Nonsense du Jour: I have no problem with… “principled thought-through political ‘violence’..” @PennyRed !

Like many, I am delighted that I live in a country which permits freedom of speech, protest and dissent. I don’t, like most, care for the mindless violence (or, indeed, any form of violence on the part of protestors or the state) as a means of persuasion to a view.

Today I had the misfortune to read on my twitter timeline some very curious views by @PennyRed – Laurie Penny – who writes for The New Statesman, a magazine I enjoy reading.

The tweets I read – most recent at top – from @PennyRed are here…

I was surprised to read the third tweet above on my timeline and sent a tweet addressed to @PennyRed (She does not follow me – but she would have seen my tweet in her *mentions*?)  Although, to be scrupulously fair…many celebrity tweeters don’t respond to questions put to them and only read their *mentions* for self aggrandisement and  twitteronanism (to see how well they are doing on twitter.)

I did think, however, that  a serious statement by Laurie Penny  and my not unreasonable question merited a reply. I didn’t get one. By the way… the ‘thought through political ‘violence’ was probably in relation to another deleted tweet from Laurie Penny about how the suffragettes used ‘violence’ to achieve their aims.   I can’t say… I have no idea what she meant by principled thought through political ‘violence’...which is why I asked her to answer what I  thought was a perfectly reasonable question.  As it happens, I am fairly sure she saw my series of tweets ( honest and reasonable belief!)…given her open replies on twitter – some of which have been deleted!.

This was my question:

Then this nonsense turned up on twitter….. (I replied):

And then this……

We are living in very difficult times.  A lot of people will lose their livelihoods. A lot of people will suffer.  I am not rehearsing here the faults of our politicians – and they are legion on this issue.  A lot of people protested peacefully on Saturday.  The so called ‘ordinary people’…whatever that means in SKYBBC speak.  They did not trash Trafalgar Square.  They did not occupy Fortnum & Mason and smear the front of the building with absurd slogans.  Many took their children with them. They wanted to protest peacefully.  Instead of being able to listen to reasoned protest by listening to radio or watching TV reports from the main peaceful protest, we were treated to endless coverage of mindless buffoons trashing parts of London.  The BBC and Sky really did not need to overdo that?

@PennyRed – Writes for a respected magazine – The New Statesman.  She  describes herself as a journalist. Objectivity and fairness are what we reasonably expect from journalists – a bit of bias and perspective is acceptable.  We understand this.  I do not expect to read nonsense about *Violence* on twitter from a ‘respected journalist’.  There are plenty of people on twitter talking wonderful bollocks if I want to read what they say.  The difference with @PennyRed?  She gets onto national TV.  She gets to write on a  leading political journal.

It is simply not good enough for @PennyRed to respond to many who were being criticial of her now deleted tweets (above) on twitter by saying that she was ‘confusing people’ and will get back to the issue when she has had more sleep.  I write in terse terms because I happen to believe that peaceful protest is a right and that violent protest is a crime.  I take that view because I want to live in a civilised country where reasoned debate is more powerful than hooded thugs and buffoons (some, it would appear.. middle class buffoons on a Gap Yah!)  trashing other people’s property as a means of ‘persuasion’.   The political process in our country may not be without faults.  But it is all we have for the moment….and the Rule of Law is even more important.  The violence on Saturday broke the ‘Rules of Law’.  Violence is against the law…and it should be… in all its forms… including ‘smashing a window’.

I leave readers with three tweets…to lighten the mood….

I hope that @PennyRed has a good sleep…  but… to be fair…she did have a chance to do this tweet which I have just seen on her timeline….

Hopefully…those who ‘protest’ in future… will stop flinging shit about on our buildings, monuments and streets.  That ain’t the way to protest in a mature democracy?


Oh… and I have always voted Labour…. so I may be a leftie…. although one can’t be sure about that with the Labour Party in recent years 🙂



Happy to give a link to this article by @PennyRed / Laurie Penny in the New Statesman….


What really happened in Trafalgar Square

52 thoughts on “Nonsense du Jour: I have no problem with… “principled thought-through political ‘violence’..” @PennyRed !

  1. Great blog there Charon. Whilst Penny is perfectly entitled to her views, to join a protest as a fully involved member of it and start tweeting that she’s the only ‘journalist’ there is disingenuous in the extremely.

    Some modicum of objectivity is surely required to take that title and the moment Penny started tweeting for others to join that surely went by the wayside.

