by Louise Perry
Thursday, 13
January 2022
Idea
16:49

Is statue toppling now a Right-wing activity too?

The attack on the BBC's Eric Gill statue marks a new juncture in the culture wars
by Louise Perry

Yesterday afternoon, a would-be vandal climbed up a ladder and began hammering away at the bottom of the statue that graces the front of the BBC’s Broadcasting House in London — a depiction of an adult and a naked figure that looks a child, sculpted in 1932 by the British artist Eric Gill. The crowd below filmed him on their phones and laughed at a sight that was, to be fair, really quite comical. After four and a half hours, the man was brought down and arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. 

I did wonder, after the Colston verdict last week, if this particular statue might be next in line for a dose of iconoclasm. Until now, statue toppling has been a project favoured by the Left, with a particular focus on statues of slave owners.

The Gill statue at Broadcasting House has been a focus of controversy for some time, ever since the examination of Eric Gill’s private papers uncovered accounts of sexual crimes committed by Gill against his daughters, sisters, and even the family dog. Pair these revelations with those concerning the BBC and Jimmy Savile, who is now believed to have sexually assaulted as many as 1,000 girls and boys on the corporation’s premises over the course of four decades. 

But in the current political landscape, anxiety about paedophilia is associated far more with the Right than with the Left, partly due to the Left’s disdain for the tabloid press, which has always cared greatly about “paedos”. And the Right wing group that is most preoccupied with paedophilia is QAnon, who have been protesting outside Broadcasting House as far back as 2020, demanding the statue’s removal.

So perhaps the BBC statue attack marks new ground in that it is offensive primarily to the Right, who have not, in recent times, shown much interest in playing the statue game. 

The defence tactic used by the Colston defendants could easily be attempted by the BBC vandal. They argued that the public display of a statue depicting the slave owner Edward Colson was criminal, given that it was likely to cause distress to people viewing it. Thus, by tearing it down, they were using reasonable force to prevent the commission of a crime. 

A little far-fetched, as defences go. But apparently the jury were persuaded. Legal commentator the Secret Barrister was confident that the acquittal of the Colston four would not, technically, constitute a legal precedent, since this is not within the power of juries. And the consensus among most commentators was that, although the verdict might seem odd, it had wisdom behind it. 

Is the “distress” felt by these protestors at the sight of the BBC statue enough to warrant its abrupt and unsanctioned removal? We will soon discover if the defence strategy that worked for the Colston four is as effective when it concerns a statue hated by the Right, rather than by the Left.

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David McDowell
David McDowell
8 months ago

Of course the man who attacked the Gill status will be prosecuted vigorously and convicted. The criminal justice system has been set up to facilitate leftist social and political change and oppose anything else.
It’s not as if the Tories are in a position to change it either. They’ve only been in government for 12 years.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
8 months ago
Reply to  David McDowell

Indeed. Look what’s just happened with the XR train protestors. The Colston verdict has set a precedent – just not in the normal sense. It’s given left-wing jury members a precedent for what they can get away with. Nothing’s safe now.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
8 months ago

If it’s ok to topple Colston, it’s ok to topple Eric Gill, and also to desecrate Marx’s tomb in Highgate.

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
8 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Surely b*ggering the family dog in the 20th century is a far more heinous crime that selling a few thousand slaves in the 17th century?

Last edited 8 months ago by SULPICIA LEPIDINA
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
8 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

That would make a great debate question at one of the few remaining universities that tolerate free speech.
Sadly it’s hard to imagine any university administrator having the “cojones” to facilitate such a debate.

Last edited 8 months ago by Ian Barton
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
8 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

The University would soon point out the false equivalent; Toppling the Slaver’s statue was a political act, desecrating Marx’s statue is Apostasy.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
8 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Good point.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
8 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Desecrating any grave would lose any moral high ground you might have. Better tie up a toppler and drop them in Brizzle Docks. If the USA is closed to yachtsmen this year I’ll be spending some time on the visitors pontoons under The Canon’s House. Roll on the rolling-off.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
8 months ago

” Is statue toppling now a right wing activity too?” “So perhaps the BBC statue attack marks new ground in that it is offensive primarily to the Right, who have not, in recent times, shown much interest in playing the statue game. “

Oh, come on…I looked on search and could find nothing of his Left/Right politics, are you just imputing his motive as a Right Wing act? If you have a link to his thinking I wish it was shown. Also is this an organization backed act – or a lone wolf? Is this an attempt at re-writing history from before any now living person’s experience? or an injured person still alive and bearing their injury?

