On the Subject of Ian Tomlinson

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Beware, here lies ranty and possibly-controversial opinion.

I’m sure this hasn’t escaped your attention this week, but a video emerged showing a police officer assaulting a man named Ian Tomlinson, who shortly after died of a heart attack, at the G20 summit. He wasn’t a protestor.

Now obviously that’s horrific. But what I don’t get is the feeling in the liberal media that Something Will Happen because of this. Sure, something will happen - the officer will get fired, there’ll be an enquiry, and it’ll be decided that the individual officer had a momentary lapse of judgement under stressful conditions. In six months, the results of the enquiry will be released and we’ll all go “Oh yeah, that happened, didn’t it?” And a year from now WE WON’T REMEMBER IT HAPPENED AT ALL.

Because, much as I’m a fan of these blogs I linked (and of the Guardian), they have such little influence over the public consciousness. Who do we remember, years after the event? Princess Diana. Madeline McCann. If the tabloids care, and keep caring, then the public will care. Otherwise, it’ll be forgotten within months.

This will not be the start of some major public stand against police brutality. Because we don’t care enough, because we’re scared of the police, because we’re scared of being seen to support a weaker police force, or because deep down we know that compared to the simple act of voting, protesting is too much risk for too little reward.

I suspect it’ll take the likes of Tiannemen Square before the public will make a collective stand over this issue. And that’s sad, but it’s only human nature. And the police officer’s action was a mere result of human nature too - no amount of training can make any person an infalliable avatar of justice.

This nature being unavoidable - at least, for now - means that this sort of thing will happen again, and the most we can hope for is to remember it amidst the media onslaught of everything else we should be caring about instead.