The big peace demonstration this Saturday in Trafalgar Square will be a test case. If past practice is followed, the only media interest will be if there is a scuffle or an arrest…
This one regularly gets trotted out by the Stoppers. But anyone remember the February 15 march? As if you could forget. It was like Live Aid-meets-Diana’s funeral with the liberal (and not so liberal) press gushing over the protest.
Even the sports journalists got in on the act. Richard Williams in the Guardian turned away from praising Sven Goran Eriksson for a moment to enjoy ‘the moment’:
Somebody called it a movement. It was not a movement. It was a feeling. A feeling that drove wave after wave of people in a great river which began to flow a few minutes before noon and was still in full flood long after nightfall.
What astonished everyone who marched on Saturday – let’s settle on a million, shall we? – was the apparently limitless variety of those with whom they shared the roads of central London. Not just a diversity of banner-bearing interest groups but of individuality, brought into focus by the single underlying feeling that gave this day its resonance.
Tony Benn and so many others who share his perspective seem determined to maintain the myth that their movement was ignored by the media. In fact Stop the War was uncritically embraced by the mainstream media and mainstream politicians. Its hardly surprising given that their views were, utterly, mainstream and rooted (despite their ‘revolutionary’ slogans) in cold war concepts and a defence of a failed foreign policy status quo.
They are back on the streets on Saturday. Whereas on February 15 2003, the Stalinist, neo-Stalinist and Islamist leadership of Stop the War could appeal to a large audience with their fraudulent claim to be humanitarian pacifists, merely concerned about the loss of innocent life or supporting the legitimacy of the UN, no-one has an excuse for believing their lies again.
In the past two years Stop the War have been cheering on the slaughter of innocents carried out by the ‘resistance’, organising solidarity with the open enemies of democracy in Iraq while slandering the efforts of the country’s labour movement and fledgling democratic polity.
Saturday’s demonstration is a pro-war, anti-UN and anti-democracy parade. Two years ago the liberal media hailed the ‘carnival atmosphere’ of the protests. This time around no-one should have any doubt that they are watching a carnival of reaction and any purple fingers pointed in their direction will be richly merited.