Friday, October 2, 2015

Never Start A Land War In Asia, Never Go In Against A Sicilian When Death Is On The Line, Never Mess With A Belfast Hipster

A little under a year ago two brothers, Alan and Gary Keely, from Belfast opened a cafe in Brick Lane in the East End of London. The cafe is called Cereal Killer and sells only cereal, milk, pop tarts and a few other breakfasty treats. The hook is that it has over 100 types of breakfast cereal and dozens of different types of milk. The brothers are hipsters and the patrons are hipsters. A bowl of milk and cereal costs three quid. So far so completely harmless. What a lovely idea everyone thought until a journo at the official opening asked one of the brothers if he thought it was ethical to open a hipster cafe charging three quid for a bowl of cereal in a deprived part of London. That remark got the ball rolling and the Cereal Killer cafe over the last year has become the target of a hate campaign by anti-capitalist protestors, anti-gentrification protesters and by the anarchist group Class War. The paper I read, The Guardian, has largely been pro protester publishing articles from various factions who cannot abide the presence of the Cereal Killer cafe in their midst. The protests have rumbled along in the background for about a year until last weekend when Class War decided to march down Brick Lane and attack the Cereal Killer cafe. The Class War protestors were carrying severed pigs heads and brandishing torches and rather in the manner of Kristallnacht bricks were thrown at the cafe's windows, paint was daubbed on the walls and the patrons were prevented from leaving. The Guardian article on the attack has video from inside the cafe as part of the assault was happening. Children can be heard crying inside the cafe while Gary Keely assures the customers that they will be kept safe. 
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Over the next two days the Guardian newspaper published an article from someone who took part in the march where he sort of apologised if children were upset by the incident but insisted that the real criminals were the people who were destroying Brick Lane with their trendy ideas (you should read the comment thread under that one); and a day later they published an interview with the founder of Class War who not only approved of the attack on Cereal Killer but said that it was much more effective to go after an independent cafe rather than the nearby chains of Starbucks, Costa Coffee etc because it got a lot more publicity for the cause and an independent could be much more easily intimidated and driven out. 
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Well yes, except that the brothers are from Belfast and people from Belfast don't go to pieces because a bunch of upper middle class chinless wonders carrying torches are trying to intimidate them. The average kid from Belfast is a hell of a lot tougher than the Seumas Milnes and Ian Boneses and Russell Brands of this world. And a beardy twin hipster boy from Belfast would have had to have been very tough indeed not to get the shite knocked out of him walking home from Lavery's come a Saturday night. The whole episode moreover is rife with irony: one of the banners the mob was carrying said "Refugees Welcome" just not, apparently, refugees from Ireland. It should also be remembered that the East End of London used to proudly display signs in shop windows stating "No Blacks, No Irish." The journey from fascist to fervent anti fascist and back again is not the journey of a million miles. 
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In a response article in the Guardian last Tuesday Alan Keely said that he and his brother had grown up under the shadow of sectarian gangs in Belfast and the Class War mob didn't scare them. They weren't going to let anyone frighten them out of their cafe and furthermore they would do everything they could to protect their customers. This is a promise I would take seriously if I were one of the Class War social justice warriors commuting back to mummy's home in Hampstead. To add to the list of classic blunders Wallace Shawn talks about in the Princess Bride, let me add never mess with a Belfast hipster when his business is on the line. Posh boy from north London wearing a Dolce & Gabbana hoodie v working class kid from Belfast defending his customers? I know who my money would be on.