Sunday, March 27, 2011

It's the Beeb yes, but not as we knew it...

Last night, while we repaired our march-tired limbs with tea and Thai-green curry, the anchor over at BBC News 24 thoughtfully worried on our behalf. How 'disappointed' us law-abiding types would be, she lamented, that our efforts had been 'overshadowed' by the 'criminal' acts of a bunch of 'maurauding' anarchists 'intent on causing havoc'. Although deeply moved by her concern, I was, as I suspect will be many, far more troubled by further evidence that the Beeb has clearly decided its long-term future is best secured by aping The Daily Mail.

Intent on ensuring (while performing such distress at the fact) that the march would be overshadowed, the footage of the total break down of law and order in Trafalgar Square consisted of a 30 second sequence played on a loop...cue fireworks, some small fires, and then one (conveniently) black man waving his hands ineffectually at a line a line of riot police. Over this, the stone-faced anchor intoned her litany of talking points: What, she demanded, is anyone doing in Trafalgar Square on a Saturday night after the biggest protest in this country for eight years, unless they are undesirable criminal types set on unleashingly limitless chaos? The protest has finished, surely they understand that all right-thinking people have gone to bed? Luckily, Bob Broadbent, the Met's Commander for Public Order, was on hand to supply an answer. They are, he usefully clarified, not protesters, but simply "mindless yobs" who "don't care who they hurt or what they damage" and who must be contained in order to prevent people leaving the theatre being terrified by burning placards and wheelie-bins lying on their side in the street. It is such a shame, the Mayor of London wailed across the bottom of the screen in inch-high type, that people will insist on abusing their right to protest so recklessly.

When three separate people all able to fashion a well-turned sentence called from inside the kettle at Trafalgar Square to explain that they had been chatting, smoking cigarettes and dancing (of all things!) before the police phalanx descended, the script momentarily unravelled. Surely, the anchor stuttered to New Statesman journalist Laurie Penny, she had to admit, that, objectively, there were undesirable elements intent on trouble inside the kettle, surely she had to understand that the march was over and that anyone in the square after hours was pretty much asking for it, surely she must be distressed that the events of the day had been tainted and marred.

As always on these occasions the message was clear, you may exercise your right to protest, as long as you don't actually trouble the state, as long as you respect the line between legitimate and illegitimate drawn by the power you are protesting against. In the center of Cairo a square can be legitimately occupied by political protesters, but in London it can be, in fact, filled only by criminals.

As of to underline the point we flipped over to Sky, to see if Murdoch's little gang could do much worse, and the tragedy was that it was, if anything, more 'fair and balanced' than the BBC. Still, the blindness to the paradox of political legitimacy was equally in evidence there. Wrapping up their coverage of the anarchist blitzkreig in central London they moved, without missing a beat, onto Libya. A man is standing on the top of a car firing an AK-47 into the sky. This, they tell us, "is what liberation looks like"....

No comments:

Post a Comment