Episode 113 – Tiernan (@tiernandouieb) looks at Theresa May’s finest 52 minutes of not saying anything, Conference season has started again and Steve Crawshaw (@stevecrawshaw) talks his book Street Spirit and the art of effective protests.
Donate to the Patreon at www.patreon.com/parpolbro
Buy me a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/parpolbro
Watch Tiernan’s comedy specials on Next Up Comedy at: www.nextupcomedy.com
Linear liner notes
Tiernan (@tiernandouieb) looks at Theresa May’s finest 52 minutes of not saying anything, Conference season has started again and Steve Crawshaw (@stevecrawshaw) talks his book Street Spirit and the art of effective protests. PLUS bonus episode with extra chat from the fascinating Steve Crawshaw about his work at Freedom From Torture (@FreefromTorture), the UK’s involvement in torture and rendition after 9/11 and aiding survivors of torture.
Links and sources of info from Steve Crawshaw’s interview(s):
All the usual ParPolBro stuff:
Hello and welcome to the Partly Political Broadcast, the podcast that laughs in the face of politics only for politics to laugh with it, causing me to say no wait, we were definitely laughing at you. This is episode 113, I’m Tiernan Douieb and this week as Prime Minister and a public service warning as to why you shouldn’t eat those packets of silica gel, yes that is what happens, Theresa May asks the EU to treat her with the same respect she’s given them, I look forward to the EU ignoring her solidly for two years, sending only their most stupid officials to meet with her and then blame her for a ton of things they’ve imagined she’s done. It should be only a matter of days before May’s sitting in a room with a pigeon in a suit with an EU badge, trying to work out why it’s got a note on its foot telling her she needs to stop making things difficult by asking to drain the English Channel and make it a massive ball pit, or there’ll be a no deal.
Yes, according to the worst possible punishment in the tree community, the Daily Express, Friday’s speech was Theresa May’s finest hour, which is interesting as she spoke for less than 8 minutes. Is that an indication that the rest of her life is so shoddy, that that hour containing those 8 minutes constitutes the best hour she’s ever had? Did she do something amazing after those 8 minutes like beat Dark Souls on the PS4 on its ++++++ difficulty setting? Or is it just that it’s worth celebrating and praising the whole 52 minutes where she wasn’t ruining everyone’s day and she can be encouraged to do more of that until finally we never have to hear from her again? Who knows as the 8 minutes was solid drivel of the type that would be hard to wipe away from a nose with even a metal scouring pad. On Wednesday President of The EU Council and compressed Willam DeFoe, Donald Tusk said that May’s Chequers Brexit plan will not work, you know, for all the reasons it was never going to work and everyone said it wouldn’t work. He may as well have held up a bike that had been mangled by a combine harvester and told everyone it’s clear that you can’t do the Tour De France on that. With Chequers dead in the water, everyone held their breath wondering what May would do. Would it be that she’d just announce a new plan she called Smequers which was exactly the same but in Comic Sans? Was she just going to try her best to do The Floss and hope that the mal-coordinated, almost hypnotic movements would distract all? Or possibly, she’d finally just give up and quit as Prime Minister causing everyone to be overjoyed, until they realized what the other options were and then become really upset.
But no, instead May summoned the BBC to Downing Street, like a shit sorcerer, to tell Britain that nothing has happened, no progress has been made and it’s the EU’s fault for not telling us what was wrong with her plan except for all the times they did over the last two years. If that won’t get us a good deal, nothing will right? I mean, I’ve definitely thought about walking into my bank and throwing a crayon drawing of me in a massive mansion house on the table and saying ‘if you don’t give me a mortgage based on this plan, then you’re the ones being unreasonable and you need to buck up your ideas.’ May has been backed by many of the papers on Saturday saying things like the Mail’s ‘The May Ultimatum’ which makes no sense. What’s her ultimatum? You think of a solution or I definitely won’t? Or The Times calling her defiant May and saying she raised stakes with a no deal threat to the EU. Brilliant! Watch out EU! If you don’t sort things out we’ll punch ourselves in the face, how will you handle that huh? Several ministers have also backed May including Funko Pop Inbetweener James Brokenshire, a man who worked with a divided Northern Ireland to help make sure they continued to not have a government and earn money for that, and Ming The Farciless and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, a man who this week defended the rail industry’s comments that disruptions in Spring were caused by no-one taking charge, by saying it wasn’t his fault. Incredible. Health Secretary and rubber chicken Jeremy Hunt warned the EU not to mistake politeness for weakness but forgot to say what they’re meant to view ignorance, rudeness, downright stupidity and a general lack of awareness as. And Brexit Secretary and Red Skull Dominic Raab said there wasn’t going to be another snap election, although as he said it he must’ve been aware he’d be the last to know if there was going to be and there’s every chance May would’ve called someone to announce it while he was being interviewed. Raab still backed the PM though and said that the UK has to keep its cool and that it does take two to tango. Yes it does but the EU have 27 which is 13 dancing couples with a reserve, while the UK are all by ourselves standing by the wall looking at our phone and hoping for the best. May’s speech caused the pound to fall making me wonder if those extra edges on the £1 coin where put in place for when it becomes completely useless as currency as we can sharpen them to use as tiny throwing stars to catch poison resistant rats for dinner.
But never fear, Labour have stepped into the fray to say they would back a People’s Vote on Brexit, which is great news, except that the vote they would back would have no remain option, just whatever deal the government is proposing if they are and will ever, and a no deal option. That’s interesting choice, not least because Labour leader and background character from a Shane Meadows film Jeremy Corbyn said last week that no deal was not an option. But also, because we currently have the option of a non-plan by the government vs a no deal so a People’s Vote with those options would have less importance than a primary school mock election where the winning team get to keep a drawing of a logo that they made themselves. It’s like promising to release a long-banned film, only for everyone to attend the screening and find most of it’s been censored with a huge black marker throughout. Shadow Brexit Secretary and grown up flat Stanley Keir Starmer has already disagreed and said that the party wouldn’t be ruling out a referendum that had staying in the EU in it, and that all options were on the table, but wouldn’t say who was invited to eat at the table because it’s yet another Labour conference that feels like if Mike Leigh directed Mean Girls.
Meanwhile Shadow Equalities Secretary and whose name makes it sound like she did it at twilight Dawn Butler, has caused controversy by approvingly mentioning the Liverpudlian Labour councils of the 1980s who deliberately set a spending budget in excess of that given by Thatcher’s government that then lead them into a financial crisis. The Labour centrist group Progress and the Conservatives have both called her out, the latter much preferring councils to go into financial crisis via the government’s doing. Butler said when it comes to austerity it was better to break the law than break the poor, which is a great tagline for a new Robin Hood film but is a foolish comment when up against a government whose current Brexit plans appear to involve doing both.
On Friday when no one was paying attention, the government announced that not all members of the Windrush generation would be granted British citizenship if they had a criminal record or failed to provide the right documents. Basketball with ears Sajid Javid has said all refusals follow careful and deliberate consideration, but as the Home Office are the ones who destroyed the Windrush landing cards in the first place, this is not only going against what they promised but is also hugely unfair. It’d be like being a food safety inspector, going to a restaurant and taking a huge dump on your plate, then shutting the place down due to evidence of human feces in the dinner. Javid has also infuriated Brexiteers by saying EU citizens will have visa free access for more than two years if we go through a no deal, as long as they show a passport and have a criminal record check. Makes sense. I mean who else will the government have to hire to process all the paperwork and deport British citizens?
