Loyalists Against Democracy – Unveiling and Assailing Sectarianism

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David Cameron speaking at the Northern Ireland Investment Conference

David Cameron speaking at the Northern Ireland Investment Conference

 

Northern Ireland is simultaneously one of the most progressive and regressive places in the world. Yet political representation is almost singularly regressive.

For young people it’s a post-conflict world about jobs, a future and the economy. For politicians it’s about the past, parading and flags, stupid. Between the two worlds there is a total asymmetry of vision. The cowardice of unionist politicians in the face of radical loyalists is particularly contemptible.

The agenda absolutely should be about jobs and the economy. As American foreign policy strategist Nancy Soderberg said, “They should [Northern Ireland] be having a normal life, getting jobs, investing.”

Yet no opposition is given to the “incontinent and leaderless mess”. The Northern Ireland reticence and expertly civil tongue just shuts-up and puts-up.

However, something very special is starting to happen. A voice of opposition is starting to speak for the normal person and against street fighting loyalists, hard line republicans and sectarian politicians. As Deirdre Heenan said “The opposition is appearing through social media.”

At the centre of this shift is Loyalists Against Democracy (@LADFLEG) (LAD blog here). They say what many are thinking and too scared to say. A parody group committed to unveiling and assailing sectarians on social media. The closest thing Northern Ireland has to Tahrir Square or Gezi Park, where in Egypt and Turkey young, educated, middle-class Muslims stood against autocratic Muslim leaders who attempted to impose a way of life alien to the 21st century world in which they were living.

Alex Kane recently said on this site that “those who really do believe that it’s better than it used to be need to bring the battle to the media, civic society, non-voters and to the very heart of what passes for government here” – LAD answers that call.

Now Northern Ireland has its place in the global youth protest movement, in what Václav Havel once called “the power of the powerless” but now, thanks to social media, can be called the “frustration of the empowered.”

On the parody group I have three observations I want to make.

Firstly, the power of LAD cannot be underestimated. By folding their arms, holding up a mirror and throwing a knowing smile they are starting to undermine the edifice of sectarianism and dysfunction. The growing movement is entirely non-fanatical, non-violent; they brandish not a sword but a digital quiver tipped with irony, humour and satire.

Opponents say the group is unduly harsh towards loyalism, but anyone who knows the group that they are an equal opportunities satirist. They do not discriminate on grounds of religion or politics. They are a watchdog for all sectarians.

Secondly, history tells us that parody and satire have a great power to shape events and drive change.

Charles Dickens assailed the evils of Victorian industrialism with his beautiful, ferocious quill.

The British fought Hitlerism with humour.

It’s a shared knowledge that Ian Knox’s portrayal of loyalists as know-nothing, muscle-bound skinheads hit them harder than any political analysis or community engagement project.

The playwright Václav Havel and other ambitious young men and women in Czechoslovakia created a civic initiative of peaceful protest under the banner of Charter 77 and the Civic Forum which brought down the communist regime in Czechoslovakia through the use of arts, theatre, culture, poetry and prose.

W.H Auden’s poem August 1968 painted both a picture of life under the communist regime and of the know-nothing mindlessness of the overlords:

The Ogre does what ogres can,
Deeds quite impossible for Man,
But one prize is beyond his reach:
The Ogre cannot master speech.

About a subjugated plain,
Among it’s desperate and slain,
The Ogre stalks with hands on hips,
While drivel gushes from his lips.

LAD has depth and doesn’t just go for the lowest hanging sectarian fruit but can reach right up into the most nefarious branches of the wretched tree of sectarianism. In many ways, LAD is emerging as Northern Ireland’s Charter 77 and Civic Forum whose enemy now the tyranny of sectarianism.

Thirdly, LAD needs your help. In the Sunday Times Newton Emerson called the group “the online sensation of the year.” However, the minority of dysfunctional loyalists who LAD are working to discredit are committed to shutting down the whole enterprise on Facebook.

 

 

They who are demanding civil and religious liberties on a bogus equivalency are making a concerted effort to censor and deny the right of others to free expression – a sinister and cynical drive to shut-down and crush the only sane voice of dissent. Just as they bully, intimidate and menace people on the streets, they are now doing it online. They do this all because they say they are offended.

