Comment-surfing can be good craic. Look at any political song on Youtube, especially rebel chunes, and you can follow word-for-word these endless, vitriolic arguments that range through every register from friendly political pub banter to

@MrMickroach what are you on about you fool my family have been on this land for more than 2000 years ya fool this country is ours and that goes for the 6 county’s. learn something ya dumb bastard and stop checking wiki links to try find the right thing to say ya sap. your knowledge of this country is like your knowledge of women you 40 year old virgin.
burnthebrits 1 week ago

If you take ten minutes to follow these things they can become compelling- as heated and as dramatic as any TV miniseries. Epic battles are played out. Characters emerge (MrMickroach featured, on this thread, as a thoroughly despicable character. His comeuppance here was sweet, made bitter and overshadowed by the sheer viciousness of his vanquisher burnthebrits). The endless repetition of boneheaded arguments and swift descent into insult-slinging chaos can be deliciously farcical, but after a few comments you just can’t take it anymore. Besides, we all have better things to be doing.

But those who write

you sir are a fucking idiot. if America didnt help the english out in ww1 and ww2 you fucking pussy’s would belong to germany. if we didnt send troops to france in ww1 the english would have been is that too late? you are a fucking tool… so stop commenting on peoples posts because you dont know a single thing asshole.
uptheIRA93 2 weeks ago

soon graduate to indymedia.

There is on that website a serious article by a long-time left activist written in the bitter days of the wind-down of the bin tax struggle. The article concerned political and tactical differences and accusations of unprincipled manoeuvring. The 104 comments on the article read with all the bitterness of defeated forces- the bin tax was through, and blame was flying around.

The anonymity the internet gives you makes such a comment thread the perfect arena for such a bitter little squabble, for all the grievances and grudges to come out in force. It’s scary. The fact that all these comments seem to have been added in the space of one week in April 2004 gives you some idea of the viciousness of it all. The experience is shocking and depressing.

Anger is the best cure for this kind of depression. One comment seen by chance (no, I didn’t care to read them all) cured me:

Meanwhile in the sewers…
by Brian of Nazareth! Luan Aib 26, 2004 23:06

The Judaean People’s front (AKA the SP) are on their way to kidnapp Caesar’s wife in protest at the hated bin tax…

On their way they encounter the People’s front of Judaea (aka the SWP)…

“Brothers, surely we should fight together against the common enemy”!!!


“NO, the ROMANS!!!!”

Christ, it’s so laughable how the far left fits into this mould perfectly. Let’s not fight the tax, let’s fight each other! Perfectly sensible!


Unless the author of that comment was, in fact, one of the pythons, s/he gets no credit for quoting that film at tedious length. If it was, somehow, one of the pythons, I would tell him all the same to mind his own business.

The shrinking world of the information age gives people the ability to mumble from sidelines however distant and be heard as if they were roaring right beside you. When some bored spoilt teenager (or wannabe teenager) posts an ignorant comment between wanks, it’s very easy for a serious, committed working-class activist to overreact. The internet builds bridges between people, but we should beware of trolls lurking beneath them.

All the same, the “Life of Brian” references are worth responding to- not because of their value as arguments, but because of how often we hear them.

Why are the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers’ Party different organizations? Why were a bunch of anti-bin tax activists arguing so bitterly over bin taxes? Is it because individuals at the top are hypersensitive and power-hungry?

No. The opposite is true.

It is very easy for people without principles to come together. Look at the major political parties in any country. Careerist machines based on unity in strength for careerist or naive politicians- the strongest principles of unity (from party whips to outright bribery) and the weakest principles of politics and democratic accountability. Unity is harder the more you value your principles.

The major questions at stake in the article were as follows: whether solidarity action in estates where non-collection was not being imposed was advisable; whether “broad” alliances of the left should be formed; to whom elected representatives of an organization should be accountable; what are the best forms of democratic organization. Whatever side of the debate you take, these are all questions of vital importance. Life of Brian references are definitely not applicable. We’re not knifing each other in the sewers beneath Pontius Pilate’s house; we’re thrashing out vital issues.

Some seem to think that the Left has no right to debate or difference. Socialist Party, Socialist Workers’ Party, Workers’ Party, Workers’ Solidarity Movement. Haha, confusing names. The same people generally seem to take for granted debate and difference of an equally acrimonious character between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. The names of the two major parties in the USA, the Democrats and the Republicans, are nothing but the Greek and Latin phrases for the exact same thing- something neither party represents in any case. SP and SWP certainly have more to disagree with than these careerist right-wing electoral machines, who manufacture a debate whenever it’s election time, and clap each other on the back when the votes are counted- like it’s a soccer match between friends. Further, the evidence of many a coalition, especially the present one, tells us that SP and SWP definitely have more between them than Fine Gael and Labour.

Still, now that the stakes are high the Left has pulled together. Proposals for greater unity on the left didn’t get so far in the mid-00s. Socialist Party wasn’t on board. This and other conflicts, together with defeat in the bin tax struggle, meant  a lot of people’s blood pressure skyrocketed. Now, on the basis of a huge crisis of international capitalism, the right moment has come. We launched the United Left Alliance and three months later we had 5 TDs. If we’d just blindly launched ourselves into alliance in 2004, it would have been a waste of energy and a jettisoning of principles.

The spiteful, petty and power-hungry caricature does apply to some on the left. We’ve all run into those people at one time or another…

However, that caricature does not represent the divisions and the arguments that exist.

We can reasonably expect that these arguments be conducted in a fraternal way that isn’t personalized. Of course, this is a serious struggle, not a debating chamber or a parliament, and the blood can really boil sometimes. Sometimes it’s even necessary to do and say things you wouldn’t if you didn’t have to. However, manageable issues can be made into deal-breakers by little snubs and insults. Everyone in the world must have some experience of this, political or otherwise.

One final point: message boards and comment threads aren’t a suitable arena for discussion on serious politics. All you get is a few dozen people sitting at their computer screens unable to see each others’ faces, blasted and broken down into pure spite, with a few trolls thrown in.

Having said that, comment away on this blog post…  but @MrMickroach, Brian of Nazareth, burnthebrits and uptheIRA93, if you got something to say, say it to their face…

(wow, there are at least 93 “uptheIRA” profiles on Youtube)


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