Bannerna Skin

The chap who organised the Burnley banner has been fired by his company, as has his girlfriend. In its statement the bloke’s employer concerned cited the banner ‘and other related issues’. Predictably, this has been interpreted by many within the social media wilderness as an attack on free speech.

Whatever the ins and outs – which will likely not surface until m’learned friends enter court, having trousered several wheelbarrows of loot – that final phrase is likely to be the peg on which the relevant HR brigade might seek to hang their proverbial hat.

More to come on that one, but I’m a lot more concerned about the direction of travel for the protests and the quest for equality. Remember, the long game has to be the education of the ambivalent. This story now risks becoming one of an attack on the freedom of speech, in turn diluting and even discrediting the message with the critical mass who need to be converted if the movement is to succeed

Interestingly, banner boy was bombed out after campaigners had discovered his place of work and had whipped up a minor shitstorm. Let’s not be too astounded at this. It has long since been held as a legitimate tactic in many quarters of modern activism to doxx opponents and to attack their employment status. Whole online hearty pushes to get opponents fired are frequently the order of the day, and this all serves to ramp up the hate on all sides. And meanwhile, the arguments (yes, those) and with them any hope of rapprochement that might unite people on subjects like equality or Brexit just fritter away like £600 of crowdfunded banner cash. It’s all about ad hominem now.

The backlash from the banner incident will be, of course, a hardening of right-wing sentiment and to a degree a mobilisation of it. But the most meaningful by-product of the reaction to this caper will be turned-off floaters who will perceive a movement for equality as one that has overstepped into the erosion of others’ rights. That is not a statement on reality but on human psychology.

The whole thing was a banana skin the moment that little Fokker took off (and I don’t mean the one who was en route to the airstrip with his £600), and there was no shortage of self-promoting, superficial stooges to step squarely on to it.

Imagine how much better the protest movement would have come out, had campaigners and all the high-profile poseurs with their extended social media reaches simply reiterated that banner boy had misunderstood the BLM message (and why this was the case) and how bizarre it was that anybody would stump up £600 to fly a banner over an empty stadium.

Consider how much better it would have been, had the media not run the story at all? Six hundred notes spaffed, and the whole mispunctuated missive seen by only a handful of footballers.

But there are too many agendas out there, all competing towards some very different ends. The very story would be worth money, and for the media, money matters. Way more than black lives or indeed any lives.

So, the upshot of it all is that the banner will ultimately achieve so much more than its initial objective.

From a likely intentioned crude two fingers, it has spawned martyrs and to boot an alternative counter-narrative that BLM is ‘attacking personal freedoms, facilitated by cowed authorities who have responded by taking the knee in deference to hostility’. All fare that will be heartily lapped up within the white, working-class heartlands, even more with some subtle stoking.

Those who seek to make some real changes need to start upping their game because there are some real players out there.

Resistance to equality has never looked easier.

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