Us and Them and L.A.D. – Northern Ireland’s Satirical Warlords

17 Dec

I find myself increasingly fascinated by the extremism of so-called ‘culture’ here in Northern Ireland. I’m not referring to the various arts programmes in Belfast and beyond (Turner prize in Derry/Londonderry anyone?), but the territorial pissing a line in the sand type culture broadly labelled as Catholics/Republicans and Protestants/Loyalists (or Us and Them – Them and Us). To those unfamiliar with the country, often demarked by the painting of street kerbs and flying of flags/flegs and all the inherent symbolism. Wandering around various parts of Belfast during the last 10 months I’ve found my eye drawn to the murals and graffiti, the traces of destruction, and the invisible lines which carve up the city into acceptable and no-go areas.

I’ve been forced to confront my received ‘culture’ head on, and it has struck me increasingly that while the specifics of the iconography and precise words change between Themuns and Us, the language and execution remains largely the same. Even more disturbing, there are voices rising above the white noise which are not only being heard (he who can be heard above the crowd isn’t always the one making sense) but being acted upon, whose language and sentiment is positively dangerous – hellbent it seems on dragging us back to a Northern Ireland before the ceasefires.

As a country we’ve grown lazy. Those in power have grown comfortable and a significant portion of the population apathetic, comfortable in a status quo. But in the decade and a half since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement a generation has grown up without first hand memories of the Troubles, their lives thus far unrestricted. Some of that generation accept things for how they are and are appalled by recent rumblings, but there are others who feel disenfranchised by the political landscape, and who feel frustrated and restless. No doubt buoyed by anecdotes of the ‘heroic’ deeds of their parents and grandparents in a different era they feel inclined to mirror their tactics.

The danger is seems to me, is that while the unnamed individuals know the broad tactics, they lack a certain amount of discipline. The language of the civil rights movement of the 1960s has been invoked increasingly of late, and to an extent I believe that those invoking those rights have a point, but their execution is less about the people and more about themselves and their ‘culture’.

“We want what they have” is a fair enough request – there should be equality. But stirring up terror among the ordinary citizens of Northern Ireland whether it be through bombing campaigns or confrontational marches in highly sensitive areas (at which derogatory language and violence is used) is not the way to go about it. Sure, marches, demonstrations and peaceful protests are fine, but when you start shouting abuse at someone because of their religion, or throwing stones at the police force, then you have lost the argument.

Parody

LAD's logo

LAD’s logo

Out of this landscape this year has emerged an interesting group of anonymous individuals, who are seeking to bring attention to the activities of the extremists in Northern Ireland – LAD (Loyalists Against Democracy). Set up amid the crippling street protests by loyalists last year following the decision to cease flying the Union flag at Belfast City Hall 365 days a year (and instead bring it in line with other major civic buildings in England, Scotland and Wales and fly it on selected days), LAD combines investigative journalism practices alongside satirical swipes and light-heartedness to highlight the US and THEM culture of blame and redress.

LAD has also incurred the wrath of a number of individuals and loyalist organisations in particular, who seem to have pinned LAD down as republican sympathisers, middle class, and media led. LAD’s approach has certainly been frequently geared towards observations of those involved with the Protestant Coalition (PC) a “a new political party that aims to secure parity of esteem for the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist (PUL) people of Northern Ireland” according to their website (and whose tagline LAD draws from with their slogan “Parody of Esteem”).

The interaction between the two groups is fascinating and downright scary at times. There is a sizeable following for both groups (just nudged in front by LAD). The PC has of right now, 10,011 on Facebook and 157 on Twitter. LAD has 12,488 on Facebook and 7,349 on Twitter. LAD’s hand of revealing a string of abusive comments, idiotic behaviour and threatening behaviour is a bold one, particularly in light of the sheer force of hatred which seems to flow back from the PC pages by their supporters.

Right now Loyalism (and Unionism) is making itself known in an unprecedented manner – with the ‘Fleg’ protests ongoing these last 12 months, along with various controversial marches including those focussing on the Ardoyne shops. Hardline figures like Willie Frazer and Jamie Bryson seem to appeal to a frustrated demographic, while middle-of-the-road Unionists like Edwin Poots pursue expensive and unwinable personal agendas in court  and in turn are ripe for parody by others. For every idiotic Gerry Kelly surfing-on-a-landrover moment it seems that Bryson/Frazer and co. can issue a dozen ill-judged but impassioned statements. It is little wonder groups like LAD are focussing on the (at first appearances) single issue (Flegs) parties.

