I am in the process of trying to write an article for ADBUSTERS about 'Revolution in the UK'. The question I was set - "can it happen here like it happened in Tahrir Square?"- is broad and, I think, misplaced. As in, I think it's the wrong question to be asking. For one thing, the simple answer is no- of course it can't, it's a completely different country and the conditions that produced the Arab uprisings cannot be replicated here. That simple answer, however, closes down debate on what really is happening in Britain right now. I believe that something is on the move in this country, something important. And it's important to document that something honestly, without resorting to caricature, blithe supposition or wild inference.
I've been thinking about this more in the aftermath of the riot in Bristol this week. There was a vast disparity between MSM coverage of the riot and what thousands of us watched live online that night. I held back from writing a report until, reading the BBC and Guardian coverage the next morning, I realised that noone in the sparsely occupied Bank Holiday press rooms was feeling inclined to dig beyond the official police statement that day. In the age of Twitter, we should be able to do better than that- so I hurried out a piece based on eyewitness accounts and as much insider info as I could collate.
Following this piece, as with my reportage of March 26, I have been accused of bias, of glorifying and romanticising the protesters. I believe this charge, however tritely or maliciously put, deserves to be answered. More than that, I think I absolutely need to answer it if I want to get better at what I do.
On the charge of romance, I hold up my hands, with the caveat that the struggle of citizen versus state is essentially a romantic one. If one cares about accuracy and linguistic craftsmanship, it is very hard to describe these active clashes in a way that does not provoke passion on both sides. This is because the events themselves are moments of high emotion and challenge. Whatever their affiliations, a person's political passions are drawn with fierce accuracy when they are asked for their opinion on a given police ruckus- and every time it happens is another chance to take the political temperature of the nation.