Sunday, 27 March 2011

Half a million protest in London - and the media ignores them

For those that were there, the protest yesterday was stunning in its size, vibrancy and diversity. From firefighters, to off-duty soldiers, teachers, civil servants, stay-at-home parents, representatives from disabled groups, actors, social care workers, private sector unions, Gurkhas, doctors and health care professionals.

In otherwise fairly appalling coverage, the live blog of the Telegraph reported from a south London feeder march: "The bewildering variety of groups taking part include the Lewisham Pensioners' Forum and the Latin American Women's Rights Service".

It was, without a doubt, the largest protest since the anti-war march of 2003. And that should have been a story in itself. Much of the media, however, took a different view.

Would you brand all football fans hooligans for the inevitable actions of a few idiots that occur at the end of just about every major Premiership game? No.

But that's exactly - and predictably - what most of the press (and, depressingly, TV rolling news) did by focusing the vast bulk of their coverage of a few kids causing vandalism away from a huge and peaceful march.

So, instead of filming pictures of swathes of people marching up to Hyde Park, there was a determination to get shots of kids kicking windows, resulting in faintly ridiculous shots of kids doing just that, but surrounded by large numbers of cameramen and journalists, such as this one.


There were some notable exceptions to relentlessly negative coverage of the day by most of the media. the Guardian, to its credit, has produced this video report of the day that gives some sense of the scale of the march, which was so large that crowds were queing from Aldwych to get to the start of the march at Blackfriars while demonstrators at the front had arrived at Hyde Park.

Paul Mason, from BBC's Newsnight, was also even-handed in his coverage. He was also equally impressed - and surprised - by the turnout:

"I got a sense that the labour and trade union movement slightly stunned itself with its ability mobilise so many people on the streets... The big takeaway from today is that the trade union movement... is certainly a force to be reckoned with...
...Another note: we tend to think of the public sector unions as white collar or from the service industries but this was not true of today: there were many tens of thousands of manual workers in their bibs, hi-vis uniforms etc. I met binmen from Southhampton furious that they pay is being cut; and of course the Firefighters, designated "stewards" in order to deter the anarchists from coming anywhere near the demo".

He then had this warning for the government:

"This passive but fairly angry mass are the people that pose the biggest political problem both for the government and the opposition; because when you can mobilise more or less your entire workplace - be it a special school, a speech therapy centre, a refuse depot, an engineering shop or a fire station - to go on a march, then "something is up".

On a lighter note, there were an amusing a diverse range of banners and placards at the march, including these:
"My banner's crap, but so are the Tories"
"David, all artists hate you. Except Tracey Emin and you're welcome to her"
and, this:

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