Satire and mockery are very much a British institution, and if we were in England we would expect our political parties to be lampooned whether it be through newspaper cartoons, Have I Got News For You, or just about every other wag on Twitter – and we would accept it. We might not always like it, but mocking others is in the British (and Irish for that matter) makeup. But so narrow-minded are some of the folk aligning themselves with the extremists/revolutionaries in Northern Ireland, that anyone daring to put their head above the parapet and fire off a blog, or a quip, or even to pick fault with (for example) a group of protestants blaming every injustice in the country on the catholic population, is in for a rough ride. And aligning yourselves as sympathetic to that message seems to warrant a crossfire to be placed on your person.

Two incidents in recent weeks have brought a lot of extra attention to the LAD campaign and the dangers embodied by those associated with the Protestant Coalition, and simultaneously pinpointed the inexperience of LAD when it comes to their media savvy.

Last December
First up was the LAD’s parody song Last December by “Paramilitary Wives” which in a typical Weird Al sort of way, adopted revised lyrics mocking the Flag protesters and the impact on Belfast/Northern Ireland, to the tune of Wham’s Last Christmas. The digital release on 8 December had the song flying up the charts and bookies were placing strong odds for the track as a potential Christmas No. 1.  Unfortunately several things went wrong very quickly.

LAD announced on 2 December that they had signed up to donate the proceeds of their single to the officially registered charity S.O.S. Bus NI – a non-denominational, non-sectarian, useful organisation that provides first hand care and medical help to folk of all ages. The S.O.S. Bus retweeted LAD posts on the 2nd and 5th December affirming the association. Soon after the announcement was made a blog was posted which made accusations against LAD, and incited a campaign of protests to S.O.S. As ever, certain individuals took it too far and are alleged to have sent threatening and abusive messages resulting in S.O.S. withdrawing their public association. (S.O.S. did however accept donations made in LAD’s name via their Justgiving page, and via Twitter acknowledged a number of such donations themselves).
As LAD declared “Our chosen charity has been bombarded with vile abuse for agreeing to accept a donation from us from the proceeds of the Christmas single”

//

Post by LAD.

LAD then promised on 6 December that the single would go ahead with the money going to another charity whose name was to remain private, but would endeavour to have the name independently verified by the press/public figure/both.

The anonymity makes sense (as we’ll shortly see again) to protect the charity against those whose retribution knows no bounds. But also left LAD open to criticisms of secrecy – especially considering their contributors largely remain anonymous – and further suspicions of aligning with a republican charity (I can’t imagine loyalists would be terribly pleased with a donation to St Vincent De Paul for example). Its a catch 22 situation – damned either way.

With the single released on 8 December to much media attention come the 9 December the single was being pulled from the various online retailers, with LAD citing ‘Legal reasons’ (that great catch all when you don’t want to be too specific – often with very valid reason). Cue lots of triumphalism from the PC brigade who have taken objection to LAD, and much speculation from LAD followers ranging from ‘the PC blokes did it’ to ‘George Michael’s people objected to the sectarianism’. In fact the sectarian allegations were made quite a bit, notable in a short lived Tumblr blog (now heavily revised – twice) by ‘Frankie Regan’ – who used his Twitter account to notify me (why?) about the exposure of LAD’s Christmas ditty.

LAD’s own brief investigations revealed the real identity of Frankie Regan to be one David Todd of Coleraine. LAD had already been in communication with Todd it seems – and one of the exchanges LAD published discusses the situation with the SOS Bus arrangements in more detail. While Todd/Regan raised some valid comments and concerns regarding the appropriate securing of permissions, the smug feel to his posts (not dissimilar to some of LAD’s postings, critics may say) and the construction of a false profile in order to make his point completely undermined the validity of his arguments, suggestions and observations.  He claimed to be a songwriter concerned about artists’ income being deprived, standing up for “all the singer/songwriters like myself strugling to make a living”. Hmm, I’m pretty confident that George Michael (writer of the Last Christmas tune) isn’t struggling to make a living, and that the song earns a tidy royalty for him annually. He further undermined himself when he removed all his original postings, replaced them with a second false profile, and then a third version which simply points one through the procedure for uploading a song to Ditto Music (Last December’s distributor).

