Social media fuels protests across political divide

Yesterday it was the turn of hundreds of school children demonstrating outside Parliament to save their playing fields and delivering a petition signed by 500,000″ organised by 17 year old Debbie Foote from Grantham , Lincs.” Last Saturday, TopShop at Oxford Circus, the shopping mecca for metro youth, was forced to close as hundreds protested against Philip Green’s tax avoidance. The organiser if you can call it that, was Ununcut – ( another potential disaster area for the Today programme’s James Naughtie) whose latent power is well pitched here by Ian Birrell and supported believe it or not, by the Daily Mail,  as highlighted by unlikely ally, Will Straw’s Left Foot Forward .

An example of the power of social media to bridge the gap between left and right?

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the issue, the significance of Ukuncut is that unruly flash mob protest has arrived in Britain. It may build into a mass movement or it may implode; already the dunderheaded militants have muscled in, the tedious Socialist Worker banners cropping up alongside the mannequins in Topshop windows.

But the protests have left their mark.

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  • fitzjameshorse1745

    For those of us of a certain age who spent the best part of three decades for not being like me….and having a social conscience. I will spare you all the bit where I say that I was on the Dublin Road in 1968, pretending to be a student.
    So nothing is really new.
    A load of kids are motivated by Facebook or My Space and other things of which men of my generation should never have heard.
    But the point is that they are motivated.
    Fair play to them. Better to spend your student days engaging in real protest than merely attending the Varsity rugger match at Twickers or the rowing match between Cambridge and somebody else on the Thames.
    If youre going to knock a policemans hat off, do it for a good reason.

    Ultimately people feared the Printing Press would bring revolution. It did.
    And now people fear the Internet It will bring revolution too. Whether its these flash mobs at “Next” or Wikileaks or reprisal attacks on Paypal and Mastercard.
    Its a real revolution not a pathetic “as soon as this pub closes revolution”.
    The great thing about getting old is that Ive outlived all my fears.
    So I am right behind the wains.
    Go for it. I didnt change the world. They might. They might not.
    But it looks like good craic.

  • Ah, fitzjameshorse1745 @ 1:23 pm: Mais ou sont les neiges (et les luttes) d’antan?

    One of the best demos of all time was Cuba Week (before they set the dogs on us). And in 1962 I didn’t have to pretend to be a student.

    This year les luttes came before les neiges, and doubtless will last longer.

    Cue the late Bishop of Gloucester:
    “Orthodoxy, my Lord,” said Bishop Walburton, in a whisper, — “orthodoxy is my doxy; heterodoxy is another man’s doxy.”

    As I read his intent for this thread, Brian Walker wants to consider that the “social media” are now setting the agenda for heterodox opinion. Why not? There always has been an alternative agenda: the difficulty has been to convey that outside the loop of metropolitan and hierarchically-controlled opinion-formers.

    In that sense, the “social media” are merely another phase in the dissemination of the counter-culture. First the gossip (as magnificently realised by Rosemary Sutcliff’s Dragonslayer, her version of Beowulf); then the popular ballad; then the broadside and its ephemeral counterparts; then the newspaper as a commodity along with the telegraph; then the telephone; then the duplicator, samizdat, the laser printer …

    When yesterday I should have been doing something constructive, I enjoyed watching Neil Oliver’s This Land is Our Land (from series 2 of The History of Scotland series). He makes the well-established and valid point that Walter Scott’s novels generated a sense of Scottish identity which increasingly became a force for mobilising middle-class opinion. Was that not a kind of “social medium”?

    Recent technological evolution merely proves that transmission by electronic 1s and 0s is more efficient than by ABCs.

    Above all, the genie is not going to be squeezed back into any bottle or kettle (something the Met Police are about to discover).

    Beyond that, the youf have a lot to be protesting about: they have been lied to and misled on a serial basis.

    ¶ They were told education was a social good in itself: they saw it taken away from them.

    ¶ They were assiduously courted by the LibDems, who then betrayed them: will the LibDem candidate for Oldham East, Elwyn Watkins, accept the challenge to re-sign the pledge on tuition fees?

    ¶ The general public is being deluded and cozened by the untruths spouted by the ConDem apologists. I have just heard Alexander defend the line on tuition fees by arguing it is necessary for reasons of austerity. In fact it trebles the cost to would-be students and it trebles the middle-term cost to the Exchequer.

    ¶ There is little “fair” (the catch-penny word of the moment) about hiking tuition fees. It is essentially a move to privatise universities, and introduce dog-eat-dog competition between institutions.

