Who’s manipulating anyway?

An analysis of David Leppard and Kevin Dowling’s latest attempt to smear anarchists in the Sunday Times

Submitted by Rob Ray on January 13, 2014

Over the weekend The Sunday Times ran a prominent page 10 story titled Anarchists fan flames of Duggan rage. In it, self-described journalists Leppard and Dowling claim that London Met police officers are "on alert."

They primarily quote right-leaning Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy saying he had witnessed "anarchist elements" at the HIgh Court after a jury found Mark Duggan had been lawfully killed, which he believed were "exploiting the situation by winding up campaigners."

Lammy would go on to publicly snub the vigil held to remember Duggan which included members of the dead man's family on the grounds he thought it would be dangerous. (the vigil itself was, of course, non-violent, as per the wishes of the family.

Clueless media and police patsy though Lammy may be, choosing him as a main source is at least logical on the part of Leppard and Dowling. The man's a local MP, so a journalist with few other contacts in the area might be expected to treat him as though he knows what he's talking about.

They also however cite unnamed sources saying things like "plans are in place" and "the first riot was nothing."

Assuming these people are actually real, and were prepared to talk to a pair of Murdoch lackeys, what's missing here is context. Who are these sources? Who do they represent? They could be anarchists, career criminals, they could be local drunks, or kids trolling clueless reporters who have showed up asking ridiculous leading questions.

In reality these quotes are meaningless and both Leppard and Dowling know this. Neither they, nor David Lammy MP, have any personal contacts within either the anarchist movement in London, nor I would imagine in the local criminal fraternity, so they have no means of confirming anything along those lines and professionally speaking, should have left them out.

But buying London Bridge suits their purposes as much as those of whoever they got duped by. It's part of a slurry of deliberate, misleading conjecture which runs throughout this piece of so-called reporting.

The implication of these quotes, coming so shortly after their own mention of anarchists and criminals (in one sentence, tarring by association there), is that they give an insight into the thinking of a dangerous crowd of organised ne'er-do-wells twisting a tragedy to their own ends.

This is rhetorically bolstered by later references to 2011's riots supposedly being a case of "outside elements" and criminals kicking off for the fun of it( nope). All of which is designed to create a feeling of threat, and that Leppard/Dowling know what they’re talking about, despite a total absence of actual evidence.

The lack of any response from anarchist groups in their article is palpable - and understandable. Leppard recently did the Falkirk election hatchet job on Unite, and of course works for a paper most anarchists wouldn't waste good spit on. This makes him particularly unsuitable for investigating stories such as the Duggan case, because he’s long since made sure that anyone worth talking to would check his credentials and refuse to deal with him.

At this point, I'll disclose that I am (obviously, as I post on libcom) an anarchist, living in London, and with a reasonable number of links to the local movement. I'm certainly better-placed than Lammy, Leppard or Dowling to know what's going on.

And no anarchists I know have any idea what they are talking about.

Anarchists certainly do show solidarity to families hurt by police violence. We do show up at protests and vigils as part of that solidarity and we do argue that deaths at police hands are part of a systemic series of injustices which stretch back to the earliest days of policing. We openly and publicly argue that people shouldn't take that lying down.

But for patronising snobs like Lammy and the Sunday Times cohort, this appears to be one and the same as enacting a conspiracy to manipulate London’s reckless, stupid working classes for the sake of watching the city burn.

Let’s be clear about this. There is no anarchist conspiracy to encourage the people of Tottenham to riot and even if there were, the idea that any London group would have the reach to somehow persuade tens of thousands of people to drop what they’re doing apropos of nothing to come burn stuff down is ludicrous.

If further riots do happen, it won’t be because the chronically disorganised, generally lovely people angered by social injustice who comprise today’s anarchist movement in London have been waving candles around outside Tottenham police station or mouthing off on Twitter. It won’t be outsiders, it won’t be criminal elements, it won’t be the fault of some dastardly evil genius bent on causing chaos - those are the fantasies of fiction writers.

It’ll be because the police, those mendacious, corrupt, violent, structurally racist thugs who have never, ever, ever convicted one of their own for the hundreds of deaths that have taken place both in their custody and on the street, who stomp through the estates of London like the gang their masters say they are, have pushed normal people beyond endurance.

It’ll be because journalists like Leppard and Dowling have abandoned their self-asserted role as watchdog over the body politic, instead colluding to ignore and explain away decades of brutality and attacks on the working class while callously avoiding peaceful vigils and protests that have marked the streets of London year on year.

It’ll be because their ilk have smeared and belittled everyone who speaks out, patronised and demonised everyone who dares to be angry.

If rioting happens, it’ll be because the anger of London’s working class is too great to contain any longer. That anger is fuelled more by the misuse of state and media power than it could ever be by mere anarchists.


Chilli Sauce

10 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on January 13, 2014

Rob, have you looked into getting a Comment is Free blog? I think you need journalistic credentials to get one, but you've got that covered.

Rob Ray

10 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Rob Ray on January 13, 2014

I've vaguely thought about it but tbh I think with this stuff it's better to bolster alternative media - gotta build our own foundations if we're ever to challenge their status as gatekeepers etc etc.

Joseph Kay

10 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on January 13, 2014

Rob Ray

no anarchists I know have any idea what they are talking about.

Unintended apposite ambiguity 8-)


10 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Convert on January 14, 2014

Nailed it.

jef costello

9 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jef costello on October 25, 2014

Well said.