After video was posted showing a group of white and mainly male people laughing and mocking as a model of Grenfell Tower was burned on a bonfire, there was revulsion at the callous act. That the figures in the model were not white people, along with the occasional racially tinged comment, did not do those involved any favours. Some in the print and broadcast media were especially angry about this exhibition of unpleasantness.
But one media outlet could be counted on to tell anyone not yet asleep that this kind of behaviour should be tolerated. To no surprise at all, that outlet is Spiked, so named because it should have been a very long time ago. Here, tedious contrarian Brendan O’Neill, taking a break from “triggering Libs” (see Zelo Street post HERE), has taken up the task of explaining that it’s fine to be shockingly offensive.
Bren admits “the video is horrible” before going off on the usual libertarian riff. “But criminal? That would be even more gross. Living in a society that criminalises people for what they say in their own back gardens would be worse, infinitely worse, than living in a society that has small numbers of prejudiced twats who think mocking the Grenfell calamity is funny”. And there is more. A lot more.
“And yet it looks like we live in that society. The commander of Scotland Yard, no less, issued a plea for information about the video, declaring himself ‘appalled by the callous nature’ of the people in it and by their ‘vile’ comments. I’m sorry, but I don’t want the police investigating videos in which no crime has been committed. In which no one’s property has been damaged or stolen and no person has been harmed. In which there is merely an act of expression”. There is, though, a problem with O’Neill’s approach.
And it is simply this: those who laughed and jeered as they burned an effigy of the Grenfell Tower did not just do so in their own back garden. Had that been the case, O’Neill would have been quite right to say that, no matter how offensive such behaviour may seem to others, it’s their business and no-one else’s. End of story.
But they didn’t just burn the effigy in their own back garden. The videoed it and posted the video online for the whole world to see - including the Grenfell survivors, relatives of those who died, and the wider community that is still trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
As Natasha Elcock has written in the Guardian, “There can be no excuse for the cruelty that was shown in that now infamous Grenfell video. It’s disgusting and vile. Unfortunately, many survivors and bereaved families endured the pain of watching people mock the trauma we all suffered that night. There is enough pain - we don’t deserve this”.
You see, Bren, it wasn’t just a group of white blokes having a laugh over a few cans in a back garden. It was a leering, mocking, racially intolerant and insensitive “fuck-you”, not just to the Grenfell families, but to tens of thousands of Londoners just about getting by, and having no alternative but to live in ageing and potentially deadly tower blocks.
That may be difficult for the comfortable metropolitan middle-class “Lib-triggering” inhabitants of the planet Spiked to understand. But not for those of us in the real world.
But if Brendan O’Neill had kept his obsession in the back garden, it would have been OK.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at