I wasn’t there. But as soon as I’d finished work for the day, I glued myself to my laptop, obsessively refreshing news websites, trying to follow the ticker-tape madness of the #demo2010 and #Millbank Twitter feeds, watching the reactions pile up on political blogs. I don’t often fully embrace or participate in the social media commentariat, feeling generally pretty sceptical of its significance and self-obsession, but this time I was right there buzzing alongside every other laptop-shackled numpty. Because this time how the protest was portrayed, how the public(s) reacted, how the news reported — these things seemed more significant. The British public(s) are starting to fully digest the meaning of the coalition government’s programme of ideologically-motivated, economically insane and destructive cuts — and starting to get angry. We’re well behind continental Europe and its movement to resist austerity measures, but I don’t want it to be true that Britain is just going to keep calm and carry on: I want us to struggle. And Wednesday’s protest gave me some hope that we will.
So the reporting and reaction was important to me, because I want to see the public discourse turning, I want to see a wider understanding of the need for anger and resistance, I want to see more support for protesters, even when their direct action can seem frightening to many. And, by and large, I did see the first glimmers of a change in the discourse, at least in the centre-left press. But, as always, inevitably, that hope was buried beneath a mountain of garbage, of clichéd and misleading and irresponsible and editorialising journalism — journalism that failed its duty to enhance public understanding, that, by resorting to hackneyed narratives and obfuscating clichés, actively sought to confuse, prejudice and disempower the general public.
This is nothing new (although the damning ubiquity of one photo was a particularly horrible example of lazy journalism). And in fact there was, as linked above, some better reporting than usual. But I am so tired of this. I used to want to be a journalist, and my first job was on the local paper, but the venal charlatanry of the British media drained every such desire from me. I don’t feel there’s much I can do about this but howl into the void. So I decided to make a game instead, so that at least next time I would have something to do.
The Bingo Card
click to expand
1. Whenever a major protest occurs, a new game begins;
2. To tick off a square, you must find an example of the cliché in the print, broadcast or online media (blogs, youtube and social networks not included);
3. The first person to score a BINGO (five squares in any direction, including diagonal) and e-mail the sources to harry DOT lodestone AT gmail DOT com wins a prize. The reason for the sourcing is not just so that the adjudicator can check your card, but so that we can also e-mail the media outlet or comment on the article to let them know they’ve been bingod;
4. Some variations in language may be allowed, at the adjudicator’s discretion, but may lose out in the event of a tie-break;
5. Bonus points may be awarded in a tie-break (see overleaf, or for particularly excellent submissions), entirely at the whim of the adjudicator.
Protest Violence Cliché Bingo by Harry Giles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
This has been released under a Creative Commons License not because I’m particularly fussed about my ownership of the piece (I mean, it’s bingo) but because I want to actively encourage people to share this bingo card far and wide. I’d love it if a good few people were playing this game every protest, especially if we were able to embarrass media outlets with it.
On that note: I am neither an illustrator nor a graphic designer, so the .pdf of the card is currently quite spartan. I would love it if anyone who does have those talents would like to make a new version of the card that looks nicer. If you need a copy of the original texts, e-mail me.
Finally, because this blog also functions as a semi-professional website, and because potential employers may look at it, I’m going to have to be absolutely, pedantically clear on my position. a) I fundamentally support everyone’s right to protest, and believe that direct action and civil disobedience have historically been and are now important protest tactics, even though they often entail breaking laws; b) I do not believe that property damage is violence, and I certainly will not condemn people who damage property for political aims, but nor do I believe it is always a beneficial tactic to use; c) I do not think that actions like throwing light missiles at police are particularly violent or dangerous, but again I do not think it is always beneficial, and can sometimes greatly damage a protest; d) Personal assault (including dropping a fire extinguisher from a great height) is, obviously, violence, and will very rarely help a protest, particularly in affluent societies, but I don’t feel the need to condemn or condone it, because to think that social change will always happen peacefully for all people is naive and culturally imperialist; e) Any employer who has a problem with their employees holding particular political views is not an employer I would want to work for anyway.