On Monday I went along to Glasgow Central Station to help hand out leaflets on behalf of the TSSA rail union, calling for the renationalisation of the rail network. I’d seen it advertised on Sunday and thought I would go along. I feel it’s important that there is a visible YES presence at these events, and wore a Yes t-shirt for that purpose. I arrived at around 7.40am and there was no one there, although the organiser had said she would be there from 0730. To pass the time I wandered off, got a drink and came back to find two Labour Party activists with some placards and a couple of boxes of leaflets which they were handing out. There are four entrances at Central so I headed off and checked them all out. No activity at the east and west entrances, and the south entrance had already been claimed by a Christian group. So it was back to the north entrance, where the first two activists had been joined by another two.
It was becoming quite clear that this was not a TSSA protest, but a Labour Party one, albeit organised under the banner of TSSA. I decided to observe what was going on rather than join in. I was approached by one Labour Party member who handed me a leaflet and told me that there had been a “3.2%” fare increase. “3.2%? Don’t you mean 2.8%? It was 3.2% in England wasn’t it” I replied. “Was it? I thought it was 3.2%. Oh well. 3.2%, 2.8%, it’s all the same isn’t it?” he responded vaguely.
The merry band of “protestors” as the BBC TV and Radio, STV and print media had dubbed them saw their ranks swell to around 15 in total. These ranks did include 3 others (myself not included), ONE from TSSA, one from the DPAC, a disabled passengers representative group, and one from Get Glasgow Moving. Richard Leonard arrived and spent the majotity of the morning chatting with other activists, posing for photos, or being moved along because he was causing an obstruction in the road opposite Sainsbury. On Saturday he had tweeted about the film “I Daniel Blake” and the “misery the Tories have inflicted on working class people”. Only yards away from him, unmissable from his PR photo location, a man lay in a sleeping bag in a doorway, ignored completely. I imagine Mr Leonard and his chums had other issues to concern themselves with.
I posted a few photos on twitter which exposed the protest as what it was- a Labour Party publicity stunt. The stunt was part of a simple exercise in media manipulation, the timeline of which goes something like this:
Saturday/Sunday: TSSA Inform press of the protest.
Monday: Newspapers, TV and Radio all carry news of the forthcoming protest. It’s then rebroadcast on their social media. Close up coverage of the event hides the fact there were a few activists. Footage is then used as lead item on BBC Scotland news at 6.30pm.
Tuesday: Newspapers cover the previous days protest.
Wednesday: Labour raise the issue in Holyrood. Manufactured news in four easy steps.
The majority of the general public see the TV news, hear the radio or see the TV. They will, in the main, go away with the impression that there was a protest and that the Labour Party are going to do something about it. At least in this case there was significant notice of it on social media that it was picked up by Wings Over Scotland and The National.
There is a clear lesson here. It only takes one person to go along to these events and document them independently to expose them for what they are- manufactured news coverage. So many of the independence movement seem to have forgotten that we are still the underdog, we are still the ones who have the majority of the Scottish media against us, and if we are to expose these “protests” for what they are then we have to get up early, get off our arses and go out there and do something. Every pro-independence group should be making a point of watching what is going on locally and ensuring that they have a presence wherever it is required. Otherwise our opponents will get away with making the headlines. Every single time.