Angry Anons and BBC blackout
Remember remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and BBC blackout! and so it was last night as thousands of UK Anons congregated in London’s Trafalgar Sq. the fourth annual Anonymous ‘Night of activism’ the so called Million Mask March. Anonymous had announced their intention to march to Parliament Square and in the words of one Anon “see a MASSIVE Anonymous blockade of London City”.
Sat with multiple browser tabs open, showing the live broadcasts from the mainstream media I waited in anticipation for the event, but as each hourly news update arrived I became ever more stunned at the silence, not a single channel aired a moments coverage! Although I have been informed the BBC had a snippet at 6:30pm. Twitter and social media were however, very different a media storm no less; with hashtagged updates so frequent it was impossible to keep up. Live streams, analysis and comment were carried by RT.com and by mutliple protestors on the ground via bambuser.com live streaming.
The lack of on the ground reporting by the mainstream media drew immediate comparison to the Occupy London protests at Parliament Square the week before. One has to ask why organisations such as the BBC so adept at bringing us on location, minute by minute updates on stories of such national importance as the colour of a celebrities wedding dress, had no journalist was on the ground to ask a protester ‘what’s this all about then?’
During the time of the Occupy protest I submitted a complaint to the BBC to express my disbelief at the lack of reporting and promptly received a reply stating that they had covered the events, and on three separate occasions none the less! A little research on the broadcasts revealed the most scant of stories buried on the London regional website & radio and a single national story; none of which offered anything by way of analysis of the protests themselves. The BBC was content with three short mentions, detailing little more than public disorder.
Fast forward to the Million Masks March and the BBC repeated its strategy: putting out a regurgitated summary of public disorder offences, arrest statistics and some sound bites about protester violence, adding in a single line on the justification for protest then within 36 hours burying the story in the depths of its website.
Why? Its motivation I will not guess at, it would quickly descend into what BBC defenders would label conspiracy, but its strategy seems simple. List just enough to be able to fend off complaints against it and its obligation as set out in the trusts code of conduct. If I raise a complaint about the lack of coverage, citing the obvious importance of the protests, the BBC can now defend the complaint on the grounds it did indeed cover the protest and has a web link to prove it.
But is that enough?
Is that enough for the BBC to claim it is doing its job impartially? No, no and no….. Even the Telegraph, not exactly left leaning, managed to offer a balanced appraisal of the protest and its motivations. The footage and audio from the Telegraph piece actually shows a coherent and dignified voice from the Anon protestors, people who have genuine motivations to protest and who do not believe that voting at the ballot box is the way forward.
So what would the BBC have learned had it put reporters on the ground rather than staring blankly at monitors at HQ, as hundreds of masked protesters literally banged on the windows after Anons decided that if the Beeb wouldnt go to them they’d go to the Beeb?
They would have discovered what the establishment seems so keen to ignore, normal people with a multitude of agendas, congregated under one banner Anonymous. A leaderless group targeting everything from #OpIsrael & the apartheid in Palestine to #OpSafeWinter which aims to protect the most vulnerable in society from hunger and cold. And these ‘Ops’ are attracting people never before engaged in politics or charity. Not in my lifetime has such an organic ground swell manifested in collective disobedient action, catalysed by the internets power of communication.
And people came, with large red anarchy flags swaying next to ‘Free Palestine’ flags. Throngs chanted “One Solution, Revolution” others chanted “Whose streets? Our Streets” yet others stood silent holding banners reading ‘ Free Assange’ or ‘Banks shouldn’t write laws’ or a multitude of anti corporate, anti corruption, anti war messages one simply stated ‘Share the love’.
One protesters conversation with the police caught on camera and streamed live to the web ended with “we’ve got no problem with you. We love and respect what you do for us. Our problem is with them… (pointing to Parliament) You lot are people, and we are people”. Another protester, having given up his anonymity mask on top his head; revealed tears of frustration at the police attempts to arrest the protest. Conversation with a riot officer ensued before they embraced then shook hands before he returned to the group sitting in on Westminster Bridge and awaited eviction.
Commentators will I’m sure be quick to label the Anons yesterday as yobs comparable to the drunken louts found in city centers on a Friday night. Yes there was unrest, some simply inexcusable, but holding that assertion to the majority simply doesnt stand. Footage from Bambuser showed protesters effectively self policing remonstrating with those that knocked over bins or acted in a way that others perceived as violent or threatening to passers by. There were those whose stated aim was confrontation with the police, but the majority people of all ages with a mesh of agendas, collectively protested at the status quo of political, economical and humanitarian injustice, angrily but peacefully.
And they are angry, using social media Anonymous sent a message directly to world government stating “To oppressive governments, we say this: we do not expect our campaign to be completed in a short time frame. However, you will not prevail against the angry masses of the body politic.” saying they [the British Government] have “made an enemy of Anonymous” and that they have “angered them considerably”.
And what of the future for Anonymous and of the Million Mask March? will it be a flash in the pan and fizzle out? I for one don’t think so… The Anon movement has grown year on year and November 5th, 2015 will undoubtedly be a bigger event than this year.
Security agencies have already claimed to have taken out the ring leaders of anonymous web hacktivism but it only serves to prove the point that anonymous are misunderstood. They are fluid; dissipating and coalescing at seemingly random stimuli, taking whatever direction the majority chooses, unpredictable and leaderless just ask the MET, they tried to talk to Anonymous and found out that, well, that they are just that, anonymous.
Since writing this article, @BBCNews trending has released a 1min13sec video from inside the BBC HQ stating that Anonymous protesters are angry at the BBC for lack of coverage. They go on to claim that as protesters are self publishing on social media the events are being covered. As I am sure the BBC is aware this does not represent national coverage and they are missing the point somewhat!
Tom is an OccupyLondon supporter and self proclaimed pacifist.