On LAD’s investigative blog Todd took right of reply and made further comments and asked questions including a call asking for the identity of those who had made the decisions to upload the song without securing the permissions. LAD admitted it “may have made a mistake”.

After I pressed them on what I felt was a valid question Todd had raised – ie. did you actually have permission to use the tune – they responded: “We actually did receive the necessary mechanical clearance for the use of the track (it couldn’t have been uploaded without them) and it was only when the issue of so-called ‘sectarianism’ was raised to our distributors that things got murky, That’s why we say we may have made a mistake – truth is we don’t know and we have several clever people looking at it on our behalf”.

The accusation was used that the song was sectarian in the appeals to the distributor.  On being accused of being a sectarian himself Todd denies the claim and defines the word as “denoting or concerning a sect or sects.a member of a sect”. The Oxford definition elaborates further including: a person who rigidly follows the doctrines of a sect or other group; rigidly following the doctrines of a sect or other group; (of an action) carried out on the grounds of membership of a sect, denomination, or other group.
To say that the song is the product of a sect, the sect being the group LAD might just pass muster, but the implication when one uses the word in Northern Ireland it conjurs up specific associations with political and religious bias. LAD picks at “both” sides.

It is useful to remind ourselves of the definition of satire: “the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues” or a revival of the Latin usage “a literary miscellany, especially a poem ridiculing prevalent vices or follies”. This latter applies largely to LAD’s content I think.

At any rate at the time of writing I understand that the issues with the distributor are yet to be settled, and there continues to be accusations made that appropriate copyright wasn’t cleared before the song was recorded. The lyrics for the song are available here for you to make your own mind up.

Bedpush
Willie Frazer’s planned bedpush of 14 December came in for similar criticism from LAD – not least because after being described as a “charity bed push” there seemed to be no sign of a bed, no pushing and no registered charity either.

Objectively Frazer and co missed a trick here. Even knowing they would be stopped from proceeding along their planned route, they ought to have been seen to try – and should have brought the bed with them. It makes for better images – better press coverage – and also would have helped lend suggestion that the group were sincere.  And would have made up for the lack of supporters visible in the footage of the event I saw.
Vague allusions to the money going to take victims of IRA bullets to Libya to talk with government representatives there ought to have been more concrete. LAD and the PC should learn things from each other – including the use of independent adjudicators – though considering the PC seems to view the Parades Commission as the IRA Parades Commission judging by the new banners (because they aren’t giving them any of the answers they want to hear) then perhaps they don’t believe in independence.

All for charity
One does wonder how many of those who were in support of the bed push BECAUSE it was for charity were in turn against the charity LAD single?

Unfortunately one of the excuses LAD has used with reference to the charity single was that “what we did was genuinely meant with good intention” and expounded “This is an issue of motivation. Our motivation in releasing the song was good. The motivation of those who sought to kill the song is demonstrably bad.” This is the same sort of response publishers often use when they’ve stolen intellectual property – whether it be a review, blog or photograph – in my experience. Ignorance and ‘but we’re giving you exposure’ type responses demean the sincerity of the cause. I’ve seen just about every group using guilt as a weapon – complaining when a chosen charity doesn’t receive the ‘benefit’ of whatever activity they’re involved with. Heck, I’m working on a charity project at the moment, salvaging it from the negative impact of one of these sort of situations. Charities still have to work within the law, and that includes copyright and IP law. We all know that it’s illegal to download a film or piece of music when we torrent something (unless its one that has been approved!), and we know that bootlegging DVDs up at Nutts Corner or St George’s Market is also illegal. If the allegations that copyright was flaunted (and LAD have inferred that they weren’t) are true, then LAD should have had the intelligence to know selling something using somebody else’s music was going to land them in trouble.

There’s lots of goodwill out there for LAD and a lot of intelligent, articulate and creative people, who would be willing to help the cause. One can only hope LAD starts making better use of them.

