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Saturday 26 March 2011

Spinning The Protests

As the tail of today’s march wound its way past Parliament Square and away north along Whitehall, and direct action group UKUncut caused many stores along Oxford Street to close, there was a small group of fringe demonstrators engaging in running clashes with police and occasionally throwing missiles.

The main march was supported by around half a million people, with the fringe group numbering around a couple of hundred, but in the retelling, those 200 have inevitably secured a disproportionate amount of publicity. Moreover, the part of the Fourth Estate wanting to frighten its readers and demonise legitimate protest is making sure of it.

Smartly out of the traps in the mission to show its own kind of proportionality has been the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail. There is an admission of the half a million peaceful marchers, but the photos are overwhelmingly of the fringe, with broken windows and paint spattered police.

A single small photo of Ed Miliband is mixed in with the throwing of fireworks and smoke flares (10 photos), with shots of the main march relegated to the end of the piece (just 4 photos). And the Mail is not alone: Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, who headlined “Trouble erupts during cuts demo”, then showed six photos of the fringe and just one of the main march.

And the reportage has hardly been any more accurate: a BBC producer who had apparently been tipped off that UKUncut were going to sit in at Fortnum and Mason told that there was indeed a sit-in, but that the place had, emphatically, not been trashed. The Maily Telegraph had no truck with this, and reported “scenes of chaos outside and displays of confectionery and cakes wrecked inside”.

Which shows, as I noted earlier, that so many in the print media do not get it: those half a million on the main rally did not just turn up for a day out. All the more important, then, that there is some half decent reporting.

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