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Catholic among the Pigeons

Grumpy Old Manarchist | 20.10.2013 10:18 | Analysis | Anti-militarism | Repression | London

Ciaron O Reilly, Assange and Anarcha-Feminism at yesterday's bookfair and beyond.

Catholic among the Pigeons.

Strolling out of the bookfair yesterday in search of a Veggies burger I happened upon the tail end of a slanging match between Ciaron O'Reilly and a gang of what, semiotically at least, were anarcha-feminist and queer types.

Ciaron, it is fair to say, has confined himself to the fringes of a fringe movement by attempting to square the circle of being a practising Catholic and an anarchist. He's a long term peace activist and his main mission at the moment revolves around Assange, Manning and their persecution following the Wiki-leaks revelations. If one thing came across yesterday it's his frustration that anarchists as a whole have done little to support either Manning or Assange.

Currently of course Assange is living in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden where two allegations of rape have been made. His supporters allege that that this is merely the first step towards an eventual extradition to the U.S where he will suffer the same fate as Manning. Given the nature of Realpolitik and the global reach of U.S power this seems likely.

Outside the bookfair however the consensus among the crowd haranguing Ciaron was that to stand up for Assange was tantamount to being a 'rape apologist'. (I actually intervened when one said “We should just get up there and give him [Ciaron] a slap”. When challenged on this threat of violence his immediate response was “I've got mental health issues” as if that was some kind of excuse). Certainly Ciaron was given no chance to speak and was unfairly abused – one woman was screaming “Have you got any idea what enthuisastic consent is? I bet you've never experienced it in your life” - a grotesque slur.

I managed to speak with a couple of the group shouting. Their position seemed to be that if Assange had been accused then he must be guilty and that he should be deported to Sweden a.s.a.p to face charges. This was based on the idea that a rape survivors narrative should be privileged above all. Obviously I was told that as a man I would have no understanding of the issues involved in any case 'cos of patriarchy. I was given assurances that there would be a fair trial and that Sweden would be in breach of its own laws were it to allow extradition to the U.S. I found this faith in fair-dealing at the level of international diplomacy to be breathtakingly naïve. That's without the contradictions inherent in anarchists demanding that someone submit themselves to a judicial system.

There is actually a really good piece here by Women Against Rape that points out exactly why the rape charges against Assange are being pursued with such zeal by powerful nation states. The US military or the British Foreign Office do not care about rape victims unless it is strategically useful for them to do so. Many liberals have been coaxed into supporting wars of aggression (with their attendant murders and rapes), especially in Afghanistan, by an appeal to feminist principles. It is sad to watch anarchists marching into the same trap.

However if I'm honest it was really the manner in which the dispute was conducted that disturbed me. It seemed emblematic of a new dogma which is spreading through our movement, a dogma that does not tolerate debate and is almost entirely inwardly focused. It revolves around personal identity politics and the creation of safer spaces. What you do or don't 'identify' as has become more important than what you do. Feelings are absolutely paramount and must not be challenged. Anarchists don't think anymore – they feel.

I'm not the only one to have spotted this cultural shift. The anarchist movement I haphazardly joined twenty years ago was characterized by its rough and ready “have a go nature”. It was outwardly focused – we tried to effect change in the mainstream world. Some of it was no doubt crudely optimistic – ten crusties in a transit van were never going to throw down global capitalism- but it was vibrant and outward looking. It earned the nickname DIY culture and did, with Reclaim the Streets and J18, strike a chord with thousands if not tens of thousands.

A substantial section of today's anarchist prefer to sit around in their local social centre arguing about how to turn it into an even safer space. You've got to watch what you say or do as comments can readily be misconstrued and if someone 'feels' upset then there will be no gainsaying their 'survivors narrative'. Everyone's a victim, everyone has a handy psychiatric tag to excuse their behaviour. Needless to say this creates a space that is effectively unsafe for everyone not already schooled in the cutting edge language of trans-queer white privilege theory. Not an attractive shop window for an ideology that hopefully still aspires to become a mass movement.

The shouting down of Ciaron yesterday was an example of how inwardly focused some sections of our movement have become and if we are not careful we will suffer an even greater disconnect with the society we are trying to change.

