by Mary Harrington
Monday, 3
October 2022
Debate
12:15

Pouring excrement on Captain Tom is just the beginning

Outrageous protests have a habit of succeeding
by Mary Harrington
A climate activist group poured human blood and faeces over a statue of Captain Tom

If you thought “shitposting” was just a metaphor, think again. This week, a climate activist group poured human blood and faeces over a statue of Captain Tom, in protest at the continued existence of private jets. Nor is this the only recent incidence of dirty protest: a few weeks ago, trans activists left more than 60 bottles of human urine outside the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

It’s tempting to dismiss such stunts as perverse internet incentives at work, with the competition for clicks incentivising not just the best or truest voices but the most grotesque or extreme. But this would be a mistake. There are plenty of causes that don’t inspire adherents to extreme breaches of social norms, and where such breaches occur, we should take them seriously. Indeed, such ‘radical’ acts can succeed in moving the political needle.

Covering statues or public buildings in sewage doesn’t directly inspire people to agree with your cause. In what sense, then, could it be an effective strategy? Well, by comparison we might consider the role of violence in political or religious activism. For example, anti-Christian blasphemy remains common today, while anti-Muslim blasphemy is considerably rarer, even in the ostensibly secular West. This is because you stand a much greater chance of being stabbed, blown up, or otherwise at the sharp end of real-world violence for the latter.

As far as death and mayhem are concerned, Islamist violence and dirty protests by environmental or transgender activists are of course not in the same league. But considered as a breach of civil norms, throwing human effluent around is as profoundly taboo as physical violence, even if the consequences are less horrific for targets or bystanders. Both make a clear statement these adherents are so rabidly certain of their cause that they’re willing to breach every social norm in its pursuit, even absolutely basic ones like “don’t murder people” or “don’t throw blood and shit around in public places”.

And the side which just cares more will often prevail over time — in no small part because they’re willing to breach civil norms in order to win. Politics is a long game, and even violent rulebreakers can end up as political insiders over time: Sinn Féin, after all, no longer has a paramilitary wing, but some decades on from the Troubles it’s now the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly. While they’ve embraced more conventional politics, their cause is unchanged: yesterday the party announced they’re no longer “treading water” on pushing for a united Ireland.

We may be tempted to dismiss dirty protesters on trans or environmental issues simply as nutters. But while we may not like it, history suggests that in the long run, and especially in conjunction with more conventional campaigning, terrorism is often a remarkably effective political strategy.

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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 months ago

This idiotic girl poured excrement over a statue of Captain Tom to protest against climate policies? In what world is that an effective protest? The statue of Captain Tom has absolutely no connection to the issue being protested!
I disagreed mightily with the statue of Colston being pulled down and dumped in the canal – but at least the controversial object was related to the issue being protested by the people/baying mob who did it.
For crying out loud, if you are going to protest by aiming your action at an inanimate object then at least make sure that you let the picture of your action do the talking for you.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
2 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I’m guessing How to Win Friends and Influence People is not popular with the kids these days.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

I don’t think common sense or thinking are popular with the kids these days.

Last edited 2 months ago by Katharine Eyre
Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I wouldn’t even consider it to be zealotry as much as virtue/protest signalling. So not just p*ssing in the wind as sh*ting in the wind for likes!

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
2 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Indeed.
What’s particularly scary is that she was a medical student. So I read.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I wonder how these protesters would feel if similar protests were visited upon their families?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Well, exactly right. 
I am someone who thinks there is far too much flying. All those business trips, flying bored alcoholics and cheaters in to an expensive hotel hundreds of miles away to listen to some bloke rattle through a PowerPoint that could have been done on Zoom.
All those plebs jetting off to eat chips and drink beer they could have got at home.
But this “protest” appalled and angered me.
I guess in their closed-bubble mentality, their “rationale” for this desecration is that “if we do this to the statue of a sweet old guy, people will see how bad things have become”.
But no, we don’t. We just see a headcase desecrating the state of a lovely old bloke whom people admired.
Fra from mainstreaming your cause, the repellent nature of your actions now tell me that you’re cranks and weirdos, and that does not reflect well on the cause you’re espousing. 
You lose support for your cause. It would have made more sense to do this protest over a statue of the earth or something that represented the environment. Capt. Tom was not the environment. Major category error.  

