Thursday, 2 April 2009

Playing at revolution

I wasn't feeling too well yesterday, so I spent an inordinate amount of time lying on the sofa, watching BBC News 24's coverage of the pre-G20 formalities, as well as the protests in the City.

A few disconnected thoughts on the latter:

At one level the organisation of the protest was impressive (four different marches converging at the same time on the financial heart of London), but it was odd that nobody had given any thought to what all those people would do when they arrived at their destination. As far as I could see there were no speeches, and very little in the way of planned entertainment. So you were left with the spectacle of thousands of people hanging around the Bank of England, wondering what to do next. It seemed like a complete failure of political imagination, and symptomatic of the intellectual bankruptcy of the anti-globalisation movement.

And that may be part of the explanation for the window-smashing at the Royal Bank of Scotland. It was as if the crowd, penned in by the police, were casting around for something to do to express their 'anger', and the bank's plate-glass windows presented an easy target. But there was something half-hearted and adolescent about the attack on the building, and the odd bit of jostling with the police. 

It also seemed like a show put on for the ubiqitous cameras. As well as the massive media presence, many in the crowd appeared to have come along just to record the event on their cameras, and even the serious protestors spent a lot of their time taking pictures of each other. Talk about society of the spectacle. And it was odd to hear activists bemoaning the materialism and greed of our society while wielding their iPhones and digital SLR cameras....

As for the make-up of the crowd, a large proportion of them seemed to be London University students out for an end-of-term carnival, plus a hard core of balaclava and keffiyeh-wearing activists playing at being revolutionaries for the day.

Update
Sam Leith says it all much better here.

And for an alternative view read Martin Higson here.