On: protest, the media and graffiti

This is too long for a tweet, so… Two points on Saturday’s anti-austerity protest in Whitehall.

First: accusations of a ‘media blackout’ because it wasn’t immediately picked up by the news, particularly the BBC.

*sigh* This was an impromptu demo. Which means no journalists had advance notice of it, so nobody was assigned to cover it. Put yourself in the position of the newsroom, already a bit stretched on a weekend and even more so because all the serious politics hacks have finally gone to bed after two days of covering the general election. You look at this protest and think: is it any different from all the other protests that happen around Whitehall all the time? Are there any coherent messages to report other than that people are pissed off? Will this blow over in half an hour? The answer to these is likely: wait and see.

In the end, it looks like nobody sent their own reporters down there; or, at least, not until things started kicking off. Photos from the Telegraph, Guardian, Evening Standard, Metro and BBC are all credited to Twitter or newswire agencies, which have stringers and freelancers all over the place, who rush down to any sign of any disturbance in the hope of grabbing a story. On this occasion it paid off for them. Most of the time it doesn’t and would be a waste of time sending salaried staff to stand around doing nothing. This is why stringers exist. It’s also why news organisations can be slower than Twitter to report protests.

And the protest was reported as one of the handful of stories in this morning’s 6Music news bulletin. So much for a BBC blackout.

Second: graffiti on the war memorial.

I wish this didn’t keep happening. Every time something gets smashed up or defaced at a protest, that becomes the story. Opponents jump on it to say ‘well, look at them, they’ve got no respect, why should we respect their views?’. And when it’s a war memorial… I don’t actually think all war memorials should be sacred. The Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo is a prime example: it honours some war criminals. Anything that glorifies war should be graffitied, as far as I’m concerned. But the Women of World War Two memorial doesn’t do that; it remembers the work women did during the war – primarily at home. (Also, if you have to argue that any war was a just war, fighting the Nazis is right up there.)

So I don’t automatically join the ranks of people saying ‘this is a disgrace’. What I do do, is say to whoever did that damage: you’re a pillock. You’re a pillock because the graffiti is now the story. You’ve managed to undermine the message of your demo by pandering to the worst ideas the Daily Mail reading population – and the government – already had of you. You’ve made everyone come across as children having a tantrum, rather than people who are genuinely angry at the torrent of cuts and suffering yet to come. You’re not going to change anything unless you can persuade more people over to your side. And you’re not going to do that by scrawling ‘fuck Tory scum’ on a war memorial. Grow the fuck up.

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