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XR pick their targets carefully

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EXTINCTION Rebellion are like Millwall Football Club. No one likes them, they don’t care.

Of course that is not quite accurate. However their activities do demonstrate that the United Kingdom still does have Two Nations in it, though not necessarily distinguished by affluence and poverty.

Consider when Extinction Rebellion demonstrated at two east London stations six months apart last year. At Canary Wharf, the Docklands Light Railway was held up by protesters who glued themselves to a carriage. At Canning Town, two activists climbed on the top of an underground train. At the former location, the services were halted. Crowds formed and eventually the protesters were removed and arrested, charged, tried, convicted and sentenced. However, something different happened at Canning Town, which is not too far away from Canary Wharf. Members of the public climbed on top of the train, chased the protesters and pushed them on to the platform, where other members of the public proceeded to kick them while they were on the ground.  

The would-be protesters were saved only by the actions of a London Underground official. A camera crew sent by the protest group to record the demonstration were also roughed up. Poor dears.

Why the different reactions? It is probably because the delayed passengers had different economics. At Canary Wharf, it is likely that all those held up were salary-earners. Any lateness would be excused, meetings and the like would be rescheduled, management would understand. This was probably not the case at Canning Town. There, the people being blocked by self-deluded militants were probably in the main wage-earners, paid by the hour, so any delay would cost them money. Lateness or absenteeism caused by a disrupted service could cost them their job. If a salary-earner is repeatedly late or absent, it would be a matter for Human Resources to remedy, not necessarily resulting in the docking of pay or dismissal.

There is no economic injustice at work here, but the Two Nations we have today are characterised by how direct the relationship is with the physical time spent at work. Extinction Rebellion seem to be aware of this now. Their stunts all take place in city centres, which are a kind of no-man’s-land, or liberal enclaves, usually university towns, where the main victims of protests will usually be people who would generally agree with the aims of the protest. Wage-earners could also be affected. It would be up to the gallery-owner to determine whether to dock money from the art history graduate to whom he or she pays minimum wage if they are late to work because of a protest by militant environmentalists. Perhaps paying for the lost time would be seen as an act of solidarity, or else the graduate whose wage had been docked would have a good moan on their shared WhatsApp group, which could be awkward in the coffee-shop.

So this is why there were only faint cries of dismay when an ancient lawn in Cambridge was destroyed in an eco-protest. Affluent liberals were just doing things to themselves, while gaining wall-to-wall coverage from an under-critical media.

To illustrate the distinction further, a prime location for a disruptive Extinction Rebellion protest would be in Guildford, the seat of Surrey University. However, if the same protesters were to pull their stunt a few miles away in Aldershot, the good people at nearby Frimley Park Hospital would need to get some extra beds ready.

Extinction Rebellion is deeply hated in large parts of our country that are usually ignored by journalists and broadcasters, which is why protesters do not dare disrupt everyday life there. But this is never reflected in the mainstream media, just as the Two Nations were never properly covered before or during the EU Referendum or the General Election. On Remembrance Day, protesters decided to defile the Cenotaph with a perversion of honouring The Glorious Dead. This will only make them hated even more by decent people everywhere, mainly outside liberal and metropolitan enclaves.

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan works in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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