And lastly at a Leave Means Leave rally in Bolton, an event for people too scared to go on a Saga holiday, mauled perineum Nigel Farage told an audience of mostly already dead people that a no deal Brexit was no problem, proving once again that ignorance is bliss and if you are capable of being completely unaware of everything around you then chances are, aside from realizing you’re absolutely no longer relevant except to those who checked out of the brain activity HQ some time ago, nothing much matters. Meanwhile the current UKIP leader and only person entirely composed of double chin, Gerard Batten, said that the party needs to stand up for free speech against the politically correct thought police, unaware that based on his ideas I think he’ll be pretty safe from any imaginary authority that can scan minds anyway. A much reported highlight of the conference was a stall selling condoms with Nigel Farage’s face on them, which I guess are for when you want to con someone into sleeping with you with a lot of lies, fuck them as badly as possible, leave quickly without thought while causing them repercussions for years after. Or more likely, they are just for people who need an effective contraceptive and let’s face it, Nige’s sewer soaked waffle cone of a face should stop you having sex for years.
Awwwwwwww yeah, here we go again. What’s happening with you and your face lovely listeners? I hope you’re well and dandy. I have had to put the heating on today and I can’t help but feel like I’ve lost a battle without putting up enough of a fight. The true British way is to only put the heating on as a very last resort after wearing every single bit of clothing, wrapping myself in all of our furniture and old vegetable skins and wetting yourself and repeatedly breathing in the warm fumes before breathing them out again into your basic cocoon. When that doesn’t work, then and only then should you put the heating on, and only for an hour or so because otherwise it’s a waste. But no, here I am, heating has been firmly on for hours, and I’m sorry I’ve let you all down. I expect Sajid Javid to knock on my door with deportation letters anytime now for not upholding British values. It’s definitely Autumn now isn’t it? Though I prefer the American term ‘Fall’ because at this point in 2018, it really feels like we’re involved in a sharp decline of everything. Actually I say that but I’ve just had a weekend of lovely gigs and radio things as well as, and I don’t want to boast too much, but on Friday, I got to spend £70 for a very special train ticket from Leeds to London that, get this, that allowed me to cosplay as the toilet attendant slash corridor guard for an entire three hours! I know right? I mean while other chumps had spent money being able to sit in a seat, I was able to hand around standing up, by the doors, getting the true experience of what it’d be like if I had a job that doesn’t even exist. Properly great, and they even delayed the whole journey by 30 minutes so I’d get to do it for longer too. Forget your escape rooms or your secret cinema, LNER has got the ultimate fun experience nailed. Well done guys, well done.
But enough of my track record, thank you again for listening to this show and hello to all you new lot who jumped aboard the ParPolBro train, which I should add is free for all and entirely first class, but the toilets are awful. But hello to everyone new who started on this show last week and if you enjoyed, please do stick around and recommend to others who might like it, or others who won’t like it but tell them anyway as a sneaky punishment for their terrible audio taste. Big thank you this week to Sam and Anita for donating to the ko-fi account, which you too can do at www.ko-fi.com/parpolbro if you enjoy this show enough to send me £3 for a coffee, which is actually needed this week as I found an old pot of instant coffee in my cupboard that had gone moldy. I didn’t even know it could do that. Yes I did think about drinking it anyway because I’m that tired. I mean what could be more comforting than a warm cup of furry coffee? Mmmm mmm. So yes, ko-fi for coffee donations or if you want to join the gang of monthly affiliates you can head to patreon.com/parpolbro to give me even $1 dollar of support which is about 76p in GBP, so you could either send that to me, or buy 76 copies of the Usborne spotters guide to Shell for kindle, your call people. Your call. And a mega thanks this week to Sophie who not only donated to the ko-fi but also sent an email to the almost moldy firstname.lastname@example.org account about how much she enjoyed last week’s show, which made my day, and that email account has had to have a tidy up as a few you of emailed in with nice comments as well as some great suggestions for guests who I am currently trying to book. I’m not saying I crave your gratification like some sort of attention seeking leech, but I am a stand-up and that is pretty much my entire job and life so all your tweets and emails are a total joy to read. Please keep sending ‘em. Oh and of course as always if you want to review this show on your podcast apps please do as all of that helps other people know its worth a listen and far more importantly and more shallowly which may or may not be a word, it persuades those pod apps to feature the show. Yes that is how iTunes work, like bandwagon jumping sound fiends only making things popular if they already are. And me, gratification craving sucker is fine with that. Please do give it a review.
Some other quick admin bits for you. I was contemplating splitting this show into two shows a week so one show is all the comedy stuff and the other is just interview stuff, both around 30 mins, and I thought about doing that partly because of a few comments on the survey over summer and partly because the people at Acast suggested it. But based on a few responses on Facebook and Twitter, it seems like the majority, and by majority I mean about 6 people who bothered to reply, wouldn’t want that. So would you? Would you not? Shall I do a Labour style people’s vote where you can vote to either have two podcast a week or 12 podcasts a week, with no option just to keep things as they are? Lemme know. I am always keen to do the least work possible so it’ll stay as it is for a bit until I can work out a way to just do a John Cage tribute podcast that has no sound on it at all, every episode for a year.
Other admin is that I regularly forget to thank Kat Day on this show, despite her every week typing up the linear liner notes of all the links and who to follow, for me to then pop on the website. Kat is a great writer and it’s worth checking out her skeptical science blog at chronicleflask.com or follow her on Twitter @chronicleflask. And lastly I’ve been plugging NextUpComedy loads, partly because I have three comedy shows on there but also because they are an excellent bunch and are doing a promotion boost of their fantastic subscription site with over 100 comedy specials including people like Ed Byrne, Miles Jupp, Fern Brady and unfortunately, mine, just to ruin it. It’s only £3.50 a month with a free trial month, so I’ve popped a link on the pod bio if you like laughing from your face and want to check it out. Oh, and the kids politics show I do with Tatton Spiller at Simple Politics is at Hertford Theatre this Saturday at 4pm which I believe has sold out, so I’m mainly just telling you to boast a lot. I mean, check that shit out, we’re clearly legends in Hertford, land of er, organs and cards. But there may well be tickets available on the day so if you live nearby and have kids, I mean they don’t even have to be yours, and want to teach them about politics, drop the box office a line and see if you can come along.
Ok, on this week’s show I am speaking to Steve Crawshaw all about protests and what makes an effective one, and because Steve is among many other things, director of policy and advocacy for Freedom From Torture, I also interviewed him about that which I’ll be releasing as a separate 15-20 minute podcast later in the week if you fancy a listen. Yes, I’ve already gone back on my promise to just do one podcast a week. Yes, I am a big fat liar. Yes, I am for turning, but only if someone else turns me and I’m preferably on a roundabout or lazy Susan or something that makes it easy. So Steve chat, plus a look at Conference Season so far, the quickest Brexit Fallout ever because I mean really, what’s the point? It’s mainly going to be…oh in fact, let’s just get this over with….
