In the light of President Donald Trump’s recent visit to London and Scotland, the following letter was sent to London and Glasgow national newspapers. Although it raises a significant matter for debate, it was not published.
The flying of a giant balloon of a baby Donald Trump over London, and its tour around the UK, may be evidence of the childishness of its creators, but it is more likely to be evidence of the teenage tantrums of those who make a noise when they cannot get their way.
This childish and disgraceful protest is an insult to the UK as well as to President Trump. Not only does it demonstrate poor taste but it demonstrates the need to re-visit the role of public marches.
Public marches have become the privilege of those with proximity to the corridors of power. Such people can protest regularly and provide a good spectacle to the media but why should the tax-payer pay for this? Why should those who live near the House of Commons and Holyrood have this extra privilege of shouting their views on television?
The cost in terms of policing and social unrest is not worth it and many public marches do not contribute to public debate but simply promote the idea that shouting louder will win the argument. Loudmouths are not debaters, and many demonstrations are simply loudmouths with loudhailers. If people cannot argue their case calmly, why should they be allowed to do it at the top of their voices at public expense?
Further, the right of peaceful protest has been replaced by the right to silence and intimidate bystanders. It is time to revisit such intimidating marches and recognise them for what they are.
Possibly the answer is in the letter. The media want spectacular antics to brighten up their television screens, but surely newspapers want debate?
The letter to The Times in London included these introductory paragraphs:
Londoners have many benefits that the rest of the country do not enjoy. Witness the unique display over London in celebration of the RAF centenary this week. With privilege comes responsibility.
Why does Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, use his authority to disgrace the whole United Kingdom by permitting the flight of a baby blimp of the President of the United States of America over London during his visit to the UK?
Instead of debate on this topic, The Times highlighted a kindred one.
14 Jul 2018: The Times p. 2: “We can’t stop Orange marches” was the heading of a half page report about Glasgow council being “unable to ban Orange walks despite growing pressure to do so” illustrated by a petition with “80,000 signatures calling for the marches to be outlawed”, many of which were from outside Glasgow council’s area. More to the point are marches and demonstrations by aggressive homosexuals and Palestinian supporters with their intimidatory behaviour.
16 Jul 2018: The Times p. 24. The Letters page carried some criticism along the lines of my letter, but failed to deal with the intimidation in public protests and loudspeaker mantras drowning out debate.
The Letters page in The Herald 16 Jul 2018 had nothing intelligent to say on the subject.
Pages of space were devoted to the various protests against Donald Trump but it is time to call a halt to megaphone diplomacy and intimidation in public protests.
Prior to the credit crunch, bankers lost discernment how to assess the risk of those to whom they lent money. Have newspaper editors lost the ability to identify new topics for debate? Do they rely upon the prevailing themes of social media to determine what is news? Must the noisy minority determine debate? Who wants to encourage this noisy intimidation except those who engage in it?
Possibly this illustrates that the only way to be heard in the clamour of modern media is to make a public spectacle of oneself. An article after a recent Holyrood election pointed out how each party leader had to engage in some extraordinary antics before the media would report their policies.
25 Sep 2018: when some homosexuals announced that they planned their first parade in Inverness city centre, The Inverness Courier published my letter along the same lines as the above under the editorial heading Shouting loudest will not win the argument.
10 May 2019: I raised the subject for debate on George Galloway’s MOATS (Mother Of All Talk Shows) TalkRadio programme in the light of the weekly yellow jacket protests in France and Nazi-like intimidatory demonstrations in various parts of Europe and the world. The concept of celebration was introduced by a supporter of homosexual marches. One needs to distinguish protest, demonstration, triumphalism, intimidation and celebration. Some demonstrations are interfering with public life as a method to obtain publicity for one’s cause, such as the recent disruption of London transport by an environmentalist group. In an era of social media and improved publicity for one’s cause, there is room for reasoned public debate on the role of public demonstrations. Disruption to civic life and damage to property need some form of redress. Intimidation and triumphalism should not be allowed to masquerade under the guise of celebration. The French yellow jackets in Paris remind us of the Arc de Triomphe, which in turn reminds us of the Roman triumphal arches and the Arch of Titus on the Roman Via Sacra celebrating the capture of Jerusalem and its temple Menorah, depicted on the southern panel relief on the inside of the arch as “Spoils of Jerusalem”. Triumphalism has its place, possibly at the time and in memorials, but its perpetuation as an ‘-ism’ is liable to be a source of continued and growing resentment. Even WWII anniversaries are beginning to bring the warring nations together in conjoint days of remembrance and times for reflection upon the past and how to deal with conflict and evil. This is a step in the direction of the principles that will be practised in the biblical Millennium.
15 Mar 2021: it seems that my message is coming to public consciousness. The coronavirus pandemic lockdown has raised the conflict between the interests of public health and the right of public protest. This is leading to questioning the role of public protests. It seems that the only way to secure a debate about public protests is to have a public protest!
The shocking murder of Sarah Everard is the focus of the right to protest during a public health lockdown. The conflict of rights has been challenged in the courts, just as the lockdown of public worship is being challenged in the courts. No-one notices that serious public debate is suffering because people take to social media and the streets. Local newspapers, which have been losing readership with the advent of the internet, could revive their readership by reviving their Letters pages to allow local talent to interact with each other at local level and the better debaters would secure wider readership with more topics than are raised by special interest groups located in London and Edinburgh. We cannot all live in London and Edinburgh to raise our banners outside these Parliaments.
The question arises why people in London feel the constraint to protest publicly while in the rest of the UK we do not take to the streets and, if we did, the media would only show interest if we made a fool of ourselves and engaged in some crazy stunt that would be ‘a photo opportunity’. As for BBC Question Time, when did it last change your mind?
22 Mar 2021: street protests are megaphone diplomacy and postcode discrimination or postcode democracy.
23 Apr 2021: a ‘mob intimidation’ offence is being discussed in the USA and Florida has passed a provision into criminal law. In the UK we used to speak about “reading the Riot Act” and slowly anti-rioting and anti-looting measures are coming into force to address the intimidatory behaviour in public demonstrations. The problem is how legislators frame such laws and implement them.