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Potent Whisper, Grenfell Tower. Photos: Youtube/Potent Whisper, Shabbir Lakha

Potent Whisper, Grenfell Tower. Photos: Youtube/Potent Whisper, Shabbir Lakha

A spoken word response to Andrew O’Hagan’s ‘The Tower’ by Potent Whisper

Everyone loves a good story!
A story’s a powerful thing
History is made up of stories
Stories shape how we think

They can entertain us, or, they can teach us
Stories can enslave us, or they can free us
Stories can define us, or they can defeat us
Stories often guide us but stories can mislead us

Stories are powerful things.

But the real power, is held by the writer
The person who decides what the story might contain
And in relation to “The Tower” and the fire
O’Hagan writes his-story with every single page

The people want justice for Grenfell
And justice can’t be controlled
But I’d say a main form of justice
Is how their story is told

This is in relation to Andrew O’Pagan
Sorry, O’Hagan
It’s Andrew O’Hagan

He’s the editor at large at LRB and Esquire
He just released an article related to the fire
The article was arguable. It caused a lot of hurt
Not to mention it was tiresome at 60,000 words

60,000 words, he must think that he’s impressing us
I just think the editor at large…. needs an editor.

Now, O’Hagan spent 10 months producing this piece
That’s a lot of time, finance and focus
And in an interview he gave after the release
He seeks to clarify his intentions and motives

He says it was to examine evidence from an independent stance
Without any prejudice, with truth at its heart
To cut through the narrative established from the start
A narrative he desperately tries to tear apart

So, he starts, with real stories, told by the survivors
Victims who lived through the violence of the fire
There’s justice in a story, but justice for who?
Who does his version do justice to?

Well it hasn’t done justice to the people who he interviewed
They’ve said that they were misled on how he’d use their interviews
How he put his own words in quotes as if it was true
This alone, naturally, caused a lot of disrepute

Understandably, people registered objections
Objections have now led to formal corrections
There's already been several made in different sections
At this rate - post complaints - they'll be nothing left in!

Victims of the fire trusted O’Hagan
They gave him access to their lives and situations
He should have felt privileged that they opened up
But how did he repay them? He betrayed their trust

Now one could argue that some of these complaints

Were simply nothing more than “innocent mistakes”
What, quoting things that weren’t said?
Is that not a deliberate act, in appalling taste?

But what else would you expect from a bloke like this
Someone who likes to use quotes like this:

Of course, people found it hard after the fire,’ one observer said to me, ‘but others, just as understandably, are finding their new life hard to give up

As if victims prefer their new life to the one before the tragedy
Like a pram or X-Box could replace their family
That insinuation is truly unforgivable
And his decision to include it is criminal

Morally, choosing to represent them like that
Survivors would give anything to have their old lives back
The way that he portrays them, stinks of dishonesty
And every single one of them deserves an apology

Cos that's just not what we do Andrew
We treat people with respect. Not like you Andrew.
You said you liked Nile's Smile. How nice of you Andrew
So I added humour so you'd like me too Andrew

But you know who he likes best
Try guess
Ummm the victims of the fire?
No, try again
Ummm the survivors?
No, try again
Ummm the fire fighters?
No he doesn't like them


Some people look up to Mohammed Ali
Marcus Garvey, the work of Dahli
Chomsky, Lowkey, Akala, John Lennon
O'Hagan praises Paget Brown and Rock Feilding-Mellen

When he writes about them both it’s like a glowing hagiography
Like they're both some sort of saints in a monastery
Honestly his tone alone really is tellin'
All he wants to do is save Paget Brown and Feilding-Mellen

Just look at how he talks about housing, which he really goes to town on
He talks about the council like they’re people you can count on
Explaining how they paid for hotels, with such pride
Like people in hotels is something to be proud of

Hotels for the first few weeks is understandable
But after a year, that’s not exactly practical
A very many of families who suffered such a tragedy
Still don’t have a home and that’s absolutely damnable

But still O’Hagan presents their defence:

Holgate said: ‘We shall have to say they might be rehoused in Brent or Hammersmith or Westminster, not only in Kensington.’ He knew the properties within the borough ‘didn’t exist’.