Look, it’s all fucked. Ok that’s that done….
No only joking, a bit. I mean Brexit negotiations are a mess, the government hasn’t got a clue what they’re doing and Labour’s plan appears to be to not do anything substantial until the Conservatives mess it up first. This could be a great tactic. It could be that as the Conservatives let go of that pram and it falls down the stairs, Labour are there at the bottom waiting to catch it when everyone’s decided the Tories really shouldn’t be allowed near children anymore for so many reasons. Or it could be that with the Brexit deadline getting ever nearer that Labour turn up just in time to see the pram go over the stairs and reactively impress no one with their new rules about better grips on pram handles. The EU are saying they can work things out, the government are responding by saying ‘stop bullying us and let us do what we want to do’ like a petulant teenager who is at least 10 years away from realizing most people in the world have better shit to do than listen to their whining and I’m pretty certain what will happen is on the 28th March 2019 everyone involved will be on the Red Bulls cramming in scribbles to meet the deadline in a chaotic mess leading us to scrape through with a 3rd. World country.
So, let’s leave that for a week and instead look at two stories that are related that have come out. One is about the leaked plan by the Initiative For Free Trade, a think tank founded by extremely ill child Daniel Hannan, a man famous for rarely thinking but regularly tanking. This plan is a blueprint for a free trade deal between the UK and our buddies in harms the US, and so far the details appear to be a lot like the TTIP deal that many voted for Brexit to avoid, only worse than that, as it would open the NHS to foreign investment, as well as loosen government controls and regulation allowing more power to the hands of businesses which would likely mean less to workers and consumers, ie you and me. Ok, I’m mainly a consumer. But before you know it, we’ll be paying more for less, something that only makes sense for nanotechnology or anytime anyone hires me for a show. The IFT have said they know proposals to sell off the NHS will be unpopular so they’ve suggested starting by selling off parts of the education sector and legal sector first. I guess that way no one will be taught any better and won’t be able to win any legal challenges against it. I see your moves. Now I said there were two stories and the second one is about International Trade Secretary and Disgraced MP Liam The Disgrace Fox has been privately discussing with the UK’s chief trade negotiation adviser, Crawford Falconer – yes that is his name. Yes he almost certainly has a plot to genetically engineer something awful to destroy people with – they have discussed scrapping EU food standards as part of the government’s EU withdrawal bill, meaning the UK could import food from the US like chlorinated chicken so it’ll taste like your local swimming pool replete with child wee, and hormone injected beef so it’s more sad and horny than normal, maybe. But hey you might be fine putting anything in your gob, oi oi, but if this happens, which would also fit in line with the IFT’s US/UK plan, the low prices of shit US food will damage British food production and farming, as well as environmental standards.
And that is what Brexit is all about for ardent Brexiteers. Removing the red tape, scrapping the regulations and making sure you can chomp on a sheep that’s been crying and eating chocolate and doesn’t know why or a pig that tastes of toilet duck. Big bucks for business, horrible poos for you. I believe that is going to be the IFT’s official tagline for the plan. To be fair, Foxes do eat out of bins so I shouldn’t be remotely surprised that disgraced Liam would want you and your kids to do the same. I hope someone catches him trying to shag in their neighbors’ garden first though, and he’s arrested before any of this can happen.
I’m not great at protesting. Oh sure I’ve been on many, starting way back when my parents took me on anti-Maggie Thatcher, pro-miners strike, anti-racism and other marches as just a wee toddler, all the way to doing gigs to hundreds of people on Westminster Bridge to fight against NHS reform, or thanks to comedian Mark Thomas standing outside the London Aquarium demanding to see fish fingers in their natural habitat as part of an opposition against the SOCPA protest law, or flash mobbing the Apple Store with Irish dancing against their tax evasion to name but a few. But for every good bit of protesting I’ve done, there’s many more times where I’ve not bothered because it’s been raining or in the case of the 2009 G20 protest, I avoided being kettled because I left earlier to be in for a Sainsbury’s shopping delivery. Yeah down with the system until I need lunch! We have a great history of protests in the UK but in recent years it’s become unclear whether or not marching down Whitehall with your favourite witty banner makes any difference against a government who won’t even listen to experts or the people they are actively negotiating with. I mean I’m not a fan of walking around in the cold at the best of times, but if all it’s going to do for me is up my step counter then, well, yes my doctor would say that is worth it, but are there other better methods for change? I’m being facetious of course in that they are often a great way to be amongst people who feel the same way about issues as you, and give you a sense of solidarity. They’re also a rare opportunity to realise how many chants you don’t know the words to and how few public toilets there are in city centres. But can we really say all the protests against austerity stopped it, or Brexit or Trump, even if that balloon was great and it did mean the shouting arse boil avoided London and bothered people in Oxford instead. And so, as one of you lovely listeners asked me to find out, is protesting still worth it? Or has the interest and a disinterested government made it pointless? Is marching still the way or, like back in Episode 85 when I interviewed Sarah Corbett about craftivism, should we be looking at other ways to get our opposition across?
Who better to ask than Steve Crawshaw, a man who has lived through and witnessed many effective and era changing protests in his life, many of which he has compiled together in his book Street Spirit: The Power Of Protest And Mischief which came out last year. The book brilliantly documents how creativity, humour and sheer will to change can motivate people to fight back and among other things, there is an example about people simply eating sandwiches to challenge the government and I’ve never felt more inspired in my life. Steve was a reporter with the Independent in 1986 where he reported on the revolutions happening in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and since then he has been UN advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, Director Of The Office of Secretary General at Amnesty International and he now works for Freedom From Torture at the policy and advocacy director. The latter of which I spoke to him about for an extra podcast that will be out later in the week. But for today’s show I wanted to ask Steve about the protests he’s been privy to, and why those and others that he has written about have worked, and if there’s still a glimmer of hope in today’s bleak 2018 that fighting back is still worth it. Also, more detail on just how I can save the people through sandwiches in a fulfilling and well, filling, way. Luckily Steve very happily answered all of those things. So I hope you find this inspiring and motivating and who knows, within a few weeks we could all be ousting this government through a selection of cheese toasties.
Here is Steve:
INTERVIEW PART 1:
Tiernan Douieb: Firstly, your book, Street Spirit, I found absolutely brilliant, I find it quite inspiring, which is really nice, because one of the things that I wanted to ask you about is what you think the biggest challenges are in persuading people that protesting is worthwhile.
Steve Cranshaw: Well, thank you for liking it. It was fun to right, and I myself, I have to say, have been inspired by writing the stories that I wrote of people all around the world who have done extraordinary things that I think, far too often, are, kind of, under recognised. People look to the geopolitical reasons why change has come, and in a sense that’s quite right, but they often really underestimate the incredible determination, and often in many cases courage as well, but above all the determination of, like, ‘We will create change.’ In my own life I’ve seen extraordinary things happen, way back (?) and Eastern Europe have just change coming in impossible circumstances. That’s kind of moulded me as a person, I have to say, things like which were never supposed to happen and then they did, even when others said there was no point doing it. I think that’s something that we confront still today regularly, it’s people say, ‘Well, there’s not really a point in going out and doing the thing because I don’t think it’s really going to change things.’ Of course, that becomes the block in itself, I think it’s unlocking that belief, which is certainly true in authoritarian regimes where people think, ‘Well, I could get killed, I could arrested,’ and they’re quite right, but somehow if enough people break through that, you create incredible change. But that’s true in a democratic context as well where it’s not like I might get beaten or arrested or jailed or killed but is it going to make any difference? Managing to unlock that is, I think, the key to, to be honest, almost everything.
