Magazine article The Spectator

I'm a Convert to Shoe-Throwing, and Its Power. but I Bet They Ban Shoes in Public Pretty Soon

Magazine article The Spectator

I'm a Convert to Shoe-Throwing, and Its Power. but I Bet They Ban Shoes in Public Pretty Soon

Article excerpt

Where do we stand, then, on shoe-throwing? Me, I'm in two minds. Muntadhar al-Zaidi, I dunno, I think he carried it off. At least he threw both, and at least he was in the Middle East. Whatever happened next, is my point, at least he didn't have to hop. At least he didn't have a clammy sock.

I do not yet know the name of the 27-yearold man who lobbed a shoe at Wen Jiabao on Monday, but I do know, from the pictures, that he only threw the one. And, more pertinently, he was in Cambridge. It can't have been nice in Cambridge on Monday. It wasn't nice anywhere on Monday. Did he bring a spare shoe? Was he expecting the Chinese Premier to throw his shoe back? I don't think so. It seems to me that he hadn't properly thought his actions through.

And yet I'm a convert to shoe-throwing.

There's a power to it. For one thing, you do always, at first, have a shoe. That's not something you could say about every informal projectile. Your rotten fruit, your elderly cabbage, both require a degree of furtiveness on the way in. You've got to smuggle. With your keys, the aerodynamics will be hard to predict. Coins are expensive, and a bit football terrace. Mobile phones, a bit Naomi Campbell. The shoe is the way to go.

They'll ban shoes pretty soon. Not everywhere, obviously. That would be absurd.

Just at public gatherings, when the mighty descend. That'll be pretty bleak, won't it?

Lots of sock stories in diary columns. But everybody has shoes. Everybody can throw shoes. What else are they going to do? Do you reckon that's how the trend kicked off in mosques? Too many fiery imams?

No, probably not. I suppose the rule goes back to sandal days. You can't get a decent swing with a sandal. No heft. Did you know, by the way, that the word for 'sandal' in Arabic is 'sandal'? Neat, eh? I remember learning this at Sunday school.

It's the same in Hebrew. Persian root.

They erected a statue in honour of al-Zaidi in Tikrit the other day. It was a giant bronze shoe, the size of a sofa. I'm not making this up, I swear it. It had a bush coming out the top of it, too, which is probably a fantastic pun if English isn't your first language. Or maybe 'bush' has a Persian root, too. I don't know. It was in the garden of an orphanage for about two days last week, anyway, and then somebody came and took it away. CNN said so. We haven't heard much about al-Zaidi in recent weeks, but over there he's still a hero. Still in jail, too. He turned 30 a few weeks ago. CNN also said that the prison guards threw him a birthday party and sang him a song. Which was nice, considering.

The bloke from Cambridge was arrested for public order offences, and did his halfsoggy perp-walk to the back of the van. Then they probably gave him a cup of tea and sent him home. He'll be appearing before a magistrate next week. What's he looking at, do you reckon? Community service? A fine? Surely nothing that's going to stop him writing a column about it all in the Guardian. And I can't help but think about what Laura Bush said, in her mad-as-a-horse, eye-rolling way, after that first shoe incident in Iraq. …

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