September 08, 2013

LAD - Unveiling and Assailing Northern Ireland's Grand Swamp of Backwardness


Newton Emerson wrote in the Sunday Times on September 1 2013 a piece on Northern Ireland's satirist group, Loyalists Against Democracy with an article entitled, 'Respect are culture? Not on the internet.'  Here are some of the best extracts (in full here). Newton started with a preface note on recent events:
"It is hardly as serious as the Arab Spring but the chaos of the past year in Northern Ireland has also been an internet phenomenon. The first flag protests last December were organised online, without involvement from political parties or paramilitaries, and brought thousands out onto the streets."
Newton Emerson explained that attempts to counter loyalist anarchy largely failed save for LAD. He said:
"The same cannot be said for the real online wonder of the year. Loyalists Against Democracy (LAD), a satirical Facebook page, took it's name from a loyalist banner at the first flag protest which read: "Democracy doesn't work". "
Newton explained the power of the group to reach and influence internet users in Northern Ireland:
"Few internet users in Northern Ireland, whatever social media chamber they are boxed into, can have escaped LAD's output. Scarcely a week passes without something from the site going viral. One of LAD's spoof music videos was viewed 100,000 times within days, which is remarkable in a region of 1.8m people. Visual jokes are routinely shared thousands of times, to hundreds of people each time, on Facebook alone."
Newton Emerson then explained what it is exactly that LAD: that being unveiling and assailing the immense absurdity and flowing nonsense of the debate and discussion in loyalist circles. He said:
"The mainstay of the site, giving all its jokes their jag, is surveillance and ridicule of loyalist online activity. Bigoted, inane and illiterate loyalist rantings are dredged up and dissected. The emerging loyalist victim mentality is forensically debunked, with stories on loyalist websites shown to be false or deliberately faked. LAD's parody of the loyalist writing style is now a running joke across the web, with "respect are culture" a particularly cutting example.
Newton Emerson noted that it's having an actual effect on those lampooned:
"There is evidence that loyalists are stung as a result. Journalists have begun to notice loyalist leaders complaining bitterly about the laughter they and "their people" are enduring. The journalists themselves might reasonably ask if Northern Ireland's real public discourse is passing them by."
Here's how the team works and is structured:
"It is real time, multimedia, interactive and uniquely adapted to this internet era. Producing it requires a core team of six, plus hundreds of more supplying jokes and Photoshopped pictures, or just surfing in search of egregious loyalist postings. None of these people are paid, and the site could never earn it's creators an income. Under a barrage of loyalist complaints, Facebook occasionally takes the page down, only for it to reappear under another "respect are culture" misspelling, such as Loyalists Against Demacracy, and return to it's original popularity. So even the mighty new-media corporation of Facebook has lost it's gatekeeper function."
Newton Emerson explained how LAD can go where mainstream media can't:
"LAD pillories loyalists for their stupidity, drunkenness, appearance and general underclass lifestyles in a way that is considered socially unacceptable. LAD makes this caricature all the more problematic by proving it to be true and of fundamental importance. It matters that those causing disorder over "culture" are totally uncultured, reflexively violent and seething with gormless hatred. However, to say so commits the terrible crime of snobbery which, ever since the Good Friday Agreement, seems to be the only crime you can commit in Northern Ireland."
He continued:
"Before LAD, only broadcaster Stephen Nolan had put its targets before a general audience, but he has always been careful to accord them balance and respect. What if they plainly deserve neither?"
On the political-effect of the group:
"Ironically, this centre-left squeamishness can best be seen in nationalism's response to what is, by default, a nationalist-leaning website. There is a perceptible nationalist unease about LAD, or at least a guilt about enjoying it, and this runs deeper than the fear of being seen as a snob.
Nationalism subscribes to a trite class analysis of loyalism epitomised by the late David Ervine, leader of the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist Party. His tale of working-class Protestants exploited by unionist grandees and British securocrats got loyalists off the hook by flattering the nationalist narrative. Holding loyalists responsible for their own words and deeds blows this cosy convenience out of the water. Far from being fellow victims across the divide, loyalists stand exposed as vicious instigators of mayhem from the grassroots up, leading unionism and the authorities by the nose."
On more general civic effects of the group:
"LAD is pro-police, and PSNI officers of my acquaintance are greatly amused by it, which speaks volumes about how perceptions of authority in Northern Ireland are shifting. That shift is confounding unionist "leaders" as they play the old game of tagging spinelessly along behind the angriest elements in their community. 
In previous years, the bulk of the unionist electorate would not have seen this game so clearly. It was obscured by media limitations and the great Troubles cult of respectability, which left unionists struggling to picture their leaders rolling around in the gutter."
Newton Emerson sums up LAD by bestowing upon it a most fitting compliment and description:
"This year, a new awareness of what loyalism is has seeped into public consciousness, just as unionist politicians line up behind it. To the extent that LAD can claim credit, it is the most intriguing use of satire in Northern Ireland's history."
In full here.Image of the original article below:

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