Of Protests and the Media

With Ukraine, Thailand and now late entrant, Venezuela competing for the title of World’s Shoutiest Nation, the manner with which their anger is disseminated to the wider public has come under scrutiny. Framing and bias are all words that are thrown about with abandon in blogs and the media but usually only to describe the other side’s media logic. The hypocrisy goes unreported.

Happy Protestor

To look at Venezuela, la protestation de la jour (pardon my French), it seems as though the majority of media coverage so far consists of commentary than actual reporting. Facts, like international organisations, seem to be scarce on the ground but that will not stop the news machine whirring into action. In a sharply local dispute, the anger from both sides is being directed toward the Western media. The ‘opposition’ decry the mainstream media organisations for ignoring their demonstrations and subsequent government crackdowns; of course, as the protestors need the oxygen of publicity, they would never argue against more coverage. However, I have a hard time understanding their argument, especially considering the US favours and supports the opposition movement. Why would American media resist the opportunity to show the Venezuelan government as corrupt and stopping democratic protests with truncheons? And yet the government say the media coverage is biased and influenced by right-wing propaganda. Both can’t be right.

For those not on the ground, the question is of who to trust. Even in the past few days alone there have been mountains of reports: news coverage of the protests; commentary bemoaning the lack of international media attention in the face of beatings and killing of demonstrators; and further words about how the many reports filed are all supporting the rich, anti-democratic opposition (though this seemed almost the dictionary definition of ‘apologist’).

What should we do: placard up and join the protestors against the elected dictator, shake our heads at the anti-democratic action as after al, it was an election; or sit idly by and watch as the death toll rises. Once again, international spectators are left in a morality play with no clean resolution and a heck of a lot of misinformation to guide us.

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Democracy is great, but you have to accept the nutters

Protests are fab. The placards and chanting are infectious, and that is not even getting onto the rare pleasures of kettling or tear gas. I mean, who doesn’t love a good cry? This is why we should all be cheering the developments in Egypt, with the protests leading to the ousting of Mohammad Morsi, right? People marching, standing their ground and making a change (albeit with a little help from the military, whom they suddenly LOVE) is surely the purest form of democratic expression?

Look at the lasers!

Well, not really. Having millions of people in the streets demanding a change in leadership does not and should not over-rule the results of a democratic election. Yes, Morsi was a twerp, but he was a twerp that the majority of the Egyptian people voted for. Whatever reasons given for the Muslim Brotherhood being elected in the first place (split opposition, a Moses promulgation caused heavy traffic on the A43), it should not be confused for a specific idiosyncrasy of Egypt but regrettably a feature of most developed democracies (Google ‘Britain’ for more information).

Often in protests, the silent majority is overlooked in favour of those on the streets; the tyranny of the extrovert. In this instance, the millions of people demanding change in Tahrir Square are dwarfed by the 80 million or so sitting quietly in their homes either in a state of passivity or tacit support for Morsi. Though the self-aggrandising, arrogant nature of the protestors attracted the world’s attention, it meant they forgot the point of the Arab Spring: the right to be heard not the right for their demands to be heeded. The passion and overall aim of their demands were laudable, and whoever brought the massive stadium laser should be a national hero, but the stifling single-mindedness of the beliefs is not any different to that of the Mubarak regime.

As outsiders, it is important to remind ourselves (as well as be reminded by the media), that protestors only represent a small portion of the population as a whole, and often a very narrow demographic (young, a bit angry), and should not be extrapolated to cover the rest of the nation. Egypt is probably better off without Morsi, but next time make sure the whole country gets a say, not just those with lasers.

Is it time for an ‘Occupy the World’?

If you ask anyone who the most greedy, venal, evil group of people in the world are today, and about 76% of people will shout ‘bankers’, outranking dictators, serial killers and the cast of Jersey Shore. To a point, I would agree. The world has been brought to the brink more times than a lemming on a bungee cord and the banks are standing front and centre in the blame game, but somehow even after all this world leaders are still in thrall to their demands and whinges.

Yet to place the sole burden of blame on the bankers is a gross simplification and an easy scapegoat to make (granted, in this instance the goat is holding a smoking gun over a corpse with a gunshot wound). In truth, we are all to blame; when times were good we were queuing up outside bank for ‘free plastic money cards’, the type that could never lead to repo men calling round for tea; the City was working, so we shut our eyes. But now we have been kicked in our economic teeth, with our impulsive desire to spend, spend, spend leading us to ruin and yet we only prefer to focus on the tip of the iceberg, partly because it’s the bit that can be easily seen, but mainly as it means we are avoiding calling ourselves a twat.

Occupy Wall Street aren’t afraid of calling a twat, a twat. Situating themselves in one of the hubs of modern capitalism, OWS are standing up for the 99% affected by the global recession; yes, we might have aided and abetted the global meltdown but why should we have to be the only ones bearing the brunt of it? In the face of the media’s (mostly) subtle opposition, and prominent confusion, the supporters of OWS have been raising awareness of the dangers of sleepwalking into another financial crisis and the benefits of living in a more socially focused capitalistic economy. The reporting of OWS highlights just how non-existent politically objective coverage has become; it has receded into the background like a chameleon at a camouflage factory (yes, they happen all the time, you just can’t see them).

The 99%

In a world where the Tea Party is presented as a cohesive whole, seemingly unwavering in their belief in everything conservative even though their ranks are as ideologically diverse as a the average football match (for the most part, sitting in the ‘similar intelligence to a snail shell’ camp but to varying degrees), Occupy Wall Street are shown to be fractured, indecisive and ‘eccentric’. Protesting against ‘The American Way’ is seen as a fringe concern, something that was exterminated when the Berlin Wall came down, but it can’t be isolated from the mainstream any longer.

Britain needs it’s own alternative to Occupy, but looking at the support for similar protests in the past, the general public aren’t a fan of the status quo but do not want to do anything about it. I find this disjuncture between anger and lack of pragmatism both fascinating and hugely dispiriting; why do the majority of people feel that they are not part of the alternative? Is this phenomena something exclusively British, are the protests sufficiently inclusive or is this just the state of modern political discourse?

Whether Occupy the London Stock Exchange will be as successful as OWS will have to be seen, but purely based on how catchy the name is, the bankers win once again.