TD: Some of the situations that you say you’ve been in, I mean, because you were in Poland in the late 70s and early 80s, then in the book you write about being in Myanmar as well. I mean, do you sense that change was going to happen? What was the feeling in those places at the time that made you realise that something was about to change?
SC: So Poland, which you referred to, really was very fairly in my life a complete ‘a-ha’ moment really of extraordinariness. I’d studied Russian, I’d lived in the then Soviet Union for a year and there was the Cold War, really deep in the Cold War, Leonid Brezhnev, the guy who sent tanks in everywhere, was in power at that time. Everybody knew that this system was going to be there forever. The Berlin Wall had only been up for less than 20 years at that time, which seemed forever, nonetheless, it seemed all these things were going to be there forever. I went to live in Poland, I was studying theatre and teaching English, and living there in the knowledge that this system would just be there forever. Poland wasn’t as hard line as the Soviet Union or, for example, East Germany, but it was a one-party state where you were locked up if you had different views to the government. I was living there for a couple of years, and while I was living there, these extraordinary strikes and really this mass movement of solidarity grew up especially in August 1980 and then was across the country. I still remember I got the cuttings from that time of newspapers in the west saying, ‘Well, they’re demanding all these political changes, they’re demanding this, this is completely unrealistic, it can’t possibly be achieved, everyone knows that can’t be achieved because obviously the Russians will stop that.’ The Poles basically marched past, like, ‘Yes, if they want to send the tanks in, they can, but we’ve had enough of that.’ The tanks did come in the following year, but actually that laid the groundwork, the very direct groundwork, solidarity came back only 8 years later. After that had happened, a democratically elected prime minister came in August 1989, only 3 months after that, the Berlin Wall came down, as you know. When people walk up and say, ‘Oh, it’s Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, who made everything happen,’ but for me it was like, ‘My God, I’m living through just something that totally wasn’t supposed to happen,’ and it just had.’ So once I’d seen that once, then later I became a journalist, I was working independently and had what I still regard as probably the best job in the entire world during 1989 when I was looking after the East Europe (?) for the Independent and travelling both before, during and after all of the revolutions and watching the literal and metaphorical walls fall down one after another. Again, the general story was like, ‘Oh, isn’t it marvellous what Mikhail Gorbachev has done?’ It’s true that having him as a saner Soviet leader totally changed things but, on the other hand, the incredible courage that produced that change, as for example in the city in Leipzig in October 1989, so that was only a month before the Berlin Wall came down. It had been publicly announced basically that there would be guns used against a peaceful demonstration if they dared to come out, the authorities actually said that via a letter in a newspaper, and they praised the Tiananmen massacre which had happened only 4 months earlier. So everyone knew what was going to happen, they thought people would stay at home, actually more people came out that night than ever before. I was there that evening and, again, that was another extraordinary moment for me that I’ll never forget, you expect the guns to be fired but actually at the very last moment the regime lost its nerve because there were just too many people, and that change came. So those kinds of things and others like it, Burma, as you said, Myanmar, I also met Aung San Suu Kyi back in the days when she was genuinely a heroine, which sadly she’s not today. Again, her belief at that time, she was kind of almost not quite under house arrest but kind of under house arrest. I and my colleague, we got kicked out for the crime of meeting her, which was fine because we’d already stashed the photographs and our story. Again, that belief that somehow we will create change, what so many of these things have in common, and again I’ve kind of collected these over the years, is grand people, very intelligent people in their own way, that say, ‘Oh, they’re so naïve, it’s a nice idea but, frankly, none of this is ever going to change and they should just grow up and live with it.’ It’s the people who reject that and say, ‘No, I’m not going to grow up and live with it because this is bad and this needs to change.’ So those are the kinds of things that I’ve just been so inspired by seeing and that, kind of, (?) behind the book really, just putting some of those things together, on the one hand people who say, ‘Nothing’s really going to happen here,’ and on the other hand those who show the courage to create change, which was never supposed to happen. After it’s happened, these grand people always find the geopolitical reasons why it was always bound to happen, exactly the things they themselves never see coming.
TD: Those stories are absolutely amazing and I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be in Poland at the time, it must’ve been electric. One of those interesting things is a lot of those cases and a lot of cases in the book are when people are threatened with quite extreme, often authoritarian situations, often violence is threatened. I’m reminded of the Catalonia elections last year when there were threats of soldiers, and in fact it did happen, but that made people retaliate more and say, ‘We’re not going to stand for this,’ even more. Is there an issue then in, say, current western society where we don’t face these threats? I’m not saying I want us to be facing these threats, but do you think we’re not pushed to protest as much? Does it cause an extreme reaction in people to fight back?
SC: Yes. Certainly there is a lot to protest against in this country, but to take your first point, you’re quite right about Catalonia. It was really interesting, here we’ve got a democratic country and yet you had these beatings happening in what really were, I think, objectively you can say completely unnecessary circumstances that you rightly describe. I’ve talked to people from Barcelona, it’s really interesting, on both sides of the argument, but the agreement is yes, that obviously the strengthened the feeling when that happened because that sense of intolerance on one side was like, ‘Well, I’m not sure where I stand on the actual debate but I really don’t like the fact that you’re beating people.’ Like the Velvet Revolution in Prague in 1989, in a complicated way, actually it happened because the secret police faked the killing, which they thought was going to put people off in various complicated ways, it was to do with a journalist who was reporting on things and they thought that would stop the news dead and so on. They faked the killing and thought that would solve the problem, and actually the Czechs until then had been quite reluctant to come out in large numbers but this is really not acceptable if you kill somebody, and then 2 days later they announced, ‘No, no, he’s not dead actually after all,’ but by then it was too late, the momentum was there. So that sense of strength is there. The Serb activist Srda Popović has a great phrase, he and his movement helped bring about the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serb ruler and warmonger of the 90s, he said on one occasion, ‘If I’m laughing at you, if someone’s beating me and I’m laughing, you are the loser.’ That idea that the beating is (?) of the loser in some sense, you appear to be the powerful person but resorting to that violence against a non-violent person is being the loser. So going to your second part of whether people need that to respond. First, I absolutely don’t think so, clearly actually when there are dangers some people will be, clearly understandably, will be hesitant to go out, so that’s one thing to say, although it does also cause the additional anger and indignation. I think the biggest issue really is somehow just not feeling that it could actually make a difference, even where people do feel quite strongly, they are persuaded, including by those who themselves never take part in protests of different kinds and say, ‘Oh, it’s all just pointless. What’s all this banner waving? It makes absolutely no difference at all.’ Actually, we see again and again that it does kind of unsettle even those people who reckon to be unsettled. The protest against Donald Trump I would argue is a pretty good example of that, he claims to be absolutely impervious, and of course in many ways he does seem impervious to logic of any kind on any issue that you mention. He doesn’t take a humane approach, he’s just wrong on so many issues, whether it’s the separation of families or whether it’s respect for the judiciary or, from my perspective working for Freedom from Torture, the idea that torture actually works, all of these things are shocking. The women’s marches that we saw at the beginning and since then, all of these things are important. I think it’s interesting to see how allergic he was when we had the big anti-Trump demonstrations when he came to London, the inflatable Trump and all of those things, and he’s so thin-skinned at the end of the day. I think those protests were absolutely worth doing, I’m not going to say it’s going to bring an end to Trump’s bad behaviour but it kind of produces an added belief in the possibility of change, which itself, I think, leads towards the possibilities of change. Certainly we’ve seen it again very much with many of the Trump protests, what I’ve seen in a totalitarian context but applies also in a democratic context, humour is this red thread that so often keeps people going because, again as the same activist Srda Popović often points out, you don’t want to get bored when you’re going on protests, it’s a bit tiring doing it. So the humour and the creativity that goes with it, that kind of creates the buzz and becomes something which is enjoyable and worth doing in our privileged context in the UK usually at least without violent consequences, sometimes there are, but more broadly you don’t expect to be taking a risk when you take part in a protest. The same thing applies in places where it’s very dangerous to do it, that humour often becomes the unlocking factor in those protests.
