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Louise Mensch on Occupy London-LSX (HIGNFY)

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Year: first broadcast on BBC TV on 21 October 2011.

Type: TV satirical news panel show segment.

Participants: Alexander Armstrong (guest presenter), Ian Hislop & Paul Merton (team captains), Danny Baker & Louise Mensch (guest panelists).

Full reference: Armstrong, A., Hislop, I., Merton, P., Baker, D. & Mensch, L. (2011) Have I got news for you (series 42, episode 2, minutes 19-21). London: Hat Trick Productions.

Availability: free on YouTube here (3 minutes 6 seconds) & here (4 minutes 5 seconds), plus via library subscription on Box of Broadcasts here (whole programme).

Page reference: Chick, J., Bhol, M., Wood, D., Lyle, T., Woodford,O. & Owen, H. (2012) Louise Mensch on Occupy London-LSX (HIGNFY). followthethings.com (www.followthethings.com/haveigotnewsforyoutent.shtml last accessed <insert date here>)

Lego re-creation

Louise Mensch on Occupy London - LSX (HIGNFY)

Descriptions

Conservative MP Louise Mensch discovered that OccupyLSX protestors drink coffee and use mobile phones and brought this insightful view to BBC’s Have I Got News For You. Ian Hislop, Danny Baker, and Paul Merton were not in agreement with her (Source: Atwater 2011 link).

Four men with sharpest minds – or rather tongues – in England ganged up and tore to pieces a woman Conservative [a.k.a Tory] MP, Louise Mensch, who suggested in a popular satirical programme 'Have I Got News for You' that 'occupy' protesters at the City of London were not steadfast enough in their anti-capitalist action because they a: formed the longest queue in the world for Starbucks coffee; b: had fancy tents; c: used iPhones to tweet about the protest. ‘'You don't need to return to a barter and a Stone Age to complain about the cuts and the financial crisis?', said Ian Hislop, the feared editor of satirical magazine 'Private Eye'. 'If you buy coffee, have a tent and use iPhone your opinion is worthless?' said comedian Paul Merton (Source: Anon 2011 np link).
                                                                        
Is Starbucks incompatible with protest? Yes, is the verdict from ... Louise Mensch. Mensch, who … somehow bagged one of Have I Got News For You's notoriously few chairs available for women and promptly … sneer[ed] at [Occupy LSX] protesters who buy Starbucks, have iPhones and sleep in something called "fancy tents". "You can't be against capitalism and then take everything it provides," she chortled (Source: Freeman 2011 np link).

Louise Mensch was on telly last week. And she said, ‘Oh look, I mean, they’re all getting Starbucks. I mean, that’s not anti-capitalism – Starbucks’ (Source: Hardy 2011 np link).

She made the excruciatingly exorbitant claim that Starbucks is “everything capitalism has to offer”. Really? To put it into a brief context, she was criticising the protestors of the Occupy movement for having expensive tents and buying caffé lattes whilst ‘occupying’ the space outside St Paul’s Cathedral (Source: Foggin 2012 np link).

Tory MP Louise Mensch trots out a particularly lame criticism of the Occupy LSX protestors, based on their buying coffee from Starbucks, cos they're supposedly 'anti-capitalist' but Starbucks is, like, a big company. A variant of the "why don't you f*** off to Russia then" gambit (Source: Anon nd link).

… on the BBC current affairs comedy programme, Have I Got News For You, [Mench argued] that the anti-capitalism protesters “should not enjoy the good things” that it brings. This in response to the news that the protesters from St. Paul’s Cathedral were causing massive queues in the nearby Starbucks. It was Ian Hislop who voiced dissent by saying that he thought it was not necessary for such people to “want return to a barter system and the Stone Age to complain about the way that the financial crisis affected large numbers of people in the world (Source: Page 2012 np link).”

One feature of the London manifestation of the Occupy protest, like its international equivalents, has caught the eye of the conservatively minded. It is the enthusiastic predilection that so many of the protesters seem to have for products and services provided by the big corporations whose downfall they are calling for. Both the Home Secretary Theresa May on Thursday night’s Question Time, and her fellow Tory MP Louise Mensch on Have I Got News for You, highlighted this by remarking on the irony of people castigating corporatism one minute and then greedily guzzling down lattés from Starbucks the next. Both of them were cheerily derided to enthusiastic applause and laughter from their respective BBC audiences, and I hope those who poured scorn won’t mind my paraphrasing their incensed reactions. “Are you really saying,” came the incredulous ridicule, “that having something as ordinary as a cup of coffee invalidates being opposed to capitalism (Source: Igler 2011 np link).

Social liberal Tory and relentless self-publicist Louise Mensch was on HIGNFY again tonight, and boy did she get slaughtered. … She tried to ... ridicule the "Occupy" protesters as losing all credibility by getting coffee at Starbucks. On both counts she was, to put it mildly, a bit of a lightweight when facing the killer wit of Hislop and, to some extent, the others, who basically wiped the floor with her. I suspect that she doesn't often have to deal with people who are that much sharper-witted than she is, and that she realised too late how badly out of her depth she was. She grinned and laughed gamely throughout, to be fair (Source: Gauss 2011 np link).

