Sunday, 27 March 2011

26th March – If something amazing happens but the media are only there to misrepresent it, did the amazing thing happen at all?

Yesterday I was in London for the March for the Alternative. Even as the day was unfolding the difference in what I was experiencing and what was being represented in the media was very obvious. Reports by the BBC of ‘tens of thousands’ attending were being re-laid on twitter… ‘How’ I thought ‘can the BBC be reporting such crap?’ It’s almost as if they were being wilfully misleading or something! I’ve been to big football matches and music festivals and I know what a crowd of say 40 thousand people feels like. It’s big and impressive, but that comes nowhere close to the amount of people who thronged the streets yesterday. I see today that the estimated figure of attendees has been revised up to 250 thousand people. I want to tell you that this is nonsense. There were comfortably 500 thousand people demonstrating in London yesterday. Singing, chanting, smiling… People of all ages, ethnicity, persuasion and gender! Librarians and firemen and actors and teachers and council workers and doctors and people in wheel chairs and people on homemade cycle powered crazy machines, and samba bands and dancers, and queers and straights and and and AND it was a 360 degree snap shot of our country! And for that reason it was not only fucking large but it was also fucking beautiful…That’s my genuine belief based on the experience of being in that crowd. Whatever figure you decide to believe in, I think its safe to say that what occurred in London yesterday was by anyone’s standards quite significant. And at the very least, not unimportant?

I’ll say that again.

What happened in London yesterday was by anyone’s standards significant.
We now know without a shadow of a doubt that vast VAST amounts of people wish to engage in a discussion about what the government is doing. They want this discussion to start with the idea that there is an alternative to the cuts agenda… Because its that conversation which needs to be had (not whether we should be having it or not). We can start to discuss the various ideas about what ‘another way’ might mean. Do we want to go down the UKUncut route and tax corporations? Could we introduce a Robin Hood tax to tax the banks… Should we cut trident and reinvest that money in green jobs… Others are interested in total system change… There are many many different ideas to be discussed. To be clear, the marchers yesterday were not all in agreement on what the ‘alternative’ might be. But you bet that yesterday was a huge and insistent cry representing a vast amount of this country’s people demanding a proper 360-degree conversation looking at all the options… And that is something the ConDems, and Labour for that matter, have been refusing to do…

So my big ask is why has the meaning of yesterdays march and direct action been wilfully ignored? And why is it that the media routinely sidesteps the meat and potato of an issue and focuses on the serviette? Why has investigation been replaced by a strange kind of personalised / blinkered desire to be seen to have been ‘embedded’ with the action. I suspect that journalists / editors have been just as affected by reality tv as the rest of us. So now we are a world of people obsessed with the mediated abstracted sense of experiencing the moment, rather than understanding that it may be our role (as outsiders) to think more objectively about what a group of people may (or may not!) be doing? Why for example don’t reporters ever ask the masked folk why they are smashing things? I would love for a reporter to ask an activist why they’ve just smashed a bank window. Or for that matter ask a van load of riot cops who’ve been waiting all afternoon to do some ‘riot prevention’, how it feels when they finally get the green light to get out of their van… I think it would be interesting. I think we might actually learn something. We might end up with a media that acts as a source of information for the people at large. A service, which might lead to a greater understanding of the world! How amazing would that be!

We live in momentous times. I said this at a creative writing workshop I was running recently and a young woman who was attending asked me why I describe our times as ‘momentous’ and I was frankly shocked. This young woman by the way appeared to me to be an intelligent and interesting person. So please don’t interpret that last comment as an attack on her. Rather, I found myself thinking, that we – the people who view ourselves as ‘radicals’ or ‘on the left’ or whatever - we have so much work to do! To be asked by a young woman, who has just graduated into a world on the brink of peek oil and climate disaster, into a world in the midst of the worst recession since the 1930’s, with youth unemployment standing at 1 in 4, on the very day our government announced that it was launching aerial attacks on Libya… To be asked by this woman why I think we live in momentous times was just incredibly shocking. But she asked because she doesn’t know, not because she is stupid. And with the media we have, is it really any surprise that people don’t know?

I am so glad I went on the demonstration. It was an amazing and positive thing to be part of. But I am left under no illusions. Just because we want the world to stop and take in the importance of what we’ve achieved doesn’t’ mean it will. So we all have to think about ways in which we can take the conversation forward. For me, yesterday has made me more determined to get more involved down the UK / Arts Uncut direct action route. But that is one route of many. What is important is that we build links between all people working towards furthering this debate and find ways to tell the story as we see it, because the media we have can not be trusted to do it for us.

If you want to be part of that conversation, here are some places you could try…

For direct actions -

For action you can take at home -

For information - and

For Bradford and Leeds folk -

For all of us -


Biluś said...