Grumpy Old Manarchist



Display the following 83 comments

  1. Trolling the bookfair — err, no
  2. er, no 'err, no' — observer
  3. Don't know much about anarchism, do you? — MDN
  4. Bookfair is no space for the likes of you — anarcha-feminist and queer type
  5. not really disruptive — anonymous
  6. dreary me. — fianna
  7. Ciaron O'Reilly - Free Speech use it or lose it! — @
  8. Bullshit — Some dude
  9. comments/questions — MB
  10. Listen to the women in question! — Queer
  11. Be informed — anonbloc
  12. Comment from the bookfair (personal capacity) — Tony
  13. Thought Through? — JD
  14. Bookfair 2013 appreciation — A
  15. Good work Tony & other organisers — Just another anarcho
  16. Round of applause for the bookfair — Grumpy Old Manarchist
  17. Responses — Grumpy Old Manarchist
  18. FFS — 2nd wave Fembot
  19. Screeching students — mf
  20. Bookfair coverage? — Some dude
  21. what would jesus have done? — rtj
  22. Manning support?? — mf
  23. same old shit — juvenile student
  24. SOS — A
  25. her name is CHELSEA MANNING — sam ambreen
  26. save old sods? — juvenile student
  27. Average against the Machine — Mr Average
  28. Not sure who is more ridiculous, Ciaron or Sam! — Aunty Christ
  29. THINK MOAR — angry prole
  30. Yeah I know a dignified silence would be best tactically,but ya know, here we go — Ciaron
  31. SOSS — A
  32. Sam — ffs
  33. Behold! The cancer that is killing Anarchism. — SmellsLikeAnarchists
  34. For Fucksake - building a straw man - support prisoner does not mean devotion — @
  35. Not a rhetorical question -what objection do you have to this account of events? — @
  36. those who suffer most at the hands of imperialism are mostly ignored — grotty penis boil
  37. @grotty penis boil — Barry Cade
  38. OK mate ya lynch mob accusation cliches against likes of Pilger & Wolf right! — ?
  39. Some common sense.... — anon
  40. Rebuttal — @
  41. Yet more — Grumpy Old Manarchist
  42. I see Ciaron has morphed into @ — Barry Cade
  43. Not an alias! — Grumpy Old Manarchist
  44. Bazza have a bex and a think before you post again — Ciaron
  45. Geeze, and I don't mean your imaginery friend Ciaron.... — Barry Cade
  46. Ciaron, a quick question.... — British Anarchist
  47. @British Anarchist — Anon
  48. that blog post... — @
  49. Response to BRIT anarchist - try English/ Half English for an I.D. — Ciaron
  50. News From Nowhere bookshop refuses Manning fundraiser posters — Concerned
  51. Ciaron O'Reilly on Dissident Island Radio - 6 September 2013 — Dissident Island
  52. News from Where? — William Morris
  53. See the bigger picture — Really sick of this crap
  54. Morning response — Ciaron
  55. What have we learnt thus far? — Outer Space
  56. Statement from News from Nowhere — Mandy Vere
  57. Responding to Mandy at News from Nowhere — WISE Up Wales
  58. Nowhere indeed! — mf
  59. Response to Mandy Vere — BKK
  60. Single issue bullshit.......... — Bored and Angry
  61. GarethPerice - lawyer Guilford4, Birmingham6, Assange, Gitmo detain - on Manning — Vid
  62. If Gareth is a too high pitched 4u, sprinkle some Brand on on ya Paxman cynicism — Vid 2
  63. nothing but the same old story — donny mark
  64. perspective — Seamus
  65. Bristol Anarchist Bookfair 26 April 2014 - all welcome — Bristol Anarchist Bookfair
  66. VID - New York Catholic Workers get grief during Occupy in NYC — @
  67. "students" and unsafe spaces — libcon
  68. dont make me laugh... — DM
  69. Compare and contrast — more libcon
  70. @ 'this bullshit is the reason why i don't call myself a anarchist' — Aunty Christ
  71. Thread on U75 — Linkz
  72. Solidarity Meeting — Black Kat Kollective
  73. One more time now, with feeling — Ciaron
  74. 's not the arrivin in Liverpool that grieves me,but darlin' when I think of thee — Ciaron
  75. —Bookfair Timeline — lynx
  76. Ya got to be innit to winnit = Rugby League ball isgned by Julian Assange raffle — Ciaron
  77. you must think we'll believe anything — watch out for fibbers!
  78. Independent Witness Statement about events at the Bookfair — Investigation
  79. VID - Julian Assange opens M.I.A. gig in NYC - do you "no platform"/censor her? — @
  80. What side would you''ll have taken on The Scottsboro Case ? — Conor from San Leandro California
  81. The state is likely behind this "PC gone mad" divisive behaviour — lefty
  82. Australian comedian Steve Hughes on being offended..... — OZ
  83. South Park takes on "Safe Space" censorship — Kenny