TD: Sure. I’m a big advocate for humour on marches. I think it was one of the protests in Egypt that you mentioned in your book where somebody held a protest sign that simply said ‘Please leave, my arm is hurting’. I thought that was one of the most wonderful things.
SC: Isn’t that lovely? There was a whole series of those (?) our sense of humour, the `Please leave’, which was the main chant in Tahrir Square. So there was a whole series, as you say, one was, ‘My arm is hurting’ but one was ‘I recently got married, I need to see my wife’ and just gave pleasure to the people walking by and they knew they were part of that community that was creating the change.
TD: Yes. It’s that interesting thing as well that I often feel, and have felt this doing stand-up gigs and things, that sometimes humour can remove the violence or tension of a situation. If there’s a real palpable threat of things getting worse, sometimes humour can really deflate that.
TD: I just wanted to touch on something else that you said. I mean, I feel very much in agreement with your statement of people feeling like if protest doesn’t do something then it often stops them protesting. I think one of the big deflating moments for me in my early 20s was going on the big Iraq war march, the one with millions on, and then finding out that we still went to Iraq in war. I think that was so deflating, knowing all these people have stood up and said, ‘We don’t want this,’ and then the government at the time lead by Tony Blair still went, ‘We don’t care,’ and did it anyway. Do you think that then puts you off protesting again, doesn’t it, because then you think, ‘What’s the point?’?
SC: I agree. I think that was a huge moment for many people in Britain and perhaps elsewhere as well that were like, ‘Really? We had millions and the answer is no?’ That’s certainly for me one of the interesting paradoxes I started to focus on recently, it would seem that it’s much harder to get an authoritarian or a repressive regime to change its mind than a democratic government because that’s what we’re used to, democracies respond to pressure and therefore change. The opposite is also a little bit true that (?) in authoritarian regime is incredibly fragile, it knows it doesn’t have legitimacy, so if millions come out on the street then even a President Mubarak in Egypt eventually goes. Again, like with Burma, actually we have a really bad aftermath now but that doesn’t take away from the incredible courage and impact of what happened back in 2011 when Mubarak was overthrown by the incredible courage of people. Whereas, and this is true of both the Iraq war but it’s also true in the US today to some extent, I definitely believe that we can create change but also an elected leader who is genuinely elected can say, ‘Yes, you don’t like it, but you know what? That’s what I’ve gone with and if you don’t like it enough then be my guest, there’ll be an election in a year’s time, in two years’ time or three years’ time,’ and they are able to simply push back and say, ‘If I’m wrong and you’re right then you guys will win and I will have to go.’ That democratically, actually, gives strength in the positive sense, that’s what a democracy is about, that you can make stable decisions and choices and move forward and if people don’t like it you move out, but also when vast numbers feel a definitely wrong decision has been taken, whether that be the Iraq war or whether that be a whole bunch of things that Donald Trump is doing today, that is a kind of trump card for those leaders. That they can just say, ‘Well, wait until the next election and we’ll see what happens.’ Trump, of course, we are seeing, and that’s interesting as well, where you have the mid-terms where you have different elections for different parts of the political system, whether for presidential or for congress, and that puts different pressures on a president, which they need to think about. I think that certainly is something strong. I think the same applies as in a democracy as in an authoritarian, often we underestimate how much we can really change. One of the things I quote right at the beginning of the book actually, I find it such an inspiring message, there was this woman called Asmaa Mahfouz, a very young, I think 24-year-old, woman in Egypt. Before the demonstrations, the protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo had really got underway in Spring 2011, but there was a murmuring of protest and Mubarak was deeply unpopular. There was a tiny demonstration that kind of fizzled out, there were arrests and beatings but didn’t go anywhere. Asmaa Mahfouz did this video from her apartment that went super viral, basically, I mean everyone watched it. She says in that, ‘Whoever says it’s not worth it because there will only be a handful of people, I want to tell them that you are the reason for this, sitting at home and just watching us on the news or on Facebook, that’s what leads to our humiliation.’ I thought that brilliant encapsulates it. She actually went on to say, I can’t remember the exact words, but basically, ‘If you don’t come out, you are the problem as much as the secret police who are doing the beating the arresting.’ That’s put very sharply in a way that I would never dare to, would never have the moral right to, but she did have the moral right to say. It went so viral that at the next big demonstration a couple of days later millions came out for the first time. There were other reasons why it happened but her video was a very significant contributing factor. That was in an authoritarian context and I still feel that we’re all looking for that kind of energy of how can we create the change and do we believe it. For me personally, I’m guessing your listeners may have divided views on this, but for me Brexit is something that is taking down us a completely blind alley in so many different ways and so there’s so much denial of where that might go. What’s really interesting is to see slightly changing, probably in the last couple of months, I guess, I don’t know how you would assess it or how listeners would asses it, but it feels as though it’s like, ‘Oh, maybe could we take this in another direction?’ where only 6 months ago, certainly a year ago, it was like, ‘Oh god, it kind of doesn’t make sense but we can’t change it.’ I may well be wrong but what feels at the very least more people are starting to believe that if there was enough pressure for change there could be change and however that’s framed, we’re asking some different key questions on Brexit in order to make them (?). Anyone who is seeking change on that, the big challenge is not how you make the change, it’s how you make enough people believe that that change is realistically achievable. Those are two slightly different things although they’re obviously very much connected.
END OF INTERVIEW PART 1
And we’ll be back with Steve in a minute but first:
CONFERENCE SEASON JINGLE
That jingle is back despite me probably needing to write a better one, and that means, we are knee deep in conference season, that happy time of year when the parties get together in their echo chambers to decide on all the things they’ll u-turn on over the next year. Do you remember last year’s conferences? Do yer? When there was still a blind sense of hope that someone would have a clue what they were doing in a year’s time, do yer? Remember when Vince Cable said the Lib Dems to power and now here we are a whole year later and he’s mainly looking for someone else to lead the party as he doesn’t like it anymore. UKIP hatched then new leader Henry Bolton who waved tiny flag on stage in September, then in Feb it turned out that was a surrender as he was given a vote of no confidence like most of the UK have done with the entire party. Then Labour announced they had changed the political mainstream and they had as before that point the political mainstream weren’t spending everyday trying to eat themselves, and then Theresa May coughed at the Conservatives for what felt like a lifetime, proving it wasn’t just her policies that were hacky. Ah good times. SO what will this year’s political jerk circles bring? Well sadly I couldn’t make any in person so here is a review from the sidelines of happenings so far.
