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Millbank riots, student fees: it’s all just one damn thing after another…

November 14, 2010

Oh, the wanton destruction. The vandalism. The complete disregard for law and order. God, how I wish I’d been there.

Let’s dispel some of the nonsense that is being regurgitated ad nauseum in the media at the moment: First of all, the attack on Millbank didn’t detract from the ‘issues’. If you don’t already know what the issues are then you’re simply not interested and no amount of marching up and down the country’s roads and thoroughfares will change that.

Secondly, demonstrations are not terribly nuanced affairs. Communicating the complexity of an issue on a A3 sized banner and a chant of 6 to 8 words that also has to rhyme, is just not possible.

Thirdly demonstrations are not always (or only) about raising the public profile of a grievance; they’re about the expression of anger. Plain and simple. And smashing up Tory Grand Central Station seems to me a perfectly understandable expression of anger under the circumstances.

Finally, the chances that any ‘issue’ will get a proper public airing through the media is remote whether you smash a few windows or not. Listen to the clip below. It’s an encounter between Clare Solomon from the ULU and Tory MP Roger Gale on Thursday’s (11 November 2010) Jeremy Vine radio show on BBC Radio 2. It illustrates perfectly how difficult it is to conduct a rational discussion about anything through the mainstream media.

When Solomon makes the point that a progressive tax system would adequately fund students in higher education (one that doesn’t allow companies like Vodaphone to dodge £6 billion tax bill), Jeremy Vine tells her that the conversation is ‘ranging a bit far’. ‘We can’t do the whole problems of the world here’,  he says, trying to steer the conversation back to the events at Millbank. And therein lies the problem of trying to advance any issue through the media, and news programmes in particular. The news seldom offers the sort of context that might make any event comprehensible. Instead we are treated to a series of largely discreet happenings and pronouncements, the effect of which is to present the world out there as just one damn thing after another.

Isn’t Roger Gale an odious, patronising toad? Meanwhile Paul O’Grady just keeps rising in my estimation…

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. CharlieMcMenamin permalink
    November 15, 2010 9:35 am

    <a href=http://tinyurl.com/256jm7g.Yougov had an interesting poll out this weekend:

    “On tuition fees only 35% support the government plans on tuition fees, with 52% opposing. 62% think the Liberal Democrats are wrong to drop their pledge to oppose tuition fees (including 36% of the remaining Lib Dem voters).

    “Asked about the protests, 65% of people said they had some sympathy with the demonstration, but the vast majority of those disapproved of the damaged caused to 30 Millbank. Only 13% of respondents said they had sympathy with the direct action against the Conservative party headquarters. Asked if the violent scenes had helped or hindered the protesters’ cause, 69% thought it had damaged their cause, 11% that it had helped it (16% think it did neither). 87% expect their to be further violent protests against the coalition’s cuts.”

    This nicely expressed the reaction to the disturbances: 2/3rds of people support the students but 7 out of 8 disapprove of the violence. Now, of course, without the violence I have a very strong suspicion that many less than 2/3rds would support the students as they simply wouldn’t had the issue brought to the forefronts of their minds. So is this is a typically hypocritical set of reactions on behalf of the British public – or simply a reflection of how the media has sliced and diced the issues concerned ?

  2. Rabelais permalink*
    November 15, 2010 11:41 am

    Hi Charlie,
    It’s always hard to know what to make of these surveys. I remember when you couldn’t find a voter who would confess to liking Margaret Thatcher, but somebody kept electing her.

    My suspicion is that people tell pollsters what they think is the ‘right’ thing to say. So, asked if they agreed with the violence: of course not. Violence is reprehensible and has no place in a democratic society. people have a right to peace protest, within the law blah blah blah…

    Everybody (and I mean absolutely everybody) where either pretty agnostic about the vandalism or eventually admitted that they thought the actions of student protesters understandable under the circumstances. Others gave their whole hearted approval. Now, nobody I’ve spoken to came right out and said it – ‘yes, I was absolutely-fucking-delighted to see Tory HQ take a kicking’. But after a bit of discussion about it, once people had worked out each others position on it and felt comfortable enough to offer their tuppence, they all seemed at least quietly delighted that someone was ‘having a go’.

    Of course, none of this proves anything. The proof of the proverbial pudding will be in what happens in the weeks and months ahead.

  3. CharlieMcMenamin permalink
    November 15, 2010 4:03 pm

    Thought you’d appreciate this: Hoxton is with us.

    Which probably means we’re on a losing streak….

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  1. Dublin rocked by good-humoured demo!! « Academic Anonymous

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