But still – it has no equivalent to the Far-Left wholesale destruction of Art and monuments by mobs of extremists backed by large organizations and massed Social Media agendas. A lone radical is not the same as the, Organized, massed arson, looting, riots, injury, killings, of the hard Left’s attack on society in the last two years.

Last edited 8 months ago by Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
8 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

The guy smashing the statue is a part of Fathers4Justice and has been in several long protests in a dramatic way, climbing cranes in spiderman costume being his specialty.

Here is the founder with the only political reference I could find – and it leads one to think they are not Right Wing

“Statement by Matt O’Connor, founder, Fathers4Justice, in relation to this weeks events. Dear supporter, For the last 6 months, my family has been subject to a frightening and traumatic campaign of what appears to be political intimidation by right-wing extremists linked to the Romsey Conservative Party and the MP for Romsey and Southampton North,”.

I just was interested because casual demonizing of the Right Wing’ bothers me. This event seems to not be political, but about children.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
8 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Yes, would the author of this article, or person who decided the headline (if different) kindly explain where the ‘Right-wing’ element sprang from?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
8 months ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

The writer explains that:

“in the current political landscape, anxiety about paedophilia is associated far more with the Right than with the Left, partly due to the Left’s disdain for the tabloid press, which has always cared greatly about “paedos”.”

And we all know of the serious conversation on the left about ‘Minor attracted people’

“walker is the author of the book “a long, dark shadow: minor attracted people and their pursuit of dignity,” which challenges “widespread assumptions that persons who are preferentially attracted…”

R S Foster
R S Foster
8 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

…we should also be reminded that the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange was at one time affiliated with the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty), at a time when Harriet Harperson was amongst their legal staff…and an awful lot of the nonsense about abuse rooted in the (Tory) Establishment was promulgated by various London Leftists…I’d suggest the Colston Defence will next be used when a bunch of BLM leftists attack either Churchill’s Statue, or the Cenotaph…both of which I believe they would have destroyed in Summer 2020, had they the means to hand…

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago

“But in the current political landscape, anxiety about paedophilia is associated far more with the Right than with the Left, partly due to the Left’s disdain for the tabloid press,
and partly due to the fact that it is a serious concern for ordinary people who the left abhorrer, partly because it is seen as transgressive and so a means of sticking it to the rest of the country, partly because despite all their posturing the left only give a toss about the right kind of victims and partly because so many intellectuals on the left have dabbled in it.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
8 months ago

Well, the left commentators on your Twitter link seem to be frantically distancing this action from any comparison with the wilful destruction of the Colston statue , (Grade II: buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them), so I guess that means your man is definitely a Right Winger.

Andrew D
Andrew D
8 months ago

He looks a right whinger to me
I’m off to the National Gallery to slash a canvas by Caravaggio (he was a convicted murderer, no one is safe while his paintings remain)

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

thank-you for your (sjw) service…

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

That’s Robert the Bruce’s statue at Bannockburn buggered then !

Andrew D
Andrew D
8 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Well done. I hope it wasn’t too painful

SULPICIA LEPIDINA
SULPICIA LEPIDINA
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

For which he should have been hanged.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
8 months ago

Like a painting?

Neil Cheshire
Neil Cheshire
8 months ago

Perhaps he is a card carrying member of the Canine Defence League?

William MacDougall
William MacDougall
8 months ago

Can I attack the statue of Cromwell outside Parliament and the statue of Marx in Highgate? Both were responsible for many deaths and both offend me greatly…

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
8 months ago

So where does this leave every other work of art in the world?

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
8 months ago

I think the core problem here is that the BBC has refused point blank to engage with the issue. Many people of all political hues have raised the issue with the national broadcaster but met with silence. The broad Carravagio point is valid subject to the watercolours painted by Hitler. But in the context of the BBC harbouring Saville and Bashir for years and, now, making a broadcast drama about Saville, the problem is easily taken out of the dark, guarded corridors of the National Gallery and into the public square. It is not simply a question of taste but of context. Should the national broadcaster (for that is what it is) promote such an artist?

John Verrill
John Verrill
8 months ago

It might be better for the owners of defaced statues to sue the topplers and hackers for the cost of reinstatement. Damage is damage, no jury, single judge and if they don’t pay up, bankruptcy beckons. More of a deterrent than community service or a suspended sentence. Film of the perps in action should be enough to get a summary judgment too.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
8 months ago

Greyfriars Bobby must be next.