Thieves and Looters?

Stroud’s statue-gate is a very minor issue, and the local activists’ request is moderate. They seem motivated by a good-hearted desire to join a just struggle and make the world a better place (and, perhaps, to be recognised as doing so.)  I wonder why Ms Baillie has bothered to get involved. Her status as an MP gives her much greater clout than the private citizens she is attacking, and her criticisms are kind of personal. 

Perhaps she hopes her message will play well with her core support in this conservative constituency, who are probably alarmed by the extreme views of some Critical Race theorists. 

These wild statements are unrepresentative of the beliefs of most of the movement but, inevitably, they are the ones picked up by the press, where they justify and further radicalise right-wing opinion, and alienate many who might have been our allies. Most importantly, they allow conservatives to dismiss all efforts to improve our world as “wokery gone mad”, driven by a self-righteous and misanthropic desire for attention. 

A perfect example of such a strategic error is described in Jon Sopel’s UnPresidented (2021, BBC Books) when an American Black Lives Matter activist refuses to condemn looting that followed the death of George Floyd, because it is more important to combat social injustice than theft. 

No doubt the activist was relishing the pressure that might now be put on the government by property-owning Americans. Perhaps they liked the dashing figure they cut by refusing to bow to conventional morality. However, the looting and their response to it was a gift to Donald Trump and his far-right allies.  They could immediately dismiss all those who strive for justice and equality as opportunistic thieves and looters, persuading those that should be our allies that it is safer to allow them to maintain their monopoly on privilege and power. It always seems easier and safer to leave things as they are. 

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