Having grown concerned about some of the discourse that those behind the ‘parody’ Loyalists Against Democracy (LAD) website were using I contacted them and asked them to meet up and discuss what they felt they were contributing to peace. I asked them politely several times, all of which they declined.
Following their refusal to meet up, I decided to address my concerns about LAD on here. In order to do this I asked a range of writers, academics, church leaders, politicians, and community workers to give their opinion about LAD. The response was so great that I decided that the best thing to do was to publish their opinions in full. The amount and depth of responses mean that I will publish them in two parts. I have ordered them in the order they were sent to me.
Because LAD are faceless and hide behind a mask, making them unaccountable, I promised my contributors anonymity if they wished. However, I will give a little general information about the background of each person. What follows are not my opinions, these are the unedited opinions of very experienced practitioners and thinkers who have contributed significantly to building peace in this part of the world. They are a mix of voices from the Catholic and Protestant communities. Cumulatively they have hundreds of years of experience in peacebuilding.
Firstly, from an experienced male community relations worker from the Catholic community:
‘You know, I haven’t “liked” it – some of the things I’ve seen linked to from other people’s posts about it are funny, but I have a problem about it – and I reckon that any loyalist friends of mine would feel like it does their cause damage. I’m not a loyalist, and I have major problems with the idea that loyalism is under attack (I don’t believe that at all) but I don’t think that the loyalists against democracy page is helpful.’
From a female community worker in a Loyalist area:
‘whilst sections of their sectarian satire posts can witty, it is a dangerous dark humour which serves no purpose other than to crank up already heightened tensions.’
From a male community worker in a Loyalist area:
‘The LAD site can occasionally be quite humorous and the political satire chewing gum for the mind. However I once heard a phrase about another column entitled Wit & Wisdom and LAD fits the same bill, very little wit and absolutely no wisdom.’
This from a widely published male community worker and writer and on Loyalism and Unionism:
‘..my opinion is that the growth of this kind of satire is fascinating, painful to see and that it will grow. For what was it Karl Marx said about history occurring the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce? You see the loyalist cultural project is now so eaten through with incapacity that it seems entirely farcical for bands calling themselves Young Conquerers to be so patently losers – and so this invites the kind of vicious comic treatment that LAD offers, made all the more potent because twenty five years ago, loyalism still had tragic muscle and in certain quarters a sharp, grounded and innovative ethos. Yes, LAD is cruel, as all humour can be very cruel and it makes the abasement of the PUL psyche even more grievous but I doubt if the tide of ridicule can be turned, until enough PUL people come to see that one needs to exercise self awareness in order to know how to stop being a butt of humour and a laughing stock. Any school teacher knows that a kid who is mocked will only stop being mocked either when he learns to modify his behaviour or when he is protected by an authority figure, and that authority figure ain’t there so there has to be some quick learning going on, in the art of self-scrutiny and self-remodelling.
[There is] nothing more delicious to a nationalist or to someone who was a rotten Prod than mocking the deposed and neutered Loyalist bully, risky too as he may still have strength for one more knuckleduster punch. Dangerous too. As Nietzsche pointed out, he who fights with monsters must beware lest he too becomes a monster. The mockery of Bryson is in part a fearful class based thing, the derision for the uppity wee skitter from the estate, who wears cheap sports gear and a gold chain and gives you lip at the bus stop.
..superladtube [is] taking it to a whole disconcerting new level of cruelty…however some of the deconstruction of the infamous uvf remuralling project on you tube is utterly brilliant and morally impeccable.’
A female writer wrote:
‘It comes across as really superior and snobbish. As we heard on the news yesterday Northern Ireland’s literacy levels are terrible. It’s nothing to make light of. If they’re so clever, what are they doing to help?’
The final extract of part 1 is from Dr. Gareth Mulvenna, a visiting research fellow at Queen’s University, who did not mind his name being used:
‘LAD Fleg may claim to be the creation of a cross-section of our community, including working class Protestants, but one wonders what it actually adds to the debate. Rather than move things forward this type of parody only serves to reinforce liberal, middle-class, stereotypes of a community which is felt to be holding the ‘peace process’ back. More out of step with modern society are dissident Republicans yet we rarely see social media being used to the same extent to highlight the ridiculous, but more threatening, nature of their activities. The loyalist flag protestors, like the white working class ‘chavs’ which Owen Jones wrote about in England, are easy meat for those who have a delusional sense that Belfast begins and ends in the Cathedral Quarter. The dissidents are harder to challenge and pose the most severe threat to the peace due to their violent nature. Flag protestors, particularly the younger ones, should be given the opportunity to be understood – what are their social and economic concerns? Can we educate them about the welfare state and the best aspects of their British culture? That way we can move forward. Laughing and sneering at the loyalist community won’t fix anything.’
Part 2 will contain extracts from other writers, community activists, a PUL politican, and clergy.