There’s 1400 empty homes in Kensington
While survivors beg for them, that’s negligence
The government should buy some and turn them into council stock
And then they should supply them all and keep them all at council costs

Or maybe the council could serve CPO’s on them?
There’s third of a billion in reserves, we need homes for them
They’ll CPO the homes of working people on estates
But when it comes to empty houses then a CPO’s a no for them

But of course O’Hagan will skip this bit
And direct you to the real problem: immigrants

He lived in that community. But he doesn’t pretend that immigration since 2006 hasn’t exacerbated the housing crisis. You can’t bring in more people without building more housing. Simple.

His statement literally implies that the reason victims are still in hotels, in part, is because of immigrants. And the London Review of Books thinks this legitimate?

So councils keep demolishing the flats our kids were raised in
But Andrew wants to drop it like the problems migration

No, the problems he’s an idiot
Or possibly a racist, he was trained, they made him into it
If they’re not building any homes then nobody can live in them
The problem isn’t immigrants
The problem is the council who he probably has dinner with

And then he attacks the fire service:

...the professional fire services’ response to the fire at Grenfell Tower was anything but strong. The biggest weakness, all my sources agreed, was the slowness in telling residents to evacuate. Quite simply it caused nearly all of the 72 deaths

The fire fighters risked their lives for them
They put their actual bodies in fire for them
They showed true love, they would have died for them
Their parents and children would have cried for them

None of us could know the way they tried for them
They cry for them, every single night for them

But now you want them to do time for them
And put them in a cell because you like your friends

If he wants to blame the fire service for the loss of life
Then the way he went about that really wasn’t right
People have opinions but the way he presented it
Was to put it mildly, hugely insensitive

And it’s testament to his whole attitude
When this subject deserves every respect
Just look at the way he attacks Grenfell Action Group
And other heroes who tried to save their friends

He describes Ed and Francis from Grenfell Action Group as "committed local agitators”

Wow. I mean, wow.

So now, apparently, not wanting to die makes you an agitator
If you try to save your life, that makes you an agitator
Begging for help? Agitator.
Sending letters as well? Agitator.
Anyone who won’t be ignored they call an agitator

One of the things that Grenfell Action Group requested
Was a justified, independent review
If the TMO and council had properly addressed this
Then the things that caused the deaths would have come into view

Even if he had valid points about activists
The mainstream media, the mainstream narrative
Even if he found blame with others he attacks within
None of that would mean that both his buddies weren’t factored in

He speaks as if people only blame the council leaders
Like it’s a choice between them and someone else
But people want the truth, to whomever that may lead us
But it seems to me that they’re responsible as well

But O’hagan wants to shift this narrative
Twisting everything so it fits his narrative
Selectively picking all the bits he’s happy with
Says he’s seeking justice but he just miscarries it

That’s why, he belittles all the activists
That’s why, he vilifies their narrative
That’s why he tries to minimize the damages
That’s why, I believe, he wrote this whole manuscript

And why did he choose to release it now?
That’s a big question that we’ve all been asking
Is it a coincidence that he speaks out
The very same week the inquiry started?

Perhaps he released it now to maximise his readership
The year anniversary would surely be the peak for it

Or maybe the whole thing and timing was entirely
To influence the outcomes of the inquiry

I don’t know. But we both know…

Everyone loves a good story
A story’s a powerful thing
History is made up of stories
Stories shape how we think


But the real power is held by the writer
The person who decides what the story might contain
And in relation to “The Tower” and the fire
O’Hagan writes his-story with every single page

The people want justice for Grenfell
And justice won’t be controlled
But I’d say a main form of justice
Is how their story is told

So get it right.

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