IMPORTANT EDIT: Below the hashtag #labellove is mentioned. As I understand it, the hashtag and related activities were set up in innocent good faith, but Johnny Foreigner brings some much needed perspective on the PIAS fire here. If you can't be bothered to read it (shame on you), then my summary of it is: insured for fire, profiteering, commercial opportunism. Seriously though read it.
No, I'm not going to call them the London riots. Why? Well, I've never really liked London anyway, but I think it's common knowledge now that Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and wherever else there are idiots gathered, are not London.
Anyway. Twitter has been inundated recently with the #OperationCupOfTea
hashtag, and its growing number of followers who proclaim, among other things, mugs not thugs. I don't know why this is annoying me, but I blame the fact that after Kim Stanley Robinson's sublime The Years of Rice and Salt, the next book on my to-read list was Kay Burley's First Ladies, and it is as shit as Kerry Foods smells in the summer. And that's not a euphemism of any kind. When I say Kerry Foods smells of shit in the morning on the way into work, I don't mean it smells generally rank, I mean it smells like actual shit from an arse, and that I honest-to-god gagged in the street. So I am prone to irritation.
That said, #OperationCupOfTea
is very sweet and all, its point being to sit in and have a cup of tea and not smash windows. But, and I'm really sorry to shit on the love-in, what is the point? This sounds like what about 90% of the population do anyway. Basically, my point is that #OperationCupOfTea
is identical to millions of other Twitter "campaigns" and reactions to every single breaking news catastrophe, in that it exhorts the good people of Twitter to retweet some slogan and sit back, basking in the glow of smugness that comes of being aware of what's going on in the news. All those people who gush about how #OperationCupOfTea
is better than #prayforLondon
and how it shows a proper difference in attitude between Us and Them Across The Pond, are literally marvelling at their ability to do fuck all and not only be smug about it, but actively delude themselves that they are making a difference.
This isn't to be confused with actual campaigns carried out through Twitter, which are often focused on a specific goal, like #RebuildReeves
is concentrating on raising funds to rebuild the furniture shop gutted by fire, #labellove
is asking for support for indie labels whose headquarters were also destroyed by fire (SEE EDIT ABOVE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS), and #riotcleanup
is keeping tabs on, surprise, clean up after the riots in all the places affected so far. This is wonderful. This is useful. This is helping. I'm not going to pretend that Twitter is saving the world, or that it's even capable of doing so, but what it is capable of doing is allowing those people, like me, who aren't affected or near enough to anywhere affected to physically go over there, to do *something* that will measurably help. Buying a record from a homeless indie record label is helping that record label. Donating money to rebuilding Reeves is helping.
Sitting at home and drinking tea, though a pleasant activity in itself, is not helping the UK riots. It is doing fuck all. Yes, you could argue that one person sitting at home is one person not looting and burning, but if that person was just going to sit at home anyway, then #OperationCupOfTea
has made no difference except to add to the smugness field that I imagine to be hovering above the earth and shielding us from cosmic rays or something.
In this way, and I'm nowhere near the first person to point this out, Twitter is hindering the riot effort. It's telling people that they don't have to do anything in the real world to help.
That is bullshit.
We will always live in this world outside our computers, tied in these bodies with their physical needs and biological quirks of emotion and empathy and compassion. And so will everyone else. I understand that the empathy and compassion make the prospect of riots so close to home, friends and family a horrible thing, and that we're driven to make it better somehow, and to make ourselves feel better. My own personal way out is to simply stay away from the news and keep busy. Which I freely admit is also bullshit and unhelpful, and I'm working on it.
But for now, #OperationCupOfTea
partiers, if you want to help, if you really want to help, you know exactly what to do and where to go, and you always have.
So hop to it.