Occupy! Mensch was widely ridiculed on Have I Got News For You for espousing the view that Occupy protestors were hypocrites. Why? Because of daring to occasionally tangle tastebuds with that pillar of capitalism, Starbucks. Because, you know, you can’t possibly challenge any system that you are part of! Even if you never had any choice in being part of it. That is definitely how things work (Source: Guest 2012 link).

... at the Have I Got News For You recording ... it was the stooginess ... that shone through, especially with her complete dismissal of anyone protesting capitalism if they lived within capitalist rules. The Occupy St Pauls campaign was highlighted. Mensch clearly completely disagrees with them (though it would seem the HIGNFY cast and audience completely disagree with her), and of course there is nothing wrong with that, but it seemed also that she was dismissing their right to protest because they live in the UK. Drink Starbucks coffee? Well, screw you if you think you have a valid opinion about excessive profit and unfettered capitalism. Bought a tent? Well, shut the !*%@ up about a consumer driven economy; you’re just as bad (Source: Palmer 2011 np link).

Inspiration / Process / Technique / Methodology

Occupy London protesters have set up camp outside St Paul's Cathedral, after being prevented from staging a demonstration at the Stock Exchange. Around 2,000 anti-corporate greed campaigners attended yesterday's event, when they were addressed by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Police stopped them gaining access to Paternoster Square in the City and they returned to the area outside the cathedral to continue their protest. Around 70 tents were pitched and close to 500 people spent the night there, under the gaze of a line of police officers stationed on the church steps. Many of the remaining activists are expected to leave on Sunday, but some have said they are prepared to follow the example of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in New York and camp out for weeks to make their point. Metropolitan Police said people camping in front of the cathedral were breaking the law, but have chosen not to remove anyone yet. … One of the demonstrators in the capital told the BBC: 'The reason that I'm here is basically about the corporate greed, the corporations that have basically infiltrated their way into our government and the way that they make policy.' Another told Sky News: 'We hope that we can show people that it's not a fair system which rewards bankers by bailing them out when they get things wrong but rewarding them with bonuses when they get things right (Source: Metro Web Reporter 2011 np link).

In the financial heart of London, workers returned to their offices today to be met by a growing anticapitalist demonstration on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The bemused and be-suited financiers, accountants, and PR-types offered a stark contrast to the eclectic group of protestors who first moved into the site on Saturday with the aim of occupying the nearby London Stock Exchange. Only, a heavy police presence stopped an estimated 2,000-strong crowd from invading the building. Eight people were arrested, but there was nothing like the violence in Rome last week and problems in New York and Chicago. Now an estimated crowd of 600 people remains camped in nearly 200 tents, vowing to remain until the New Year despite a predicted change in weather this week. Gently stirring a large pot of soup in a makeshift kitchen next to the cathedral, an 18th-century London landmark designed by Sir Christopher Wren, Ross Harwood, who hails from Cornwall, explains what drew him to the protest. “I’ve seen what’s gone on in America and Rome and just wanted to get involved. He says: “We’re going to hell in a handbag. The banks and big institutions control us through debt and governments don’t want to do anything about it. They’re not elected, yet they control us by issuing more and more debt.” Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street campaign, the Occupy London movement is supported by Facebook, Twitter, and a website with a list of nine demands and claims. As police patrol the makeshift campsite, protesters have set up a first aid tent, mobile toilets, media center, recycling points, and meeting areas where organizers armed with megaphones inform participants of upcoming debates (Source: Evans 2011 np link).

October 15: Anti-capitalist demonstrations which started in New York spread to European cities including London. Protesters settle outside St Paul's Cathedral after they are prevented from occupying London Stock Exchange by a police cordon. Well-known activists including Julian Assange and Peter Tatchell are among the protesters and Mr Assange, creator of the WikiLeaks website, addresses the crowds on the cathedral steps.Police urge protesters to leave, saying they are causing disruption and preventing access to the cathedral.
October 16: Church services take place as normal. The Rev Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, speaks to protesters and says that while he has not given his specific backing to the occupation he supports the democratic right to protest.
October 18: David Winnick, the Labour MP for Walsall North, calls for [British Prime Minister] David Cameron and [Chancellor] George Osborne to meet the protesters after he visits the camp and says he was "impressed by their desire to try to change things".
October 19: Cathedral officials say they are considering whether it can safely stay open in light of the growing size of the camp.
October 21: [the day this episode of ‘Have I got news for you’ was broadcast] The Dean of St Paul's, the Rev Graeme Knowles, says the cathedral is closing its doors to the public with "heavy hearts" after receiving a report by health and safety officials. Small groups will be allowed to enter so weddings can go ahead. He asks activists to move on, saying it is the first time the cathedral has closed since the Second World War. Campaigners insist they have complied with all the cathedral's requirements and have ensured the steps are clear (Source: Anon 2012 np link).