    Finally how could violence against property not count, she seems very nicely to neglect the effect such behaviour has on the occupants of these buildings and passers by who have nothing to do with the protest, causing fear in such people surely counts?

  2. Brill work here. I personally find myself liking Laurie Penny a bit less every time I read anything by her. While I do agree with her often on a fundamental level as a fellow staunch lefty, she often come off as smug, reactionary and ultimately not really that good of a writer — I often find myself tuning out half-way through her articles. She’s basically the embodiment of all the bad sides of left-wing Journalism.

  3. Sometimes there’s a fine line between journalism and propaganda. For someone who works for a respected magazine she seems far too keen to cross it.

    What are the New Statesman doing employing her? They can of course report what they want how they want, but if they are just going to be a mouth piece for the loony left then they will lose a great deal of credibility.

  4. OK, Paula, I’ve read it. And..?

    By her own admission, she disputes the stated reason for the police action in Trafalgar Square (attempted damage to the clock) and claims instead that it all kicked off when the yoof attempted to prevent a lawful arrest, as if that were somehow better.

    One can only conclude that the only reason Penny ever opens her mouth is to push her foot even more firmly into it. Or, indeed, to accommodate the other foot…

  5. “The half a million mothers, trades unionists, benefit claimants, office workers and children who will march this Saturday will not be doing so to make trouble for fun and profit.”

    That was Laurie Penny, writing in The Independent, last Thursday. It’s online at

    I agree with that quote, and most of the article it comes from. Saturday’s March was an enormous, peaceful protest by people who wanted to see an alternative to the cuts, in the midst of which a small group staged their own alternative to the alternative … which seemed to involve violence.

    It isn’t easy to establish who was responsible for the violence. The TUC and Labour have condemned it. UK Uncut have said it was nothing to do with them, but the criminal damage seems to have been done at sites nominated on UK Uncut’s website, and their protest at Fortnum and Mason seems to have been the only one of their occupations that didn’t turn violent. I’ve read blogs and tweets from people who were apparently in favour of the violence. I’ve also read people who believe that ‘anarchists’ and ‘violence’ were invented by the ‘media’

    On Saturday night I came home from the pub to find several people tweeting from Trafalgar Square; Laurie Penny was among them, and her tweets then seemed a mixture of compassion for the wounded, fear, frustration and a wish that the protestors and the police, would behave differently. The things she has written on Sunday and Monday are in a different tone, and I see in some of @PennyRed’s tweets she has used quote marks around the word ‘violence’.

    My sympathies are still with the multitudes who don’t make trouble for fun and profit. I imagine hers are too. I shall keep reading you both.

  6. Deliberately smashing a window is not *property damage* (and the inoffensive connotations of that phrase), it is *criminal damage*, contrary to The Criminal Damage Act 1971.

  7. Gordon…. Indeed….but those tweets were inappropriate…which is why, presumably, she deleted them when she saw the stream of criticism….. on her timeline. I was far from alone in objecting to the crassness.

    I wasn’t that convinced by her suffragette metaphor……. I don’t actually think that anarchists have a point……. do they?

    If they did… they would not be anarchists?

    Or am I mistaking anarchists for nihilists? 😉

  8. Does this only apply to principled left-wing violence? Presumably if the EDL/BNP or Countryside Alliance went on a march and some smashed windows, this would be unacceptable?

  9. Well done. All of it.

    I of course live in a country where even limousine liberals get a secret thrill from violence–or at least breaking stuff to make a point. Throw boxes of tea into harbor. Tar/feather tax collectors. Stuff like that. DNA, I guess. We’re from Mars not Venus. Always amazed that my Brit friends–especially women–think I might secretly be a dangerous Neanderthal underneath. Some of us are just kidding, mainly.

    Anyway, years ago I did have for a course a respected and somewhat famous older liberal law prof–with perfect law academia credentials–who (if at least out of the classroom) talked quite openly in support of the legitimacy of assassination in the politics of modern democracies. I.e., killing leaders to effect power shifts. U.S. included. Which still shocks me.

    Only in America, my friend. And only in academia.

  10. I understand that there are as many versions of the truth as there are people telling it.

    However I’m concerned that Ms Penny’s tweets of that day, and her subsequent NS article, read in conjunction with the media coverage of the violent protests (anyone watching the damage being caused to the ATMs and bank windows and missiles being thrown at lines of police could not dispute the violence of those acts) would mislead those who were unable to attend the march for the alternative as to the nature of the day and the will (and experience) of the vast majority of the attendees for peaceful protest.