'Why for example don’t reporters ever ask the masked folk why they are smashing things?' Exactly! I saw lots of these lads yesterday and could see that they were for all intents and purposes apolitical - I guess they were there for the thrill of the ruck, for the surge of their testosterone, but I'd just love to know what they would say - come on, 'journalists'... seems the only true voice we have is in the blogosphere and this is such a great post, thank you!


Thanks so much for being there and writing this. I wish I could get you more attention


Thanks so much for being there and posting this. It is very good and I would love to get it more noticed

Anonymous said...


The black bloc yesterday was made up of around 1000 people or different ages and genders, none of whom were acting in an apolitical way (I don't presume to know what was going on in everyone's heads). Dismissing it as simply 'apolitical lads' is unfair and inaccurate.

This was a large group of people,acting in solidarity to express their rage in a way that actually impacts on the some of the people and powers they are raging against. Just look at the list of places that were targeted - banks, tax dodging shops, sexist ann summers, porsche, the ritz and other playgrounds of the super rich. Smashing the windows and splattering them in paint and relevant slogans harms noone while hitting those corporations where it hurts (both their purse and their public image). I'd say that's highly political.

trk1974 said...

loved your blogg !!
i reposted it as soon as i'd read it.
i'm part of the lawful which really can make swathes for justice & i think you may like. check out too. or just come & join the freedom project Huddersfield..
be well.

ps though i do not sbscribe to most of thir methods, i doubt very much that the majority of the scalf wearing members were there ' for the surge of their testosterone ', more to raise awareness & create nuisance for the overbloated corporate system, in protection of the vast majority of this country & the world. & in the face of violence,instigated & at the hands (read sheild, stick, & steel toes) of the police, still behaved better than most would in self defence..

Jim said...

Emma, I enjoyed your blog. We have been involved in something similar, important and emotional, here on Madison, Wi. We have Fox News to lie and spread false information.

I am a cop. And a protestor. Proud of how the cops here have protected peoples rights and kept people save. #wiunion Soildarity forever.

Jim Dexheimer
Madison Wi

CrunchyNutWanker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CrunchyNutWanker said...

Maybe a 360 degree consultation would be possible if opposition to the fiscal consolidation programme were able to come up with a credible alternative. Labour's plans would have had the deficit cut in half over the next five years. To put this into perspective, that would leave us at the end of the contraction with a deficit as big as Portugal's today.

There was a recent article in The Guardian that listed many of the schemes that are due to, at worst, cease as part of the contraction to government expenditure. Some examples included Connexions, School crossing patrols, and The Potteries museum. Quite frankly, I was flabbergasted that many of these organisations were being funded at all. If you feel compelled to stop these organisations from going under, seek funding from elsewhere. If these institutions are as great as you say they are, they will be able to attract investment. If they fail to do so, then clearly they are alarmingly inefficient and, more importantly, not nearly as valued by society as you would like us to believe.

In regards to the media's representation of the protest, I completely disagree with your extreme, and largely paranoid, stance: it came off in a relatively much more positive light than that of the student protests in December last year.

So what is your plan? What would you do? Are you a deficit denier? At present, your viewpoint seems delirious, selfish, and grossly misinformed.

Emma said...

I'd like to thank everyone for their comments. trk1974 I shall check that info out, thank you. Jim, its fantastic to hear that you're a cop. We need more cops like you in the world. Thank you for doing what you do... CrunchyNutWanker I think some of your comments are a little inflamed or meant to inflame me? They didn't. It's interesting to get a perspective on where you're coming from. I believe that we need to build a way of organising ourselves which is based on love. I expect you will scoff. That's fine. I'm really not that interested in scoring points. I can direct you here at a site, which can argue much more persuasively than I about the flawed economic thinking that drives the neoliberal agenda. But really what I'm more interested in are conversations where people don't try and point score, but where we try and listen and learn from each other. I think that a way of organising ourselves which is based on what people need rather than what the market demands is the only way to build an equitable world. Finally I don't think I have all the answers. I'm a writer. I have a lot of questions. I'm interested in sharing and exploring them with people.

CrunchyNutWanker said...

Point scoring? I think you have confused this notion with a rationality of consolidating evidence to increase the credibility of an argument. I shall not attempt to expand on my argument further, as you have clearly indicated no such desire for this exchange to take place. However, I will propose that capitalism and a compassionate society can, and do, exist (Japan being the most obvious example). By extension, it is only by the miracle of consumer capitalism that opportunities to pursue artistic endeavours, such as writing, are made possible.

Additionally, you may like to know that I refrained from ‘scoffing’ at your desire for a society based on love; I feel it is important to appreciate other perspectives, and I certainly do understand your perfectly admirable desire. However, the only framework in which such a stance has been built upon thus far has been communism, and you do not need me to tell you that it does not work. So, until a less naïve social model is constructed, I shall remain a liberal conservative who believes in free-markets and enterprise, deregulation of our public services, conservation of our celebrated traditions, and encouragement to fulfil all that we can achieve as individuals without spoon-feeding those that do not want to work for it.