Impact / Discussion / Responses

The growth in public opposition to austerity was demonstrated pretty neatly by the short-shrift Louise Mensch received on “Have I Got News For You” last weekend. Trotting out some easy jibes against “anti-capitalist” protest, she demonstrated just how out of touch Westminster is with even mainstream sentiments. Mensch missed the nerve that #Occupy touches- that the “austerity” rhetoric is a sham, and that there is a developing popular critique of capital, more than “no to Starbucks”, which is outstripping the political critique offered by parliamentary parties in the marketplace of ideas. Mensch attempts an effective, if crude, discrediting trick– to attribute to people beliefs and values they don’t actually have, then chide them for failing to live up to them. Her perpetuation of the stereotype of capitalism as a “thing” one can opt in or out of fell flat on its face. As if we, the working-class, were not the very thing that makes capitalism work– as if it were not the value we produce and the demand we produce that sustains capital– as if capital were not a zombie feeding off living labour (Source: DSG EDITORIAL 2011 np link).

Louise Mensch's point has been misunderstood, it wasn't about coffee, it was about buying it in Starbucks, one of the best example of capitalism and brand-overtaking small businesses. Contradictory in terms if those protesting against capitalism actually spend their money in a firm that represents capitalism per se (Source: Papiprah 2012 np link).

I don't see her getting annihilated. I see three guys (purposely) misunderstanding her and creating straw men, avoiding the issue that she pointed out with some Occupy people (which is even beyond hypocrisy). It's not about drinking coffee. It's not about buying things. It's strictly about supporting Starbucks, the most well known and among the biggest multinational companies in coffee, and a symbol of the many things the Occupy movement protest against. Ignorance is bliss, I guess (Source: dradeel 2012 np link).

I think the points the occupy movement make are not without truth but I do believe Louise was onto the right thinking. They protest against capitalism while their occupy protests are full of Iphones, laptops to update social netoworks and such and all sorts of things which capitalism allowed to be made on mass so ordinary people could afford to purchase them. She was correct but just put it over very clumsily here, which is shy she was ripped apart (Source: yesman2079 2012 np link).

To be honest I agree with her. The company that has brought them that coffee only ever flourished because of capitalism. You? say typical tory idiot, I say typical two faced leftist. There is nothing wrong with capitalism, it is the best economic system we have devised and that is why its so widespread. It is the open, free and entrepreneurial capitalism society that allows these protesters to voice their opinions. I would love to see them attempt the same thing in communist China. The irony (Source: GuyGrindlay 2012 np link).

Mensch's remark is so revealing about the mindset of our reactionary politicians and merchants - any complaint over the most egregious abuses of power and capital becomes wild ideological opposition in its broadest sense, a mad, fundamentalist challenge to the establishment. And it is of critical importance to conservative thinking to make the public think in this reductive way, to make things appear unchangeable (Source: BarnacleGooseInvalid 2012 np link).

‘What? Ugh, [addressing Mench] God, if you’d just think more.’ [audience laughs] If caffeine were nationalised, all the city were bustling with anarcho-syndicalist coffee collectives, the protestors would go to them. But we have to deal with society as it is. I don’t remember, before the mass privatisations of the ‘80s, Tories boycotting the phone, gas, water, electricity or anything made from steel. [audience laughs] And, to this day, Conservatives will post a letter. Public sector. You know, phone the Fire Brigade. Even use the NHS [National Health Service] because they realise that sometimes you need a doctor to do something medical rather than nail your cheeks to the back of your head for no perceivable reason [audience laughs and applauds] (Source: Hardy 2011 np link).

You could equally well call all people who believe in free markets hypocrites when they use the NHS or state education (Source: valueofnothing 2011 np link).

If anti-capitalists cannot use I-pads or purchase coffee from Starbucks and be considered legitimately opposed to capitalism, then surely an advocate of free market principles should have to avoid travelling along publicly-funded roads, must be prevented from using the internet (which was developed by the Pentagon), should be prevented from flying for the same reason, and be denied access to the latest in medical technology (the product of state-funded research and development) (Source: RadiclCntrarian 2012 np link).

“Do you use roads? Do you use electricity? Do you buy food from supermarkets? Do you use use the internet? Do you own a toothbrush? Do you use anything that modern society provides? If so, you’re not allowed to complain about any part of the system. So shut up peasants and get back to work – or return to your squalid hovel if you have no work.” She’s the perfect Conservative – which is the biggest insult I can think of (Source: DougieMcD 2011 np link).

As a result of the malfeasance of bankers and executives in the private sector who wanted 16 million in their bank accounts as opposed to 15 million, millions upon millions of innocent people have lost their homes and their jobs, and the next generation feel hopeless and disillusioned at their career prospects and the possibility of owning their own home. And you frown upon the young who have taken to the streets in protest because some may at one point have gone to Starbucks. Shame on you (Source: durbansouthafrica 2012 np link).