This is a deception. The law offers no protection from being offended. Noisy, raucous and robust communications are at the foundation of an open society. For too many years people of Northern Ireland have been offended by their behaviour and said nothing. Now social media has empowered the young, the creative and the ambitious and we’re starting to see the emergence of a sane voice of opposition. That voice and their freedom to express opinion needs to be protected.

Contrary to loyalist opinion there is no branch of ethics known as loyalist exceptionalism. They do not have a special right not to be offended and they are not immune from criticism.

LAD has finally stood up to Northern Ireland’s drunk and disorderly uncle who is willing and ready to ruin and beggar us and have said what everyone has long been thinking. Those who LAD is working to unveil are trying to take away what is most precious to you, your peace, prosperity and your future; and now they are trying to take away your voice of opposition. If unionist politicians won’t speak against bullying thugs, LAD will. Now LAD needs your support.

 


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About Author

Brian is a writer, artist and law graduate.

28 Comments

  1. I know you describe yourself as an artist Brian and hence we should probably extend you a little bit of creative license but even so…. invoking Havel, Taksim and Tahrir Square when speaking about LAD seems to err slightly on the hyberbolic side.
    It’s a Facebook site that makes fun of loyalists and occasionally employs class bigotry to make its point. And it, unlike the demonstrators in Egypt and going further back, to Prague 68 has not even bothered considering how effective change against attitudes it detests may be achieved. Or perhaps you have seen a seismic change in the attitudes of the working-class prods it lampoons that I’ve missed?
    More importantly, presuming that both yourself and LAD believe in the normal journalistic principles of transparency and full disclosure, shouldn’t you have also mentioned the fact that you are also a leading contributor to the site at some stage during this post?

    • There is a reason why it ‘makes fun’ of Loyalists as you put it. Look at their actions over the last year. They know absolutely nothing about the cause they are fighting for, they just want an excuse to riot and misbehave. LAD does not have to try hard to make fun of Loyalism, the screenshots of some of the bile that loyalists come out with is exposed to all via the LAD page. I think there is nothing wrong with taking the piss out of people that come out with statements like ‘firebomb a school’ or ‘burn residents out of their homes’.

    • LAD doesn’t make fun of loyalists. It mocks sectarian loyalists. Unless you believe that the two are inextricably linked, then you have no point to make.LAD critics wear blinkers to what the fleggers actually believe is socially acceptable. Elements of unionism have long been happy to let the sectarian sections of their community think their mediaeval hatred is fine, normal even. Through selective silence and sneaking regard for bigotry. Social media has shrunk our world and thrust sectarian loyalists into the 21St century, where their ignorance is on display to a much wider audience. They are learning the hard waythat its not on to casually call for genocide, to cowardly call for violence, or to encourage hatred and bigotry towards catholics. Some unionists bear more responsibility for this than the hate spewing loyalists themselves. Highlighting them is making a difference, at the very least showing many that they can’t get away. with that shit any longer. Profiles have been shut, jobs have been lost as employers are alerted to what some are typing on their lunch break, and rabble rousers are losing credibility to the point they are a laughing stock. I predict the cowardly unionist politicians who sacrificed their civic leadership on a beflegged alter could even feel the pinch come next election time. A difference is being made.

    • George Lazenby on

      Perhaps you should go and create your own satirical website dedicated to the demonisation of Fenianism. You could call it LAC(Loyalists Against Change). Because the reason you and those of your ilk are annoyed these days is because you no longer have everything the way you want and were used to.

      The fact that the world has changed, that Northern Ireland has changed clearly galls you. No longer can the Unionist party decide what happens within the province. I know that it probably hurts you, knowing that your previous hegemony has been forever removed.

      We live in a world where there is such a thing as freedom of the press. So LAD has decided to underline and highlight the negative aspects of Loyalism. So what? They can do that. Nothing stopping them.

      What I want to see is a Loyalist run website attempting to make such a cogent mockery of Republicanism or Nationalism that LAD has made of Loyalism. I doubt that it could be achieved.