People in glass houses
A second, perhaps more worrying incident occurred over the last few days. The owner of a shop off Ann Street in Belfast happened to post a message to the LAD Facebook wall sharing her own experience of the impact of the flag protests on Belfast trade – after several years in business her shop is due to close in January.  A street which sees a fair bit of traffic these days – and can serve as a rat run for folks heading between the Cathedral Quarter and Victoria Square. She pointed out that last Christmas sales were down 40%. Retail depends on the trade in the November/December period to see it through the harder months at the beginning of the year and can have a long-reaching impact on the business. Certainly the experience cited was in line with other reports from the business community when it reviewed the impact in January of this year. And for those with short memories – the protests brought Belfast to a standstill on a near-nightly basis at one point, with marches between City Hall and East Belfast resulting in rioting and folk having to either avoid Belfast or find safer alternate routes, and with many being let home early from their places of work for their own safety.

LAD spotted her post and offered to highlight her plight (as an example of the affect on Belfast generally) and she offered 10% discount to anyone citing LAD while purchasing.

As with the S.O.S. affiliation, the post was picked up by the PC and reposted on their Facebook, attracting a number of comments from supporters, some of those which I saw were frankly outrageous. Yes, the points about the economic downturn are fair to an extent, but to pretend that the Flag protests didn’t negatively impact on trade in Belfast and further afield flies in the face of all collated and published figures. And yes, the recent Republican attacks on Belfast are also going to have a negative impact – but so far they haven’t brought the city to its knees – the flag riots last year did. There were also personal attacks on the retailer questioning her ability to run a business, the decision to only offer an online store now and various other insults.

The retailer was in touch again yesterday with LAD after “two unsavory individuals” paid a visit to the shop – making the retailer feel intimidated with their UVF and Union Jack badges. Following LAD’s posting of a (now-deleted) blog on the matter which included images captured from a CCTV monitor showing the men in question, and an indication that the men were part of a group from another clearer image (I shan’t name names), the retailer (allegedly) received a message from the PC indicating that PC was a “dangerous man” and complaining (rightly as it happens) about the use of the CCTV images. Following on from the visit by the PC members, the message was understandably seen as threatening (and not just for the promise that the retailer would be hearing from PC’s solicitor).

[PC seems to refer both to the group and an individual – which makes levelling accusations a very perilous business. I’m reporting on allegations made elsewhere – not levelling blame at an individual].

Information on the now-deleted blog, and seen by a number of journalists (including myself), would suggest that the men in question were aligned with the PC. They have stated that they were merely in the shop out of curiosity and were on the phone arranging a meeting outside a nearby premises (a probable excuse). LAD allege on their Twitter feed that the retailer in question has been subjected to further threats and have removed the blogs on the retailer’s request (but continue to make the information available to journalists).

This may all seem rather long-winded explanation, but it is important to look at the picture from as broad a spectrum as possible. As much as I admire LAD’s steely determination to raise a mirror to those making fools of themselves (assuming they can see that) and a magnifying glass to injustice, their approach is encouraging reprisals. While LAD’s admin crew can hide behind an anonymity (PC prematurely declaring they’d worked out which PR company were behind LAD during the last few days), those they name in support cannot. There are republican and loyalist zealots out there who see any commentary on ‘their community’ as a personal attack and seem set on a Troubles approach of tit-for-tat retribution. So much so, that in putting this essay together I worry that someone will decide to find me and put a petrol bomb through the letterbox because I have little time for extremists, but find the trappings fascinating.

LAD’s repeated revision of blogs and their photoshop manipulation is not without its critics. The MadeInUlster blog levels accusations regarding the attitude displayed by some of their members which indeed are cause for concern. And certainly I have seen some of the comments on the LAD Facebook which have me in doubt whether those posting are trying to use satire themselves, or are simply sectarian. Some of the criticisms which can be levelled at the PC’s support group can also be levelled at LAD’s – and on occasion also overlap. There is real danger that a very valid and positive attempt from LAD to put this country under scrutiny is getting caught up in a personal battle between LAD and the PC.

The retailers and charities who support the humour are being lined up with the worst tactics of LAD, and in turn risk persecution. Sure, this is Northern Ireland and the idea of protection money is nothing new here – but just who is going to protect those of us who engage with LAD using our real names?

Both the charity single and the retailer threat are fine examples not only of LAD’s good gestures, but also of a stunning naivety of the media and media law. Perhaps you have to break a few laws before you know which ones apply to you – but you are putting yourselves and others at risk and need to start getting to grips quickly. Hastily retracting and deleting posts (something both the PC and LAD are prone to) once the damage is done helps nobody and makes everyone seem incapable.

