The way that the British media has reported the recent student and worker protests has been woeful at best and downright deceitful at worst. Most of the news outlets concentrate their attention on the tuition fees issue. None of them have bothered to focus on the wider issues: cuts in further and higher education (which are part of the overall package of public sector cuts) and the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance.
The other area of interest to the more dishonest sections of the media has been in the socio-political composition of those taking part in the protests. Papers like the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph have constantly reported on “middle class protesters”. Both papers are keen to label some protesters as a “rent-a-mob” and a “hardcore group of activists” who by their very nature are “anarchists”.
Here, the Daily Mail claims that a “very middle class protest was hijacked by anarchists”. The Mail, like so many other papers fails to grasp the fact that students can be both middle class and anarchist. Some students are Conservatives. Some are even Lib Dems. So what? The ‘reporter’ tell us,
..anarchists hijacked the event, setting off the most violent scenes of student unrest seen in Britain for decades. Militants from far-Left groups whipped up a mix of middle-class students and younger college and school pupils into a frenzy.
Two things here. First, the reporter suggests that these young people don’t know their minds and secondly, she assumes that middle class students are always well-behaved and well-mannered.
This Mail article contradicts the one above by saying,
Yet what happened yesterday wasn’t simply the result of anarchist groups and Left-wing agitators intent on creating violent confrontation.
It was the extraordinary fusion of two diverse social groups who suddenly found a common cause.
This article from 15 December claims to have “unmasked” the “hardcore leaders of the student mob”. It claims that,
There was an expat grandfather, a university tutor, a teenage schoolboy, a recent law graduate and a wealthy foreign student whose education was part-funded by the British taxpayer.
What they all had in common yesterday was an apparent central role in the riot which saw Tory Party HQ in Millbank Tower trashed by a howling mob.
Reading through the article it quickly becomes apparent that this is another Mail smear job. Clare Solomon gets a kicking,
One of those who used her position to galvanise support for the protests was Clare Solomon, president of the University of London Union. The 37-year-old mature studen later appeared on Newsnight to defend the violence, describing the attack as only a ‘few smashed windows’.
Currently on sabbatical from the School of Oriental and African Studies, she appears to have developed quite a taste for student life.
She has held university union positions for more than seven years and has served on a committee for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
The tone of this suggests that Solomon is sponging off the taxpayer and this shouldn’t be allowed. Just to add an extra kick to this concoction, the reporter tells us that she has served on various committees for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities”. This reporter knows how to press his reader’s buttons. Other protesters are linked to Palestinian Solidarity, Stop the War, CND et al as if membership of these groups is tantamount to child murder.
Other news reports have claimed that “gangs” have been involved in the ‘violence’. There is no evidence offered for this assertion save for a few photos of black youths, who are often connected with gang activity by the right wing press It’s a lazy assertion that is based on the knowledge of the Other.
The Mail likes nothing more than to whip up hatred of the Other. So when a national monument is defaced, the spittle flies and their neck veins bulge with rage. This article from 10 December tell us that the “thugs”
…defiled a statue of Winston Churchill by urinating on it, ripped flags from the Cenotaph – the nation’s sacred memorial to those who died in the name of liberty – then lit fires and sprayed slogans on the ground in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament.
“Died in the name of liberty”? That’s a bit excessive. As for the Churchill statue, would this be same Winston Churchill who advocated the use of poison gas against the Arabs and Kurds in Mesopotamia (Iraq) in 1920 because it produced a “lively terror” against the so-called “uncivilised tribes”? Churchill’s racism was by no means limited to the Arabs and Kurds, he expressed a dislike of American Indians and Blacks too. He was also an imperialist who hated the working class. Like many workers, the printers and journalists had walked out during the General Strike of 1926. As Home Secretary, Churchill published his own propaganda sheet called The British Gazette which fed stories to the BBC. Ever since this embarrassing episode the BBC has been keen to play down any suggestion that it has collaborated with the state.
The media are very keen to split the anti-cuts movement. They have made wild claims that shadowy subversive groups have either “hijacked” or “infiltrated” the protests. They have attempted to use the issue of class to drive a wedge between protesters. The press has also been dishonest in their reporting of the protests and have simply focussed on a single issue in the vain hope that once the tuition fees vote was won in the Commons, the protests would magically melt away.
A word to the news-gatherers: we are not going anywhere and we are united. Your attempts to split us into different camps according to social class and apparent ideologies will fail. We are on to you!
Students and workers, unite and fight!