      The simple fact is, Loyalists are running scared because the power they once held over the ‘Taigs’ has been completely eroded. You are no longer ‘First among equals’. In fact, give it another ten years, and you won’t even be first. The Catholic birth rate will ensure that in another ten years, you will be in the minority.

      Simple fact is, the Taigs are here to stay. And we’ll do what we want. After all. It’s in the Canstitution

      • “You could call it LAC(Loyalists Against Change). Because the reason you and those of your ilk are annoyed these days is because you no longer have everything the way you want and were used to.”
        Our “ilk”?
        And what do you actually think our “ilk” is exactly?

        So, in effect, you are employing the same debating tool as your favourite site, ie using bigotry to highlight the bigotry of others?
        That does not give you (like them) the moral high ground when criticising my opinion.

        Before you had started using sectarian steretyoing in order to accuse us of being sectarian you should have had a little think first.

        We have no desire to set up such a satirical website attacking “taigs” as you refer to us (ie Open Unionism as a collective) because (and the clue is somewhere there if you really think hard about it) Open Unionism is already a website with two editors.

        Although I (Paul) am indeed from a working-class background, I am not a protestant, my co-editor (Henry) is in fact a catholic or “taig” if you are more comfortably using sectarian epithets, which you seem to be.
        Google us and you’ll find that we are not the only of our *ahem* “ilk” contributing to your website.

        Now that I have quite possibly blown your mind with that revelation, as you can probably guess, we would not be fans of the more bigotted wing of loyalism. We also are not fans of the more bigotted wing oif nationalism. Actually, we are not in favour of bigotry full stop and in mmy case that most certainly does include class bigotry (eg trying toprove a point by lampooning people’s lack of education) We also believe in free speech.

        However, we are also not fans of group-think which you and the rest of the fans of LAD seem to be. We are entitled like you and them to our opinion. Now, if I had said something sectarian, then fair enough attack my sectarianism. Have I said anything sectarian in my previous posts?
        Have you? Now, think about that last question carefully.

        • It’s your negativity and lack of real alternatives that I can’t understand. All your saying is “this isn’t working and we need something new” When asked what? you say “I haven’t got a clue”
          That’s a child’s argument. What have you to say about the future of this place, or do you just like arguing?

        • George Lazenby on

          Open Unionism is a website? With two, two, whole editors? Then how in the hell did you miss the glaring typing mistakes you made in your rant directed towards me?

          I challenge you to find anything in my previous post that could be classified as sectarian. I used the word Taig. I’m Catholic. I can classify myself as a Taig if I want.

          As for lampooning people for their lack of education….. I know. I’m a horrible person for doing so. If they had paid attention in class, and editing school, they would have been able to see typos.

          I like LAD because it finally shows the world what a vindictive shower of bastards Loyalists actually are. They are the detritus of society. The English don’t want them, and consider them Irish, yet the Loyalists think they’re British to the core.

          But. You and your other wordsmith can continue the good fight. One word of advice though. Hire a fucking editor

  2. Brian John Spencer on

    I should make it very clear that I contribute guest posts that are hosted by LAD. It’s in the public domain and common knowledge. I have no input, say or influence in any way to the editorial or satirical output of the group. I act entirely independent of LAD; but just happen to support what it is they do; and happen to be against political censorship – the reason for writing this article. I’m also against the civic orthodoxy that says if you criticise the working class you’re a bigot. I want something different for Northern Ireland but know that the experiment will be repeated on a normalised majority unless protest is given. in LAD I see more opportunity than anything else being done. If Open Unionism has an alternative to managed sectarian deadlock, I welcome it warmly.

  3. “….seems to err slightly on the hyberbolic side”
    Make that “hyperbolic”.
    Although I had the misfortune to be brought up in a working-class area, I really wouldn’t want Brian and the LAD grammar afficinados to be unleashing their devasting satire on my lack of spelling skills.