In the instance of the CCTV, guidelines are available here and suggest that images showing identifiable people shouldn’t be supplied to the press or media for entertainment purposes. Arguably because LAD takes the piss, it is read in part for entertainment. Although the blog in question was clearly of an investigative journalism type. I couldn’t identify the people in the images myself – but with the additional information provided the identities were narrowed down significantly and in that instance, unless you have the means to argue the case in court, or have taken legal advice I wouldn’t have made the disclosure of the images.

I have likened LAD to the magazine Private Eye on a number of occasions – for both are using evidence and journalism alongside comedy to make their point. And often the dividing line is hard to define (such is satire). But to date LAD lack Private Eye‘s lengthy experience, bankroll (unless I’m mistaken), or legal advisers. In dealing with some of the antagonistic comments they’ve had, LAD have yet to learn the value of the Arkell vs Pressdram case in their communications, or how saying less sometimes says more.

As they make further inroads into the use of screenshots, photoshop, novelty record making, satirical videos and online publishing they will find their identities harder to conceal and will need to consider removing the balaclavas and must up their game. As earnest as LAD appears to be, they are not above the law, and I would hate to see them taken out of action because of another screw-up.

I’ve recently discovered A Perforated Ulster, which is able to take swipes at many of the same figures – but with the benefit of BBC lawyers to protect the writers and performers. LAD is bolder – but possibly just a tad cocky right now.

There will be more folk trying to ‘expose’ LAD and criticising them. On 7 December the PC issued this ‘Press release’:

“Since the Protestant Coalition was formed we like many others from the PUL community have been continually castigated and derided by a group on Facebook called LAD. Through their page LAD have on numerous occasions published photos, videos and personal facebook photographs of some of our members and their families resulting in death threats being issued by republicans. LAD claim that they have been around for one year yet withall they still hide their identities, what for I wonder. We the Protestant Coalition publicly call for a meeting between those behind LAD and ourselves to try and resolve whatever issues that they have with us and the PUL community as a whole.”

Both LAD and PC make similar accusations of the other – their identification of individuals and treatment of is putting them in danger. LAD are of course entitled to anonymity – just as the PC name can be used to hide any number of individuals – albeit behind a handful of named persons. The message in NI is clear though – getting political is risky.

Dangerous men
Which brings us back to the issue of the allegation that PC referred to itself as a “dangerous man” – a clearly intimidating statement considering the content and viewpoints expressed by those associated with the PC elsewhere. PC have yet to publicly respond to the allegation (as far as I am aware), and would do more for their cause in not using such tactics. We live in a very media oriented age, with more information instantly available than ever before. It takes moments to capture and repost information online and lay threats bare to the public and media and police. The anxious retailer seems to have been trying to protect itself by supplying the information to LAD – and at the same time it seems to say to LAD, ‘this is what getting involved with you can do.’ Surely PC could find someone with media experience to filter their postings and statements in a way that will remove the risk of something similar happening again? Sinn Fein and the IRA learned during the 70s and 80s how to use the media, and how to use language in a way to further their cause (they had to – seeing as their actual voices were censored and replaced by actors, including at least one genuine Northern Irish comic), and if the PC are taking lessons from the civil rights movement they should look at SF too.

People who make intimidating threats in order to progress their ideology have no place in our society. Those who are frightened should be free to voice their concerns to the likes of LAD (sort of community whistle-blowing) – but they should also waste no time in reporting any hatred, harassment or intimidation to the PSNI. And in light of the content of the deleted blog, the retailer in question would be perfectly entitled to address their concerns to the police. They are after all the representatives of the Queen’s constabulary here in Northern Ireland, so the PC would surely be supportive of an act which utilises a UK agency.

As individuals we all need to stand up and say “enough”  to the violence and intimidation – and make a difference and steer this land away from a descent into pre-ceasefire living – they haven’t gone away you know. Belfast in 2013 is so vastly different from Belfast in 1996 – I can’t believe it only took 15 years to forget what it was like before.

There’s also a certain irony with the PC – stating on Facebook yesterday “The Protestant coalition has been doing a bit of digging and believe a pr company based in Belfast is involved with the lad page and hopefully will be getting exposed very soon”. Resisting the temptation to make jokes about how the PC wants to see the lad exposed, while they disapprove of LAD using the media and or PR, they have themselves set up their own group – PUL Media – though getting someone who knows the difference between there, their and they’re will do wonders for how that is received in the real world of media types.

