I can’t help but get the distinct feeling that something strange is going on.
The air seems thick with talk of Palestine, Israel, occupations, boycotts, support, debate, argument. Student and media occupation web-sites are popping up everywhere. Anything ranging from between 16 to 18 universities are, or have been, occupied in the recent weeks in solidarity with Palestine.
In protest at the BBC’s execrable decision not to air an appeal on behalf of the people of Gaza, BBC Glasgow headquarters were occupied by Stop the War Coalition. Now I have inside information from a contact at the BBC in London that ‘police “ejected” 15 student protesters from Broadcasting House’ who had split from a larger protest outside of Broadcasting House. ‘The students from SOAS occupied the reception area of the BBC building in central London and demanded to speak to a senior member of the corporation.’ I can’t help but giggle with delight at this news…except that it is not news. On the front page of the BBC UK news website today we have a pensioner who was refused wine for not carrying ID to prove her age, we have someone accused of murder, and 5 minutes with Alesha Dixon.
While these issues may be of entertainment or interest to some, this is not particularly life changing information on the current issues that are shaping our country at present. Of course we expects vital world news to take precedent. But, it strikes me as utterly shocking that despite a wave of solidarity and protest that has been gripping British universities and media, the British mainstream media seems to take little, or no interest at all.
So when I say it strikes me that there is something strange going on, it is not the wave of protesting that is taking place, it is the uncanny silence that seems to be throttling this chorus of passionate voices, muting them so that only those ears present at the time can hear them, or those who they contact. The entirely un-journalistic estimate that there are ‘between 16 to 18’ university protests is testament to this silence. It is not news, we are not news. There is, though I cannot put my finger on it, something deeply disturbing about this media gag.
Tucked away in a quiet corner of the Guardian web-site, after following a series of links we find an article ‘suggesting that students are awakening from the political apathy of which they are often accused’, but that sadly ‘the zenith of British student political activism in the 1960s does not warrant a mention now’. This reactionary and condescending statement, made by someone who, I might imagine, has flares and flower power T-shirts gathering dust in a box in the attic, is precisely the kind of statement that quells that spirit of activism which might as well quit before it embarrasses itself in front of its aging parents. It might be more pertinent for these journalists to ask themselves and their colleagues what has happened to journalism, as they follow suit and decide not to air an appeal. While looking to the past with dew in their eyes and the lyrics of Bob Dylan running through their minds there is a budding movement in its genesis. So, while the current student activists might still be humming the Bob Dylan classics as they go about updating their occupation blogs, they are not lamenting the past, they are working as hard as they can for the now.