Thursday, October 24, 2013

"Witch Hunts", "Pitchforks" and Privilege's Fear of the Mob

*Trigger warning – mentions of rape*

It's been three days since posters went up around Liverpool Hope University's Childwall campus warning that accused rapist Martin Smith was taking a PhD there, and Angry Women Of Liverpool published a blog post on the story.

The campaign to get Smith off campus has received a lot of support online from feminists - many of whom have identified themselves as survivors - as well as from quite a few men. However, there is a sizeable minority of men - and it has only been men - who have sought to shift the blame from the men involved - Martin Smith and Michael Lavalette - to women, and some have spoken in terms of "witch hunts", "pitchforks" and "torch-wielding mobs". In doing so, they may have revealed something about how their deepest fears are a mirror image of their privileged position in this society.

Many of the responses from such men have read like a feminist bingo card, with the added bonus of the 'dividing the class' trope which feminist women on the radical left are all too familiar with. Some of the male pronouncements have been mealy-mouthed - perhaps too scared to say 'I support rapists', though effectively supporting them all the same with their constant questioning. But it's the warnings against 'vigilantism' which have been most prevalent.

So far, the 'Delta Removals' campaign does not resemble the Simpsons picture above. A few people sticking some posters up and posting stuff online does not a "torch-wielding mob" make. However, there is one respect in which it does resemble such behaviour; it is everyday people taking matters into their own hands.

The men on the left who criticise such action are often quick enough to reject bourgeois liberal 'proper procedures' when it comes to struggles they identify with - predominantly worker versus employer, and individual versus capitalist state. They are of course right to do so. Many of these people frequently advocate or sympathise with outbreaks of direct action in such circumstances. Again, this is correct.

This is why 'fear of the mob' is common in ruling class thought, as they know they are a tiny minority, and they fear that if and when the rest of us got our act together, we could tear their lives apart. Their lives of privilege would be over.

Men on the left are rarely rich in capitalist terms, but they do have male privilege in patriarchy terms. As part of this - largely by force of intimidation - many men rape women, but few of them get convicted, or face any negative consequences for it. The idea of women collectively organising to make Martin Smith's life less comfortable therefore challenges much of male privilege, and this is why some males are unhappy about it. Likely they are unconscious of this, and maybe wouldn't be lying if they denied it, but this unknowing is the essence of privilege.

In the 'Delta' case - like in so many others - the 'proper procedures' have manifestly failed those seeking some kind of justice, and so direct action is the only avenue still open. Let the privileged tremble at the fear of the mob!
Post a Comment

Disqus for Infantile Disorder