… they do kind of take her quote out of context. She says? "Starbucks", they say "coffee". There is a difference between Starbucks and an independent cafe. She didn't say everyone should return to a stone-age system, she said they can't go to Starbucks. Forgive me for giving her the benefit of the doubt. I don't agree with her, just saying (Source: phishthefish 2012 np link).

Not really, she set the context; I.E. you can't complain about capitalism when using a franchise that operates along capitalist values. The point Mensch made is ridiculous though, and that is what they are pointing out; the protesters weren't demanding the dismantling of capitalism, they were/are asking for an end to the parts of capitalism that have been proven, time and again, not to work for the good of the majority of humanity (Source: Stupot2030 2012 np link).

Given that Starbucks has been attacked in the past for being a stereotypical evil capitalist corporation I can see the point she’s making. That said she made the mistake of trying to be too serious (after the initial attempt at humour) on a comedy show and where most of the audience and pannelists disagreed with her. That was never going to look good (Source: Richard a 2011 np link).

Well yes, I agree that she came across as patronising, smug, unlikeable and rather unfunny. Even if they're not all against capitalism as such I'd say the majority are likely against the mass accumulation of wealth. It seems funny to me to spend a day protesting against this only to then march? over to Starbucks and hand Howard Schultz some more profit. They should at least have looked for some local cafes, it's still capitalism but it would be reinvesting in the local economy at least (Source: StraitKnopfler 2012 np link).

She has a point, it's a shame she didn't turn it around and drive it home though. You don't argue against Capitalism and then go and line up at the worlds largest coffeehouse corporation for your trim soy mocha latte with sprinkles...as far as the coffee goes, for crying out loud at least support your local fair trade suppliers … you get MUCH better coffee than the "toilet? water" at Starbucks and it's "fighting the fight" against Capitalism (Source: RoadSkiN 2012 np link).

All great “Let’s tease the Tory” points, but the thing I would criticise her for is not preparing the one killer line to complete her argument: “Why are these anti-capitalist protestors choosing to patronise and enrich global mega-corporation Starbucks INSTEAD OF ONE OF THE MANY INDEPENDENT COFFEE SHOPS just nearby (Grace St. Paul’s, for example)? Was it just because Starbucks was a few seconds less of a walk or a few pence cheaper (doubt that…)?” That would have been game over. She should have done her research more fully, but her general line of argument was not wrong. Personally, my point would be that the current problems are caused by privatising gains but socialising losses. That is not capitalism. It was a failure of leadership to face up to a potentially unpopular decision in 2007/8. But we had a leader who “saved the world”. Failing banks and other failing companies should have declared bankruptcy and defaulted, with intact competitors taking over the customers and viable bits of their businesses. Countries that cannot repay need to default too and start again spending much less. THAT is capitalism. Sure, traumatic for a few weeks or months, but we would be a lot further down the road to recovery now (Source: Jake 2011 np link).

I feel sorry for people like her who are that ignorant and filled to the brim with bureaucratic spin that it spews from their mouths. She's in a position of political power but what a blinkered outlook on the world! Yes Starbucks is a capitalistic business like Amazon, Apple, The BBC... like almost other every company in the world. She doesn't realise that people go to Starbucks because they can't afford to just lounge at Harrods. She wouldn't go to a protest unless it evolved a 5 star hotel (Source: ThePenguin423 2012 np link).

She made a good point and was then hijacked by a bunch of BBC luvvy lefty ^%$&s (Source: ludocrat 2012 np link).

no she thought that if protest about incompetent bankers your anti capitalist which is stupid as a great many of pro capitalist abject to banks being unregulated and out of control. Which was Ian's point he is a capitalist and yet he is also against the banks current behaviour (Source: HumphreyapplebySir 2012 np link).

I wish people would stop calling capitalism a 'system' - it isn't. This is why Louise Mensch is wrong - they are protesting against injustice, not 'capitalism' per se (Source: TheMagicLemur 2012 np link).

Maybe you dont realise that without capitalism, it would be very well imagineable that those people wouldnt have had the opportunity to get a cup of coffee, nearby at all. She's not just talking about the coffee, that would be far too simplistic. Its about the opportunity and capability of getting it so easily and comfortably. That doesnt mean its silly for them to get? a cup of coffee at all, it means that its rather odd that they enjoy the fruits of the system, but dont recognise it as such (Source: numbcore 2012 np link).

Surviving in today's society demands that you take part of it. And not only surviving, having credibility too. How can these protestors even be in London if they don't take part of today's society (Source: GTASA911 2012 np link).

If you live in a Capitalist society and you don't "support capitalism" which Mensch defines as, basically, buying things then, after you've lived on the street for a few days with perhaps only a blanket made of leaves sewn together by reeds, you will die of starvation (Source: Hephaestus84 2012 np link).

