There’s a possibility that, here and there, throughout the UK, there are various mid-level council workers frantically Googling for something other than porn and how to cheat at Minecraft. They are the ones who’ve been assigned a Statue Hunt. Someone a level or two above them has been reading about the dunking of the Colson statue, and the subsequent removal of other statues of slave traders, and has decided that their borough mustn’t miss out on such a good PR opportunity. So their mission, which they probably had no choice but to accept, is to locate any and all public monuments in the area and look for some or other sin associated with the subject of the monument… oh, and look up who could supply the cheapest crane and work crew while they’re about it.
Some other poor sods in the entertainment sector have probably been set the task of trawling through every obscure black and white film or vintage sitcom that no one’s even searched for in the past decade, just so that more removals-from-schedules can be announced, as well. Got to find something that no one else has thought to object to yet, just to stay ahead of the game…
This isn’t to say that removing public monuments to awful people is a bad thing. Savile’s memorial didn’t last long when his crimes were finally made public. Some are already suggesting that Karl Marx tomb should also be moved or even destroyed, but that’s dumbfuckery from people who don’t understand the distinction between an actual grave in a graveyard and a thumping great celebration of a murderous monster that you have no way of avoiding when you’re waiting for a bus or queueing for your takeaway. The pulling of offensive material from streaming services is perhaps less necessary unless they’re desperate for the bandwidth: a warning notice would probably be more useful.
There’s no doubt that iconoclasm has its place in changing the way we see ourselves and others, and how we think about the past. But grand denunciations and big gestures aren’t a substitute for doing the things that will improve the lives of people here and now. Local authorities shifting a lump of sculpture from one location to another doesn’t mean they no longer need to address inequalities in their areas; check their hiring practices, uphold employees’ rights, and fund support services. Delisting offensive media is generally of less interest to Black and other diverse groups of artists, writers, performers and production crews than their being given the opportunity and funding to make media, being paid fairly and so on.
It’s not enough to talk the talk and put on the show. You have to do the quiet, boring, consistent, necessary stuff as well.
(Some links for ways to support those who need it in the previous post.)