  4. Brian, we (it is a number of writers who contribute to our blog) are also against censorship and do not want to see the likes of LAD removed from Facebook. I think your linking them to the Arab Spring and Charter 77 was ridiculous in the extreme but if you and they want to identify yourselves in that bracket that is your and their right in a democracy. I can have a chuckle at the comparison,
    that’s my right.
    However…. I think it should have been pointed out in your original post that you are a contributor to the site. That is the standard journalistic (and actually also blogging) practice of disclosure.
    It is interesting what you say about not following the “civil orthodoxy” but at least you have been honest.
    In my own personal opinion, criticizing or lampooning people on the basis of their class/educational level is as much a form of bigotry as criticizing people because of their religious or political beliefs. You seem to be setting up a hierarchy of bigotry….. at the top is the sort we should shout loudest about, whilst that lingering towards the bottom, well who cares really? It’s hardly likely a working-class loyalist or even unionist is going to take you to task for it 😉
    Now, regarding wanting something different for NI, yeah, sure. Anyone halfway sane, wants something different for Northern Ireland. But LAD has contributed exactly zilch squared in that regard- if you could show us even a small change in behaviour of the loyalists in question because of anything that has been written on LAD, then you would have a point with regards to its importance in the bigger scheme of things. It gives people an outlet for their frustration/hatred, which in itself is not a bad thing but in the end that kind of achievement isn’t eally *that* groundbreaking is it?
    My own alternative to managed sectarian deadlock?
    First, admit the “Peace Process” and the state of governance it has produced is ultimately flawed.
    Proof?
    Are there more or less “Peace” Walls in place now than in 1998?
    Once our society is brave enough to admit the fact that the Belfast Agreement has not delivered a reduction in sectarianism, then we can move onto to the next step. What that is or may be, I seriously haven’t got a clue. I do know that it’s probably unlikely to be connected with mocking peoples’ grasp of syntax and spelling.

    • How many people have died in sectarian attack since 1998, and how many before that? The difference between those two numbers alone make the Peace Process a success. Now whilst I will admit there are ongoing problems, going back to the way things were is a pretty dumb idea. We are capable of making the next step in reducing sectarian division without taking a step back.

    • Expecting the Agreement to “deliver” something when it seems that some(apparently) are not prepared to make the contribution required of them for delivery does not seem realistic to me (see my response to “m”).
      Cherry-picking bits of an Agreement which has been carefully and painfully constructed to bridge two diametrically opposed view-points, and agreed to by popular vote, seems to imply an unstated wish to unpick the consensus achieved.
      Moreover, claiming that the Agreement is a failure because some are incapable of joining in will makes the process of taking any “next step” more difficult and problematic.
      Then there’s the difficulty that abandoning the Agreement hands a victory to the enemies of peace on both sides.
      Brian seems to me to be honest and, if I may say so, very open to constructive argument. Also, clearly frustrated and scandalised by things he sees happening around him. If he’s “over the top”, one can totally understand why.

    • The Belfast Agreement is not ‘to blame’ for the failure of political delivery. Indeed, had all elemnts of the Agreement been implemented in full and delivered in a timely manner then we would not see agitation in it’s present form from dissidents – Loyalist or Republican. We would not see increasing ‘peace’ barriers and we would not see interdependency breaking down.

      Not withstanding, politcians failed to deliver and we are where we are but Stormont is the only ‘political’ show in town so, for now, it will continue.

      LAD is satire and I agree it’s virtues are not en-par with other popular Global risings: such comparison is ego talk and not grounded. What LAD is exceptional at is exposing extreme, sectarian, racist & gender prejudice by elements of Loyalism and rightly so because, frankly, such prejudice has no place in any modern, diverse society. It’s just unfortunate that the efforts LAD places in exposing such prejudice was not on a wider scale: it should cover all hypocrisy by those who speak of ‘themuns’ rather than ‘us’ .

  5. “Northern Ireland is simultaneously one of the most progressive and regressive cities in the world.” And there was I thinking its a country!!

  6. “Once our society is brave enough to admit the fact that the Belfast Agreement has not delivered a reduction in sectarianism, then we can move onto to the next step. What that is or may be, I seriously haven’t got a clue. ” – Open Unionism

    Superb example of the dead brained thinking. Who cares about being “brave enough to admit the Belfast Agreement has not delivered a reduction in sectarianism” – Let’s be brave enough to stop every petty group want an agenda chucking the country into chaos every time they get a bit upset.

