The Judge RANTS!
I suppose it's what the Germans call Schadenfreude, that
feeling of amusement at the misfortunes of others. Well, whatever word
you care to use, I felt it the other day when I read of the hunting
lobby's encounter with the Metropolitan Police's finest outside of The
Houses Of Parliament.
I would say that, wouldn't I? Yes, I am against hunting
with dogs (although prepared to make an exception for those who hunt
with dogs, which would make for an interesting practical demonstration
of the phrase 'ever-decreasing circles' if nothing else), but there
were some intriguing thoughts which came to me as I scanned the reports
of the événements.
I've seen reports of a few demos in my time. Indeed, way back in
the when, I went to one or two myself. It was quite an eye-opener, my
first one in Swansea nearly 23 years ago. It was a formative experience
which left me with more than a little distrust of authority, especially
if uniforms were involved.
Anyway, what entered my mind as I went through the news articles
was the way in which The Media (capital letters obligatory, as that is
how the members of that particular priesthood tend to see themselves)
portrayed this protest compared with those on behalf of more 'right-on'
All due emphasis was placed on the 'respectability' of those
part. We were informed with breathless enthusiasm that there were
members of the minor nobility present and, if some reports are to be
believed, a few proxy representatives of the major nobility,
too. As if a few hundred years of examples of just how appallingly
badly the aristocracy and its squirarchical stooges are capable of
behaving had been completely (if temporarily) forgotten.
And when Stevens' braves actually went in and broke a few heads
response, it seems, to having a large acreage of tweed shaken in their
faces), the newspaper and broadcast hacks went wading in themselves to
gain the insights of those on the receiving end. Their underlying tone
of enquiry was one almost of solicitude, as if these people had been
the victims of a mugging or a particularly nasty hit-and-run incident.
This shouldn't be too surprising, however. When the self-styled Countyside
Alliance (the political wing of the Country Landowners' Association
plus a few sympathisers from such illuminated quarters as the BNP and
UKIP) held a big rally in London a couple of years ago, the amount of
media coverage (invariably sympathetic in tone) was immense compared to
that granted to an anti-war march just a few weeks later which involved
a far larger number of people. We live in a land where to own things is
to have a power which democracy seems impotent to counter. The friends
at Court, avoir le piston, these will always have their effect
on the slant given to events.
You see, I couldn't help but think back a mere twenty years.
the coal-miners of this mis-owned island were on strike to try to
prevent the destruction of their livelihoods and of the communities
which they supported. These weren't landowners, they owned little more
than their pride; these weren't those who had inherited land, wealth or
influence; and (fatally from the point of media interest in this
animal-obsessed illusion some call culture) they didn't even
have the sob story of waggy-tailed woofy-dogs under sentence of death
to make the story really interesting. They were respectable in the real
sense of the word: people who were worthy of respect. They worked hard,
enjoyed themselves when and how they could, and did their best to make
sure that their children kept to the right side.
But, despite all this (or because of it), they were labelled.
libelled. Every day in just about every newspaper. And where bias
couldn't be overtly shown (such as in broadcasting), the slant was more
oblique, down far more to tone of voice rather than the words used. And
not just words, either. Pictures have power in our age. Just one
shot of just one striker throwing just one brick at the police
would send enough of a signal to the viewing millions that this,
indeed, was the sort of lawless, vicious mob that the gallant forces of
Order were having to deal with.
Sometimes the broadcasters, as always far more interested in
paths to the powerful than in anything which could be called objective
truth, felt that they didn't need to be quite so subtle about it. And
so we had the shameful instance of BBC News' coverage of the clash at
Orgreave, where film footage was deliberately re-edited to make it seem
as if the strikers attacked the Police first, rather than vice versa
as eye-witness evidence suggested. The damage was done, and who amongst
the powerful was remotely concerned if it was made by an outright lie
to millions of people? The miners were demonised, and that led to the
end; the end of hope, and the end of any real meaningful future for
tens of thousands of people with no powerful chums and no inheritance
of purloined property to fall back on.
At Westminster earlier this week, placards and other missiles
thrown at the Police, young men with shaven heads and no visible necks
to support them snarled and screamed. The Met responded in the way they
know best, at least showing that they have a keen grasp of the notion
of equality of treatment. A number of Members of Parliament were
threatened, and one (female) suffered a serious physical assault from
someone who then, with a shocking disregard for the idea of noblesse
oblige, scarpered off into the throng. No doubt the cretin is
happily retailing the story in his local country pub even tonight.
The response of The Media? Well, it would be wrong to say that
there has been no criticism at all; but what there has been has tended
to be so genteely expressed as to scarcely have a right to exist. Far
more apparent has been the sympathetic twitterings of the right-wing
press, largely about how dreadfully the Police behaved; I mean, these
were respectable people after all; many of them own
things (like half of Derbyshire). One quote from a Bedfordshire
solicitor has him remarking that he no longer had any respect for the
Police. Well, well, welcome to the real world, sweetie. The Bill have
been doing this to hippies, peaceniks, gays, Irish, Afro-Caribbeans and
kids for thirty years or more. Welcome to the club (or baton to
give it it's official title). You reap what you sow. What a dreadful
surprise it must be for those who inhabit what one writer called 'Topside'
to suddenly realise that the tactics they have urged the authorities to
use against the rest of us have finally come round and bit them
on the arse!