Climate camp’s media mismanagement

John Vidal lambasts the protesters’ heavy-handed media strategy

The climate camp at Heathrow is coming down and the core group, which set it up and steered the event, is celebrating what they say has been a successful week of protest education and discussion. Good luck to them, but don’t buy the guff that it was a model of a new low carbon-based society or the birth of a utopian political movement.

I went to the camp twice, and to the HQ of the metropolitan police once for a briefing last week. Frankly, it was easier and far more pleasant getting into Scotland Yard. A small but anonymous faction of the old protest movement at the climate camp had decided from the start that the ‘corporate’ press is actually the enemy, and therefore has to be excluded. There was to be no appeal and the policy was rigorously enforced via a media police team. As a sop, the press was allowed a guided tour of certain parts of the camp for one hour a day.

This was plane stupid. Just when the campers were saying that climate action had to become a mass movement and were appealing to the public to join them, they were deliberately keeping the media out – the very people needed to open up the debate.

I refused to go on the absurd camp tour. On a personal level, every journalist and photographer I talked to felt insulted. Why is a journalist – good or bad – not classed as a citizen? Why could not journalists inform themselves by going to the lectures and debates? Why should they not enjoy the same rights as anyone else? Why was my partner allowed into the camp but not me? Why could I only talk to people I had known for years only in the company of a minder?

If there is one thing more aggravating than a British policeman stopping you on suspicion that you are a terrorist when he knows for a fact that you are not, it’s a jobsworth protester trying to have you thrown out of a site that he himself has squatted.

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