Like a carnival of the stupid, violence erupted yesterday in the City. Fallen bankers watched on as masked children daubed slogans on walls and played at fighting the police.
Blood flowed, and there was even a moment of tragedy; the only winners were London’s journalists, able to demonstrate to bosses their Twitter skills.
The revolution, predicted by one third-rate professor, did not turn up.
But the protest’s failure to reach beyond the usual suspects of louts, hippies, hangers-on and mobile-phone-wielding curiosity-seekers, says something about the political naivity (to be kind) and reactionary instincts of those involved.
This could be the movement’s big moment – a government on the run, widespread disaffection with the present-day economic settlement, rising fears of joblessness and despair (though, like crime, economic pain remains more written about than experienced – at least for now) and even tabloid support – but this is a movement infamous for its trick of missing open goals, even when standing on the goal-line, with the ball at its feet, and the opposing team nowhere in sight.
Instead of critical thinking, education and pragmatic steps to demonstrate the much talked of alternative world, we get generalities, the avoidance of hard choices, and an unholy mix of soft soap and thuggish threats.
How do you square democracy and equality in a world of six billion and rising? What happens now that the environmental movement’s campaign of fear has run out of steam? How do you address the mass of the public and engage with their ‘conservative’ interests of family, jobs and stability?
On these questions, neither the protesters nor the “alternative G20” summit seemed to offer answers, other than - at the latter - the usual script from the usual suspects – an ageing ex-lord, that witty comedian with a fine sense of theatre, and a woman whose scary leftist organisation took over, some say ruined, the anti-war movement.
In the end, the big news from yesterday was not the protest, despite the phalanx of London journalists on the streets looking for a story, but a helicopter crash off the North Sea, the apparent restarting of arms talks between the US and Russia, and a rise in investor appetite for risk, which has sent stock markets soaring.
To the protesters, it seems they fail on their own terms. The idea of the spectacle is to suggest how an alternative world might exist. To show rather than tell. But by showing that they have failed to move beyond incoherence, hopeless idealism and violence, it is hardly surprising the public does not engage.
7 hours ago