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The Strange Propaganda of the Now Famous Broom Pic


I wanted to write something about the broom pic. I feel I have the right as I'm in it. You can just see my ginger head obscured by the guy with the dreads.

http://yfrog.com/kj5oewj

I also feel I have the right as everyone has been telling me what this broom pic means and I feel I've slipped into a parallel universe where reality is slippery and events can be moulded into whatever political narrative is convenient for the story teller. Sod it, you might as well have mine.

My motivations for going down there were simple. I'd been up half the night on Sunday checking twitter and seeing the riots moving closer and closer to my home. Camden was being trashed and Kentish Town is only 10 minutes walk away.

This made me a bit mad and paranoid. Obsessively checking twitter, the end of the world is nigh etc. At least I did better than my next door neighbour who honestly believed lions would jump through her window at any moment. They'd escaped from London Zoo, or so twitter had told her.

The next morning I felt overwhelmed. Too much news and I stuck something on Twitter about going to water my tomatos and got a reply saying I should help the clean up operation in Camden.

This sounded therapeutic. Fresh air. See the damage for myself. Maybe help a bit. I grabbed two black bin liners and got down to Camden.

Turns out I wasn't needed. Council workers had got up far earlier and the clean up was done, but my next door neighbours were milling about and suggesting I go down to Clapham Junction and help there.

Now I'm starting to feel better about the world. Camden isn't utterly destroyed. The damage had been hugely exaggerated on Twitter. The Electric Ballroom wasn't burnt down, mostly it was broken windows in Chalk Farm. Not great, but not the end of the world either.

Getting to Clapham there's a big crowd standing outside the station. I bump into three people I know, a couple of friends and some guy I'd once met at an agency talk. We're not allowed to clear up as the forensic stuff is still going on and I overhear people joking, "we'll all be picking up the same crisp packet!"

Time drags on people start mucking about with their brooms. Someone shouts "mexican wave!" and people start doing a broom mexican wave. It's an obvious photo opportunity and I fiddle with my phone and miss it.

Within minutes people are waving their phones around going shouting about the brooms going viral and it all seems quite silly but getting out, having some air, seeing some friends has cheered me up and the visions of the apocalypse have receded slightly.

Then I see that photo. It's not how I remember it. I remember giggling and the brooms going up and down in a wavelike a parody of a Bon Jovi concert. But this is something else, it looks strident, it looks threatening, it looks like a bunch of people who are going to take on riots by bashing them with brooms. It looks like a threat.

And this is of course how it's used by the media.

The Daily Mail call it Blitz Spirit and peps up the story with photos of women with "looters are scum" on their tight tops. Don't remember anyone like that there but hey, now it looks like we're a bunch of people calling young people scum. Classy.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2024035/UK-riots-2011-500-Londoners-offer-help-clean-rioters-mess.html

The Telegraph also used voilent language, "They came to Clapham armed with brooms and they weren’t afraid to use them", although most people didn't use any brooms as only 100 out of over 500 people there were allowed to tidy up before I left.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8692457/London-riots-the-day-they-fought-back-with-brooms-in-streets-of-Nappy-Valley.html

But for me one of the most extraordinary uses of the photo is "#riotcleanup or #riotwhitewash?" which presents the the event as an act of racism, and then and this is brilliant, crops out the black guys at the front because it's obviously inconvenient to the story. What goes through someones head when putting something like this together? "My gut feeling is that this is racist, the photos don't fit but damn it I'll make them fit." Classy.

http://universityforstrategicoptimism.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/riotcleanup-or-riotwhitewash/

At a guess in calling this out eventually I'll get a comment saying, "no! that's how I got the pic, I didn't know it was cropped!". Of course!

I tried to post something on their blog on this but it hasn't been approve yet. So I stuck it up on twitlonger: http://tl.gd/cago3o

Anyway. I'll get to my point. The photo was people arsing around. People twist it to mean all sorts of things it doesn't mean. The right wing press tell lies. The left tells lies. Everyone wants to use everything happening now for their own narrative. Events are building blocks to be arranged like Lego. Everyone wants you as a turnip in their dominion.
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