravated trespass might have consequences? Note too that the “occupation” resulted in Fortnum & Mason losing £80,000 (excluding building repairs) and several bottles of champagne.

What? Leftwing activists have to drink something.


But people who managed to walk through central London without smashing windows, trashing cash machines or hurling projectiles at the police are, according to Ms Borromeo, no better than those who did.

I think the claim is rather the opposite: those hurled projectiles, attacked bank machines, etc, oar no worse than those who did not - which is intended to undercut any plans to impose a penalty or seek accountability for those charming activities.



“…which is intended to undercut any plans to impose a penalty or seek accountability for those charming activities.”

Well, quite. The subtext seems to be precisely that: “Don’t disapprove. Don’t rat us out. Don’t leave us to face the consequences of what we’ve chosen to do.”

The juvenile denial of consequences has been a remarkably common theme. The Twitter stream of Laurie Penny (“voice for a generation”) is a textbook example. Laurie is very excited by the idea of a “radical youth movement” – a “revolution” - one that “requires direct action” and “upsetting… our parents, our future employers… and quite possibly the police.” She thrills at aggression and intimidation by “activists” – including those who “occupied” a high street Boots store and assaulted a female police officer – yet she howls in protest when such actions are met with arrest or a physical response. Again, her tribe’s violence and coercion is fine, indeed righteous. It’s something to get excited about. But resisting it or punishing it is evidence of “brutality” and a “police state.”


Another example from the Guardian:

“A new kind of protest tactic… has emerged in the last few months: the ‘civic swarm’, which sees large groups of demonstrators peel off from official marching routes and instigate flashmobs at shops such as Vodafone and Topshop, but which is arguably a perfectly justifiable form of protest.”

Because mobs in shops will play out really well. What could possibly go wrong? Note the assumption that one tribe can act with impunity. Don’t they understand that things may rapidly escalate in vehemence? Do they care? Do they believe such tactics will lead to a swell of public sympathy? We saw this “swarm” tactic in action recently in Manchester, where around 150 “activists” broke from the agreed protest route, evaded the police and ran straight into traffic, hurling projectiles at several terrified drivers. Elsewhere, violent incidents were reported as “activists” tried to force their way into a number of high street stores, leading to scuffles with staff.

And this, we’re told, is “a perfectly justifiable form of protest.”


Do they believe such tactics will lead to a swell of public sympathy?

They're in for a big surprise.


"The juvenile denial of consequences has been a remarkably common theme."

David, another one...

"I'm a political prisoner now… Saturday has taught us just how easily questioning the government can land you in a cell."



Listen right...I'm oppressed ok?. Innit.....I don't believe in the capitalist pig state innit....

Hey pal, can you direct me to the dole office?

Tom Foster

"What could possibly go wrong? Note the assumption that one tribe can act with impunity. Don’t they understand that things may rapidly escalate in vehemence? Do they care?"

I think the aim, as far as Laurie Penny is concerned, is indeed escalation and violence. That's because she's not interested in improving what we've got – she wants it all smashed. She's a year zero type of gal. Us, our system, our so-called democracy, the West, capitalism – it's all evil and it's got to go.


I believe I can translate Laurie's philosophy.

"We can do whatever we want because we are right".


The new slogan

"The State is wicked, let's increase its size and reach."


I think the slogans all boil down to

I want I want I want


It’s quite funny reading various “activists” denouncing the “right wing media” and assorted dark forces for noticing the vandalism and “non-violent” violence. In Laurie Penny’s mind, she’s heroically “countering right wing distortions.” Though the term “right wing” seems to cover just about anyone who disagrees with Laurie Penny and her associates. But I fear once again she’s missing the point. Large gatherings of public sector workers and earnest, often rather stupid, TUC blowhards simply aren’t interesting. They offer no obvious practical alternative and their gatherings don’t make for gripping news. But a few hundred pretentious vandals with no discernible self-awareness is at least entertaining, in the loosest sense of the word.