    Her tweets (I read them when I got home) seemed at first gung ho at best but became increasingly dramatic, then panic stricken and hysterical – although if she was as scared as she claims she could have left – the police were apparently letting people leave Trafalgar Square in small groups. I also find inconsistancy in her accounts – as I’ve read that other peaceful prtestors in F and M were arrested as they left.

    Tweets though by their limited nature are easily misinterpreted. I would have hoped that rather than removing them when challenged she would be more willing to explain what she meant/defend her position – we don’t have to agree but surely dialogue on twitter should be open to debate?

    It is also disappointingly unclear from what perspective she is writing – as she appears to wear different hats – sometimes more than one at the same time – and she certainly does not produce not my preferred style of journalism which is a lot more objective, thoughtful and balanced.

  11. You liberals get your bollocks so tightly wound over the slightest thing, don’t you? I mean, I know you adopt a wiser-than-thou sneer when you’re having your hissy fits, but you’re not really fooling anyone.

  12. I’m not sure I’d call our democracy ‘mature’, maybe not in terms of where it’s at after centuries of evolution, but certainly not in terms of the nature in which it’s conducted (shouting and balling of PMQs springs to mind). In a democracy where many people feel completely disenfranchised and ignored, how are they to protest? I personally wouldn’t go around smashing windows if the support for such actions among the rest of society is marginal or its efficacy worthless, but I recognise that for some people it’s a spontaneous venting of their anger and frustration, while for others it may be part of a wider ideology which decries private property.

    Furthermore, I struggle to see how smashing windows or smearing paint can be construed as being violent. In my mind violence is behaviour directed at a person, against their body. This was behaviour directed at property, a symbolic act of dissent and resistance, an expression of anger at the way things are, inflicted upon those buildings or monuments which represent the ‘system’. It may intimidate people, granted, but from many of the circles I’ve mixed in who support such behaviour, they wouldn’t ever cross the line into actually attacking people. (Obviously, I can’t speak for all here).

    If we were discussing full blown riots with police and other people subject to violence I’d understand the concern, but all the while the smashing and splashing is happening people seem to ignore the context in which this ‘violence’ is situated – the dismantling of the welfare state and its grossly regressive impact on society. Is it therefore not unthinkable that people will resort to such measures out of desperation, rather than simply partake in a glib pageant? They will likely be dealt with by the law, and many people who break the law in the name of protest are aware of that, but I personally don’t understand some of the moral condemnation.

    For what it’s worth, I actually feel uncomfortable reading much of Laurie’s writing myself. Often I find it overly romantic and exaggerated but I feel this ‘violence’ issue is an important one, particularly when the condemnation of its participants is used to divide opposition to the cuts and vilify people who dare do something different to behaving within the polite boundaries and Rule of Law set by the authorities.

  13. One has to give Laurie her due; she writes very well. Unfortunately, what she writes is generally that of the a political activist, and not a journalist. Of course no journalist can be wholly dispassionate or objective (whatever those in the BBC might pretend), but it’s still important that even those with strong convictions are able to distance themselves a little. There’s the importance of analysis, looking at the context, and trying to understand the practical issues involved. Laurie wrote a column about George Osborne and the cuts which essentially boiled down to the UK’s population being willing masochists to the chancellor’s psychological need to administer fiscal pain. There was not attempt at all to deal with the actual nature of the government’s financial position, understanding of what the options might be or the repercussions of policies. That socio-psychological thread in Laurie’s columns is the dominant theme – in that statistics or anecdotes are used, they are marshalled for effect.

    The comparison with the Suffragettes or the 1960’s civil rights movement, or demonstrators in the Middle East are ridiculous. These were, or are, groups without the the basic rights of a democracy, of free expression, or to freely associate. Those who would pursue physically coercive means of achieving their aims seem more interested in self-indulgent posturing than trying to find workable solutions to the problems that beset us.

    With #ukuncut, then there is no coherent understanding of the economic situation, but a chasing of ogres. Now I’ve no doubt that there are those whose greed and short-sightedness have contributed to the mess we’ve found ourselves in, but a more objective analysis of what happened in the decade before the financial crash reveals that both state and private indebtedness were allowed to grow enormously (even if much of the former was masked through financial instruments like PFI). Keeping interest rates low to foster asset price growth and increase debt whilst using cheap commodities and low Chinese labour rates to hide UK structural inflation was always going to end in tears at some point. It suited the finance industry as they could appear to grow fat on it (as did government coffers), but it was built on sand. Many Western governments were complicit in this as it gave the illusion of prosperity, but we now see the aftermath. But even if the #ukuncut group did get there way and the gaping £140bn hole in the state’s finances was filled by somehow closing all the avoidance schemes, then one wonders what damage would be done. It would, for instance, have a huge impact on every pension fund in the country as share values and dividends were hit. The reduced pensions and savings would reduce tax from that source. It would be an economic catastrophe. It would simply be self-defeating.