First up, the Liberal Democrat conference, which I mentioned partly last week, as a result giving them more press coverage than they’ve had since 2010. It says something when you type into google ‘Lib Dem Conference 2018 highlights’ and the only thing that comes up is their own website, so forgive me for not enlightening you on content past what I mentioned last week which was almost exclusively people telling the conference that they didn’t want to be Lib Dem leader, with Vince Cable saying he didn’t either and I wonder if it’s going to end up coming down to a random selection like jury service where a member of the public will wake up in a few weeks’ time and have to find a reasonable excuse as to why they can’t lead the politically homeless for the next year. The closing conference speech by Cable though mainly was about cementing what the Lib Dems stance for the next year will be, and that seems to be mainly attacking Amazon and companies that avoid paying taxes by reforming company taxation for the digital age, taking on housing developers, changing capital tax gains from assets and scrapping inheritance tax, as well as changing the way pension tax relief works for the most wealthy. Then he pushed for a second referendum on Brexit while trying to describe what the Brexiteers are doing as an erotic spasm but instead said exotic spresm which isn’t a thing. The closest I’ve found is sprem which is, according to urban dictionaries, how idiots spell sperm, so an exotic sprem makes it sound not too different from an erotic spasm but with more favorable language. He referred to both the Tories and Labour as cults but didn’t mess up that wording and said Boris Johnson was like Trump because all Vince’s observations are as original as his policies. It wasn’t a bad speech but there was nothing surprising in it apart from his inability to say erotic spasm, which isn’t the first time a Lib Dem leader has been uncomfortable about sexual issues. At least this time, unlike Tim Farron’s homophobic statements, Vince was trying to condemn Brexiteers fucking an entire country which is just overall prudish or fully inclusive depending on which way you look at it. Still we’ll now all remember it as an exotic spresm and hopefully one day soon you’ll be able to order that cocktail in one of those fancy pubs where no one really likes each other. I fully expect next year’s conference to involve Cable offering to pay someone to lead instead of him, before pulling out half sentences from Conservative and Labour policies then sticking them together like a Bowie song, before telling everyone about how Brexit is a furious wank but pronounces it spurious crunk and everyone thinks he’s into late 90’s hip hop.
Following the Lib Dem conference was the UKIP conference, which took place in Birmingham despite you know, all them supposed no go areas for white people in Birmingham that racists assume exist. Was this their way of embracing their fear or were the delegates so old that heading to brilliantly multi-cultural Brum was just the coach drivers joke at their expense and they’ll read about where they were later and cry? The less said about this conference the better, though I don’t want to be condemned as blocking freedom of speech like them politically correct thought police do, so let’s run through some of Gerard Batten’s main points, if you can call them that when they largely sounded like the sort of thing a cab driver would garble at you while you have to keep pointing out things he’s about to crash into. Batten, obviously, isn’t happy about what the Conservatives are doing with Brexit. He insisted that only one party has published a full Brexit plan and that is UKIP, and I would know, I wrote it. Of course he didn’t say what it involved in the speech as we all know, the key to having a good Brexit plan is not to let anyone know any details about your good Brexit plan incase it doesn’t actually exist. According to an interview he did with the Financial Times Batten told them he could sort it all out in an afternoon over a cup of coffee and it’d include continued free movement of goods, services and capital but an end of to freedom of movement, therefore cherry picking what he wants from the EU’s unmovable four freedoms and ultimately not working but hey, why interrupt someone’s fevered dreams? Other than that it was some complaining about the first past the post voting system which doesn’t serve UKIP well which I think is the only good argument for keeping it, and then the rest of the conference was largely Paul Oakley, UKIP’s immigration spokesperson saying that indigenous people are a minority in London and so I’m looking forward to his campaign to persuade all the Cockneys that moved out to Essex years ago to give up their homes and spend twice the amount to live in a studio flat cupboard in Dalston. Should be easy. There were comments about Muslim only prisons, which as well as being racist wasn’t at all backed up prison funding or prison building schemes, and some internet wankers banging on about free speech while people in other rooms were trying to limit what interpretations of the Koran can exist in the UK and the health risks of homosexuality. UKIP, campaigning for human rights except for those people we don’t think of as human. But this is where they now lie on the political spectrum, with the Conservatives taking their steam on both Brexit and generally being hostile to non-white people. So where does that leave UKIP, having to stand over on the far right with the sort of dog whistle that would cause a mass recreation from Homeward Bound. Seems UKIP’s future is very much embedded in the past like a fossil that absolutely no one wants to discover.
And lastly for this week, the Labour conference, which is only a few days in and so I’ll do more of an update on this next week, and yes, it is already mostly the party finding new and exciting ways to tell each they’re wrong. The centrist side of Labour have already condemned Dawn Butler for her statements about the rebellious Liverpool councils of the 80s, Keir Starmer has already contradicted Corbyn and McDonnell’s views on a People’s Vote, Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger has had to have a police escort because of threats against her, Barry Gardiner has already said McDonnell expecting Theresa May to call a snap election is ‘looney tunes territory’ and yes he’s right, all of this is looney tunes territory because the party seem intent on ACME politics, ie ones that constantly blow up in their own faces. In amongst all this self-loathing are some actually radical ideas, albeit ones that would take a dramatic shift in British politics to make. For example, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell announced that he plans to force all companies with more than 250 employees to put 10% of their equity into a fund for workers. Each employee would get dividends of up to £500 a year with the rest going into public services. That’s £4.5bn a year in shares divided over 10.7m workers and the public funds would be around £2bn which is loads. This all follows studies that show that workers have been getting less and less of companies’ money for many years, with more and more of it going to shareholders instead. According to the chief economist at the bank of England Andy Haldane did a study in 2015 that said workers share of national income was 70% in the 70’s but only 55% now and if their wages had been kept in line with productivity throughout the 90s, the average worker would be 20% better off right now. So Labour are actively saying they want the people doing the work to get the dosh while those who sit on their arses all year swanning around Monaco should have less. Cool with me and it’s going to pose an interesting challenge to the Conservatives who if they attack it, are saying to workers they shouldn’t have more money, but if they don’t, they are supporting their largest donors losing funds. Its effectively a political snookering which could be quite powerful if the Tories tactics continue to be arguing over who knows how to play best and taking it in turns to have the black ball removed from the table entirely, though it’s not going to make businesses want to queue up to pop their 50ps on the table. That’s all the snooker analogies I have and that’s my cue to stop. Arf. Other than that, McDonnell’s speech talked about nationalizing the water companies, which surprised me as I didn’t think he believed in trickle down economy and drip feeding the public, arf. Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said Labour would immediately end the academy and free schools program and the housing minister John Healey announced plans to give tenants more power. As in people who rent, like myself, not as in the already far too powerful lager. That would be very irresponsible. But the main conversation over the next few days will of course be Brexit and exactly where Labour should stand on that, or if they’ll continue to sit to the side hoping someone else does something first so they can leap in last minute so they can clean up the wreckage. Jesus, they just never stop being about the manual work do they?