Happy finish?
I began this piece looking at an emerging voice in Northern Ireland via the LAD group, and in broad support of its content and ideas. But in discussing, I find enough among the tactics to worry for it and more obviously for those who voice support of it.

Where LAD is at its strongest and most balanced is in its guest blogs. Secondly in the use of actual screenshots and quotes to build up supporting evidence for its criticisms of other individuals and groups. It is a vital part of Northern Ireland’s publishing community, but it lacks due diligence in its approach – all to ready to go in guns blazing and worry about the clean up later. It is refreshing to see somebody speak out so blatantly, but genuinely innocent individuals have been put at risk as a result. Accusations (made on among other places the PC and SOS Bus Facebook pages) of LAD “shit-stirring” through use of fake profiles, and actually scripting the very sectarian comments that they then take issue with need responded to – and sensibly and maturely. If LAD wants to be taken seriously then returning fire with more name-calling will simply leave them as no better than those they seek to castigate. If they’re going to continue taking pot-shots, then they will have to be prepared for scrutiny themselves and I hope can deal with it appropriately.

Northern Ireland is on a knife-edge going into 2014. Is LAD the blade or part of the problem?

I trust that this piece isn’t seen as lecture, but rather a set of observations. Within acceptable boundaries of language, I’m perfectly happy for any party named (or unnamed herein) to use their right of reply to either affirm or rebut any of the observations, or add to the discussion. If there is any personal issue with any of the content please email me or leave a post in the comments and I will address promptly. Descents into sectarianism, hatred or insulting language will be deleted/reported/edited as appropriate. Please be better people.

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5 Responses to “Us and Them and L.A.D. – Northern Ireland’s Satirical Warlords”

  1. Shirley McMaster December 19, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    Thank you for mentioning my blog. Taking notice of what i said is important, because you didn’t shoot me down, as LAD did, as being bitter or twisted. I don’t follow the PC – I am banned from some loyalist pages for trying to tell them not to give LAD material & also for speaking out against the paint bombing gloating of an IRA mural. I don’t speak for loyalists. Only for myself. I will always step forward if i see what i consider to be bullying. My blog wasn’t lies, exaggerated or a woman scorned. Everything i wrote was truth. I did see LAD constantly posting photos of an elderly man, because he was a loan protester for his friends that had been remanded for protesting at the Braniel early when protests first began. I wrote my objections and made an error. LAD decided to post my error. I became the target. LAD claimed in a reply that i stated i don’t have to prove the truth. That is correct because they have no right to call me a liar. Nobody does. They know it happened and they know i can’t provide screen shots because their original page was taken down. They’ve had 3 pages since then. Their latest one is the one you quote likes for. I also got a reply from them after that, stating i wrote abusive messages to sos bus ni. I can tell you now, under oath if i was asked, i have never messaged sos bus in private about anything. If you read their twitter timeline you could see on the 1st December they thank me and another tweet they send me info about food parcels. I sent a donation for a fiver long before i knew of lad’s single. When i objected to the charity intention i did it directly to lad. I told lad i would contact the police to confirm what they were doing was legal and if it was i would apologise. I don’t have to trust strangers. Lad expect strangers to trust them. They took it very badly when i said why should i trust them? I didn’t write the blog in some sort of huff because they blocked me, as they claimed. I wrote it because to block me for doubting them made me even more suspicious. I didn’t mention sos bus in my blog post. I commented that lad making money off people they slate is rude. It is. By that i was referring to their previous sales of piss baby jumpers. I have watched lad photo shop the life out of comments and updates and when I’ve looked at the original it wasn’t the same! I even queried their edits several times on Facebook and Twitter to be told by lad to ” fuck off ” … I mention my health because their bullying was starting to get to me. I was becoming annoyed at their belief they can treat me and others how they like, and not be held accountable. I find that disgusting. They posted to Mr Todd that they had full permission for that song, they then changed it that it would take weeks to get permission. They blatantly ripped off military wives name. Their attempt at satire directly insults Mr Hutchinson and they refer to Sinn Fein as Sinn Fein / IRA – That wouldn’t be received as satire by anyone other than Northern Ireland people that are already aware of LAD. Do people really believe Geroge Michael’s production company would be willing to let that be attached to their tune? Can i say, lad don’t do the investigating, or journalism. They have fans all over the internet taking information from personal profiles. Preteding to be friends with people. Jumping to conclusions and refusing to believe the facts. I have a record within the petty sessions court & lad thought it was acceptable to post that all over their facebook, days after i wrote my blog. Even after they claimed the abuse i got before wasn’t their intention they set me up for more. My past is exactly that. Mine. I am still waiting for lad to show the messages i apparently sent to sos bus. I have asked sos where lad got this idea from and received no reply. Even if i had sent a message, how would lad know i had? Wouldn’t that imply sos bus broke a confidential rule between whoever and themselves? Lad stated they cam prove i sent abuse. I would love to know how. Unless they’ve edited a photoshopped version they are outright telling lies. They also blamed me for others messaging sos bus, they claim due to my blog. But i didn’t mention sos bus or the single in my blog. I don’t trust them and i was right to do so. Even after their single was pulled, people still won’t accept they have been lied to. I’ve reported lad twice to the police. I am aiming to get christmas over and my health on track then i will be seeking legal advice on taking them for libel. I received horrible abuse in facebook messages and twitter all on the back of lad. Lad were aware i have agoraphobia – so they publicly set out to humiliate me. You may enjoy their satire. I don’t see satire. Not anymore. They condemn loyalists, they condemn bombers. But they never condemn nationalists displaying the same idiotic comments as the pc and other loyalist pages. Have you ever read tricolour at city hall? There’s enough material to keep lad going for years. But the problem is – lad fan base are also tricolour fan base. That’s why they are labelled as republican. Because their fans by around 70% are. Remember how good lad are at photo shopping and don’t always believe what you see. I still don’t believe a word they say because they have lied before and will again. I only hope people will remember my blog and think ” oops, shirley was right ” because it isn’t my nature to say i told you so.

