This afternoon I found myself watching the rolling news coverage of the TUC March for an Alternative demonstration in London. The early reports from the TUC suggested 100,000 people on the march whereas the police were claiming that 250,000 people were marching. This statistical discrepancy amused me. Before my arthritis, I used to march regularly only to get home and watch the TV news during which the police frequently underplayed the number of marchers. Back in the eighties the police worked very closely with and for the conservative government. That seems to have changed with the Con-Dem coalition government repeatedly questioning the work, pay and pensions of the police. We are living through interesting times.
In watching the demonstration on TV I felt like I had taken a wrong turn, but anyway a bit of me was there. The march was a huge success and as the afternoon progressed figures from both sides were revised upwards towards half a million. As well as the TUC stewarded march, there were separate direct actions today which appeared to interest the media far more. At about 1.50pm today I was watching a speech by the Leader of the opposition party Ed Miliband on the BBC news channel. He was one of the key speakers at Hyde Park along with Brendan Barber. As I watched the speech the BBC split the screen in two and without explanation began screening live coverage of black block anarchists attacking Top Shop and Top Man. The outcome of this clever BBC editing was that in half the screen you could see Ed Miliband speaking whilst in the other half of the screen there were very vivid scenes of civil disorder. The combined sound and vision was very powerful media manipulation. I hoped the BBC might try and correct their own breach of impartiality, but no joy. They then upped the stakes filling the screen with the Top Shop/Top Man footage, whilst maintaining the soundtrack of Ed Miliband speaking about the social harm that the cuts were doing and the danger within the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives attempts to create a divided society. The juxtaposition of a legitimate political leader being mashed up with scenes of civil disorder was deeply troubling.
Back in the eighties when I was studying in Sheffield there was a radical grouping known as the Glasgow University Media Group. They highlighted how trade unionists were invariably misrepresented by the media. As I passively watched the news today I yearned for more honest media which did not represent the narrow interests of a dodgy coalition and their wealthy backers.