Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Sun 21st Aug, 2011

The Convoy of No Help

How does one tell the difference between a protest to get the government to hear the legitimate claims of the people and a bunch of thugs whose idea of community engagement and debate is to piss everyone off until they get their way?

Yes, that's a snide comment on the "convoy of no confidence" that's decided the best way to keep their generous handouts is to bring the traffic in Canberra to a standstill. But shorn of the inflammatory language it's a legitimate question. These people obviously feel they have a legitimate complaint. They think that the best way they can bring attention to their plight is to cause a big news story.

The problem here is that this is the same logic terrorists use. It's the same logic lobbyists use. It's the same logic the rioters in London used. It's the same logic that Martin Luther King used in the cause of racial equality. It's the same logic GetUp uses all the time in getting signatures on petitions and donations for advertising.

My question is really: is it valid? Is the right way to get your cause heard to shove it in everyone's faces? Does this not merely render us vulnerable to everyone with a loud mouth and a radical cause? How do we protect freedom of speech and the right of the citizens to have representation of their causes without also surrendering it to those louder than us?

Never mind the conflation of "Canberra" with "Government" in every non-Canberran news story I've ever seen - as if it was even possible that the entire 350,000 people living here decided, as one, to knobble the trucking industry. Never mind the howling rhetoric, invoking everything from the Eureka Stockade to the Dockyard Strikes in trying to justify the Convoy's actions. Never mind the hundreds of millions of dollars the trucking industry gets in handouts to keep it profitable, while it screws ever-longer shifts and ever-tighter margins out of its employees.

Sadly, I fear it won't matter how irrelevant, stupid and aggressive these drivers are - all that will be reported by the conservative leaning press in Australia is that there was this big protest about how totally unfair the carbon pricing is to all those poor ickle struggling truck drivers. Every person I've seen commenting on the ABC news stories that is against the convoy can state facts in support of their argument. Every person I've seen commenting in favour of them evokes some brave, Patersonesque "little aussie battler" in a truck struggling against some improbable mad-scientist figure determined to cause their demise. Forget the facts, forget the reasoning, forget the mountains of scientific evidence for a carbon pricing scheme, forget the numbers showing how most industries and most people won't suffer under the carbon pricing scheme, let's imagine we can drag the country back to 1980 when the world hadn't heard of the ozone layer using some sort of magical thinking that ignores evidence. It's pathetic. Millions of people marched to protest against the war in Iraq and the news services passed by. Now a couple of thousand get all the air time they want. Trial by media indeed.

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