Some very strange behavior is going on.
For instance, a month ago, President Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom enraged the general public so much that 250,000 people took to the streets of London in protest. It was one of the largest political protests ever directed at a specific person. Trump of course, is not a popular figure, his policies and rhetoric are divisive, and it’s easy to see why people could straight up hate the American head of state. But 250,000 people taking to the streets is still puzzling indeed.There is much more at home for these people to be protesting:
The UK currently is in political crisis. Brexit has torn the government apart, following that there was an election which nobody won. larger issues such as the housing crisis, homelessness and more face the country. 4 million people used food banks last year and the national health service is so unfunded that people are being put in corridors. Last year the Grenfell tower disaster killed 72 in what was indicative of the slum conditions in London. In short things aren’t going great for the UK.
During all this crisis there has been little protest, and certainly not to the size of when Trump visited.
What’s even stranger is that in recent years there has been state visits from much more controversial leaders. Both Xi Jin Ping of China and King Salman of Saudi Arabia visited the UK to comparatively little protest.
Whilst many rail against Trumps rhetoric on Muslims, Xi Jin Ping is the leader of a nation that has been accused of actively oppressing a whole region of Muslims. Sending them to “re-education camps” and enacting anti-Islamic legislation. The accusations are shocking, Muslim men being falsely imprisoned forced to eat pork, banning of long beards and a host of other human rights violations. This isn’t to mention the long list of Human rights violations China has been accused of over the years or even just the fact that it’s a one party totalitarian state.
If those protesters who were upset by Trumps words on Islam, why didn’t they turn out for Xi Jin Ping’s state visit that was regaled in even more pomp and circumstance. The few protesters that met the Chinese premier were mainly from the Free Tibet movement or from native born Chinese in the UK.
If it wasn’t the defence of Islam that brought so many people out then you could assume it was Trumps misogyny and his comments against women, some of which have been pretty awful to say the least. However just last year King Salman of Saudi Arabia came to the country on a state visit, again to minimal protest relative to Trump. In fact far from the 250,000 that lined London last month, the independent reports that “100s” gathered outside downing street in protest of the Kings visit.
Clearly, Trump is certainly no feminist, King Salman rules a country that actively oppresses women. Only recently are women allowed to drive, they cant leave the country without a male chaperone and are essential treated like second class citizens, forced to cover up when leaving the home and having very few personal, let alone political, freedoms. This isn’t to mention accusations of war crimes in the Yemen and the illegality and treatment of Homosexuals.
But again there were little to no protests against his visit. Which leaves one to wonder what was the real motivation of the protests?
In an excerpt from an interview with the London Evening Standard one mother told the paper.
“We are here because I think you need to say something. It’s a friendly protest: we are just saying we don’t agree with this man and his politics.”
Felix, who looked very relaxed in his buggy-cage, has never been to a protest before.
“I think he is mainly enjoying the helicopters,” his mum said. “I hope this is his first of many. He needs to be educated as he grows up that he can stand up against things that affect him.”
Although it’s nice to see a mother encouraging their child to be politically active, quite how Donald Trumps presidency has affected a 2 year old British child personally is questionable.
In the coming days after the protest the internet was ablaze with articles and slideshows documenting the “funniest placards” even fashion magazines such as Elle had pieces on it. 1000s of signs reading “Cheeto Benito,” “Big Orange Baby,” and “This Pussy Grabs back!” the Instagram hashtag #trumpprotest had over 60,000 pictures.
It was then seemingly a party more than a protest. A chance to be seen. Whilst I have no doubt some of these people are genuinely concerned about the US and have some vocal concerns about trumps border policy, 250,000 being more incensed by Trump than any other world leader that has visited the UK in recent years just doesn’t make any sense.
What’s worrying then is that it became politics as a “day out” rather than a protest. An event you didn’t want to miss out on. A chance to get some great pictures for instagram. An opportunity to be complimented on your brilliant and witty sign.
Instead of anger it’s image. The removal of discourse from politics, and abstraction from reality and instead a sort of peacocking. The Placard becomes a fashion accessory and the march the catwalk.
I hope I’m wrong, I hope there has been a wind of change and that next time a leader from a totalitarian country or some real despot comes to visit the UK or another Western country we see the same numbers. That we stand up and say we are not ok with this, but I don’t think that’s the case.
All of it reminded me of a jacket that made headlines last year for being adorned with political symbolism such as the anarchist symbol and political slogans. The catch was that it cost $375, quite a bit more than what someone who would be so mad at the current system could afford. It affirmed something though, that in this strange new world politics is fashionable, and that “revolution is the new black”