Last edited 1 month ago by Frank McCusker
Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Category error? But that’s a concept from logic . . .

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Of what is Captain Tom a symbol? A private individual who decided to raise money for charity. He didn’t form a committee with others who would do little but take plenty of the credit. He didn’t ask for money from the Government or big corporations. He is a symbol also of the people who gave out of their own free will and not because the HMRC threatened to fine or imprison them for not paying taxes. Then there is the recipient of the charity – the NHS. Donating to the NHS raises an obvious question that many people consider a taboo. Why isn’t this institution that receives so much money from government capable of delivering what it is expected to deliver? beyond that of course Captain Tom was a man who was prepared to sacrifice his life to defend his nation-state from a totalitarian monster. These are all reasons why a disgusting young woman saw fit to defile a memory of a dead man. She knew that her friends and associates would applaud. Do not make the mistake of thinking that this vile act was random.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
2 months ago

What a waste by these eco-warriors. Don’t they know that human excrement is an excellent fertiliser?
One of the main cargoes brought along the Leeds-Liverpool canal when it first opened was barges full of human excrement from the Liverpool slums which helped fertilise the fields along the hinterland canal corridor, as well as solving the problem of how to rid the burgeoning port of it’s waste. The crop yields increased to help solve the increasing food demands.
If these people knew anything about history other than that Liverpool was a slaving hub, they’d leave the spirit of Captain Tom alone and go deposit their excrement to help feed the world.

chris Barton
chris Barton
2 months ago

Sinn Fein still gets orders from the IRA council. The rainbow flags and smiles are just a cover.

Jessica Robeson
Jessica Robeson
2 months ago
Reply to  chris Barton

Sinn Fein are committed to making Ireland Afro-Islamic via mass migration, contrary to the will of the majority of the Irish – they are sometimes now taunted with the slogan ‘English out, Africans in’. And yes, the sexual violence that vulnerable English girls have long been subjected to it now being meted out on Irish girls as a result. They can drone on about a united Ireland as much as they like, but within the next generation or two they are going to, thanks to their own policies, have very significant ethnic and religious problems to contend with.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago

Really? I was unaware of this occurring on any scale to cause English style problems. Do you have a link to information on this issue?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 month ago

Are you on drugs Jessica?

Douglas H
Douglas H
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

She seems to be bonkers

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
2 months ago

“Sinn Féin, after all, no longer has a paramilitary wing.” Many people would beg to differ. The “physical force” impulse in Irish
Republicanism never goes away, and the more its past is glorified, the more likely becomes its return.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

All the more reason that Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford and 1 PARA should have ‘ continued the movement’ on Sunday the 30th January, 1972, and thus strangled the IRA in its cradle, as it so richly deserved.

Ray Mullan
Ray Mullan
2 months ago

I would like to think that you are being ironic, Charles, but my charity is stretched pretty thin.
The slaughter of innocent civilians, which is the only way to describe what happened in Derry that day, would never be tolerated on the streets of any English, Scottish or Welsh town and to endorse it as a viable strategy in Ireland is truly beyond the pale: the savagery of the Parachute Regiment was not only an outrage but a gross miscalculation that exacerbated violence in the six counties and across the water for decades thereafter.
I suspect you aired such views when you lived here in Ireland for the response they would have surely begged goes a long way to account for your bitter experience of this country.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 months ago
Reply to  Ray Mullan

I know Ireland from well before BS, and well after.
However when the Army arrived in Ulster in September 1969, fresh from Borneo and Aden, it was asked to keep the peace and prevent an internecine civil war between a Protestant oligarchy and Catholic helots. Not unnaturally its sympathies lay with the Catholics.
However with the murder of Gunner Robert Curtis, Royal Artillery, in February 1971 and the subsequent brutal murder of three boys from the Royal Highland Fusiliers at Ligoniel in March of that year, all bets were off! Catholics/IRA were enemy. Thus they were to be ‘chastised’ in the ‘sink’ estate of Ballymurphy in July 1971 and again in Londonderry in January 1972, as they so richly deserved.
Were you there by any chance?

Last edited 2 months ago by stanhopecharles344
Damian Grant
Damian Grant
2 months ago

Sorry, Charles, the ‘chastisement’ to which you refer in the city of DERRY in 1972 was unadulterated, state-sponsored, murder……and this from a proud citizen of that city, born and bred……

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 months ago
Reply to  Damian Grant

Sorry Damian but NONE of them should have been there.

