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[ mediums for activism ]

Protest gatherings and marches

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Protests can be seen to have several aims in mind:

  • provide an opportunity for the public to show their support for a particular issue
  • raise awareness of a particular issue
  • sway public opinion- in particular, sway political opinion
  • increase concern
  • promote further action
  • get media attention
  • influence the outcome of the issue

Protests can be incredibly varied in size from a few people to 100,000 people and can be very diverse in who attends.

Measuring the success…

Can protests effect the outcome of an issue?

Protests have been a popular form of campaigning for many decades and have perhaps reached the point where politicians may not even batter an eyelash at a protest. Sometimes protests can seem to prolong decision making on an issue which I think is a positive because it allows time for new information and concerns to be raised.

From a personal experiential point of view, I see protests as successful in many respects. It usually provides me with an opportunity to support a cause in a collective empowering environment. It posits the feeling that I am not alone in expressing my concern and have an opportnity to celebrate a collective consciousness. Depending on the issue, I may not know a great deal about it and protests provide an up-to-date insight into the issue from a range of speakers. This usually has the effect of raising my concern and follow-up action.

However, I feel that there are some ingredients that can cause protests to be less successful in their endeavors. Firstly, media misrepresentation. I have experienced this full circle over and over again. It is so disheartening and upsetting. Media misrepresentation and bias can take on the form of:

  • Misleading headlines or news coverage
  • Selective editing and/or information taken out of context
  • Protest/campaign is given little or no prominence as if it is of little or no significance
  • Focus on negative aspects of campaign (e.g a person getting in a fight)
  • Sensationalism
  • Misleading/derogatory photographs or cartoons.

I have found that regardless of the action, the media has incredible influence to how that issue is presented on television or in the newspaper. This can turn what was experienced as a positive event by a participant to a negative event to the millions watching the news.

I have seen some positive media coverage however, this has taken place in what one may call non-mainstream media such as documentaries featured on ABC and SBS and articles. Sometimes the Australian and the Age can have accurate and thoughtful representations of an event but rarely.

Secondly, aggression and violence at protests can clearly effect their success. This is both in terms of group morale, media coverage and public opinion. I can feel uninspired at a protest when activists turn angry and aggressive. Often I find this energy can dominate and effect the outcome of the protest in the media and how people view protests in general.

Lastly, the success of a protest can be influenced by how well it is organised, advertised and facilitated. This takes incredible amounts of energy, focus and support.