Thursday, 27 August 2009

Climate Camp - A Press Round-Up

To be honest, I really don't like most journalists. Too many bad experiences have shaped this perception. In 20 years as a campaigner, there are only three I can think of who haven't lied to me in the course of a story and I can't stand the way they expect you to be grateful for giving up your time so you can be misquoted.

So apologies if this is a somewhat partisan and sceptical round-up of recent press coverage:

  • The BBC reports more nonsense from Chief Superintendent Helen Ball of the Metropolitan Police saying: "We will be photographing people on arrival at the camp because it is important for us to know if there are people coming who want to cause violence and disorder.” You photograph people arriving, Ms Ball, because you want to build up a database of protesters. We know it and so do you. The BBC will hopefully catch up soon.

  • The patronising Sean O’Neill at the Times fails to understand the importance of organisation to anarchism, in a piece that hints at the way hacks are likely to ferment division between ‘good and ‘bad’ protesters over the next few days if they don’t get a riot to report.

  • Guardian hack Paul Lewis, who has made a bit of a name for himself with strong reporting on the G20 protests and the death of Ian Tomlinson, seems to have already started down this particular line on his Twitter feed, saying that “clearly campers divided” into happy Greens, less happy Reds and agitated anarchists who are “causing trouble”. This is because of the decision – a foolish one, I think – to allow Julia Pendry, the Met’s silver commander for the Climate Camp protest, on site to have "tea" with the Climate Camp Legal Team.

    First rule of meetings with the police – hold them somewhere neutral. If you invite them to your place, they become your guests, a fact that they will try and exploit. It’s no longer as easy to conduct a proper negotiation and you lose the ability to walk away when you’re done. Oh, and it may annoy other members of the family for whom a severe beating five months ago still counts as fresh in the memory.

    Lewis also complains that campers are rude and cold-shouldering journalists - could it be because activists are at Climate Camp for reasons other than getting paid to be there and perhaps are busy? Honestly, hacks become like needy five year-olds when their deadlines are approaching!

  • Bibi Van Der Zee, also from the Guardian is complaining too, that it “takes a lot of the fun out of a game of cat and mouse with the cops if they don't seem to be playing” – because that’s obviously the most important part of what action against climate change is all about.

  • Matthew Moore in the Telegraph describes attending Climate Camp meetings and discovering that “my hopes of securing a ‘mayhem in the capital’ exclusive were going to be dashed” – but praises the way they are “conducted with a democratic brio that mainstream political parties could only envy”. A convert?

  • The Daily Mail gives a surprisingly fair report on the first day with great pictures – and not one mention of the potential damage to house-prices in Blackheath. The comments by Mail readers are, however, as brainless as expected.

  • Tamsin Omond, writing in the Evading Standards, still talks about herself too much.

  • The Daily Express quotes LBC's right-wing radio jock Nick Ferrari saying: “Blackheath is an extremely genteel place. This has caused havoc and roads are at a standstill.”

    Anything that annoys this boorish buffoon is a big, big bonus.

  • The Mirror highlights the apparently high level of snogging at Climate Camp. Which is nice.

  • Meanwhile, Spy Blog offers more on the hiring of consultants by the Metropolitan Police to monitor social networks for Climate Camp information.

5 Comments:

daniel said...

Kevin, I like the round up but I have a few questions.

Why are you doing a round up of the press when you clearly dislike them and are already aware of how the camp will be spun?

"First rule of meetings with the police – hold them somewhere neutral. If you invite them to your place, they become your guests, a fact that they will try and exploit. It’s no longer as easy to conduct a proper negotiation and you lose the ability to walk away when you’re done. Oh, and it may annoy other members of the family for whom a severe beating five months ago still counts as fresh in the memory."

I think this is stupid. Regardless of your personal opinion, the police need to be invovled in the process. Yes it's shit but it's also part of being grown up. Fuck the police, I agree. But there are local people in the area who rely on the police to make sure things are safe. You still have regard for your fellow humans don't you?

As for anyone in the climate camp taking a beating, you'll need to back your claim up a little here. I was at the G20 stuff and stayed there until 250 coppers ran at us like romans through bishopsgate. From what I remember, no "Climate Campers" had the balls to stand and fight, they all ran like heartless fools.

One

Kevin said...

All fair points Daniel, although I think you've misunderstood what I'm saying about meeting the police.

I suppose a round up of the press seemed like a useful shorthand to show how Climate Camp is likely to be spun by the media, without being too po-faced about it.

On the 'first rule of meetings with the police', please note that I'm NOT saying meetings shouldn't happen, just that they should be held at a neutral venue to ensure they are effective. It's a matter of tactics and right outside the entrance to Climate Camp seems like the obvious place.

I agree that negotiating is inevitable and even necessary for the protection of both activists and local people, but based on a load of personal experience of having to participate in negotiations with the police, it needs to be very, very focused - especially when people are already sceptical about the police's motives.

What seems to have happened instead was more of a social visit, 'tea with the commander', that the organisers of the meeting were naive to think wouldn't antagonise a section of Climate Camp participants who were battered on 1st April. Not everyone would necessarily have reacted as angrily as a few did, but for an event that prides itself on consensus, something as potentially divisive as bringing the police on-site should have been given a lot more thought.

I'm a bit confused about your final point: whether Cliamte Campers on Bishopsgate should have fought back or not is a matter of debate, but people didn't run - they'd been kettled, if you remember, there was nowhere to run to. And there can be no denying that many were beaten or that many who were would be astonished to see a senior police officer invited to stroll through the Camp, as though these events were some distant memory.

HarpyMarx said...

"Not everyone would necessarily have reacted as angrily as a few did, but for an event that prides itself on consensus, something as potentially divisive as bringing the police on-site should have been given a lot more thought".

Totally agree with that Kevin. Indeed meetings with the police have to be focused, that makes sense.


And there's nothing wrong with having a healthy scepticism for the media. I mean, look at their biased reporting over the G20 protests especially initial reports re the death of Ian Tomlinson.

Daniel, if you stay and fight you are somewhat heroic but if you run (and that's if you are not being kettled)you have no balls? Rather a testosterone and macho ridden comment.

I couldn't get to Bishopsgate on the 1st April as it was blocked off by the cops and ended up kettled at the Bank of England (but managed to escape through an alleyway). The cops were corralling anything that moved!

On the Climate Camp I will be going (I hope) on Saturday as haven't had the time to go before.

Kevin said...

Louise, see you there on Saturday. I'll be helping out at the workshop in the afternoon on understanding stop & search laws.

Denny said...

Nice summary, thanks.

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