And now back to Steve:
INTERVIEW PART 2
TD: It’s interesting in the way that Brexit itself was the example of an effective protest, whether you were pleased with the results or not, but it was a real challenge against the system. I agree, I think the divisions are changing slightly but now we’re in an issue where the two divisions would like to protest about different things which sustained life for quite a long time.
SC: Yes. That, of course, is what we’re seeing with Trump as well, that it’s all very well that one large chunk of people are saying, ‘Here’s the list of things that are completely intolerable,’ but on the other side there is a large chunk of people who feel that he is, I mean, it’s an absurd concept as seen by me, but speaking truth to power or speaking up for the ordinary man, that’s, for me, the most extraordinary belief, but there are many people in the United States who genuinely believe that Trump is speaking up for the little guy. Now, I and many others would argue that that’s the most extraordinary analysis of the situation, the last people he really has in mind is the little guy in all of his attitudes and policies, but he has managed successfully to create that kind of narrative. So you’re right, you have two different competing narratives and sometimes one just kind of manages to sell itself more attractively than the other.
TD: Just mentioning Trump as well, one of the interesting things with the Trump march here, a lot of people came out because while there are a lot of issues that Trump brings, we all know it’s his fault, we can march against the one thing. I found in the last few years that I’ve heard complaints about the fact that there are so many online petitions to fill in, there are so many things to complain about, that they don’t really know what to focus on. Has the Internet and social media made it harder due to distraction for people to get protesting again or has it actually helped? I’m really torn on this.
SC: I think you’re completely right to be torn and, to be honest, if you come across anyone who says the actual is A and not B or the actual answer is B and not A, that’s the only person I would completely disagree with because that completely misunderstood it’s an incredibly interesting mix, I think. So, to start with the first bit of your question, yes, what is sometimes called ‘clicktivism’, but that sense that you don’t need to do anything and go, ‘Yeah, I’m really unhappy about this and I’m really unhappy about that and I’m really unhappy about that, and I will each of these petitions and then I’ll go off and have a flat white with my friends and either forget all about it or perhaps more importantly feel like I’ve done what needs to be done because I have clicked on all these different things.’ There’s one, and there is something real about that, that if you’re just picking something without getting engaged then probably that hasn’t been terribly helpful. The other narrative that we saw especially during, for example, the Arab Spring and stuff that happened in Egypt where Facebook was like-, I mean, I saw it on the walls of Cairo when I was there surely after the revolution, there were slogans praising Facebook because what did Facebook mean in shorthand? It meant that you could have knowledge of what was happening. Two kinds of knowledge, you could see solidarity, it means you could go, ‘Oh my god, more than a million people have already signed up for this or liked this,’ and of course could also tell you, ‘We will be having a demonstration on day x at this place,’ or, ‘Don’t go to this thing,’ in real time, ‘This is happening here. Do this, don’t do that.’ That sense of knowledge, and also we saw it in Syria, we had so many bad outcomes but one of the things that we’re seeing in what started as peaceful protest, and in the meantime has turned into this truly horrendous conflict, but that was just knowledge of what was happening up the road. All of those things are much easier in a social media world than in the old world where you might have somebody who might get something out to some radio station but, fundamentally, information didn’t travel in the same way. That sense of being able to share this knowledge, share images and video, which of course is extraordinarily powerful to look at what’s happening in both the positive and negative sense, look what terrible things the authorities are doing] or look how many people there are in the town just up the road, none of that could have existed in the same vivid way with the state controlling the media and the TV. So those things were real. It was interesting, back in 2010, Malcolm Gladwell, a very distinguished writer who’s written many bestsellers on different things and is a very creative thinker, he wrote what is, for me, the most extraordinary piece in The New Yorker which is basically how all of this stuff about social media having any relevance is all completely pointless. Real protest, he says, all the way back to the civil rights movement in the United States, which of course did extraordinary things with very little communication possibilities, I think he referred to Poland as well within that, saying this is what it’s about, it’s proper courage, whereas the social media stuff was just a few western students frittering their time away sat in a café and was not really relevant. Of course, there’s bits of that, but it was extraordinary timing, he wrote that when actually the social media movement in Egypt was already beginning to gain momentum, it had started especially earlier in 2010. We Are All Khaled Said was a big Facebook page, which was to do with the killing of one Egyptian by police in public basically, that caused a huge wave of revulsion. He was writing very confidently how this was all pointless and that was only less than two months before the Arab Spring begun with Tunisia, then Egypt and so on. That completely scoffing narrative, and I mention him but there were many others (?) scoffing narrative, that it was somehow only about the little things. The answer is that it’s about those. Of course social media doesn’t change the whole world, you still need the same courage, you still need the same determination to do things, and basically it’s just the latest communication thing, which is already transforming. Within my lifetime, mobile phones, now we think mobile phones have been with us forever and it’s kind of difficult to remember how on earth those of us who grew up in a pre-mobile phone world ever made arrangements or found out about anything. I think you (?), you travel through Europe and you make rendezvous with people and then if they didn’t meet you then somehow you managed both to make arrangements and fall back arrangements and all of these things. The arrival of the mobile phone made a huge difference in organising protests. Before that, of course the arrival of the telephone made things easier. So, when I was living in Poland, very few people even had landlines. I mean, mobile phones didn’t exist, obviously, but, within a Communist country, very few people had landlines, so in those days it was foreign radio stations, if they were able to listen to, or talking to your neighbour. As you roll back, each thing, the telephone, the radio, the mobile phone, the Internet, the video that can be sent, and social media, each of those changes the possibility of protest, and social media certainly does it in a very significant way. If we just think that’s the be all and end all because now we can click and therefore, then of course you’ve lost the plot a bit because you need to have that engagement, that determination to create change, and although the methods have changed, the need for commitment is basically the same as it ever was.
TD: It’s always interesting as well that certain things do rise up above the simply petition level. Things like the March for Women or the march against Trump, they went crazy on social media and people realised, ‘Oh, wait, this is actually an important one.’ You get a feel for it, don’t you?
