Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Towing The Line

I’ve been getting mightily pissed off these past two days by the press coverage of the disorder and violence that has spilled over during the G8 protests north of the border. For a start, it’s the fact that you just know that the troublemakers will have represented such a tiny proportion of those there: I doubt whether more than 200 people accounted for all the stuff that’s been in the media. But I’m not taking the slant that they spoilt it for everyone else here: my grief with this is that that amount of people would have been no trouble for the police to deal with and yet it’s being dressed up as some great catastrophe. They certainly wouldn’t have merited the amount of moaning we’ve seen by the police over the past few days. In fact, I bet the police rather enjoyed it.

I mean, jeez. I saw reports yesterday without any traces of irony, speaking about how the Clandestine Insurgent Clown Army have been 'provoking' the police lines. It makes me think back to Montreal in November 2000, when police charged rioters who had been hurling "projectiles". These potentially lethal objects the coppers were pelted with? Teddy Bears...

We’ve had the police bigwigs of the Lothian and Borders force sinisterly informing us that they had to go up against highly organised protesters who were familiar with the area (i.e. they had maps) and were using mobile phones. Holy Shit! Maps? Mobile phones? Where’d they get those? Some shadowy evil Sugar Daddy must be bankrolling these crusty savages.

I’m sorry, but all the mock horror hyperbole pisses me off. The way the press and Middle England employs and laps up some over the top scaremongering to perversely reassure one another strikes me as delusional and classic head burying behaviour.

I can see why Middle England is keen to vilify any non-peaceful protest, because we’ve got a funny situation whereby The Make Poverty History Campaign – certainly over the past week – has been a very Middle England campaign in itself. Thus, when things have got a bit hairy this week, people have wanted to distance themselves from it. "Oh, that’s not *our* protest, the one we so proudly part of, we were part of something entirely different". Well no, I’m sorry, but you weren’t. You can’t pick and choose here: your false idol Sir Bob can’t order a million people to descend on Edinburgh and then deny all responsibility, and he shouldn’t either.

The chattering back-slapping classes clearly think they’ve done enough for the cause now, and can wait 20 years till the next Live Aid before they next have to raise off their laurels. And yes, they had their fun at Live 8 over the weekend, but if they honestly believe that that was anywhere near enough then it’s time now to let the people who’ve been protesting about this sort of stuff for decades (and, significantly, will continue to do so) to get back to the frontline, and they shouldn’t complain if these diehards don’t favour their "Let’s sing along with Robbie Williams" method of protest. Inanely waving at faded 60s and 70s pop icons in one of the royal parks probably won’t cut it on this one. As The Who sang to the gathered adoring masses "There’s nothing in the streets looks any different to me/ And the slogans are replaced by the bye". Quite.

But anyway, to get back on track. I was trying to talk about the media’s persistent poor portrayal of protests and protesters, and the public’s willingness to lap it up. The way I see it, is that Middle England loves the police. Not that they have much contact with the police - or would want to. Indeed, if they were to I’m sure they’d find themselves feeling inexplicably guilty and nervous - but this lack of contact helps them with their adulation. You know, much like those who campaign for the death penalty don’t much fancy shaking the executioners hand. As Orwell is often alleged to have put it "people sleep peaceably in their beds because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf". And through this hero worship, they fail to understand a vital factor that comes into play in any protest situation, and it’s not something so simplistic as the police are corrupt right wing thugs, but rather that they are normal people thrust into extremely intense situations. They get irritated, sometimes scared. And I’m sure that most of them, if they were honest, would admit that - having spent a long day worrying about the potential bollocking for failing to prevent a group accessing a street and having to hold in a piss for 5 hours because it takes 20 minutes just to take your fire proof trousers on and off - sometimes it just comes down to getting the urge to bash some cocky crusty who’s been winding you up all day.

So, let’s not get too taken in by the media, eh? It's probably all balls. Let’s not get livid with the protesters who’ve spoilt what everyone else has campaigned peacefully for. For Christ’s sake; it’s a protest, not a board meeting! At least they’re continuing the fight and not just happily going along with some Blair and Brown sponsored form of weekend singalong. And let’s not feel too sorry for the coppers. They’re on a great overtime rate, they’re being put up in decent hotels and have got a week away from the accursed paperwork. And some of them actually quite enjoy a ruck.


