The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]


[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Vandals or sanctions?



Grayham writes,

> The media will blow  any small incident into a major event if it will
> sell papers and it is their reporting that will win or lose
> supporters. Give them any excuse to print stories that show people
> breaking the law and in the minds of the general public  will be the
> idea that supporters of this protest are all guilty of criminal acts
> and many people will not want to be involved with it .


Many of Grayham's arguments hinge on how the media might project certain
forms of protest. While I agree that media coverage is important, I think
that any campaign cannot afford to rely too heavily on how the media
covers it. As Grayham points out, the media is often able to create quite
a distorted view regarding 'vandals' etc. The implication, which I think
we all accept, is that the media is quite fickle (Tim Henman will capture
the front page from Monica Lewinsky etc). 

I don't want to seem to be making a simplistic argument about the
interests of the media barons turning all newspapers etc into a tissue of
lies - quite often the professional ethics of a journalist or the
conscience of an editor works against a paper's logical 'line', for
instance. But there are serious limits to this. My own experience has been
that if a writer writes something uncomfortable for the newspaper or
something which the paper doesn't want to get involved in, the paper often
doesn't actually need to reject or scrap the article - they can hold it
till it's irrelevant, or relegate it to page 17. Will Iraq sell papers?
Not necessarily, unless the story is of the glorious RAF reliving its
heroic Battle of Britain deeds (no one remembers the use of the RAF to
bomb colonial populations from the air).

And paradoxically, a 'vandal' will make headlines and bring into focus
that there REALLY ARE people who don't think bombing Iraq is a Good Thing.

This might not necessarily cause people to rethink their position,
assuming they have one. But then again, it might. 

> Give them any excuse to print stories that show people
> breaking the law and in the minds of the general public  will be the
> idea that supporters of this protest are all guilty of criminal acts
> and many people will not want to be involved with it .

If the 'general public' is really so easy to manipulate in these
directions, then we should disband CASI because the cause is hopeless.
I don't think there is any particular reason why if they/we can have
changed their minds before, they might not do so again, and in directions
which we desire. But to get that message across, we can't afford to rely
on the media. We need alternative channels of communication, and perhaps
we need to think seriously about how to make the campaign reach a wider
public.

On the subject of vandalism, criminal damage and other such terms, I find
it curious that language which evokes images of violence is used to
describe acts directed at objects, whereas the very media which we hope
will provide news cover to the anti-sanctions campaign if it behaves in a
polite and civilised manner has (with some honourable exceptions) 
continued to use the terminology of an accountant describing depreciation
of assets ('diminish military potential', 'degrade military capability')
to describe the dropping of bombs on Iraq. Sanctions are simply not an
issue - no one is actually doing anything violent or illegal... 

I think to rely too strongly on the goodwill of the media is a serious
error.

As regards grafitti or 'defacing walls' or whatever morally upright term
we wish to choose, I think this is a question of political culture. In
many countries, writing messages on walls is an integral part of the
political system. This is not simply true of fringe groups who operate in
a semi-illegal twilight zone - in India, for instance, (which, the media
is constantly reminding us, is 'the largest democracy in the world') all
political parties campaign by painting their symbols, slogans, electoral
promises, and even political cartoons, on walls. One might say "We simply
don't do that sort of thing in England" - but equally, one might ask
whether the general public in England is more aware of important national,
international and local issues than in other countries, or less so. 

I hope many of us decide to go to the hearing and provide moral support to
the defendants, whether or not we believe in painting things on walls.

Ben Zachariah.



