There has been a concerted attempt by conservative commentators to label the Black Lives Matter protesters as ‘left wing’. Since there is no obvious way to determine the party politics or influences of a large group this has no basis in fact. So, why bother?
If the right wants to let us know that it’s only the left that care about equality, I’m fine with that. As Conservative Home Secretary Priti Patel is an Asian woman who backs a law that would’ve prevented her own parents from entering the country, it may be a safe assumption.
Since the BLM protesters were a young group it is likely that their allegiances to any party are quite loose. Statistically they’re more likely to be apolitical or non-voting as they are to be identified by links to party or doctrine.
So why do the ‘right’ want to label the demonstrators as ‘left’? The simple fact is that demonstrating in itself is seen as provocative. It is easier to sit on the fence (or the sofa) than to stand up for something. Media coverage of demonstrating is likely to show the negative side (vandalism, looting, confrontation) because that’s what’s news worthy. The outcome of this is that demonstrators, by default, become an angry mob. This typically suits a right-wing narrative and opposition to demonstrators becomes something that is seen to be supporting law and order. Conservatives/Republicans always want to be seen as the party of law and order even if the statistics don’t back this up and austerity policies have undermined policing.
Even inflammatory statements from Patel or Trump are pandering to this narrative, reinforcing the myth. Everyone may have condemned Trump’s resolution to send in the troops and fight looting with shooting but it plays strongly to his base. George Lakoff describes this best in his work on how political parties frame the arguments.
The majority of protesters are peaceful, but the vast majority of the public do not march or protest at all. They consider themselves law-abiding. To have ‘the left’ framed as rule-breakers and criminals is very convenient. Most people do not want to think too deeply about these issues, they think that their empathy can be best expressed by saying ‘all lives matter’ and are bewildered when anyone explains that they’ve missed the point. In the meantime, the right-leaning/government-supporting people rejoice as they’ve created a new row, something for us to fight over on Facebook. While we’re debating the nuances of BLM and the right of people to stand up for what they believe in, the Coronavirus crisis falls from the front pages and is no longer the main news item. We may be the world-leaders in unnecessary deaths from Covid-19 but look, they’re throwing our ‘famous national icons’ in the river. Similarly, the debacle of Brexit has taken a backseat when it’s painfully obvious that it needs greater consideration and critique.
The Tory party are masters of deception and distraction, typically using one story to hide another. It has become their modus operandi and we are all victims of it. Sadly, it is an ongoing battle. Trying to see where our focus should fall is exhausting, fighting through a blizzard of lies that obliterate the grubby facts.
The debate so far has shown that we need a more honest and open conversation about British history, too many are prepared to blindly defend it without knowing (or seeming to want to know) the truth. Open and honest debates are not in the game plan of this grubby government, minor skirmishes and pitiful name calling are more their stock in trade. Taking issue with journalists who don’t blithely wave the flag for our leaders’ heroic efforts is yet another example of this dodgy war.
Racism is a pandemic, it is endemic. Race is a construct and, like left or right, it’s just a label used to try and define us, to pigeonhole and divide us. It’s easy to look away and to decide that this is a problem for someone else. Equality is a problem for all of us and politicians who use these problems to distract us are failing to serve anyone’s interests but their own.