My last experience with the riot police as an independent observer:

Having spectacularly lost control a crowd of 400 or so in central London, the police found themselves forced to abandon their ill-thought out policy of hemming people into a street too small for the crowd, and had to resort to herding the scores of people who had broken free in the desired direction by standing on the sidelines and taking occasional swipes at random people’s knees, much like an irritable sheepdog nipping at a herd of confused ewes. Some of the protesters naturally objected to this treatment, and squawked their indignation whilst eagerly trying to make good their escape. I stopped to turnaround as I saw a young man being dragged to the ground by some coppers, who then laughed triumphantly (yes, laughed) as they hit him with truncheons. I started to take a photo. One of the police officers paused mid-kick and charged over to me.

Policeman: Just keep on fucking moving. Don’t stop!
Me: Why not?
Policeman: *grunt*
Me: Ow. You just hit me with your baton. On the elbow. Jesus, that fucking hurt. Look, there’s blood. You absolute bastard. And stop grabbing at my camera.
Policeman: Right, that’s it. I’m having you. You called me a bastard.
Me: An *absolute* bastard no less.


Curly said...

You're totally right about the media, but you have to admit people are stupid enough to believe it...

They're supposed to be unbiased but that's almost impossible to achieve it seems.

I also agree very strongly with your comments about Bob Geldof. He knew full well that the "anarchists" would quite happily jump at the suggestion of any mass gathering of people where the police are likely to show up in Riot gear.

What do you think of the Live 8 concerts? Waste of time in my opinion - only staged to raise awareness? I doubt that most of the people attending knew what they were supposed to be aware of - "Get that African child off the big screen - we want to see Bono"

Anon American said...

So, I know me being a mere American and all, I may sound incredibly ignorant here, but I'm going to put myself out on *that* line here for just a wee bit and ask: (ahem)...

I heard this morning on the radio that there were some explosions in your neck of the woods. Does that affect where you live or anything of the sort? It seems (from my gathering) that it was some sort of terrorist attack on "student populated" areas, such as the University of London and some youth hostiles. I hear tell of 6 explosions and one separtate one on a double-decker bus. Just wondering if your post had anything to do with that, or if it was completely unrealated.

Sorry for the massive post. I was simply curious and, despite me knowing close to absolutely nothing about you but somehow seeing you as a friend, I wanted to make sure you were safe and sound. I would have emailed this, but alas, I have not your email address. That might have saved me from looking like the ass that I am surely sounding, but hey, what's life if not putting yourself out there for scrutiny from time to time, all for the sake of making sure someone is okay? That's what I thought.

Welp, have a good day!

AA 2 said...

You know, I could have just read about it on one of the hundreds of websites that have info about it, but wouldn't be as personal, eh?

Can you tell I'm super self-conscious about sounding daft?

Huw said...

Curly - I agree to an extent that a lot of people were probably at Live 8 first and foremost as music lovers, but I’m actually quite hopeful of the benefits that the heightened awareness and support could bring. It’s not often that Blair and Brown get to promote a policy (which I believe they are genuinely committed to) which has the mass support of a celebrity obsessed public who have been stoked up by their pop idols. Maybe they could get the Stones to release a pro ID cards box set? The real challenge is whether the British public can maintain this enthusiasm once the promise of celebrity Christmas singles and jollies in the park are no longer there to motivate them.

This all said, I do feel a sense of weariness when I look at what measures the G8 nations are likely to go to to ‘help’ Africa. With the US seemingly showing absolutely zero interest in reducing their green house gas emissions and the other G8 states’ commitment being little more than token, critical global warming seems inevitable over the next 50 years and it's Africa which will be hit hardest first. Global warming will bring poorer crop yields, worsen natural disasters, make the consequences of poor drinking water even more severe and make the conditions for disease more deadly. Still, at least they won’t be in debt, huh?

AnonAmerican - Touched by your concern :) See my next post