Come off it. If these people were genuinely anti capitalist they would be buying from independent cafes, not from global companies. You don't have to shop at some slave wage faceless multinational to "survive” (Source: steve5312 2012 np link).

But what the bankers and the city are practicing is not capitalism. It is socialism for rich elites. And our idiot chancellor wants more public money to bail out his moronick brownshirt @±&!s in the city (Source: Sally 2011 np link).

It's the choice of the individual, really. You can choose to go to Starbucks or go to an independent coffee shop. You have that choice. I'm not too sure how much weight you can put behind it being Starbuck's fault. Obviously they're highly ambitious to the point of unscrupulousness, but a lot of their success is down to great marketing and stuff like that (Source: thischarmingyoungman 2012 np link).

The problem is that places like starbucks literally buy out the competition with secondary companies, shut them down and then sell the properties. This is the sort of behaviour that causes problems within the capitalist society. Keep in mind, I don't support the occupy movement, so I may not have all their facts (Source: OvAppolyon 2012 np link).

oh, I didn't actually know about that. That is completely reprehensible behaviour. Of course, to go back to the video, the Occupy Movement was less about capitalism as a whole and more about the greed and irresponsibility of banks and low tax rates for wealthier people (Source: thischarmingyoungman 2012 np link).

really, what she fails to notice is OWS (Occupy Wall Street) is not anti capitialist, it’s anti -
Too big to fail
Taking risks then getting bailed out by the tax payers
Owning politicians
Last I check Apple, Starbucks and tent makers didn’t cover any of these points (Source: bond 2011 np link).

The protester at Saint Pauls were protesting against corporate greed and corruption not necessarily capitalism per say. I don't think anyone realistically believes that a free market economy should be scrapped, but rather a flawed system be policed properly and the bad people to be brought to task. By accepting the status quo you are being complicit in a imoral situation (Source: NDKY67 2012 np link).

But they were saying "Capitalism has failed". If they'd said, "The banks have served us a shitload of debt, but capitalism still works we just need to regulate the banks" then we wouldn't be having this debate... and they could drink as much frappuccino as they like (Source: dan892k7 2012 np link).

What is irritating is that the occupy movement isn't actually cited as being against capitalism, right? It's misrepresented by the media. After what has happened i'm sure the vast majority of people with any moral conscience and who isn't completely uneducated on the issues would agree that changes need to take place. There are ridiculous amounts of waste, greed and corruption at the top of the hierarchy, personified in 2008 - so why wouldn't we want to change this? This is what Occupy is about (Source: asulei 2012 np link).

Yeah, the term "Anti-capitalist" is wrong ... They don't want capitalism to go away, they just want it to stop controlling everything else in the world. They want it regulated so that banks can't lose trillions of pounds, they want to make it so that there are checks and balances for people who knowingly commit fraud on the grandest scale known to man and that these people are charged to the full extent of the law. But then if you want a coffee and an iPad you must bow your head to the masters (Source: Dreadnaught1985 2012 np link).

I don't recall Starbucks taking down a large chunk of the world economy, and I don't recall the protestors wanting the total destruction of Western capitalism - rather, the bits that don't work (Source: RescueTheSlags 2012 np link).

Thing about Starbucks and Apple is that they didn't cause the recession. Ok they have some unethical business practice (Starbucks much less so atm) but at least they made their money by making things and doing things and selling things. Not juggling money and destroying the world economy (Source: Starman117 2012 np link).

What this world really needs is an education that teaches the difference between capitalism and corporatism. In a nutshell, capitalism is not bad but left unchecked, no oversight, it becomes corporatism where the appetite of corporations feed on the governments of nations, infiltrating and lobbying for laws to crush potential competition even before it starts, and many other laws that benefit the? corporations over people (Source: paulcoonan 2011 np link).

Capitalism has no inherent civic duty in it's cause. It will enslave workers, gouge customers, manipulate tax codes, monopolize industry, con investors, pollute at well, and, barring all that, outright STEAL in order to produce profits. That's where govt steps in. It shields not just the socialist concerns of the people (workers, consumers, and the environment) but also protect business concerns like investors and competing businesses. Capitalism needs RULES to survive (Source: priorzola 2011 np link).

I brought this [episode] up on Facebook and was surprised at the level of defensiveness towards Mensch. Some of that was due to a discomfort with the idea of three blokes ganging up on a woman - certainly Hislop is a notorious pigtail-puller. But she does seem to dazzle people across the political spectrum with her supposed brightness. I thought her comments about the protesters were pathetic and she thoroughly deserved to be shot down in flame (Source: wingco 2011 np link).
        