    • avalard December 22, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      Shirley,
      Thanks for your lengthy response to the article. I referenced your post not just because it contained accusations – which a number of placed do – but because of the largely sensible tone and context of the statements. Clearly an issue which resonated, but I didn’t see anything particularly spurious in your claims – ergo a good source to cite. You’ve elaborated on this in this post – too much for me to deal with right now. I don’t want this blog to become bogged down either with NI politics or LAD specifically. I would suggest that gathering your own evidence, including screen grabs and quotes/dates would be very good idea, and perhaps something you might like to elaborate on yourself.
      It isn’t clear to me whether LAD’s approach has changed particularly since their first page – I’m a recent follower of their work, and not a devourer of it. There certainly are a number of unsavory reports which give concern – and I have referenced these allegations in my own post in the interest of balance. Everybody who feels wronged or concerned by LAD can adopt the same tactics they have used and post with evidence about the problems and exercise their own right to reply. This is a democratic country after all.

      Re. your issue with LAD’s charity efforts. I haven’t seen the exchanges in question. With any charity appeal there is cause for concern potentially – and we have to take any charity or collection on trust that the money will go where they say it will. The recent Comic Relief revelations about money being invested in the arms trade, for example, emphasises how little we really know even about ‘respectable’ charities.
      I would have thought that contacting S.O.S. might have been a better tact than the police – and S.O.S. had confirmed already their involvement. Though there are all sorts of rules regarding fundraising. Concerns raised (by others) regarding the copyright of the song could have been handled with delicacy and professionalism and open minds. Difficult though it is, if you go in closed-minded there is no hope.

      It is much the same with me drawing attention to your blog, and interacting with you now. I am taking you at your word that your claims are true (and not even looked at verification yet), and that you don’t have an agenda yourself. Demanding certain proofs ‘or else’ publicly puts you in an antagonistic role which pre-supposes deception by LAD, and reeks of the Northern Ireland political bullying we hear of regularly in the media:
      “If they intend selling anything or raising funds, they’ll need to clear it with the psni & post a photograph of themselves with a cheque. To the charity. Or I’ll report that to the police myself” (http://dgmagee.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/exposing-bigotry-or-exposing-their-own-bigotry-loyalists-against-democracy-part-1/comment-page-1/#comment-199)

      A valid question certainly – but should, in my opinion, have been handled more discreetly before public declarations were made.

