Thursday, 6 November 2014

Flaming effigies and flaming morons

Live from the heart of Middle England...

Last night, Guy Fawkes Night, the people of Lewes in East Sussex participated in an annual local tradition of burning effigies of public figures they don't like. This year, one of the star attractions, and the subject of considerable media attention, was a giant Alex Salmond figure, wearing  accompanied by a smaller effigy of the Loch Ness Monster. This event was gleefully trailed on Twitter by the Tory-controlled local council, and provoked a veritable shitstorm of online attention. The official line is that the police intervened and confiscated the effigies following multiple complaints, though eyewitness reports state that the Salmond effigy, or another just like it, was in fact stuffed with fireworks and blown to smithereens.

Ordinarily I wouldn't get particularly concerned about this sort of behaviour. Politicians, for better or for worse, are public figures and invariably end up on the receiving end of a lot of ire, some deserved, some not. As far as I'm concerned, Alex Salmond is that rare breed -- an honourable politician -- and has done nothing to deserve such opprobrium. That said, if you live deep in the heart of Daily Mail-reading, UKIP-loving Middle England, you may well disagree. From their point of view, Salmond is the monster who came close to breaking up Our Glorious Union (TM) -- in their fevered imaginations some sort of modern day Hitler (you know, as opposed to an actual modern day Hitler like that beer-swilling goon they themselves worship in worryingly high numbers). And of course, stunts like this are nothing new. Plenty of effigies of Margaret Thatcher, for instance, have been burned throughout the UK (though, in my not entirely unbiased opinion, she did far more to deserve such treatment). No, the really sick part is the inclusion in the burning of "Yes" and "45%" symbols. By doing that, the people involved were responsibly for symbolically burning not just a politician but also 45% -- 1.6 million -- of a country's population.

Of course, this is far from the most offensive thing the people of Lewes have done. A couple of years ago, they burned an effigy of Angela Merkel, performing a Nazi salute and wearing the Iron Cross. Stay classy, Lewes.


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  2. Had a rethink since my last post. Yeah its stupid, and I do worry about some people in the SE of England as their right leanings opinions are frequently alarming, but this just seems like a somewhat naive attempt at a satirical long standing tradition. Salmond's sole reason for being the effigy isn't that he's a threat to 'harmony' or that they feel he's dishonest, it's just that he has been this year's big news story. Putin was there too, for example. Do I agree with a tradition that places figures in the public eye, regardless of their political stance or achievement, atop a bonfire? Probably not, but there doesn't seem to be that much malice intended, more a curious attempt to poke fun that is perhaps too parochial for anyone outsides of Lewes. That said, whatever your opinion on Merkel, the inclusion of Nazi symbolism on her effigy was uncalled for and deeply distasteful

  3. On reflection I'm inclined to agree, and I suspect I was probably guilty of overreacting with this post.

    That said, this image seems to suggest that the town of Lewes is home to some people with decidedly reprehensible attitudes: