The political equivalent of rioters: verbal violence and anger in 2016

Ever since the referendum result for “Leave”, I have been spewing far more insults, obscenities and expletives at the television whenever the news comes on. This is not a spurious correlation. There has been a second increase since the Labour Coup plotters swung into action and events have progressed. Again, there is a definite causal relationship here!

My point is, I’m angry.

I am not the only one.

Feelings are running high: racists are targeting people who look different for them. And Labour Party members and supporters are angry that the PLP are trying to take their party away from them again.

The past 12 months or so have seen an incredible uprising of passion about political issues: and these have been set in motion by Corbyn’s campaign for Labour leadership, and by the referendum on whether to remain in the European Union.

It’s good to be passionate, but passion can so easily become anger or hatred. Hatred of foreigners, with racist hate crimes increasing by huge amounts, and anger at people perceived to be “the enemy within” on both sides of the Labour Party issue.

There are a lot of people who love the Labour Party who felt that in the Blair years the Party had turned its back on them, and when Corbyn’s campaign last summer took off they were swept up in a wave of love because it felt like the Party had come back to us. We feel passionate again about it, and there is a man who stands for us, and for our beliefs, and for our principles. A man worth going to great lengths to protect and to support.

Passion can so easily turn to anger. The feeling is that the Blairist plotters (who intended this showdown all along, and said so openly back in September last year, and ever since) and those who have followed them since they launched their coup attempt in the wake of the Brexit result, have betrayed us, and are trying to take away from us what we so recently regained. There is outrage and there is righteous anger! What they are doing is just plain wrong!

It is easy to start a revolution if you have a groundswell of emotion. You give people a focus for it, and belief that they can change something for the better, they will do anything for your cause.

It is a lot harder to stop them, when that turns to anger and the vision of a better world is overtaken by the anger at those who stand in the way.

Jeremy Corbyn has always talked of a kinder, gentler politics. He has been true to that vision and that ideal. He is a towering example of integrity and of how to be angry peacefully. But there are too few like him, and enough angry people who believe in him but who believe that the rightness of their cause makes any action, however violent, justifiable in pursuing it and in overcoming obstacles (including human ones).

People are angry. People are scared. People are turning to hate and violence. While I am very prepared to believe that the plotters would employ agents provocateurs to send hate to their own side while masquerading as Corbyn supporters, I am also forced to conclude that some people angry about the PLP’s treatment of Corbyn believe that this is justified behaviour.

Indeed, it seems as though they believe that any and all measures in pursuit of the goal of preserving and protecting Mr Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party are justified.

This evening, Channel 4 News interviewed a Corbyn-supporting MP, and a National Executive Committee member, side by side. The NEC member described the weight of angry, threatening, abusive communications she’d received. We don’t like that they held a secret ballot but it was at least apparent why they might have felt scared enough to do so.

This woman was not the enemy. She wasn’t a plotter, she wasn’t Angela Eagle running against our man. Even if she had have been, this type of tactic is not okay. It’s not okay turned against the good guys, and it’s not okay turned against the “bad guys”, and it’s certainly not okay turned against someone whose only role is to be part of the body deciding on what the rules are. We hads that debate, exchanged out views on the right or wrong of it, and it would be foolish to think that wasn’t taken into account.

Some people, even a lot of people, must have felt that since she was part of this decision making process, any and all pressure must be legitimate to get the “right” decision. Because in their minds, righteous anger means that the harm you do is justified.

They are wrong. They are WRONG.

But they are also motivated by anger and emotion, not by reason or considered tactics. They are the political equivalent of rioters whose violence inevitably becomes generalised and no longer focussed on the object of their anger but against anything and anyone within reach that seems to bear their characteristics.

It is foolish to dismiss rioters as mere thugs and hooligans; even while we deplore the damage they do, we have to look at the sparks, the legitmate grievances that provoke such outbursts of destructive emotion. Doing so doesn’t legitimise their behaviour, it seeks to understand and avoid situations that provoke it.

There is organised political violence here (figuratively, not physically) but it is on the side of the Blairite faction. They knew what was coming and planned it. They planned this moment before Corbyn was even declared the winner last September. They said so publicly! They knew what they were bringing down on the Labour Party and the damage that they would do – if we are to believe them, because they considered Corbyn’s leadership was still more damaging. They unleashed the prospect: “ditch Corbyn or we will split the party” and they knew that was the choice they were presenting us. This was their violent rhetoric and their violent behaviour.

I am sickened by the violence I see on all sides in 2016. I too am angry, I too feel betrayed. I too feel the hurt and the dread that my Party could be stolen from me again. It doesn’t justify betraying our principles.

Violence has begotten violence. And I don’t know how it can be stopped.


About ValeryNorth

I overthink everything.
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