    I remember what divisive class politics did to this country’s economy and industry throughput the 1970s. Whilst Germany and Japan got on with building a social consensus, we embroiled ourselves in a decade of industrial strife and destructiveness. Whilst those countries built, we seemed to go enter a period of recrimination and distrust which left us bereft of many of the industrial strengths that were still evident in the 1960s. Frankly, I do not want to see any return to the 1970s and there is a huge recovery job to be done. It’s clear this is more like a recovery from the Great Depression than of the early 1990s recession. It is, I believe, going to take something approaching a generation to achieve.

    On final note is that Laurie’s is style reminds me greatly of Julie Burchill, in that there’s an unapologetic single-minded certainty to which one might add an enormous sense of grievance. So I was mildly amused to see Laurie (who was surely right in this case) taking Julie Burchill to task over the treatment of Palestinians. It was ever thus with activists, that which separates them is often far more important than the far larger common ground they might have.

  14. Not going to comment on the content of her tweets or posts as I’m not that interested but she did apologise on Twitter for confusing people with those tweets, say she’d deleted them and promise to explain more when she’d had more sleep. I’d give her a chance to explain herself better – she has been protesting pretty non-stop for the past few days. I’d be somewhat incoherent in that state.

  15. Finnegan – HaHa!.. I have no idea what you are talking about…..

    I don’t want to live in a country where violence is seen as a means of persuasion. is that an unreasonable stance for any sane, reasonable, person to take?

    And …. be sure… I am no liberal.

    Bureauista – understand. She has apologised on her timeline.

    I am also more than happy to link to her article on What she says really happened at Trafalgar square.. as I have done in the main body of the post.

  16. Ali – All forms of violence are unacceptable. The buffoons of The Bullingdon Club and their antics are also offensive – even though they pay for the damage. the sentiment is… “we can do what we like… here is some money…. sort it!” That, really is offensive.

  17. I have read Penny Red’s piece in the New Statesman. I thought it was objective. In that piece she condemns the hooliganism that took place on 26 March. In any case, I don’t see what is wrong with having a viewpoint, even for a journalist, so long as the facts are not misreported, or omitted. I thought her report was reasonably well balanced even though it departed from mainstream reporting. It was useful to get an alternative viewpoint of the events. I am old and ugly enough to make up my mind about the March 26 events.

    With respect to the term “violence” I am inclined to the view that it refers to force used against the person. However, I accept we don’t have a word for force used against property and so this may create difficulties. The word also creates confusion and ambiguity and I suspect it is misued for this purpose. Smashing a window sounds much worse when it is described as violence. Someone’s agenda may be served by using the word in this way.

    That is all

  18. Thanks for including my words of wisdom. Excellent post. She’s never responded to any of my questions before, by the way.

    I got called a loser on Twitter on Saturday for picking her up on some of her hyperbole and does have an army of acolytes, which means she has even more responsibility to be objective, and not be seen to condone breaking the law.

    The person did apologise and admitted to being maternal about @pennyred though I think she can more than look after herself – after all she gets attacked by the police on average every 4 minutes on a normal day.

    Seriously, she is clearly a talented journalist but she will lose credibility if she lets drama take over her writing, and then when she does have something serious to report there is a risk that people will simply not believe her.

    It is all very well being the cause celebre of the anti-establishment movement but she risks becoming held up as its joke.

  19. What I find increasingly disturbing, and a little confusing, is the justification of “violence” in order to defend a stand about cuts, like a stand about cuts is some sort of noble protest akin to the anti-apartheid movement or as cited here, the suffragette movement.

    Let us be clear about two things:

    1. Violence, whether directed at person or property, is still violence and therefore as Mr. Charon says illegal and unjustifiable. This holds true of much more worthwhile causes than stopping the cuts.

    2. While I am not going to indulge in a rehearsal of the economic arguments about the cuts, I am no economist for one thing, I think we should just be clear about what the protests are about. At their heart, when all the politics and the spin are removed, they are a fight about who gets what share of our G8, wealthy nation’s resources. It is, perhaps, the ultimate expression of capitalism; civil disobedience about money and how we distribute the vast sums this country has.

