‘G20 Call to Arms: Anarchist mob’s plan for violent summit mayhem’ proclaims the headline of the Courier-Mail. Hello what’s this then? What it is is incredibly shit journalism. The report by Robyn Ironside and Thomas Chamberlin details a plan by the ‘Black Rose Syndicate’ to cause ‘chaos and mayhem’ at the 2014 G20 meeting and then a warning/ denunciation of this same syndicate as ‘a splinter group of activists “sinister with outside influence’(2013, p. 4)! How thrilling! However the journalists only cited evidence is a Facebook post, whilst the warning about the Black Rose Syndicate seems to be an obvious piss-take. Its signed by the ‘Democratic Socialist Club of Sydney University…who I am pretty sure don’t exist. If anything the name is a reference to the Democratic Socialist Party who dissolved themselves in the Socialist Alliance but who always organized their on campus clubs under the name ‘Resistance’. This warning seems to be an attempt to send up through imitation some of the responses by socialist groups to the protests in 2006 around the G20 in Melbourne. Not only that it was posted on Indymedia on the 16th May 2013! If you go further and read the comments what do you find? Well in one comment a poster called BlackRoseSyndicate does make that comment that ‘we will be there at Brisbane for the G20 creating CAOS and Mayhem’. Hang on, that’s the very claim that has taken up the front page of the CM! Strewth (!) could the entire article be based on a six-month old post on the internet!
Next headline: Courier-Mail in beat-up bullshit story shocker!
Whilst this seems all very funny there is a very serious side to it. Liberal democracies like to think of the media as some form of neutral Fourth Estate that works to ensure democratic debate and accountability. Here we see the media with its pants down – as an ‘Ideological State Apparatus’(Althusser, 2008) a form of machinery that whilst is separate from the state works to reinforce the broader ideas of the capitalist normality. This has important and perhaps dangerous effects.
We can except in the lead up to the actual G20 meeting more stories of this type. Whatever the actual motivations of the journalists we can assume the impact that they will have. Such stories work to intimidate the population and divide organizers and militants. The G20(Safety and Security) Bill 2013 gives the police extensive powers to arrest protesters and break up demonstrations. Under this legislation a protest is only a lawful assembly if (amongst other reasons) ‘an offence is not committed under this Act by at least 2 persons who are acting in concert and participating in the assembly…a violent disruption offence is not committed by a person participating in the assembly’. The bogey-man of violent anarchists will be manufactured when ever the state needs to smash heads.
From past experiences we can assume that often protest organisers who are courting mainstream respectability, hoping to use the media to their own ends, or simply promoting their own organisations often fall for the bait of the media hype and quickly make public statements distancing themselves from those other protestors real or imagined that the state and the media are gunning for. This is an error. We don’t get to decide the dividing line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ protestors, between ‘peaceful’ and ‘violent’ action. The state will do that and the media will declare it. Any attempt to legitimise such a division is just setting all of us up to receive the wrong end of a baton.
There are real tactical and strategic divisions and debates to be had. There are statements and actions that may be errors – that may even be detrimental to developing struggles. (Probably in our context we should be more worried about careerists courting politicians than punks dressed as ninjas). But all who struggle deserve our solidarity. Hobgoblins dreamt up by the media shouldn’t be fed and the errors of the past not repeated.
Althusser, Louis. (2008). On Ideology. London New York: Verso.
Ironside, Robyn, & Chamberlin, Thomas. (2013, 9th December 2013). G20 Call to Arms, The Courier Mail, pp. 1,4.