On Mon, 15 Mar 1999, Chayney wrote:

> On Sun, 14 Mar 1999 23:11:24 +0000 (GMT), you wrote:
> 
> >>Many ordinary people are prepared to campaign within the limits of the
> >>law and will even break the law in certain ways but will not support the
> >>use of vandalism . 
> >
> >I'm not sure that real campaigns work like this. Lots of people
> >participated in the anti-apartheid movement, CND, and the campaign against
> >the poll tax, knowing full well that others were committing vandalism
> >while not being prepared to take part in it themselves. 
> I was involved in some of the protests and it was from there that I
> realised that such acts were damaging what we were trying to do .
> At one protest  the only coverage we got was pictures of the police
> arresting one of the six  trouble makers . Not one picture of the
> hundred or so peaceful marchers , I watched as families who had come
> to protest got in their cars and went home rather than be associated
> with it . These were sincere people who wanted to play a part in the
> protest  driven away by a few who felt it would be more effective to
> be seen at the front causing trouble.
> >And vandalism
> >isn't always a turn-off; what about all those respectable quaker ladies
> >who would go back week after week to cut the wire at missile bases?
> And how effective  was it ?  How long were the bombers here? 
> > In
> >the case we're discussing, the 'vandalism' was really quite token 
> Quote ; ...............the pair through buckets of red paint at the FO
> wall where they also wrote the messages "Stop the killing" and "Lift
> the Sanctions". The FO is claiming 2178 worth of damages
> end quote
> >- almost
> >like sticking a poster on a bus stop (which is also criminal damage, by
> >the way). 
> If that is the case ,was it worth it ? (No I am not suggesting do
> anything more serious <S>)   However , the inference from the press is
> that it was more and it is this that the public will read and on this
> the incident ( and the campaign ) will be judged.
> It is often the interpretation that the media spreads far and wide
> that will be how the action is seen by the vast number of the public.
> The media will blow  any small incident into a major event if it will
> sell papers and it is their reporting that will win or lose
> supporters. Give them any excuse to print stories that show people
> breaking the law and in the minds of the general public  will be the
> idea that supporters of this protest are all guilty of criminal acts
> and many people will not want to be involved with it . 
> And I go back to my original point that we __need __ all the support
> we can get .
> 
> >The important point, I think, is this - even if you wouldn't have done
> >something in quite the same way, or you have some disagreement with the
> >methods, which side are you on when there is an arrest? Sometimes you
> >decide to support an action PRECISELY BECAUSE you wouldn't have done it
> >yourself. 
> Personally ,I would only support an action if I felt it was right and
> achieved something.
> But in some cases   yes I agree . However when the actions are likely
> to be counter-productive to the cause that I am fighting for then I
> must speak my mind and say so . Obviously the people involved felt
> that their actions were justified ,and I do not doubt their sincerity
> for one minute , but I feel that such actions detract from arguing the
> case within the framework of the law .
> 
> >Out of solidarity with Iraqis, I'm backing the protesters. 
> Out of solidarity  with Iraqis ,I'm backing the use of our right to
> protest .
> When the issue goes to court , if found guilty , the offenders may get
> a fine/prison sentence . The media once again focuses on the  "
> anti-Iraq  Vandals" and more people dissociate with the cause
> (particularly if there is a demonstartion of support  outside the
> courts) .  Who wins here?  Certainly not the Anti-Sanctions groups.
> If anyone has gained it is the Government because they can build on
> the press coverage by implying  that  ALL the protesters are criminals
> like during the poll-tax campagns .
> >As for scaring MPs; I fear that Iraq is never going to make the difference
> >at an election.
> Mrs. T thought that she could introduce the poll-tax but when her own
> party realised that it was a vote-loser ..................  MPs want
> to keep their jobs and if enough people pester them then they will
> have to listen.
> The anti-sanctions movement need the support of the ordinary public
> and having the media on our side would help in getting the message
> across.
> 
> Do not doubt for one instance that I am completely opposed to the
> US/UK actions but I disagree with any action that will bring the
> Anti-sanctions campaigns into disrepute which I feel such actions
> will .
> 
> Sincerely 
> Grayham Chayney
> --
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
> To be removed/added, email soc-casi-discuss-request@lists.cam.ac.uk, NOT the
> whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html
> 

--
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To be removed/added, email soc-casi-discuss-request@lists.cam.ac.uk, NOT the
whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html


[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]