    If you look at it from this perspective, when most of the world’s population does not know where its next dollar is coming from, it all, violence or not seems a bit spoilt and childish does it not?

  20. So, you got pissed off over a semantic argument about the word ‘violence’? It is VERY clear that Ms Laurie was trying to make the point that there’s a big difference between violence towards people and property damage. You’re upset that she didn’t reply to you personally? Just like you or I, she is under no obligation to respond to everyone who tweets her. She does not ‘owe’ you a personal reply and your feeling of entitlement here is deeply, deeply offensive.

    I was on one of the many huge marches against the Iraq war and it made no difference. I voted LibDem in the last election and have been utterly shafted by them. I have no recourse against the politicians who lied in their manifestos and have absolutely no mandate for their current destruction of our education and welfare systems. I have been left fearful of our police* due to their many public unchecked abuses (of others) in the last few years and the last few months in particular.

    Voting and peaceful protest clearly make no difference; the people in charge do not listen to the little folk. Democracy is dead in this country. Just because we get to elect the party that ignores us and runs roughshod over our wishes, does not make it any less true. The battles of people in the Middle East right now do not make it any less true, it’s just safer on the whole for us to dissent.

    What options are left to us? I’m genuinely interested in your solution here. I don’t consider that we *are* living in a civilised country as it is and that the vast, vast majority of the violence is coming from our government. I’m only going bother voting at all in May because I have the option of voting SNP as a protest. I certainly won’t be voting my Lib Dem MP back to Westminster in 4 years time.

    *For the record, I have never been involved in any violence OR property damage and my personal dealings with the police (limited to a witness statement and asking for directions) have always been pleasant and professional. By no-one’s standards could I ever be considered an anarchist.

  21. Laz – thank you for your response. I could not give a damn whether Pennie Laurie responds to me personally. She posted a rather stupid series of tweets – surprising for a journalist given airtime on national TV and with a platform in a respected political journal.

    I wonder if you would have the courage to say that my sense of outrage is ‘deeply, deeply offensive’ face to face. Somehow, I suspect not. I would hope that you would be amenable to the ‘concept’ of argument and discussion and not feel the need to inject unhelpful invective into the discussion. I am surprised that you are so easily offended 🙂

    I would have thought my comments about twitteronanists would have made the irony clear. Clearly, either you do not ‘do’ irony… or I was not clear enough in making that clear.

    As far as I am concerned – while there is a difference between violence to the person and violence to property – both are against our criminal law. I prefer that we resolve issues in our country within the rule of law – a not unreasonable stance to take?

    Laurie Pennie is going to lose the support of many rational people who are concerned about the cuts and the livelihoods of others with polemic and ranting. That is her right, of course – as it is mine to disregard her rants as of little worth.

    The only solution which I accept – we are not living under a cruel and oppressive dictatorship, whatever the polemicists of the left and far right say – is peaceful reasoned, rational, protest.

  22. I can’t take Ms Penny seriously after her ridiculous BBC interview on Saturday night in which she stated protesters were wearing balaclavas “to keep warm”. Someone must take her seriously however as she is on Newsnight tonight.

  23. I said it earlier on Twitter but it’s worth repeating.

    If you seriously think smased windows and smeared paint are trivial harmless fun, I’ll bet you’ve never been on the receiving end. It is savage and psychologically traumatising. Sure, Fortnums will be able to absorb the losses and install a new window but that’s not the point.

    When masked thugs smash through a window with a chair (or anything else) you have absolutely no way of knowing whether it’s middle class Trots on a jolly or a criminal gang intent on serious harm. You feel an utter sense of invasion and violation of your workplace and life. For some it sets them down the road of serious mental trauma. You have to clean up the mess left by the inconsiderate crowd.

    Someone of Penny’s background ought to remember that the best-known “few smashed windows and a bit of paint” was kristallnacht. I’ve met its survivors and seen first-hand the damage and desecration that “well-thought-out political violence” wreaked. The principles and targets may be different (though I find it interesting that Philip Green is such a personified hate figure), but the action and effect is the same. That same form of political violence is used against synagogues and mosques, and it is chillingly well-thought-out.

    I have seen this sort of “direct action” first hand. I’ve watched it stifle debate and terrorise the vulnerable. Short of immediate personal defence, or as a last resort in policing or war, there is no excuse for violence, political or otherwise.

    I don’t buy the “I lack sleep” excuse. It doesn’t justify what she said.

