It was fascinating, on Wednesday, to watch the streets of London step back 20 years in time to the sort of violent protests that marked the anti Poll Tax movement. I admire the energy and the zeal of the students but, in an age where everything is being re-drafted, reinvented, challenged and overturned, I wonder why they would choose to default to the divisive clichés of protests past.
The power of social media is at their fingertips, so isn’t it time to reinvent the act of protest and direct action for the digital age, where the image is ever more important? Images of violence, window smashing and scarf-faced ‘anarchists’ are something the establishment can deal with in the aftermath all too easily – it allows them the breathing room to default to a huffy ‘look at them, they don’t care about anything’ stance.
Grey matter needs to be applied as creatively as possible in the devising of a contemporary method of effecting real change. Smashed windows and bloody faced policemen should be a thing of the past. Interesting, also, to see the Met so woefully unprepared for any violence – perhaps they thought students were a spent force? The other possibility, of course, is that health and safety has prevented them from giving protestors a kicking.
The bloody noses and cut heads the police endured work against the protestors, of course, and become the sort of startling imahes that illustrate, in glorious technicolour, the more scaremongering media outlets; it’s quite possible the police just don’t want to provide or create the opposite effect. If so, the protestors need to learn from that and become more canny in their methods of dissent.
Talking of the aftermath of violence, the Royal British Legion have come up with an excellent PR stunt to rejuvenate the Poppy Appeal – a “2 Minute Silence” download from iTunes.
There is some grumbling that they may have swiped the idea wholesale from the latest anti-X Factor Christmas number 1 campaign, for John Cage’s famous silent piece of music 4’33” – wittily titled Cage Against the Machine – but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a very smart move by the Royal British Legion.