Well, I was thinking of writing something about how a group called the ‘Fuck Parade’ attacked the cereal cafe, obviously, because I am intellectually interested in the cereal cafe and what it means for us, in the present era of cupcake fascism and infantilisation and austerity capitalism. But then, yesterday, the more I thought about it, the more I also couldn’t be bothered, because honestly, who even has the energy anymore? The cereal cafe got attacked. The owners called it a ‘#hatecrime’ (this was on twitter, but I honestly hope they think the hashtag is performing some sort of important modifying work there, and that even outside of social media it’s still only a hashtag hate crime). The people who attacked the cafe, that only serves cereal, were honestly of the view that they were having a battle on the front lines of gentrification. In fucking Shoreditch, which is not a real place. “An extra-territorial dependency shared between Disneyland and Hell,” as one commentator has so eloquently put it. Everyone involved in this situation is a fucking idiot. Why attempt to elaborate this event at all, why attempt to understand it? This is just a week into the post-pigfuckgate era and if anything, reality is accelerating its stupidification.
Either way, any chance I might have written something long-form and independently insightful about the cereal cafe being attacked was basically annulled by this Sam Kriss piece which makes pretty much the exact point that I would have wanted to, namely that both the cereal cafe and their ‘Fuck Parade’ enemies exemplify infantilisation. The cereal cafe because, well, it’s a cereal cafe, and the Fuck Parade because they have ‘anti-gentrification’ protests that involve writing ‘scum’ on the fucking cereal cafe, when you’ve got Canary Wharf just a short tube ride away in the same borough of London. Marching on Shoreditch has very little to do with affordable housing for working-class people and everything to do with a battle for control of the hipster theme park it has long since transformed itself into. Plus they advertise their protests with banners that share an aesthetic with flyers for student club nights:
But I would just like to make a short point elaborating on what Sam has said in his piece, and this goes back to what (in my original cereal cafe thinkpiece) I claimed was what pissed people off so much about it. As people have been pointing out in the aftermath of the riots, Shoreditch is a place where there is a cafe full of cats, a place that only serves water, a shop that specialises in gourmet ketchups. Amidst all this obvious ridiculousness, the cereal cafe stands as a beacon for all the hate and smoke bombs that people wish to throw at the area; a giant hipster ‘Kick Me’ sign erected slap in the middle of Brick Lane. Why is this?
Well, as I argued in the previous piece, I think that this is really down to two things: firstly, the very obvious stupidity of the idea. The cereal cafe is, as ideas go, very much low-hanging fruit: surely everyone had previously come up with the idea to do a cafe that only serves breakfast cereal. But it had never actually been done before (in this country) because, well, you can buy cereal in the supermarket instead, and it’s exactly the same, and will cost a lot less. There’s no value added in going to the cereal cafe rather than eating at home. So the idea is a stupid one: on paper, it can’t possibly work. But of course it works in Shoreditch, because Shoreditch is not a real place.
Secondly, the fact that breakfast cereal is basically bad for you. Studies on lab rats have demonstrated that they die of malnutrition at exactly the same rate, eating a diet consisting only of Rice Krispies, as they do if you feed them the box. But there is, however, a key difference: whereas the rats who get fed the box merely starve to death, the rats being fed the Rice Krispies first go insane. When I was a kid, I used to eat a salad bowl full of Frosted Shreddies every night before I went to bed: and I was a fat, disobedient little shit. Long story short, anyway: good little boys and girls do not binge on breakfast cereal. So cereal is infantilising, but through the cereal cafe, infantilisation cannot function (or, cannot function perfectly) as the dominant ideology wants it to, i.e. as a mode of control. So infantilised subjects themselves are repulsed by it, just like the kids at school who wanted to impress the teacher were always repulsed by me.
The recent attack on the cereal cafe is, I would claim, just another, more extreme manifestation of this good-little-boys-and-girls revulsion. Why do the Fuck Parade hate the cereal cafe so much? They think it is because the cereal cafe is symbolic of ‘gentrification’, I don’t doubt this, but actually (since infantilisation and gentrification go together), the cereal cafe is rather symbolic of a kind of heterodox, potentially even radically actionable gentrification. So on the level of theory, the Fuck Parade’s analysis is, we must say, deeply distorted. Why then did it go wrong? Well, because this is the truth behind all bad, insufficiently theoretically reflective ‘activist’ groups: whilst posing as something that wants to do away with the existing order, the Fuck Parade, teenage oppositional-defiants all, really secretly want to prop it up: because if it didn’t exist, then what would they have to set themselves against? Hence attacking the cereal cafe looks like an ideal option for them: it’s a way of feeling like they’re assaulting the existing order of things, whilst really attacking something that could represent an opportunity to break out of it.
Although, actually, on the other hand: no. I want to take a bit of a step back here because now I think I’m at risk of taking the cereal cafe too seriously: it’s never going to break out of the infantilising capitalist order, it is very clearly a part of this order, otherwise Boris Johnson, King Baby, wouldn’t be condemning the attack on it; otherwise the creepy cereal twin owners wouldn’t be saying the people involved should be punished in a manner analogous to how the 2010 London Rioters were. My point is just really that the cereal cafe is a bit like something that might exist within this order but one day break out of it, because it is set in opposition to at least some aspects of the dominant ideology (healthiness, being ‘sensible’, only acting on ‘sensible’ ideas). So it might be a potentially useful template, even if it is itself (nevertheless) a lost cause.
At any rate if it’s a choice between adult babies eating cereal and adult babies who probably call themselves ‘sapiosexuals’ and go to psytrance raves, I know which I’d prefer. In the battle for control over the playground, I’m a Bowlshevik.