Southend-on-Sea Carnival has one of the largest processions in Europe, with 60 garish floats attracting about 20,000 spectators. Strangely, there’s never any mention of it on the news. For the BBC it doesn’t exist, no more significant than the average English summer fete somewhere deep in white Middle England.
For the press it’s not newsworthy because no one who goes there is expected to die a violent death by stabbing or kicks to the head. It doesn’t require a massive police presence and no officer of the law is routinely attacked with bricks, broken bottles, acid or knives. But chiefly it gets no attention because almost all the participants, and certainly the organising committee, are white. As such they have no obvious identity, if any identity at all, and tick no socially required boxes.
The Notting Hill Carnival, in contrast, extolled every year by the BBC as the ‘biggest carnival in Europe’, received attention on the national news just for its existence, not for the 28 policemen who were attacked with bottles, blood and acidic substances. The news broadcasts didn’t mention it, but there were 313 arrests, mostly relating to drugs and offensive weapons, and 14 for sexual offences against women – which apparently did not include this assault on a policewoman. The number of knives confiscated was slightly down on last year but the attacks on police were so serious that the Metropolitan Police Federation chairman, Ken Marsh MBE, did feel obliged to comment to the press: ‘What other event would be allowed to carry on regardless with so many police colleagues under attack?
‘The Met have put out a statement about the injured as if it is almost matter-of-fact. As if this is the norm. As if this is acceptable. This is not normal. This is not acceptable.’
Mr Marsh, who ‘identifies’ as a middle-aged white Englishman, is well behind the zeitgeist. It’s no good his frothing with indignation – the violence of the West London carnival is now the norm, aptly reflecting the street and gang violence of the city. It is not just acceptable; such mob criminality is never discussed according to its ethnic origin and is considered by many, including some educated middle-class people, to be worthy if not of approval, certainly tolerance.
This year the Notting Hill Behemoth saw the political benefit of extending its identity by the incorporation of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. Although those who suffered mostly have nothing in common in terms of religion or ethnicity with the Afro-Caribbean cohort behind the Notting Hill Carnival, they have been co-opted into its ethos, described by Alexander Adams in his article, New Order, in the latest Jackdaw magazine, as ‘Identarianism’, or identity politics.
Once the fire victims were incorporated, nice little rules were quickly established: No ‘selfies’ were to be taken beside the blackened shell of the Grenfell building. Revellers were to behave respectfully towards the vertical tomb, and – borrowed from patriarchal, colonialist white society – there was a minute’s silence for the dead as if they were victims of a war.
This was not done from altruism. According to the rules of identity politics, empathy, even if unconscious, has potential for prejudice, misapprehension or worse – the appropriation of another’s culture. According to the ‘New Order’, which has replaced old-style Marxism, each ‘subset’ culture is unique and can be understood only by other members of that subset. No outsider is entitled to speak for them. The Notting Hill organisers firstly saw the Grenfell survivors as black, a subset of the oppressed like themselves. If they believed they were a different group, their action could be justified because in the fight for social justice against the oppressive white man and his police, different subsets may join together briefly to demand reparations for the discrimination and oppression of the privileged white community.
The very word ‘Carnival,’ spoken with affectionate reverence by its followers, always without the determiner, signifies the difference between these disadvantaged victims and their white torturers. After the successful co-opting of Grenfell, without any questions asked, it is impossible to imagine any politician, police superintendent or elected Mayor stepping forward to say that the annual circus of mayhem and murder in West London should end, no matter how many are killed or wounded.
Carnival’s easy acquisition of the Grenfell ‘subset’ of victims and its freedom from responsibility for crime also show that our political elite, governed as it is by shame about its own privilege so unfairly inherited, ‘privileges’ interest groups representing race and migration over and above the law.
Going to Carnival, defending it from detractors, refusing to say that it should be stopped, is now more to do with virtue signalling than any idea of having a good time on a summer’s day. To mention that it is violent and chaotic and an insult to British values would be to risk arrest. Quite amazing, Mr Marsh, but that is the reality.
As Alexander Adams points out, there was a time, not so long ago, when we were appalled at Soviet agronomists who rejected Mendel’s rational theory of genetics because it was considered ‘bourgeois’, and detested Nazi ministers who referred to science and modern art as ‘Jewish’. Yet in the US and the UK today, history, art, sculpture, literature and the law of the land can be damned and flouted as ‘too white and too male’. Yes, that is all now quite acceptable.