  24. Charon – I would be more than willing to tell you that your sense of entitlement to a personal reply is ‘deeply, deeply offensive to me’, to your face. Please do not consider that my use of the internet to express the sentiment in any way modifies my feelings on the matter or how I choose to express them. I have long felt that if one cannot imagine saying something to a person’s face then one should not be typing it in a tweet/blog/forum/place where that person may/will see it. (The corollary is that if you cannot imagine repeating it to your granny, word for word, then you should not be saying it to the person at all.)

    Your sense of entitlement seemed very clear to me in your tweets, regardless of your position that you don’t give a damn, because you repeatedly made a point of saying you still hadn’t had a reply. However, that is not my way of trying to say that you are lying now, but rather that it just goes to show how language, especially written as opposed to spoken, can be taken in different ways by different people.

    For example, I find it difficult to believe that we think of the word ‘outrage’ in the same way. I was outraged by what I saw as a series of patronising tweets from you, attacking a young woman over a semantic point. But then that might be because as a woman (esp on the internet) I’m pretty sick and fed up of men patronising me. Not that gender is the only factor – it has been pointed out that ‘Laz’ has done a damn good job of confusing my gender on Twitter, and therefore you have almost certainly defaulted to assuming I’m male, yet still patronised me in your reply. Why is ‘concept’ in inverted commas? I would be no less open to polite argument and discussion with you in person than over the internet. I almost never use invective outside of casual conversation and I apologise for any offence given by my use of the phrase ‘pissed off’. It seemed to me to be an apt description based on the tone of your argument and was not intended any other way.

    I understand irony perfectly well, thank you, but your ‘twitteronanists’ comment seemed less ironic and more patronising, again. You seem to have overlooked the most obvious reason for Ms Penny’s lack of personal response to you – perhaps she never read your tweets? Now THAT’s irony!

    I’m afraid I still do not know what your solution to our national disenfranchisement from the political process is. We voted, but we didn’t get what we wanted or what we were promised. “We are not living under a cruel and oppressive dictatorship” you say. In comparison to many places in the world, that could be seen to be entirely accurate, but I consider it to be a sliding scale. (But I accept YMMV.) The kettling of students and schoolchildren (I mean specifically those not involved in any troubles) on peaceful marches in Nov/Dec was both cruel and oppressive and it was admitted at the time that it was intended to put people off using their democratic right to peaceful protest. It is appalling that a police officer admitted publicly the other day that it was the potential for poor publicity that affected the policing of Saturday’s protest because the heavy-handed tactics of last year would result in unfavourable comparisons with Middle Eastern protest policing.

    These seem like things to get outraged about, not a semantic argument about the meaning of the word ‘violence’ when you know what the other person means.

    As for the criminal damage… Clearly it is not something we wish to see, but in the grand scheme of things I’m having trouble getting het up over a few broken windows after reading about the hoops disabled people are being expected to jump through (poor pun intended), the cuts in respite care for those with disabled children/partners, the cuts in education budgets that resulted in a high school teacher friend having to advise her students to by their own copies of the course text book… The list goes on and on.

    I absolutely abhor the violence toward the police on Saturday, despite their own violent conduct while policing other marches – throwing paint and lightbulbs (ammonia filled or not) is dangerous and those responsible should be ashamed. Hopefully they will be caught and punished.

  25. Charon – interesting, since you were the one who hoped I would be “amenable to the ‘concept’ of argument and discussion”. I did not realise you intended ‘concept’ to be taken literally, rather than as an ‘invitation’ to further argument and discussion.

    I note you have still not addressed the points I made regarding semantic arguments or your lack of effective measures for the public to effect change in widely abhorred public policies. However, I shall not badger you repeatedly and patronisingly in a public forum, nor assume I have a right to a reply from you.

  26. Laz – OK

    1. @PennyRed does not follow me. Ipso facto She would not read my tweets. She would have seen the very many tweets from me and others in response to her tweets. Indeed, this is implicit from her tweet explaining deletion where she justified deletion because her tweets were ‘confusing people’. I was not confused by her tweets. I was astonished. She chose not to respond – which is fine.

    2. I stated clearly and unequivocally that I thought her tweets were astonishing for a respected journalist. They are.

    3. I use parody to make points – rather better, I would have thought, than trashing other people’s property?

    4. There is no distinction in law as to violence to the person or property. They are both proscribed by criminal law. The penalties vary and, I would agree that the penalties for damage to property are perhaps higher, proportionately, than they should be compared to violence to the person. If people wish to change the law, our system allows for this through a long and not always glorious parliamentary process.