Another Right Winger...



Well since violence is Ok why not a little bitch slapping

Rich Rostrom

ISTR a group called the Countryside Alliance which "publicly declare[d] their dissent to [the Labor government's] laws and ..." Did not "[Blair] send [his] henchmen out to quell it"? And did not Ms. Penny rally to the support of these victims of oppression?

Oh, wait, the CA didn't run about smashing things, and Blair & Company just ignored them. Which shows that it is possible to express dissent in a peaceful and civil manner, and that reasonable governments don't respond to dissent with violence.

I wonder what Ms. Pennny would have said if a band of CA protesters had "swarmed", say, the Tate Modern, with horses and dogs which they encouraged to void everywhere? That would not be violence, just "property damage", right?

Perhaps she would hail it as a brilliant work of performance art?



“I wonder what Ms Pennny would have said if a band of CA protesters had ‘swarmed’, say, the Tate Modern, with horses and dogs which they encouraged to void everywhere? That would not be violence, just ‘property damage’, right?”

I’m reminded of rjmadden’s comment from not too long ago. And when Penny and co refer to “principled” violence, I’m guessing they’re thinking of those non-reciprocal principles. The ones that only give leverage to them. Maybe it’s one of the reasons some on the left disdain bourgeois values, or pretend to. Bourgeois values tend to restrain impulses to vandalise other people’s property. Maybe some view that as a tactical disadvantage.

Tom Foster

Further to my comment above about the destruction of the entire system being the true aim (rather than any concerns about balancing the budget or respecting other people's views), see today's 'interview' with 'black bloc' protesters in the Guardian:

"We are trying to give uncompromising opposition to capitalism an appropriate image on the streets – and not end up in jail. True cowardice would be not fighting an economic system that wants to destroy us."


Capitalism is destroying us by giving us a century of the most gigantic and sustained growth in human prosperity ever...er...


"The state sees anyone who publicly declares their dissent to its laws and policies as one thing – a threat. When a state is threatened, it sends its henchmen out to quell it."

Uh, the protests had nothing to do with dissenting from the state's laws, honey. They were about protesting cuts. Nobody got bothered by the state's henchmen apart from the idiots who rioted.

"The henchmen are the police. And you – student or teacher, patient or nurse – are that threat"

You are aware the 'henchmen' in your fantasy world are facing and complaining about the very same cuts you're protesting about? You really haven't thought this through, have you?

"You can’t balance the violence of the oppressor with the violence of the oppressed"

Just out of interest, how does getting paid to sit on your backside writing inane, poorly thought out neo-Marxist drivel make you oppressed?


Incidentally, Laurie Penny was a guest on the incredibly awful Channel 4 show, Ten O’Clock Live, which for reasons that escape me is still on air.

Skip forward to 9:30.

“This deficit was not caused by too much spending.”


I always rent my Henchmen from Thugs-R-Us, because they supply weapons and uniforms.

Andrew Zalotocky

On the off chance that anyone is still following this thread...

Horace, I agree that these people still have a great deal of power. The point I was trying to make is that their power has already peaked and has no way to go but down. Their credibility is already in rapid decline.

Looking at Britain today I see parallels with the 1970s and the 1950s. In the 1970s there was a growing awareness that the "post-war consensus" on economic issues had failed. The nationalised industries were basket cases, the unions were totally out of control, and more and more people were realising that radical change was needed. There was no consensus on what that change should be but there was an emerging consensus that we couldn't go on like this.

Public opinion changed faster than opinion among the political and media elite, and this is quite normal. Firstly, because ordinary people with no particular interest in politics base their opinions on what they can see around them, what is working and what is not. Political insiders tend to see the world through dense ideological filters so they can't always see what is obvious to everyone else. Even if they can see it they have to tailor what they say in public according to the party line, what the party activists want to hear, and so on. Politicians also tend to be very risk averse when dealing with controversial issues because taking a strong stand always risks alienating more voters than it pleases. So they stick to whatever they think is the conventional wisdom because it's the safest option. Politicians move in a herd to reduce the chances of being picked-off by the circling predators of the media.

