Colin Brazier: Insulate Britain continue to test our patience - the Home Secretary should be worried
Insulate Britain's experimentation on the limits of British toleration is being tested to destruction
It pains me to say it, but Insulate Britain are the most successful direct action group of modern times.
They have zero democratic legitimacy. Nobody voted for them to stop ambulances on London’s busiest roads.
And some of their most visible spokesmen are pompous hypocrites. But in the space of a six weeks, their infuriating antics have earned them greater name recognition than Extinction Rebellion or any of the other fringe groups that use undemocratic acts of disruption to advance their agenda.
Even now, I can imagine some people screaming at their screen, asking why it is that we – the media – keep on giving these loons the oxygen of publicity. And I’ve got some sympathy with that point of view. On the couple of occasions I’ve had Insulate Britain in the studio, I’ve tried to focus on the iniquity of their tactics, rather than what it is they want.
Why should their illegality be rewarded with a platform to push their propaganda on anyone? But it’s not that simple is it? Today, a reminder of how Insulate Britain have made an unexpected discovery, that's allowed them to transform pathetic attempts at stopping the traffic into a kind of public relations alchemy.
Why is it that their cheap, sometimes sickening stunts, keep on delivering masses of media coverage? It’s simple. Insulate Britain have turned us all into amateur anthropologists. An anthropologist is someone who studies human behaviour. Every encounter at a motorway junction or arterial route is no longer just about how the police unblock the roads.
It’s now much more unpredictable than that and, I would argue, gripping in a grim sort of way. The roads of London have effectively become laboratories for a huge experiment in human nature and the elasticity of our patience.
And, thanks to smartphones and social media, we all get to judge the results. Our fascination increasingly stems from the methods of public resistance, as varied as the personalities that inhabit every lorry cab or van or estate and saloon car on the roads. And today we saw just how utterly surreal this can all get.
One motorist leapt from his vehicle with his bagpipes – and proceeded to play, very loudly – within close earshot of activists. It won’t be lost on anyone that the police, who’d failed to remove the demonstrators, DID object to the din made by Bagpipe-Man and moved him on. Insulate Britain applauded that. They approve of direct action, so long as it’s their direct action. At another junction another citizen superhero got in on the act.
This was InkMan, who worked his way along a line of protesters spraying ink in their faces. There was something gloriously British about this, born of frustration with a legal stalemate, commuters seeking to take back control of the roads without giving-in to the temptations of actual physical violence.
But if I was the Home Secretary I’d be worried. This experimentation on the limits of British toleration is being tested to destruction. Sticks and stones and ink and bagpipes never hurt anyone.
But at another junction today a lorry driver, at the end of his tether, threatened to drive his vehicle over prone protesters. As any student of Marvel comics will remind you, not all superhero stories end well.