SC: Exactly. There’s something that’s organic. I mean, often random, that’s true of many different things, it’s true in my journalistic career I saw many occasions where I saw the chemistry of it, there’s something which is obviously an important story but doesn’t get reported much, then some random event happens that suddenly triggers that thing and everyone goes, ‘Oh my god, this is really important.’ It might have ignored for months before that. The Ethiopian famine of 1984 is one example of that. Rwandan genocide barely got covered when it started, it needed other things to put it on, lots of strange things from that. I think there are things that make something happen that we can’t always guess at. Trayvon Martin who was the young kid who was killed while walking home from the supermarket with a bottle of soft drink in his hand a few years ago, a young black boy, the guy who killed him was originally not expected to face any (?) other than the local protecting that estate, as it were. He pulled his gun on this boy and killed him. Initially that was going to have no consequences at all, then the family and their friends started a change.org petition, initially it got some, then it got a few more, then it got a few more, and at a certain moment, that started rolling and avalanching, and it’s very possible many of your listeners may also have signed up to that petition that spread well ‘s beyond Florida, well beyond the US, it went global, got millions in the end. You then had Barack Obama himself saying, ‘If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin,’ and the whole thing became a national drama. In a sense, that was the pre-history, the phrase wasn’t used at that point, of #blacklivesmatter. In a sense, Trayvon Martin’s case was the very, very beginning of that focused #blacklivesmatter movement, which has had such importance in the last few years. So that goes back to the social media thing. I mean, you could have never have guessed, and I’m sure the family didn`t guess, they knew that they and the people around then cared, then some other people cared, but somehow, and there were of course other cases like Trayvon Martin’s which didn’t take off in the same way, but when it does take off, there was a trial and the trial ended up with very controversial outcomes and there was never actually a conviction on that case. Nonetheless, it raised issues and one of the significant reasons it raised issues is simply because millions said something needs to happen on this.
TD: Yes, it was incredibly inspiring. Again, the message is you’ve got to just do it, you’ve got to just put it out there and you can’t be dissuaded. I mean, I have to say, not to belittle anything but reading about the protest in Thailand where they protested by eating sandwiches, that has inspired me immense amounts, I think I will happily eat sandwiches in protest of many things.
SC: I love that story. For listeners thinking, ‘What’s that about?’ I do love that story because it’s deliberately so tiny, that basically it started with the military junta in parliament who were saying that people weren’t allowed to gather in public places, so even a picnic became defiant. So people said, ‘Okay, just eating a sandwich,’ and they would deliberately do it in a very demonstrative way and people did actually get arrested for eating sandwiches or for reading books, that was the other one, so you’d read books in public. So you’d have trade, how do you make the difference between someone who’s merely, in the ordinary sense, having a sandwich, and someone who is deliberately demonstrative of it. So those tiny little things, I love the way that you can turn things upside down basically. Another of my favourite stories is from Belarus, which is sometimes described as the last dictatorship in Europe, where people started clapping the president very demonstratively and ended up, of course, being arrested because the authorities knew perfectly well they couldn’t be serious about clapping the president so therefore they were being ironic. So you actually get arrested for praising your own leader because people know that you can’t mean it. That’s a lovely little bit of irony and humour. Again, those people faced beatings and arrests and all those things but they felt it was worth having done it because that little quirky sense of defiance unsettled the regime at least for a moment and, for some extent, in the longer term as well.
END OF INTERVIEW PART 2
Thank you to Steve for that fascinating chat and seriously his book is excellent. I read it in a very short amount of time, inspired by so many of the events he writes about and the brilliant pictures he’s compiled of them. The book is called Street Spirit: The Power Of Protest And Mischief and can be found in all bookshops, good, bad or ambivalent and also via the website street-spirit.net. Arabic, Turkish and Chinese editions are coming out very soon too. Steve can be found on Twitter @stevecrawshaw and as I mentioned, I spoke to him all about his role at Freedom From Torture which I’ll be popping on an extra podcast this week, which also contains Steve’s follow recommendations. So, all that information should hit your pod apps later this week. Also may I recommend going back to episode 85 where I speak to Sarah Corbett about Craftivism which was another really inspiring chat about creative ways to protest and check out her TED talks online too.
You have been sending in excellent guest recommendations, so thank you for that, and please do keep sending in more, because sometimes I email people and they never reply or they do reply but can’t do it, or can’t work out how talking over the internet works because they’re too busy changing the world. So send them to me and I promise I will try to get them on and if I don’t manage it’s because I hate you and your stupid ideas. I mean, sorry, it’s because they are too busy to talk to this mug. This mug full of warm furry coffee. Mmm mmm. So you can send those suggestions to me via the Twitter @parpolbro, the Partly Politcial Broadcast group on Facebook, the contacts page on partlypoliticalbroadcast.co.uk or via email at email@example.com. Or you could form your own protest where you refuse to listen to this show until I get the guest you wanted and I’ll never ever notice because podcast stats are rubbish. Really rubbish. All I know is that no one listens to this show on Wednesday and I don’t know why. I guess it’s hump day so maybe you’re all too busy, er, humping? I’ll leave that there. Basically, it’s so much easier to email.
THINGS I DID NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS WEEK:
This show has too much in it so super quickly, here’s things I didn’t have time for:
Sajid Javid has ruled out buffer zones for protestors outside abortion clinics because apparently they only take place at a few facilities and are usually passive. Personally I would insist on signs around each clinic saying ‘protestors, stand where you like, as we are pro-choice’. I think they’d be put off pretty quick.
A migration advisory report commissioned by the government says people who move from the UK to the EU have no real impact on workers wages, pay more in taxes, have no bad impact on schools, not linked to crime and pay more to the NHS than they use. They sound brilliant. I reckon we should get loads in to cope with all the skill shortages we’ll have due to Brexit, they’ll fix it in no time.
Theresa May says people who live in council homes should be made to feel proud of them, which sounds a bit aggressive. How will she make them do that? Is she turning up their house and not leaving till she’s made them put one of those wanky prints that says something like ‘Home is where the heart is’ in the hallway? The government is going to put £2bn into building new homes in England, which is great as the government cut housing funding by £6bn just between 2010 and 2015. So many of their policies are basically half heartedly fixing things they’ve already ruined. The government’s next plan is to demolish all public swimming pools then announce a new fund for some ticketed inflatable paddling pools in public parks to make people proud of swimming.
And that’s all folks for this week’s Partly Political Broadcast podcast. I am honored you chose to use these sounds as backdrop to your commute or jousting practice or bare knuckling fighting or bear wrestling or sitting, drinking furry coffee. Thank you for that and please do subscribe to the show, listen in next week, and tell people you know and like to listen in too. If you can, please donate to the ko-fi or Patreon pages, review the show and hey, write me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You don’t even have to send it, you could just write it. It’s the thought that counts.
Thank you to Acast for being sound parents to this audio orphan, thank you to my brother The Last Skeptik for the tunes, to Kat Day or @chronicleflask for the linear notes and to my other half @proresting for the interview transcribing and child juggling. I mean, not literally. She’s not out there with our daughter and some bean bags seeing how often she can keep them all up in the air. I should’ve said child wrangling. No wait, that sounds bad too. Basically, every Monday I do this and therefore do no dadding at all and my wife very kindly deals with all poo and crying issues all day. And she looks after our daughter too. HAHAHAH I did a poo and crying joke. Anyway, she’s now doing a daily blog so follow her on Twitter @proresting to find that. Go on. Do it.
This will be back next week when I’ll be reporting on Jeremy Corbyn’s conference speech where he’ll stumble while saying Tory Lies and instead say Hoary Rabbis causing everything to kick off until days later Theresa May manages to fart and burp at the same time throughout her speech until as she unveils the party’s new slogan about Britain on a global stage and the platform she’s standing on caves in.
This week’s show was brought to you by Vince Cable’s Exotic Spresms, a new scent from the Liberal Democrat leader that makes you give off the sort of smell that lets everyone know you really don’t want to be there. Exotic Spresms, a weak smell of dying embers, for when you have nowhere else to be, but really wish you did.