Shadowy Anarchist Extremists Target City in Riot Threat

Or so it would seem from reading the Evening Standard or the Sunday Telegraph. Both newspapers recently ran stories on the event of which this free paper is a part: the June 18th international day of action, protest and party in financial centres. Both however, are guilty of scare-mongering, inaccuracies and outright lies - there's a surprise for you.

The Telegraph on the 16th May led its' Business section with an article headed "City faces mass protest threat"; a "threat" repeated in the subheading's "Firms pledge to defy anarchist threat". From the report we learn that the protest events' organisers are "shadowy", that they "operate in small cells", and include "extremist groups" like Reclaim the Streets "which organised a similar Stop the City campaign 15 years ago."

Obviously journalists can't let the facts get in the way of a good story - after all, facts don't sell newspapers. Nevertheless, leaving aside the overtones of the word "threat", there are a few 'inaccuracies' here. For instance, none of the groups listed in the article claim to be anarchists, the "shadowy" organisers have in fact been meeting in openly published meetings; while the "extremist" Reclaim the Streets, perhaps best known for its' extremely free street parties, was founded in 1992 a mere 7 years ago.

The Telegraph's investigative journalism pales though, in comparison to the Standard's 20th of May article on the event. Their astrologer, sorry I mean reporter Peter Gruner, predicts "riots re-run" in the headline and to illustrate has a photo of a police officer about, it seems, to be hit from behind. The caption reads "Reclaim the Streets protesters clash with police in Downing Street during the eighties riots". The "riots", explains the article's opening sentence, were the 'Stop the City' demonstrations "15 years ago".

To recap, Reclaim the Streets did not exist in the eighties. What's more the 'Stop the City' protests, now de facto "riots", were obviously in the City - nowhere near Downing Street; while the uniform of the pictured police officer complete with recent issue 'quick cuffs' sets the scene in the nineties, not the eighties. In short the picture as presented is a lie. When we telephoned the extremist Gruner at his shadowy Evening Standard office he said, "even the police have complained that the article is over the top", and claimed to have culled his 'facts' from another newspaper. Evidence, if needed, of how the media feeds on its' own inventions.

There is a more serious point however. The press, which is often presented as a counter balance to the power of government and big business, is in fact a big business itself. Its job is to do our thinking for us - at a price. The constant trivia, sensationalist reporting and factual processing of the mainstream press serve to accustom us to the status quo; to fragment recent history and obscure our everyday lives, while parodying and marginalising forces for basic social change.

So, when reading the paper on June 19th or any other day, keep in mind the common wisdom and don't believe all you read in it: look critically at the 'facts' presented, consider whose interests they serve, find out what's really going on from a variety of sources and, most importantly, think it through for yourself - then act on it.

From the Spoof newspaper 'Evading Standards' June 18th 1999

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