The big story about March in March according to my Newsfeed is that there aren’t stories on March in March. The Age provided some relatively sympathetic coverage, but it wasn’t on Sunrise and the SMH relegated it to the online edition. With numbers like fifty thousand being reported for Melbourne, ten thousand for Brisbane, ten thousand for Sydney, seven thousand for Newcastle and Lismore- even one thousand four hundred for Gosford to name just some of the Marches, it seems likely that over one hundred thousand a participated in total, even accounting for rally figure inflation.
Still, no coverage.
Apparently the “Convoy of no Confidence”, an event in which, at most, hundreds participated, merits three days non-stop coverage.
Still no coverage of March in March, the second or third largest day of protest ever held in Australia.
It’s useless to moralize. Papers and television stations exist to sell advertising space. They do so by attracting readers and viewers. These days their audience is substantially more sympathetic to the Liberal party than the general population is. Add in the rarefied elitism of journalists, who have always been skeptical of the idea that shouting can or (should be allowed to) change the world when there’s a conversation to be had on their terms, and the papers and televisions were never going to be greatly interested. Consider also the political agendas of people like Rhineheart and Murdoch, who have clearly thrown in their lot with the Liberals for the time, and it’s a wonder MiM got a mention at all.
So fist waving at the paper and the tele screen won’t go anywhere. A more productive conversation needs to be had. We need to talk about what happens to rallies when it can no longer be guaranteed that they will receive coverage, however large they may be. You might think that rallies without a supportive media are useless. After all, rallies are simply a collection of individuals gathered in one place, with the same view, repeating that view through chants, signs etc. Without the cooperation of big media- part of the very establishment these protests often claim to despise- they become very nearly pointless, witnessed only by a relative handful of passers by. The mystery is that anyone would imagine otherwise.
I don’t agree with this view, but I do think we need to grapple with it. In order to move beyond the looming possibility of irrelevant rallies, we must consider the limits of rallies and and what rallies are capable of within those limits. We must consider what possibilities are afforded by a gathering of people who all hold the one view in the one place, for if rallies are to be effective they must not simply be an endpoint.
It seems to me that the main possibility afforded by gathering those who want change together is that it provides scope for planning, for building power, for expanding networks, and for nourishing spirits in the conversations during a rally and afterwards. A rally should not be a destination or the end result of a long build up. It should be a spring pad for what comes after. In our conversations at rallies, and in the work we do to promote and spread them them, this must be our focus. Simple things anyone can do, like handing out stickers to put up and holding workshops and get togethers after can all help in this.