Thursday, April 10, 2008

On Protests and Censorship

NEARLY 20 years ago the supporters of Greenwich Against the Poll Tax saw an opportunity in the coming London Marathon to get a little media coverage for their campaign. The evening before the event fly-posters and slogan painters were out covering walls all along the route as it ran through the borough. On the day other supporters stood alongside the route holding placards and some living in high-rise flats had hand-painted bed-sheet banners unfurled from their windows. But anyone watching TV sports and news coverage or reading press coverage would have been totally unaware of the protests. Camera angles were carefully monitored and coverage edited to make the protests completely invisible.
Since then numerous other campaigns in all parts of the country that have tried to use major events to snatch a little publicity – campaigns to save hospitals, schools and many other causes – have been rendered invisible by well-oiled and skilful media censorship.
So those of us who have been engaged in such protests know full well that the media coverage last weekend of the progress of the Olympic flame through London, which dwelt on the efforts of protesters claiming to represent the people of Tibet, was giving those protesters all the support it could. And this was a deliberate and conscious decision by a mass media and state machine that has ignored and rendered virtually invisible peace protests involving hundreds of thousands of marchers through the capital. The only people who knew these massive events ever happened have been those who were physically present and those who watch foreign news bulletins – which do judge these demonstrations worthy of reporting.
Yet the capitalist British media have the nerve to accuse the Chinese authorities of failing to give enough reportage of the Olympic flame protests, which involved only a couple of hundred demonstrators at the most.
We may safely assume that when a protest involving a couple of hundred is given acres of news coverage in the mainstream media it has ruling class and Government support. Our government does not want openly to sabotage the Olympics – Britain has too much vested interest in the next games and, in this time of growing economic crisis, it wants to remain on civil terms with the government of the People’s Republic.
But Whitehall and Washington also want to use every opportunity for a back-handed swipe at the country that is proving that capitalist methods firmly controlled by socialist planning are providing a much healthier economy than their free-trade scramble for profits and unfettered greed.
The people responsible for “Shock and Awe”, for Guantanamo Bay, for Abu Ghraib, for Diego Garcia, for the death of Baha Mousa and for the slow murder of Palestine want to lecture the Chinese on human rights!
So they pick on a movement that wants to detach Tibet from China and drag it back to an age of mixed feudalism and slavery, where nearly half of all babies died before their first birthday and where families could be ordered to give up their very young sons to a life of religious and superstitious indoctrination. The imperialists portray this extreme right-wing and racist movement as a heroic band of martyrs fighting for national liberation.
Another event capturing media coverage it does not deserve is the 40th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech. Enoch Powell was an ambitious but not too bright right-wing Tory MP, who as Minister for Transport in the Macmillan government in the 1950s sent recruitment teams to the West Indies to encourage people there to come to work as bus drivers and conductors in London.
Later, following the Notting Hill race riots, he sought to gain popularity by campaigning against black immigration into Britain, making lurid predictions of civil strife between black and white communities. His claims became so outrageous even the Tory party had to dump him and he ended up in obscurity with the Ulster Unionists in the occupied north of Ireland.But it is worth noticing that his dire predictions have spectacularly failed to come true and that, generally, black and white workers are living and working peacefully alongside each other and that immigrant communities in Britain in general have made great contributions.
And now the patronising middle classes and intelligentsia have stopped trying to impose their version of integration, the process is happening naturally, on a basis of mutual respect and equality in the working class.

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