      As for how LAD responded to you personally – without seeing copies of the exchanges and context, it would be wrong for me to cast a judgement personally. It could be argued that if folk are aware of their rather caustic approach, which is in keeping with the tone of much of their creative content, then they shouldn’t be surprised when they get that response at least in public. That isn’t an endorsement of their behaviour either – again, I don’t have a full picture. But before one makes a claim mentioning health, one needs to bear context in mind. Unfortunately, while you have a right to say “why should I trust you”, LAD do actually have the right to tell you to go away. Legally one always has the right to silence and there is no obligation either to permit you to post on their board, or to interact with you (or anyone else, including me).

      If you genuinely feel they are bullying you, gather your evidence and speak to a solicitor. I do think in the context that you will have a hard case to make, but nobody should be bullied, and if things are/were really that bad, you have the right to redress.

      Re. “Mr Todd” :- There certainly is some discrepancy with the various stories there and a number of unanswered questions – which I have also voiced to LAD. However, the song itself hits on the problematic grey area of parody within UK and Ireland law. I have little doubt that information has been held back regarding this – but the assumption by some that LAD have not secured the permissions that they need isn’t necessarily accurate or fair either. Parody is protected by many international legislations, and regardless of the views of the lyrics, if the song had been issued in the US – for example – and not the UK, there wouldn’t even be a case to be made legally, merely one regarding taste (which is subjective).

      Mr Todd has also done a lot to discredit himself as a verifiable source, and has been in communication with myself under two different identities, twice, before vanishing on both occasions. Presently he is as anonymous as LAD themselves.

      I also don’t see what the point is about them ripping off Military Wives for their Paramilitary Wives name. This is a pretty normal approach for comedy/parody songs/groups, and tribute bands (check out the billboards outside The Empire in Belfast, and you’ll find lots of rip-offs on a regular basis). The ripping off is deliberate, and part of where the humour is drawn.

      You also say : “Their attempt at satire directly insults Mr Hutchinson and they refer to Sinn Fein as Sinn Fein / IRA – That wouldn’t be received as satire by anyone other than Northern Ireland people that are already aware of LAD.”
      Again, I don’t really see the point you are making. Insulting Hutchinson or any other Northern Irish figure is typical of local political satire. As I make the observation in my post – watch an episode of Have I Got News For You, and tell me that they don’t insult UK politicians? If I watch The Daily Show, huge chunks goes over my head as I don’t follow US politics – that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make the comments. Sinn Fein are still referred to as Sinn Fein/IRA by certain figures within unionism – as most folk in Northern Ireland appreciate. As LAD’s target audience appears to be a Northern Irish one, this is entirely appropriate. They are simply using the language of loyalism as part of their humour. Whether you personally like it, doesn’t matter.

      With reference to your claims of agoraphobia (remember, I don’t know you – I’m taking this on trust), and LAD’s persecution of your for this and other things, without me seeing the evidence for myself I can’t comment. It is an unsubstantiated claim to me, much as LAD’s claim to have evidence on you. I wouldn’t take either for granted without being supplied the supporting info. If LAD genuinely causes agoraphobia for you, then you need to stay clear of interacting and reading them. Plus speak to your GP, and if necessary prepare a file for the PSNI on the alleged bullying.

      I have myself voiced concern about LAD’s tactic of editing or deleting posts once the cat is out of the bag. I think its a dangerous scheme which may cause serious problems for other people, often those named, and shows an ignorance of libel and media law which isn’t acceptable for an organisation of this size. If they are photoshopping their screengrabs to the point of altering (not commenting on) their presented evidence, that is a very serious allegation, and evidence should be gathered to demonstrate this. That would be an exposure with validity.

      Discussing your petty sessions history (which I haven’t seen) does strike me as unnecessary – unless it directly pertained to a point you were making.

      You have personal reason to not approve of LAD. You are also in a position and have outlets where you can share that reason and justification for your feelings. Please do so – use your blog, use the PSNI etc.

      Yes I do still see satire in LAD’s content. I also see occasions where it is not to my personal taste – or crosses the line, and at times too base. Most of the time it is those whose comments follow that I find awkward, not LAD’s. But as attention starts to focus on the group it will either have to up the game, or will pass away as a fad. If loyalism objects to anyone poking fun at it, then it should stop behaving in such a ridiculous manner. I know those of a unionist bent who find the events of the last year in unionism/loyalism disgraceful and unacceptable, just as much as I know republicans who feel that way.

      It doesn’t matter whether LAD is written by republicans or disenchanted unionists ultimately, because it either hits the nail on the head or it doesn’t. And all too often, it does.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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