    5. Laurie Penny is a public figure. She is also an adult. I do not think that asking for responses is unacceptable on a public forum? I have enjoyed some of her writing. The fact that I disagree on this seems to have irritated you. Be that as it may.

    6. I said that I have nothing to add – simply because I believe in the rule of law and that protest should be peaceful. I make that clear in my blog and in the blog post which you replied to. I would rather spend years protesting peacefully than kicking a door in or someone’s head in. I suspect that this view would be shared by many?

    7. There is a lot of injustice in our world. We can only do what we do to address some of it. We can’t address all of it. I don’t think that violence is the way to address these injustices.

    8. If you knew me or my blog – you would understand my stance. You don’t know me and I suspect you have not read my blog (why should you have done?), so you don’t know my style of addressing matters. If you take time to read my blog and the blogs of other law bloggers it may give you an insight into why we tend to advocate peaceful protest and actions within the rule of law. It does not mean that we do not care. It does not mean that we don’t get angry. It just means that we tend to use legal reasoning rather than violence to persuade.

    I hope Laurie Penny continues to write and campaign.

    There we are…..

  27. Pingback: I have opinions about #26march. Or #march26. Or I don’t. « Cubik's Rube

  28. Laz, what do you mean by “our national disenfranchisement from the political process”? I oppose the cuts, but it seems from the polls that the majority of people disagree with me. We am not disenfranchised – we just need to persuade others. A huge demonstration is one way to do this. Smashing windows is not – it is immoral and counter-productive.

  29. I can’t say i think think much of twitter as it is an invitation to trot out (no pun intended to our left-leaning friends) a short statement using incoherent thoughts. Most twittering is, by its nature, superficial even if it is urgent.

    But I was linked through to PennyRed by someone who I thought had more sense. I wasn’t pleased at what I read from her and immediately stopped following the source, who I must have thought once had something to say. But that’s my problem.

    My problem is also that my hourly-paid wage for teaching kids who don’t wanna learn, innit, is being cut because there is less money coming in to the college that employs me. As I say though that’s my problem; I need to do something else if it worries me that much. It certainly doesn’t worry me enough to break someone’s windows or even try to terrorise them by wearing a balaclava that hides my face.

    Still, if Liebour get back in power no doubt they can instantly undo all the damage done by the nasty Tories… or maybe carry on cutting, but with excuses.

  30. Personally I’ve been reading LP for a couple of years, and I have yet to see much that is even coherent on any subject. But then I’m not a leftie, so perhaps I’m biased.

    I have her down as a teenager in search of a philosophy who hasn’t realised that she’s in her mid 20s and writing in public – a sort of neophyte Don Quixote with a Twitter account.

    I’d love to see the expression when she looks back in about 10 years time.

  31. I have nothing much to add to the discussion – most angles have been covered. Only two minor points:

    – I’ve often observed that some people have a weird public/private persona on Twitter. It’s extremely confusing, because on the other hand, you’re chattering to your friends and mates, on the other hand, the whole world and their dog listens in. So what Laurie Penny may have done in the deleted tweets was to think out loud, in a thought process that her friends would probably have “got”, but that was a step too far for others.

    – Steve Jones said “Whilst Germany and Japan got on with building a social consensus, we embroiled ourselves in a decade of industrial strife and destructiveness. Whilst those countries built, we seemed to go enter a period of recrimination and distrust which left us bereft of many of the industrial strengths that were still evident in the 1960s.”

    As a German who lived there throughout the 80’s and 90’s, with a strong trade union movement rebelling against a Conservative government, I have to say – well, that’s not how I remember it. We’re not quite like the French, but boy do our unions know how to mount a protest. And then some.

    (I’m with you on the violence, by the way. I’m not sure violence would have deterred Blair in 2003 – if anything, it would have been even more of an argument to stand firm.)

  32. What counts in demonstrations is numbers, persistence, repetition and imaginative ways of getting across our protest. Violence, apart from being illegal from whatever quarter it comes (police excepted), is the futile cry of frustration and hatred against a distant and hermetically sealed political class. The police are seen either as their protectors and collaborators, workers in uniform or agents of the state – depending on point of view.

    Having said this the damage to property and persons on the demonstration was minimal. Compared to demonstrations in France and Greece against austerity measures, not to mention the magnificent revolutions convulsing North Africa and the Middle East, ours was as a baby blowing bubbles rather than a fire-breathing monster. Let’s have a sense of proportion and perspective on this and to characterise all those who took direct action (Fortnum and Mason’s) as bent on violence is a lie.

