Megaphones in public demonstrations

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.

Sir,

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Further, the right of peaceful protest has been replaced by the right to silence and intimidate bystanders.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 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  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.

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