The Province was in the grip of a major insurrection and their defiance was foolhardy to say the least.

Perhaps they thought that ‘Irish Exceptionalism’ would save them? If so they made a very bad mistake.

The Army was not, and is not some form of benign social service.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 month ago

[ ]

Last edited 1 month ago by Frank McCusker
Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 months ago

Bigotry pure and simple. I also detect a bitter grudge behind the hateful comments.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 months ago

Indeed you do! When the IRA ( no doubt your chums) murdered Gunner Robert Curtis in February 1971 and then subsequently murdered the three boys from the Royal Highland Fusiliers at Ligoniel in March of that year, all ‘bets were off’. The IRA/ Catholics were ‘enemy’,and treated accordingly. Do you really object to that?

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 months ago

Cameron apologised publicly for that brutal act and the queen during her visit to Ireland referred to ‘things we would have preferred didn’t happen’. You’re out of order and a proper moderator would have banned your comment extolling murder and calling for more of the same. The IRA are not my chums – more calumny.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 months ago

Cameron was a politician who would have said anything to advance his standing. In three words he was ‘an utter disgrace’.

All too predictably, I sadly note you are NO advocate of free speech, but perhaps it is naive of me to think you even could be, given your nomen.

For the record by the time of BS the Security Forces in Northern Ireland had suffered 60 dead in 1971. Given the population differential that would have equated to some 2,200 deaths if it had occurred in the UK. The Province was in the grip of a major insurrection, the like of which had been seen for 50 years.

No doubt you and your chums still refer to this period with the weasel words “The Troubles”. Everyone of those marchers was participating in an illegal action in defiance of the state. They got what they deserved. Had they wished it otherwise, they should have stayed at home and watched the Telly as did the majority. QED?

Last edited 2 months ago by stanhopecharles344
Graham Willis
Graham Willis
1 month ago

No – he should be free to say as he feels. He is not calling for violence.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Willis

[ ]

Last edited 1 month ago by Frank McCusker
Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 month ago

‘The IRA/Catholics were ‘enemy’…’ you say. All Catholics? Any age or other qualifiers, or were the jolly boys just back from Borneo rightfully entitled to shoot the lot of them if they were in the ‘wrong’ place? Your interventions here are despicable, and you clearly know it. For shame.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 months ago

2nd Bn Coldm Gds, just behind them would not agree, given what they witnessed: loss of command and control by a platoon commanded by a Sgt. It was a massive recruiting plus for PIRA

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 months ago

Agreed it was “a massive recruiting plus for PIRA”, but it needn’t have been if it had been followed through, even if that meant a ‘butchers bill’ of 100+.
Sadly 2 Bn Coldstream Guards were one of the ‘Aunt Sally’ Battalions of the Londonderry Brigade (8 Brigade) and as such, much mocked by I PARA and the rest of the Belfast Brigade (39 Brigade).
However, to look on the bright side, it did subsequently provide an excellent training ground for junior commanders for the next twenty five years, when there wasn’t much else on offer.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

[ ]

Last edited 1 month ago by Frank McCusker
Ruud van Man
Ruud van Man
2 months ago

Regrettably, I have to agree with this article. Leaving the matter of terrorism aside and focusing only on “extreme” protests, the reason the latter can ultimately succeed is that the authorities are too craven to confront them. Just look at what Extinction Rebellion got away with! Whilst I’m fully on board with the right to protest, that does not mean that any and every form of protest is acceptable and the right to protest does not trump every other right. People have the right to go about their day-to-day business unhindered by people wanting to make a political point.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago

It’s not about fighting terror with terror, but judiciaries being brave enough to do what is right and punish offenders. Apart from the vandalism done to the statue, this girl’s act is also a public health hazard.

Glyn R
Glyn R
2 months ago

Useful idiots. Unfortunately the environmental cause has been hijacked by them.
Why is this woman not being named?

Last edited 2 months ago by Glyn R
Emre 0
Emre 0
2 months ago
Reply to  Glyn R

Agree. This is high-profile vandalism. I hate to disagree with Ms. Harrington here but I think it’s conviction and devotion that win in the end. What I see here is juvenile behaviour, not conviction.

