Tag Archives: Aaron Porter

Changing the Nature of Protests

There have been protests almost as long as there have been people, but how has the rapid expansion of UCG technology changed the way we make our point? Certainly, tools such as Facebook and Twitter can impact on the speed of a protest and its contageous potential, but they have also brought about a far more fundamental change.

Changing Leadership

Speaking at the Frontline Club on 15 February, BBC Newsnight’s Economics Editor Paul Mason argued that protests have now gone horizontal. New technology has allowed a peer network to replace hierarchies – no longer do people have to cluster around Scargills and Pankhursts to make their voices heard. As with the Middle Eastern protests, people on the street now communciate powerful ideas to each other – across streets and across international borders, without traditional leadership.

The End of a Tradition

Indeed, attempts to preserve conventional power structures in recent protests have failed miserably: the NUS (a traditional, top-down organisation) had planned an A to B march on 10 November in protest at the tuition fee hikes. It started well enough, but as people found their own multi-media voice the march began to break up, with the protest at Millbank taking on a life of its own. As glass was smashed, NUS leader Aaron Porter’s leadership collapsed: people were organising themselves outside of the traditional hierarchy.

New Roles for Journalists

This UGC-inspired de-centralisation poses new challenges for journalists. No longer can we turn up to a violent protest and ask to speak to the person in charge. The Middle Eastern protests of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Libya lacked any such leadership even at the start, and consequently lacked traditional narrative. With myriad people taking to the streets, journalists are left to contruct their own story, which requires a new respect for authentic voices. Suddenly we need to engage with the grassroots community. Any new hierarchies emerge democratically and ephemerally on the likes of Twitter – and journalists have to keep up with the hashtag deluge, just to make sense of the situation. Political activism has become open-sourced – and journalism a whole lot harder.



Student protests through the eyes of its witnesses

As the first student demonstrations of the year kick off in London and Manchester, your2pence looks at live reports posted by protesters and eye-witnesses. Whilst the BBC report focuses on the facts, figures and context surrounding the protests, live reports emerging on twitter provide a much more up-to-date and colourful account…

Twitter is bombarded with reports that students feel disillusioned by NUS President Aaron Porter:

(Still not directly reported on BBC News website and not reported on the Guardian website until 17:45)

(At this time the BBC website still maintains that Mr Porter will be speaking to students in Manchester)

“Aaron Porter doesn’t represent me” placard – @EdinUniAntiCuts 10:59am

Others feel that attacking Mr Porter isn’t targeting the real enemy:

The police and the protesters offer conflicting advice on leaflets – are the police acting as the protester’s friend or foe?

Students begin making their way to the Egyptian Embassy (reported by BBC News online an hour later):

(Click here to see a witnesses’ video of when the London education demo joins the Egypt protesters).

However some feel that student protester’s comparisons between demonstrations in Egypt and Britain undermine their cause:

The reports on twitter provide a live and atmospheric account of the student demonstrations. They give us a valuable insight into people’s responses, hopes and frustrations on the ground and as they change throughout the day. But can we rely on this medium for accuracy? Not compared to other mainstream news platforms, such as the BBC, which check and verify their sources of information. Rumours that Aaron Porter has boarded a private jet to Saudi Arabia and is seeking asylum could been taken quite literally! But the fact that we can access  an alternative account of such a huge news story, outside of the mainstream press and with relative ease, is a step in a good direction.