    The Belfast agreement is not important to today – it was an means to an end, it neither defines us nor sets the agenda for today. It is important to me now as debating the merits of the Warsaw Pact.

    • Your point is well made. One may suppose that ‘sectarian’ is something that people are because of their beliefs, convictions, or cultural and/or religious assumptions.
      If this is so, whatever the Agreement may or may not contain, I suggest it’s the people of Northern Ireland themseves who might be expected to ‘deliver a reduction in sectarianism’.
      It might be useful for people to reflect that it’s more than likely that sectarianism, religious bigotry, and the cultural, political and social assumptions that flow from them, that have gotten Northern Ireland into such a mess in the first place. I hasten to add that this view, of course, may merely be a product of my own particular cultural assumptions.
      The Agreement may have changed people’s circumstances, perhaps changed their minds as well – some of them. It can hardly have seriously been expected to change what is ingrained in people’s self-image and the image they hold of others; that is, what is in their hearts.

  7. Facebook has terms and conditions and fb staff make their judgements based on sound principles – appreciating anti-loyalist satire isn’t one, despite LAD and LAD readers thinking it should be. posts and videos that fall foul of facebook terms and conditions are removed, usually because they are – yes that’s right – *are* forms of harassment and insult. therefore – stop complaining! and most of those commenting on LAD are operators of fake facebook accounts. That is another breach of fb t&c. So posts and pages get removed because they fall foul, others like brian john spencer then cry foul, oh please, cry me a river!

    • Northern Irish ‘Politics’ remind me of a game me and my sibling played when younger. We would hold our hand up just in front of the others face, declaring ‘It’s allowed, I’m not touching you’ – continuing until they crack, then go running to mummy and daddy complaining about being hit.

      Facebook couldn’t care less – it is a business and just want’s to make money with the least hassle. Lot of complaints = hassle, it shuts the page down. The T&C are there to give FB that ability, not there to tell everyone how they are supposed to act.

      The idiocy of Northern Irish political discussion deserves to be mocked. People blocking our town centres, shutting down motorways, stopping us getting to work, going out in our towns deserve to be harassed and insulted.

  8. I find LAD third-rate. It’s openly mocking the working (or not working) class and its sneering disrespect for people who believe they have a genuine grievance against the unfolding of the ‘democratic dispensation’ pongs a bit. Authors occasionally hit upon something ironic, but rarely anything illuminating. I wouldn’t bother censoring it, but if I were a working class man in Belfast I’d try not to give it any attention.

    • George Lazenby on

      How the hell is LAD openly mocking working class people? What it is doing is showing the fact that working class people are more likely to be drawn into the perpetual cycle of hatred that keeps Northern Ireland back. I’m an Irish Catholic who has no problems with people from the other side. They’re still people at the end of the day. What I do have a problem with is their insistence on triumphalism on the 12th. They talk about traditional routes. Funny how those routes almost always seem to go past Catholic areas. Last time I checked, 1690, was, eh 300+ years ago. Maps have changed. Did they march past Ardoyne 200 years ago? No. They didn’t. Because Ardoyne didn’t exist then. So why is it traditional to march past an area, singing songs about the misery my people endured during the famine, or songs about being up to their knees in Fenian blood?

  9. if anyone wants to see a normal, modern progressive British/Irish state in Northern Ireland, the power of the Orange Order has to be broken (see eurofree3.wordpress.com Scrap northern ireland). The Loyal orders now include many of DUP MLAs and the UDA/UVF among their members (see the Twadell “civil rights” camp video).
    Read eurofree3.wordpress.com for an analysis of the role of the Loyal Orders(do they knight themselves in a self-knighting ceremony) in Northern Ireland (the orange order: the way forward, your chance to win a painting by a sectarian serial killer)and for some proposals (abortion on demand now,joint sovreignty and so on ) for the future .
    There are other ideas out there, ready to be debated, ready to be shared, ready to be implemented

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