    Indeed, using social media or not, school-students have a great deal to be aggrieved about.

    Now start me on tax-fiddlers like Philip Green and Vodofone.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Of course it is inevitable that “FitzjamesHorse1745” would nod furiously at every mention of Walter Scott and “Waverley” and held by many modern Jacobites (or “lunatics” as I like to think of my friends) to be the devil incarnate and the inventor of shortbread Scottishness.
    But theres always a certain amount of myth making in nation building.
    “land of the free, home of the brave”
    “bulldog breed”
    “land of saints and scholars”.
    ……all notions derided by international socialists with their own myth building and the Conflict Resolution types at QUB. Indeed theres a whole module devoted to it…..and its considered ideal for exchange students to get to understand Norn Iron better. Taking History out of History.

    But yesterdays struggles are not ours. And I cant help feeling a certain pride in students starting to show some involvement….rather than the faux involvent in “Green” issues (the bed and breakfast party of the 21st century as Communism was in the 1930s and CND was in the 1960s).

    Of course this is their first experience of real politics….where their idealism comes up against a decision.
    And they are doing really well.

  • pippakin

    I must admit looking at the student protests I have been reminded of a misspent youth: My own… And they are doing well.

  • andnowwhat

    Well, that’s the tuition bill passed, by a majority of 21.

    I think it will also be the death the AV referendum will have.

  • pippakin


    I didn’t expect it to make a difference to the bill passing but the students have shown a renewed interest and participation in politics and that has to be good.

  • andnowwhat

    Vary true Pippa. Political apathy has been a badge of Britain for 3 decades now.

    I cannot see how a goverment that has no mandate can bring in a tripling of tution fees.

    The argument about the deficit is a nonsense as graduates will not have to pay back the money for at least a few years.

    BTW Pippa, what is your opinioon on an amnesty for what happened in the conflict? LOL

  • pippakin @ 6:18 pm:

    You are quite correct in that thought about radicalising a new constituency and a new generation. I’ve spent a lifetime (it feels) writing essays on how such goads worked in the American, French, Russian and Irish revolutions.

    As for this being an end to the matter, I think you’ll find, thanks to the way parliamentary business is done, we’ll have to go through much of the same in the New Year.

    Heh, heh!

    Anyway, mucho gracias to the principled LibDem back-benchers and the handful of Tories who saw that the ConDems may have won the vote, but they didn’t win the argument [© David Davis MP].

  • pippakin


    I agree the protests about the most unreasonable hike in fees has been a reminder of how politically active students used to be. Refreshing to know it can still happen. I don’t like the ‘kettling’ that is new and imo dangerous.

    Regarding amnesty. Ooooh! Its exactly the same as it was before the ‘stalker’ started harassing me! I have been trying to keep a lid on my temper, not entirely successfully but a lot better than I might have been…

  • andnowwhat @ 6:40 pm:

    Surely there’s a standing amnesty rule, provided one wears a police uniform and doesn’t get caught on video.

  • pippakin

    Malcolm Redfellow

    I agree this is going to run and run! Perhaps its some kind of cyclical thing, the fifties seemed to be very quiet. It all started in the sixties, moved into the seventies, and was gone by the eighties. I hope it lasts long enough to make a difference.

    And yes indeed: well done the libdems and conservatives who voted with their conscience.

  • andnowwhat

    True enough Malcom.

    I always put a blue breast like helmet on my head before attcking news vendors or smacking girls around the legs for sod all reason.

    I wonder if the BEA workers who lost their jobs today, thanks to the goverment, will have to pick up shit of the streets in a few months for having the audacity to be unemployed?

  • jim

    I would like to see genuine political protest over the fees issue. The students are right to rear up but maybe not so in causing physical injury to anyone. I can remember how tough it was even back in the sixties to get a further education coming from a poor working class background with a war disabled father. I look back in anger at what I had to go through. We have made huge inroads in creating a fair society where educational opportunity was there for all. I went to QUB in Belfast as a mature student just to claim what I was denied earlier and feel better for it – a sort of educational therapy. But decades on, after all the progress, we are taking a retrograde step in re-creating a class-divided society – the have’s and have-nots. The Coalition government will be pushed off its ideological high horse in next May’s elections – trampled by the students who seem intent in shaping their new found political consciousness.They will certainly be dangerous for Cameron et al come May 2011. Interesting times ahead. Isn’t liberal democracy a wonderful thing?