I am not the only person to object to LAD.
In parts 1 and 2 I asked 12 influential people to offer their opinion on the Loyalist Against Democracy website. These were a combination of community relations workers, community workers, writers, academics, a politician, and a church leader. They were male and female, and catholic and protestant. Together they have hundreds of years of experience of peace work.
They raised concerns about the mendacity behind LAD.
LAD laughed it off.
The first thing to say is that LAD should not make light of the views of those who have together spent hundreds of years helping to build the peace they now enjoy. It is one thing to mock those you think contribute to the violence. It is quite another to mock those who have contributed to peace. It is arrogant in the extreme.
It is interesting that LAD featured uncritically on BBC Northern Ireland’s ‘The View’ this week, as their ‘tweet of the week’. Perhaps next week ‘The View’ might want to use the one below?
Others in the media have started to question LAD. These include journalist Brian Whelan, who in a tweet referred to LAD as ‘the Loyalists Against Democracy joke (that got a bit old)’.
On Friday at the Political Studies Association of Ireland conference ‘Alan in Belfast‘ said it was time for LAD to ‘wise up and grow up’ (part 2 20:25). Likewise, panelist and journalist Alex Kane (part 3 3:00), warned against the tone LAD takes.
LAD have every right to say the things they do. What they don’t have the right to do is complain when the same mirror that they hold up to other people is then turned back on them. Claim you want to expose sectarianism and bigotry? Then don’t complain when people point out your own bigotry and prejudices.
LAD claim to have noble intentions. They claim to be providing a public service in exposing sectarianism. They do this through a process of the public online shaming of individuals that they decide need shaming. Aside from that not really being very democratic, I wonder how many of these individuals have been convinced by LAD’s tactics and now hold a different worldview? I would imagine there aren’t many. With this in mind it’s probably worth asking if they have actually helped in any way to eradicate sectarianism? Probably not.
It is one thing to speak truth to power. It’s quite another to attempt to speak ‘truth’ – if that is what this is – from a position of anonymous, unaccountable power, as LAD do.
A number of people have contacted me telling me who they think LAD are and who they are connected to. One of the concerns some people have about LAD is that they have cranked up sectarian tensions. I have no intention attempting to ‘out’ them, but Loyalists should at least know that LAD are not part of some Republican agenda against them. LAD are self-loathing Unionists. Unionist self-hate is nothing new. David Ervine said that Unionists invented the word Loyalists so they could separate themselves from those in their own tradition that they considered ‘scum’. That tradition is alive and well today.
Another interesting feature about LAD is that they thrive on anonymity. It’s easy to make fun of people when you do it behind a mask. I have a problem with anonymity and unaccountability, whether it’s on the streets or on the internet. I suppose LAD would probably be critical of those who pull on a mask and go out on to the street bullying people, the same should apply to those who pull on a mask and go on the internet bullying people.
I know LAD don’t think they are bullies – bullies never think they are bullies – but this is what a female friend – fed up with LAD – wrote to me: ‘Those LAD dicks are simply bullies that the middle classes can like. I do despair for this country sometimes.’ They also might want to consider why some of the contributors to my previous two blogs were so worried about LAD’s bully boy tactics turning on them that they did not want their names included.
One feature of democracy LAD claim to be exercising is the ability to engage in open public debate. When we step out of line there are people around us to pull us back in (indeed, that is what LAD claims to do). No one is above criticism. No one, of course, except LAD. Object to their discourse and you get told you are a ‘tit’, an ‘arsehole’, a ‘c**t’, or an ‘ass’. When LAD is offered any sort of critique, it just reverts to exactly the kind of bully boy tactics that it claims to oppose.
Instead of striking out at the most powerful, LAD often strikes out at some of the most vulnerable. Is having problems with literacy funny? If you know someone who struggles with literacy and the stigma that is attached to it then you know that it is anything but funny.
The pleasure that LAD seems to take in mocking literacy levels is alarming. LAD argue that if you are sectarian (again, by their definition of sectarianism, where it seems only working class unionists can be sectarian) then your lack of literacy is fair game for ridicule. I would ask LAD that if people are sectarian and also have cancer is it also fair game to make fun of them for having cancer? I wouldn’t think so.
I can think of something much more productive LAD could do instead of laughing at people who struggle to read and write. LAD could pour their creative energy into setting up or helping out at homework clubs in Loyalist areas where there is educational underachievement, in order to tackle the poor literacy levels they like to highlight. That way they could really start to address the problems facing Loyalist communities instead of laughing at them. I can’t imagine they will, but I would be happy for them to prove me wrong.