    Ian Townson

  33. ‘My problem is also that my hourly-paid wage for teaching kids who don’t wanna learn, innit, is being cut because there is less money coming in to the college that employs me. As I say though that’s my problem; I need to do something else if it worries me that much.’

    not in my book – it’s a problem for all of us. we are an affluent modern democracy. i consider it a right for anyone living here that they are offered the chance of a decent education. that does not happen without proper funding. there aren’t that many professions whose presence i consider vital to the kind of society i want to live in; teaching is one.

    the alternative is NOT fewer / less-well-funded hospitals, libraries, legal aid etc etc. it IS a realignment of the fundamental view of society that it doesn’t really matter if some people earn way too much and others get screwed.

    simples. what do we believe in? or, at the risk of coming over all billy bragg, which side are you on?

  34. Pingback: Qc

  35. @Maria Wolters

    My comments were largely about the 1970s when UK industrial relations reached their nadir. I prefer to use statistics, evidence and not just impressions. The simplest statistic to use is the number of days lost through industrial action which will, of course, have to be adjusted for the relative workforce sizes. The following is a link showing the number of days lost through industrial action

    In recent times (in the UK) it reached its peak in 1979 with almost 30 million man-days lost. There was also a peak in 1984 which was almost as high coinciding with the miners strike.

    The following link (Table 1, page 25) shows the number of days lost per 1,000 employees through industrial action as being over ten times higher in the UK than Germany throughput the 1970s and 1980s.

    However, it was not just the bald statistics which I refer to, but the industrial cultural of the 1970s and much of the 1980s. Working in industry (as I did for a few years), the poisonous atmosphere of confrontational industrial relations lead to a climate of low standards, low morale, poor quality and industrial failure. That was very much driven by the class warfare politics of the era.


    If there is to be the chance of a decent education, then you are going to have to find a way of funding it. There is actually a very good case to say that we have our current priorities all wrong. To go back to Germany again, they have a far lower proportion of 20 year-olds in full-time tertiary education than does the UK – the same is true for Switzerland as well. Yet Germany has possibly the best educated and trained workforce of any major European country, and it certainly has the most successful industry despite having absorbed the economic wasteland of East Germany. We appear to have gone for quantity over quality with a huge surplus of graduates faced with either no job, or one that will never get near their aspirations.

    In the UK we have been going backwards on educational standards (as measured by the OECD), and that has been happening in the schools. So I would agree we need to give children in the country a decent education, and we are failing. But the failing is of the system, the aspiration and the standards and it is in school education. When I read example GCSE papers in physics (which is what I graduated in) I could weep at the superficial nature of what is tested.

    I should add that I’m no natural Conservative. The nearest I got to Eton was being raised four miles away on a council estate in Slough. But what I detest above all is the destructive, confrontational aspects of so much of British public life.

  36. If the media coverage had been proportionate to the basic numbers of people involved a ten-minute TV news report would have had *1.2 seconds* of property damage, and 9-mins-57.8-seconds of discussion about the unfair impact of the cuts.

  37. @Steve Jones – thanks for digging out those numbers – much appreciated. My own recollection may be skewed by having been bombarded with statistics that compared Germany with other, yet more well-behaved nations 😉

    Also, thank you for bringing up the OECD data. Those educational comparisons are something Germany has been taking extremely seriously, but seems to have caused only ripples in the UK.

    /end of sideline

  38. I find myself agreeing with Laz on the definition agument

    Your point no.4, (there is no legal distinction between damage to people or property)
    I don’t think legal status should be the basis of what we call violent in conversation/debate – a war or a police horse charge may be legal but they are definitely violent. I think many people would consider a brick smashing a window and a baton breaking an arm to be very different, so if the same word is used for either then I think its quite right to disagree. Whether either are acceptable is an entirely different matter.

    Theres some hypocrisy from the likes of Ed Miliband, to glorify the suffragettes but condemn window smashing, when they did that a lot. When does it become acceptable? When disenfranchised? In which case surely school students affected by EMA cuts, or university students who voted LibDem may smash windows. Or perhaps its only when enough decades have passed and the political differences resolved that we can all agree they did nothing wrong.

    As for objectivity, LP blurs the line between journalist and activist. As jamiepotter says, romantic and exaggerated, but I think its only a problem if people aren’t aware of this.

  39. You’re a leftie? I don’t see it.

    And when peaceful protest no longer works, what then? We see ‘violent’ uprisings in the middle east.

    Should their illegality be condemned before their throwing off the yoke of exploitation be lauded?

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