Friday Ephemera

My Tribe’s Violence Doesn’t Count, Okay?

Readers may recall Priyamvada Gopal and her efforts to redefine violence so as to include anything to which she and her peers take political exception, thereby elevating actual thuggery to the status of retaliation. For Ms Gopal, setting fire to occupied buildings isn’t “real” violence and is no more objectionable than “hypocritical language.” This bold and convenient philosophy appears to have been embraced by other Guardian contributors - among them, chronic confabulator Laurie Penny, whose recent pronouncements on Twitter included the following (now deleted):

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

Note Ms Penny’s daring use of the inverted comma.

Smashing windows is property damage. That’s not the same thing as violence.

The term criminal damage is harder to diminish and smashing windows with bricks in a non-violent manner is not an easy thing to do on the streets of central London. Needless to say, it takes a fair amount of effort to heave larger, heavier objects through someone else’s windows. Just as it takes a certain disposition not to care particularly about where, or on whom, those objects may land along with shards of flying glass. And perhaps we should assume that Laurie has no objection to her belongings being destroyed by those who disagree with her, provided they feel sufficiently righteous and entitled.

Elsewhere, Leah Borromeo pursues a similar theme in a piece titled Protesters Can’t Disown the ‘Violent Minority’. She tells us, apparently in all seriousness,

There are no “good” protesters and no “bad” protesters. 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.

Yes, I know. Henchmen. All things considered, there’s a distinct whiff of projection. Another contender, I think, for our series of classic sentences.

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

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.

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

Sadly, Ms Borromeo doesn’t pause to explain exactly how she and her peers are being violently oppressed. Perhaps she’s referring to the government’s modest reduction in the growth of public spending. We do, though, get plenty of self-flattering assertion:

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. You may not like having to share a boat, but it’s a lot better than drowning.

Those who attended Saturday’s protest untroubled by violent urges, possibly with children in tow, may take exception to this casual flattening of distinctions. 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.