Sure, Ms Mensch made a typical politician’s “flip” comment (the sort of thing that probably works well on the ConHome comments) and it was right that they say the protesters point isn’t *just* cancelled out by them having a latte from Starbucks. But I thought the other panellists went rather beyond that, almost into bullying her. She tried to make a joke. It wasn’t funny. They should have just given her a verbal slap down and left it. The monstering they handed out gave her no room to back down, hence having to just grin and bear it. Those protesters don’t have a solution and they wouldn’t actually want to give up the benefits of capitalism (like those lattes). And to say that Louise Mensch’s comments have no merit at all just because she made a silly gaffe about coffees… well, that was exactly what they were accusing her of doing, wasn’t it. Ever so slightly, Merton and Hislop do have a lot of power and no one ever calls *them* to account for how they use and abuse it and nor do they have to stand for election (Source: Richard b 2011 np link).

this is like satirist gang-rape (Source: getheroutofthetruck 2012 np link)

It’s the classic straw man, intentionally misrepresenting your opponent’s argument to the level of ludicrousness in order to pretend to defeat it. … Drinking something as ubiquitous as a cup of coffee can’t possibly negate opposing capitalism. Well yes actually, I’m here to tell you that that’s kind of what it does. In non-capitalist societies like pre-89 Eastern Europe people had coffee, but they also groaned every three months when the price of it got higher still. I know. Pick up a jar of your favourite brew on the way home from work today and accidentally leave it on the bus, and it’s an inconvenience, a trifle. Do so back then and there, and it was an argument with your wife, or the certainty of being crabby and tired every morning for the next month, unless of course you chose to go without something else. The only reason why we consider coffee, or affordable glass, or bananas, or five pairs of socks for £3, to be ordinary at all is because we live in a capitalist system that has made them so. When coffee came to this country it was an exclusive luxury enjoyed infrequently by the burgeoning middle class of Georgian England. Now it is a staple. But what it is, has remained the same. It is the product of back-breaking agricultural labour in tropical climes with wildly varying meteorological conditions, which is then shipped over mountain ranges and ferried across oceans to reach our shelves. How is this commodity, whose production varies dramatically in line with the temperamental nature of the climate where it is grown, not here one month and unaffordable the next? Well that would be those sickening casino bankers, in this case speculators on the futures markets, who enable us to keep the prices of such items at a relatively steady level where they can thus be a fixed and negligible cost within a housekeeping budget. Whether you like it or not, only capitalism has the ability in this way to turn the profoundly exotic and astonishingly complex into things so mundane that it literally never occurs to us to give them a second thought. … Every time we lift a cup of coffee to our lips, we are sitting at the end of a vast supply chain stretching back thousands of miles. Of the hundreds of people involved in every stage of that process every person is doing what they are, rather than something else, because of the profit motive; a little sliver of margin at each step, which is kept low and thus affordable to us because of the power of competition. Large parts of Western European societies are now so divorced from the means of production, particularly agricultural production, that they have no concept of how arduous it is. Nobody would do it for the good of “the collective”. And we know this for certain because a significant chunk of the world tried to do precisely that for a sizeable portion of the 20th Century, and failed so spectacularly that millions went hungry as a result. The only reason anybody in these audiences considered having a cup of coffee to be 'ordinary' at all – and laughed – is because of capitalism (Source: Igler 2011 np link).

It's a total strawman, and has never held water. If you're fighting against a system, or more particularly a systematic abuse, then it's nonsensical to deny yourself a weapon on ideological grounds, especially when the abuses you're opposing already contain the seeds of their own destruction. The Occupy movement is attacking wide-scale corruption and increasingly violent corporatism; it's a simple smear tactic by those selfsame corporatists to attempt to characterise them all as "anarchists" and thereby refuse to address the accusations levelled against them. Mensch is typical of her ilk, and her parroting of the establishment ratiocination is something which should be opposed and dismantled / laid bare at every opportunity (Source: sarahnewtonwriter.com 2011 np link).

I think very often the Right use this argument to imply that protesting against abuses of capitalism whilst living in a capitalist country is somehow hypocritical - it's related to the "if you hate it so much then why don't you go (back) to [INSERT NAME OF COUNTRY HERE]" style of argumentation. I don't want to go back to [Russia / China / Africa / Mars / wherever] - I want the abuses in my own society to stop (Source: Anon 2011 link).

(As Ran Prieur paraphrases William Kotke as saying,http://ranprieur.com/archives/024.html). Not only is it OK to use the tools of this system to build the better system that will follow it — ideally all the tools of this system would be used that way (Source: steelweaver 2011 np link).

yes, there is a good saying: 'revolutions are not made so that there are no rich, but so that there are no poor'. With Mensch, what puzzles me is whether she honestly believes in her argument, or just cynically tries to discredit the occupiers (Source: Anichkin 2011 np link).

In response to Louise Mench's argument here: What system is the cause of the economic recession? What system is causing Chinese businessmen to get very wealthy while over-working a large amount of their country's population to death? And which system is happilly letting us take advantage of that working class majority (who have to live off near NOTHING) as it's simply 'good business'? What was your argument again, they? shouldn't protest against this because they drink coffee (Source: LeBretto 2012 np link).

