The Million Mask march in London shows the activist, anti-austerity Left in all their incoherent, intellectually contradictory glory. But if these modern-day pseudo-anarchists want to put on silly costumes and whine for more Big Government once a year, nobody should stand in their way
Ever wanted to watch under-occupied and over-privileged young people stick it to the Man, railing against austerity while calling for anarchy, ranting about evil government while simultaneously demanding lots more of it – all while unironically dressed in a costume popularised by a big Hollywood movie?
Ever wanted to watch pumped-up social justice warriors demonstrate their enlightened, compassionate credentials by tearing around central London setting off fireworks at police horses and smashing up cars and property without a thought for the consequences of their actions?
Then November 5th is your lucky day, last year, this year and apparently every year for the foreseeable future. Forget Guy Fawkes and bonfires, the fifth of November is now all about the annual worldwide Million Mask march organised by that self-appointed moral minority, Anonymous.
The Guardian’s coverage of the directionless protest that was the London march includes some amusing vignettes from the mouths of the protesters themselves:
It is increasingly fashionable among self-identified progressives and left-wingers, particularly within academic environments, to promote the idea of “safe spaces” – places where the normal right to free speech is heavily curtailed in order to protect designated minorities and victim groups from encountering words and ideas that might cause them mental discomfort.
This blog finds the idea of such “safe spaces” utterly repellent, and a prime symptom of the infantilisation of many students in Britain and America – a generation of cosseted idealists who interpret any political disagreement as a sinister attempt to “invalidate their experiences”, who are unable to tolerate even polite dissent and who are lightning-quick to call for authority figures to come crashing down upon the heads of those who question their “dearly and closely held beliefs”.
But put aside the childishness of the “safe space” and the potentially chilling implication of such policies on the fundamental right to freedom of expression. Put aside the fact that protecting certain ideas from scrutiny, however noble they may be, leads to intellectual atrophy and erodes our democracy in just the same way it undermines the core purpose of a university.
What is really shocking is the double-standard at play. Those designated victim groups and their advocates on the left are free to say and do anything they please, empowered and protected by the perceived righteousness of their cause, while those outside this bien pensant collective have no right to hold their own opinions, let alone to express them or to campaign for them politically.
It is this double-standard which allows a mob of young anti-UKIP protesters to invade a London pub far from the campaign trail where UKIP leader Nigel Farage was quietly enjoying lunch with his family, to harass and intimidate Farage’s family to the extent that his young children fled and were separated from their parents, and to jump on the bonnet of his car as he attempted to drive away – and still come away feeling as though it were they, the mob, who had taken a stand for freedom, tolerance and decency.
From the Telegraph’s report:
In the West, knowledge of the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre in Beijing is so commonplace that 25 years later, even an allusion in Lego is instantly recognisable, conjuring memories of the time, the place, the victims and the perpetrators.
In ‘modern’ China, it could not be more different.
So successful have the Chinese censors and curators of false history been that reportedly only 15 out of 100 university students in Beijing have any knowledge of the event or recognise the iconic “tank man” image from that bloody day. The fact that the day is referred to and known in China as “Internet maintenance day” says everything that one needs to know about how this feat has been accomplished.
In Britain, America and elsewhere in the West there are certainly momentous issues to be debated, elections to be fought and leaders to be held to account. This is important work. But on the twenty-fifth anniversary of a day when hundreds of people were brazenly murdered by their government in the open air for the crime of engaging in political speech, let us be thankful for the relative safety in which our debates take place, and ever vigilant that we do not squander, barter away or tolerate the curtailment of our precious right to free speech.
Andrew Sullivan has curated a good selection of commentary and reflections on the Tiananmen Square protests anniversary here.
Image: Tiananmen Square, Mike Stimpson