Last edited 2 months ago by Emre Emre
Justin Clark
Justin Clark
2 months ago
Reply to  Glyn R

named (Maddie Budd) and arrested… https://t.co/MEEHIAFmWT

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 months ago

I’m obviously missing the point.
What has Captain Tom to do with private jets?

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago

It won’t be long before trans and eco loons turn to murder

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
2 months ago

If you were never rebuked for throwing sh it around as a child why would you not continue to do it as an adult?

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
2 months ago

We should respond very powerfully to profound breaches like this. I’d be happy with a 10 year jail sentence. Really mess up someone’s life. One advantage is that we’d probably only need to do it once or twice.

But morally, it seems fair somehow. Because if we allow people to do things like this, then in what way can we begin to describe ourselves as a civilised society?

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
2 months ago

Former medical student, it would seem (according to the Grauniad). Given that there won’t have been enough time for her to have been sent down, we can at least breathe a sigh of relief that an idiot such as this will not become a practising physician. As for what to do with her, I’m sure a decent stretch in prison might be a start. Maybe it won’t teach her a lesson; but it will stop her pouring buckets of human waste on memorials to people who actually did something for their society, then justifying their actions with a load of relativist hogwash.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 month ago

She’ll cry in the dock, the judge will feel bad and say what a shame that she had such a promising future and feel compelled to give her warning/slap on the wrist and send her on her way.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Doubtless. This said, she appears to have left her course (or been kicked out) before becoming an activist, so hopefully it won’t wash.

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
1 month ago

Disgusting people like this female should face prison sentences or stiff fines and be forced to clean up the mess. Better still bring back the stocks so outraged citizens can pour crap all over them!

dan douglas
dan douglas
1 month ago

What the hell is wrong with these people?

Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
2 months ago

Not the beginning. Just a new level, and a new devil.

Aisha Akhtar
Aisha Akhtar
1 month ago

Sadly I think Mary is right. Devotion to a cause – no matter how bent out of shape that devotion is – trumps all those who just want to be left alone to live out their lives.
I’m not sure about history bending towards some long arc of truth at all, because zealots of all kinds seem to have shaped it in their own images.

Nicholas Rynn
Nicholas Rynn
1 month ago

Look at me look at me aren’t I just soo sooo committed…… No your an ignorant child who has done your cause significant harm.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 month ago

So now women are pouring excrement over the statues of men who fought for their country.
The next time the country and women need protecting give men one good reason why they should care and risk their lives.

Last edited 1 month ago by William Shaw
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 months ago

There is a way around all this, but not one you’re gonna like. If the process of law is taken out of the hands of the (human) judiciary and automated, then justice can instead be dispensed by algorithms. Incorruptible. Impersonal. Merciless.

And this at core is the nature of the problem: to retain the human, all of human behaviour, and all types of humanity, has to be incorporated into the human response – even the shitbags.

Last edited 2 months ago by Prashant Kotak
chris Barton
chris Barton
2 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

that has absolutely no chance of going Tyrannical .

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 months ago
Reply to  chris Barton

Nope none, will all be jest fine

Emre 0
Emre 0
2 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Right because algorithms and AI never make mistakes..

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 months ago
Reply to  Emre 0

Well, you pays your money, and you makes your choice. Would you like your mistakes served up by humans, or by algos?

Emre 0
Emre 0
2 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Definitely not algos. Algos aren’t divine revelations. They’re prone to mistakes same as humans and it’s getting increasingly hard to understand why a decision is being made by algos/AI.

Last edited 2 months ago by Emre Emre
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 months ago
Reply to  Emre 0

Ok fine, but I recommend you shouldn’t play chess against AlphaZero then. You may not know why AIs make a particular decision, but comparing one on one the decisions they make vs the decisions humans make, well it’s pretty clear who wins out in zero sum situations.

Emre 0
Emre 0
2 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

If you think questions of morality (embedded in every judicial decision) are like a game of chess, we disagree at a more fundamental level than the accuracy and explainability of algo decisions.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 months ago
Reply to  Emre 0

Remember this little snippet of conversation in 15 years time.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
2 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Are ypu secretly working on Robocop?

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 months ago

Wasn’t yet, but now you mention it, hold that thought.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
2 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I’d buy that for a Dollar!