The ideologically driven neoliberal dogma that has been the foundation of Conservative party policy for over three decades is defunct. It was holed beneath the water line when the "evil state sector" stepped in to rescue the financial sector temples of neoliberalism from the consequences of their own reckless gambling with the biggest state subsidies in human history (bailouts at above 90% of GDP by the government's own estimates and the near complete nationalisation of debt stricken banks) yet the political and economic establishment continue hawking exactly the same ideologically driven neoliberal clap trap under the new name of "austerity". The best that Tories like Louise Mensch can offer in defence of their adherence to defunct ideologically driven economic gibberish is to trot out truly pathetic arguments against those that would complain about the defunct neoliberal model, excessive corporate greed and growing inequality, using the straw man argument that anyone that opposes neoliberal economics, must be a raving anti-capitalist tree-hugger who opposes all forms of trade. Thus if these protesters have ever bought any commodity under the capitalist system (coffee and tents are her cited examples) they must be complete hypocrites. Louise Mensch made this utterly lame point during an appearance on the long running BBC topical news comedy panel show Have I Got News For You and was immediately set upon by the other panellists for having made such a stunningly fallacious argument. That she tried to pull off a spectacularly lame right-wing fallacy in such a public setting gives her the unusual distinction of having a feeble right-wing fallacy named after her. The Mensch fallacy is so lame it hardly needs further deconstruction, but I'll go on anyway. Opposing the excesses of the deregulated financial sector does not equate to hating capitalism and all forms of trade and living within a particular economic system does not disbar a person from criticising perceived problems with the system. You don't have to want to go back to a stone age barter system economy in order to complain that the FTSE 100 corporate executives awarded themselves a stonking 49% average pay rise in 2011, at a time when the vast majority of ordinary people were being made to suffer harsh and self-defeating Tory austerity. Another huge flaw in the Mensch fallacy is that it would work just as well as a criticism of anti-communist protesters, in that they will have benefited from provisions of the state at some point (used the state owned public transport system, drunk from the state owned water supply or relied on their state sponsored education for their ability to write their protest banners). The fact that her fallacy is equally applicable to anti-communist protesters is particularly ironic as her argument is little more than a dim-witted extension of the pathetic "if you don't like it here, why don't you just go and live in North Korea" retort (Source: Clark 2012 np link).

I [Louise Mensch] got my lunch handed to me on Have I Got News for You and regret that I allowed my annoyance at the Occupy movement to show through because that was a mistake on a funny program, and I deserved everything that I got but I stand by my point. I don't think that you can have a movement that is purportedly against capitalism and then go around sort of enjoying everything about capitalism. It's contradictory--inherently self-contradictory. That doesn't mean that I'm saying you should live in an agrarian society if you protest the excesses of the banking system. In general, I just find the Occupy movement to be sort of worthless. The Wall Street Journal or--I can't remember--New York Times, did a summary of the people that were involved in the Occupy movement on Occupy Wall Street and found that most of them are from extremely privileged backgrounds and I have--you know--huge amount of respect for political opponents but I have a lot more respect for people who join the Labour party, join a trade union, and get up and make a political argument other than people that block the public highway and take up public space (Source: in Martinson, Domokos and Gallagher 2012 np link).

The occupy London protesters were apparently queuing for the toilet not coffee anyway:http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/10/17/article-2049722-0E6A735000000578-82... (Source: PlanetEarthAwakens01 2011 np link)

Impact / Outcomes

The news that Louise Mensch is to stand down, causing a by-election in her marginal seat of Corby, was not totally unexpected - but the timing was a shock. Mrs Mensch has announced that she is finding it increasingly difficult to juggle her family responsibilities with her political career; something that she has spoken to us about in the past. She is to move to New York with her three children to join husband, Metallica manager, Peter Mensch. She said: "I am completely devastated. It's been unbelievably difficult to manage family life. "We have been trying to find a way forward with the Prime Minister's office but I just can't spend as much time with my children as I want to." She had been allowed to go back to the constituency on Thursdays and Fridays in a special concession from the PM but it hadn't proved enough of a help. The Prime Minister, hinting that she was in line for promotion, said he only accepted her resignation "with enormous regret". He thanked her, adding: "You're a truly inspiring Member of Parliament, championing your constituency of Corby with flair and energy over the past two and half years, while also serving with great distinction on the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee” (Source: McGurran 2012 link).

Never liked her after I saw her on have I got news for you and question time. Far to anxious to try and score cheap political points with poorly thought out comments... the famous Starbucks comment springs to mind. She has very little to offer constituents as her loyalty lies with the top boss.....All in all this is no loss to citizens on the ground (Source: Flashman 2012 link).

The lessons of Louise Mensch's departure? There are none (Source: Hinsliff 2012 link)

How about: don't go no Have I got news for you and make a massive &%$£ of yourself trying to prove what a great person you are when you clearly have no sense of humour? (Source: pollystyrene 2012 link).