So public opinion slowly moves away from the convention wisdom of the politico-media complex until the politicians suddenly realise that they are no longer on safe ground. Then the herd stampedes to the new conventional wisdom, and the media has no option but to follow. The link between public opinion and elite opinion is like a bungie cord that gets stretched and stretched until something releases the tension and it suddenly springs back. There is a brief period of rapid change and then a long period of apparent stability as the tension builds up again.

In the 1970s we were going through that process of change in attitudes to economic policy. Today it is happening with regards to the social aspects of Attlee's New Jerusalem, such as the welfare state, and with the whole idea of technocratic big government. The public is realising that this stuff isn't working and we can't go on like this. I suspect that the same is happening with attitudes to environmentalism.

The parallel with the 1950s is that we then had a moribund establishment that had a stranglehold on our institutions and all positions of influence but which was conspicuously unable to cope with the challenges of the day. The Old School Tie brigade who'd run the Empire were all at sea in a world of superpowers, nuclear weapons and the White Heat of Technology. The world had changed faster than they could adapt to it. So they were displaced, and a new liberal-left establishment emerged that is now equally moribund and equally unable to cope with a world that has changed faster than they could adapt. Like the old establishment in the 1950s, the new establishment is now desperately trying to hold on to its power even as it becomes a total laughing stock. It can no longer offer any credible ideas or workable solutions, so the ambitious young people who will become the establishment of the future will draw their inspiration from other sources.

"The creatures outside looked from Polly Toynbee to Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling, and from Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling to Polly Toynbee, and from Polly Toynbee to Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Horace Dunn

Andrew Z

Thanks for that. Perhaps you’re right. I really don’t know. To me, though, it seems that the kind of sloppy, dishonest leftist thinking is so ingrained that I wonder whether its collapse will come soon enough. Even this morning the BBC was blithely reporting Ed Balls’s blather about a “dangerous cocktail”. No one stopped to unpick this – how is it dangerous? What form does this danger take? And if he’s just talking about a modest fall in living standards then isn’t the use of such language merely scaremongering?

(Besides, aren’t we always being told by the Guardianistas that a fall in living standards would be a good, purifying thing for us all?)

You can bet that if a Tory had used silly language like that he’d be mocked to within an inch of his life. Ed Balls gets a free pass, though. Seems to me that these guys still have a pretty firm hand on things...

But you might be right. I hope so.


I guess for the left - property damage only counts when its being inflicted on Palestinian properties.


I have no problem with principled, thought-through political ‘violence.

Neither do I. Shoot those commies down in the gutters. It is all they deserve.


Have you read the various "manifestos" urging "resistance to oppression" and insisting that "we will not rest until our brothers are free" and all that rot? (All typical Communist BS.)

They drone on and on about oppression, until you finally stop and ask yourself, "Who the heck is oppressed here? This is the West. We can do as we choose within the confines of a very liberal set of laws; we can speak our minds; most people can get jobs that pay enough money to provide food and shelter, plus some frivolous extras. We don't have State Police who will arrest us for BadThink. We don't have to bribe bureaucrats to get passports."

Then they prattle on-and-on about the struggle to achieve FREEDOM. Good Lord, in the history of the world, who has been SO free, for SO long?

Finally you're left with the conclusion that they aren't dealing with Reality in any of its manifestations; they're trying to justify bringing anarchy upon the rest of us because they have got insufficient internal resources of strength, or logic, or --of what?-- to force the chaos of their minds to resolve into some kind of order or comprehensibility.

They see our normal, orderly society as a rebuke to their inner turmoil, and want the rest of the world to devolve to their level so they don't feel like such abysmal losers. (And perhaps they hope that their practice at coping with internal chaos will allow them to come out on top when the whole world is in disarray...)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Amazon Link