Be young and shut up

A blog about student activism.

And the news is wrong. Again.

with 2 comments

I missed two nights of sleeping in a bed to go to the anti-cuts protest in London on Saturday. I slept all day yesterday so sorry this post is a bit belated!

When I got back from the march, I had a look at what news outlets had been saying. As my flatmate correctly predicted, the narrative of the march was exactly the same as these things always are – and it was unbelievably infuriating and demoralising. It was the same after Millbank. ‘A tiny minority’, ‘small fringe groups’, ‘yobs intent on destruction’ and ‘violent anarchists’ detracted from the main, ‘peaceful’ demonstration. The same complete shit that’s repeated again and again. And the same news agencies concentrating on the ‘violent minority’ in their reports, then blaming them for detracting from coverage of the TUC march, presumably because they forced the BBC to film them and forced the Daily Mail to report on them. Er, no. We didn’t ask to be filmed. If they didn’t film us, didn’t report us, that would be a far more efficient way of cutting our voices out. Instead, they choose to misrepresent us, label us all as one thing, and then encourage different protesters to have a row about the limits of protest. Whether it is purely sensationalism or a tactic to divide-and-rule, I guess it depends on the news outlet.

These reports are consistently bullshit. They talk about violence, and yet the only violence directed at real people I saw on Saturday was from the Met. You could argue that smashing windows is threatening, but there was little violence directed at actual human beings, and what there was I understand from friends’ reports was retaliation against the police.

When the media talks about peaceful protest, what on earth do they mean? I’d rather be vocal, noisy, inconvenient, shut down roads and make a fuss. It’s a protest, not a competition in civil obedience. We’re supposed to be a bit naughty. The whole point is to get our point across as loudly, vehemently – and even aggressively – as possible without hurting people, not to have a picnic and a nice day out.

I want people to listen to us, because if they don’t there’ll be extremely grave consequences and the damage done will be much harder to reverse. In fact, no, I don’t just want the government to listen to us. I want them to engage with us, I wand them to change their shitty-arse policies and then I want all the Lib Dem ministers to resign from government because they’re acting against their own voters’ wishes. And then I want them to be tried for lying to us all. I don’t want them to be hurt or to be killed, but I’m not content for them to just treat us like this and get away with it, while *we’re* demonised. It’s too late to rely on the ‘democratic process’. That didn’t work with tuition fees, it didn’t work when they went into coalition, and most gravely of all it didn’t work when one million people marched and told them not to go to war. Apparently even our votes don’t count when they can be blatantly ignored by a political class of plutocrats who seem to be running the country with a mandate of ,’We know what’s best for you, now shut up and go back to work’.

We are neither divided nor united, but diverse, and don’t fit into these ridiculous categories. I’m a feminist, left the Labour Party only a few months ago, I’m a student, I’m queer, and I’m a socialist, yet I was marching with black bloc (mainly) anarchists. Before I spontaneously joined up with the black bloc, I was on the main march. This doesn’t fundamentally change who I am as a person. I still have all those other characteristics, I just was doing something different. The main march wasn’t so sweet and innocent, though. Lots of us, especially students but other groups too, were shouting a lot of rude slogans, telling politicians to go fuck themselves, calling them scum, and chanting about bonfires where we burn down Lib Dems and Conservatives. Sometimes black bloc was quite comical, far from being scary, as we played cat and mouse with the police, and they found it impossible to control us. At one point some grime was being played and some of us were dancing. It wasn’t fundamentally terrifying. Tourists were standing round taking photographs and laughing, and none of us was attacking them.

To my mind it’s dangerous and stupid of the press and broadcasting corporations to conflate property damage on the buildings of horrible companies with violence towards human beings. What happens when there’s a real riot? Their reports will sound hollow because they’ve reported everything else as violent.

There is not some sort of fundamental divide and all the coverage, reports and comments from Brendan Barber are a pile of steaming shite. We all have loads of different characteristics and different streams of thought. There was plenty of radicalism on the TUC route, and just a bit more off piste on Oxford Street, Regent Street and Piccadilly. I know Labour members who are more violent than certain anarchists (who, despite the stereotype, are so sweet they wouldn’t harm a flea). And I know trade unionists who were thoroughly encouraged by Millbank, just as there were revolutionaries marching with the TUC, despite having fundamental ideological problems with them.

Just to emphasise my point, the dichotomy between police/TUC/peaceful demonstrators and ‘violent’/anarchist/revolutionary/radical demonstrators is completely bloody false and just a convenient narrative.

Black bloc is a tactic that anyone can join in with, UK Uncut is a leaderless group, and there’s no membership card for revolutionaries. Even within defined groups like the SWP, the Green Party and Labour (yeah, guys, I just compared you, deal with it) there’s so much discussion about what’s acceptable and what’s not that no one can assume that person’s position. I don’t care what their leadership says as they might not agree with it.

To all the news channels and papers who report with either no facts or a lazy simplification of them: Imagine how you would feel if you’d been sold out time and time again and then accused of being violent for stepping across a doorframe; meanwhile your government sells out the future of young people, women, the poor and vulnerable minority groups across the country in favour of abolishing the 50p tax rate and not bothering to enforce taxes on rich corporations and generally making the rich richer.

Don’t assume what we think. Ask us, and if you can’t ask us, don’t just label us anyway. That’s shoddy and pathetically lazy journalism which makes your journalistic qualifications more worthless than bog roll. I wouldn’t wipe my arse on your boring, fictional articles. I hope people stop believing your drivel.


Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

March 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Yup, the “violent minority” narrative the media have formed is a load of bollocks. Trafalgar was a peaceful and (as strange as it sounds) joyous experience. Then the riot squad moved in.

    Adam Eagleson

    March 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm

  2. […] more really good articles from our peeps at Be Young and Shut Up and Bright Green Scotland. Highly recommended reading. […]

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