One word that does recur throughout the coverage, [of Occupy protests] is “anti-capitalist”. It’s a word I really struggle with. For me, and I suspect for millions of others who have largely viewed the world through the eyes of the mainstream media, it conjures visions of silly masks, straggly hair, multi-coloured wool, and quite often a trail of smashed windows. The protests that accompanied May Day in 2001, and a succession of subsequent summits all beginning with G, have led to a general perception that if somebody is “anti-capitalist” then they are also “anarchist” and probably “violent”. The other reason I struggle with the term “anti-capitalist” is that even if it’s clearly defined I don’t instinctively agree with it. Google’s definition of capitalism reads: “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit”. It strikes me that that’s a fairly good definition of a system that for a couple of hundred years has served us reasonably well. The thing is, I like McDonald’s. Not the corporate structure, but the quarter-pounder with cheese. I like Tesco. I’d rather they didn’t build on school playing fields, but as a one-stop shop for relatively cheap stuff to keep me alive they’re pretty hard to beat. I even like Shell and BP. It’d be great to be able to source my own diesel for the car I love driving, and the petrol for the go-kart that I pay a for-profit company to occasionally chuck around a track, but it seems easier to let a specialist do it, and if they want to make a bit of money from the process then that seems reasonable. So it’s fair to say that I approach anything describing itself as “anti-capitalist” with extreme caution. Everything I have seen on the telly leads me to believe that anti-capitalists want to tear down every structure that has conspired to give me a relatively warm, comfortable and hunger-free life. On the other hand, it’s increasingly clear that the picture that comes through the television screen only shows whatever the cameraman points at, so the only way to really find out what’s going on for sure is to see it for yourself. Fortunately, as I have mentioned before, London is an easy train ride away, so last Saturday saw me tolerating the Byzantine fare structure imposed on the people’s railways by a privatised industry….sorry, I mean pootling off to the capital to see the occupation at first hand. First impressions count, they say, and mine weren’t brilliant. The most visible statement of the camp is a large banner proclaiming “Capitalism Is Crisis”. I had to look a few times to make sure the “Is” wasn’t an “In”, which might have made more sense as a headline, but as a statement of ideology it’s pretty unequivocal. At the time I arrived, an Egyptian activist named Nawal el Saadawi was just starting to address the crowd, on her 80th birthday. As is usual at this type of city centre gathering, the megaphone was hopelessly inadequate, so nobody behind about the third row could hear a thing. However, the sign she was holding read “Tahrir Square WC2”, which seemed a bit over-ambitious, but gave an idea of the message she was bringing. … [Later] I wanted to hear some of the speakers at the scheduled “teach-in” later in the afternoon, and I was particularly interested in the promised “Tour of Corporate Greed” due immediately afterwards. Apart from anything else, unlike the previous week’s blocked invasion of Paternoster Square, the details of its itinerary were unpublicised, which meant the prospect of the police either allowing it to continue or reinstating their notorious kettling tactic, and I wanted to see how things would develop. So now seemed as good a time as any to duck out for a while, and the Fleet Street branch of McDonald’s seemed as good a place as any for a coffee stop. At this point I hadn’t seen Danny Baker and Paul Merton’s rather excellent debunking of Louise Mensch on Have I Got News For You, but watching it later it served as welcome reinforcement of my growing realisation that it’s perfectly acceptable to be unhappy with the worst excesses of the system without necessarily wanting to tear it down altogether (Source: quizzicaleyebrow 2011 link).

Sources / Further Reading

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Anon (2011) Mensch and Rakhmetov: the Starbucks Argument, Tetradki, 28 November (http://russianbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/mensch-and-rakhmetov-starbucks-argument.html last accessed 3 July 2012)

Anon (2012) Occupy London: timeline, The Telegraph, 28 February (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9110341/Occupy-London-timeline.html last accessed 4 July 2012)

Anichkin, A. (2011) Comment on Mensch and Rakhmetov: the Starbucks Argument, Tetradki, 28 November (http://russianbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/mensch-and-rakhmetov-starbucks-argument.html last accessed 3 July 2012)

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(http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:kMPp3juSkOsJ:snipe.at/metropolis/%3Fpg%3D56+&cd=16&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&client=safari last accesseed 28 September 2012)

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bond (2011) Comment on That Louise Mensch HIGNFY mullering in glorious full techniclour, Liberal Burblings, 22 October (http://liberalburblings.co.uk/2011/10/that-louise-mensch-hignfy-mullering-in-full-techniclour/ last accessed 3 July 2012)

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Compiled by Jon Chick, Matt Bhol, Dee Wood, Tom Lyle, Olly Woodford, and Henry Owen, edited by Sabrina Skau and Ian Cook (last updated September 2012). Page created for followthethings.com as part of the ‘Geographies of material culture’ module, Exeter University. Tiny tent-making by Ian Cook (using a template posted online by the Tiny Tents Taskforce here). Legoing by Sabrina Skau.