Steve Bray uses a huge megaphone to shout slogans at MP’s as they arrive at the Conservative Party Conference on October 2, 2023. Picture Credit: Martin Pope/Getty Images

Turn down that bloody music

Historic occasions shouldn’t be ruined by narcissistic prats

Artillery Row

The election announcement needed no parody — the sight of a bedraggled Rishi Sunak, earnestly explaining the terrible mess that he had inherited from the previous government, and telling us all it was time to re-elect him, spoke for itself. Except of course, it wasn’t allowed to speak for itself, because professional prat Steve Bray thought what the occasion really required was “Things Can Only Get Better” blared at what must have been excruciatingly loud volumes given that even the audio equipment broadcasting the event struggled to pick out the Prime Minister’s words over the hideous tinny noise. 

Peace is fascist, noise is freedom

Whatever you think of Rishi Sunak’s government (and I think very little of it), the calling of a general election is a historic occasion. The words of our country’s leader matter, and deserve to be heard and judged without odious noise pollution getting in the way. 

After years of promising conservative policies, being loudly denounced for doing so, then failing to actually deliver them, it was perhaps fitting that we had a reminder of one such failure — those “draconian” Tory protest laws couldn’t even stop the election announcement being disrupted. 

Bray, who has had his right to subject passers-by to hideously loud music upheld by the British courts, is living proof of how ineffectual the Tories have been for the past 14 years. For those fortunate enough to be unfamiliar, Bray, who radiates divorced dad energy in the same way Chernobyl emitted gamma rays, is a full time, professional anti-Brexit protester. Wearing a giant blue EU top hat, and dual-wielding gigantic speakers, he mostly stands outside of parliament frantically trying to attract attention. Bray will happily travel wherever the cameras are, though, and could be found screaming obscenities on the floor of Tory conference in Manchester. 

Apart from being one of the more persuasive data points for nominative determinism, Bray is the perfect symbol for modern protest. Loud, obnoxious, content-free and anti-democratic, he is merely an extreme type of a new norm: protest as individualistic self-expression. Forget vox populi, vox dei, the right to protest is now the right to play amplified music, whatever the people around you want. The police have no power to take his hideous sound system away, but if any civic minded person were to shut the racket up themselves, the police would have to arrest them. Every other sort of public space is ruled by the most obnoxious person in it, so why not protests too? 

It’s individualism in action. The right to swing your fist may end at my chin, but your right to be heard always seems to outweigh my right to hear. Peace is fascist, noise is freedom. Orwell is headed for the exit, gathering up his coat and leaving satire to expire behind him. 

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