igni et gladio – stones and arson?
Reports of stones and arson are turning media into a smoke screen hiding constructive contents of G8 protests as well as violence of the state machinery.
Riots, brickbats, burning cars, injured police officers are dominating the media presentation about the protests at the G8 summit from Saturday to Monday. Violence is juicily presented in ritual phrases, the action groups have repeated their mantras, distancing themselves from any excesses of a minority, and the majorities are funnily depicted in Spiegel online.
Will there be any option for objectively reporting on contents of protests after the shock of escalating violence in the near future? It does not exactly look like it.
Are pictures tabu that show brutal police intervention?
Even if there was no initial intention of diving into violence, reporting on violent reactions of the state will be kind of difficult. Too quickly the suspicion would be raised that there is a hidden intention of diminishing violence from protesters. But anyway, the question cannot be denied, if the Police did stick to its own strategy of deescalation consequently. It was a psychologist from the police force himself who did talk about a doomed mission.
The use of water cannons and teargas against the demonstration on Saturday is until now not fully explained. There have been officers, dressed themselves astonishingly similar to the “black block”, hitting wildly into peaceful demonstrators, showing an amazing aggression potential. Such excesses have to be elucidated together with their possible background, like being barred in barracks, long operational readiness, fear and fury about stone attacks, and the like. If anything is to be learned from the clash, then that social discourse cannot turn a blind eye to any side of it.
Matter of factly pictures showing atrocities of state power abuse are close to completely absent in the media. Where they do exist, usually comments are completely misleading. At the same time Günther Beckstein, Bavarian Home Secretary, deplores a too soft handling of the operation.
It is a peculiar matter anyhow to exercise one’s own democratic right under the threat of rubber-sticks and believe at the same time that goals and intentions promoted are taken serious within society. How can officers be taught that media is conveying their reactions sensibly. For future events it would, perhaps, be no bad idea for organisers of demonstrations to assure a wide pool of independent camera and reporting teams to broaden their media presence considerably. It might be another fruitful procedure to analyse media content carefully. If the time sequence of events is cut due to a desirable scenario, media objectivity is tarnished.
ius respicit aequitatem – the law respects equity.
This principle of roman law has even been included in the Grundgesetz. Nontheless, collective vilification is adopted uncritically by the media, e.g. in the rather vaguely defined concept of “Autonome” – mostly con-notated with unruly violence. As in opposition to this, almost all camps of organised leftists did define violence as the least political and counterproductive form of action, previous to the G8 Summit. Differentiating such a discourse of political thinking does not turn riot romanticism into a new “autonomous pacifism”.
Civil Disobedience And Criminalisation
Hence, practically, which real social resources are there available for intelligent conflict management and deescalation? (Where is research about modern methods available, and at which budgets is it carried out?)
Watzlawick’s communication theory defines 5 basic axioms in his theory on communication that are necessary to have a functioning communication between two individuals. If one of these axioms is somehow disturbed, communication might fail. All of these axioms are derived form the work of Gregory Bateson, much of which is collected in Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972).
* One Cannot Not Communicate: Every behaviour is a kind of communication. Because behaviour does not have a counterpart (there is no anti-behaviour), it is not possible not to communicate.
* Every communication has a content and relationship aspect such that the latter classifies the former and is therefore a metacommunication.: This means that all communication includes, apart from the plain meaning of words, more information – information on how the talker wants to be understood and how he himself sees his relation to the receiver of information.
* The nature of a relationship is dependent on the punctuation of the partners communication procedures: Both the talker and the receiver of information structure the communication flow differently and therefore interpret their own behaviour during communicating as merely a reaction on the other’s behaviour (i.e. every partner thinks the other one is the cause of a specific behaviour). Human communication cannot be dissolved into plain causation and reaction strings, communication rather appears to be cyclic.
* Human communication involves both digital and analog modalities: Communication does not involve the merely spoken words (digital communication), but non-verbal and analog-verbal communication as well.
* Inter-human communication procedures are either symmetric or complementary, depending on whether the relationship of the partners is based on differences or parity.
The interaction between demonstrators and Police are particularly sensitive an issue with regard to those principles, as
- first: it is about a group structure with its own dynamism (As Canetti, already in the early 60-ies did emphasize, crowds as such react fickle, often irrational and potentially violent. Organisation and rituals may artificially promote solidarity and rhythm.),
- second: it is a complementary communicational situation, given the asymmetry of opressional means, and
- third: both parties are not just communicating, but are aware of a camera gaze with a Lacan-ian spectator behind it.
At even at a not so close look at the past events, there has been no axiom that has not been ignored by the participants on both sides.
As about the media, it would be an enormous gain already, if acts of civilian disobedience refusing violence deliberately, could be conveyed without any partiality. Violence, on which side ever, does not deserve any sympathy. Political discourse — official and autonomous likewise — focused on problem solving and political content deserves the sympathy of all citizens. Non-violent forms of protest, driven by resentment courted by politics, are the only alternative to escalating hatred. They deserve a focus in media presentation more than any riot should.
Besides, without suspecting any second thoughts of editors, even given a lack of interest in less juicy headlines about peaceful demonstrations, there are important contents promoted by the protesters in Rostock, being it American hegemonic wars in Iraq, being it consequences of global warming and globalisation, which are actually yielding quite juicy headlines, if such an expression would not forbid itself in front of burning problems needing urgent solutions on global scale.
(As about Home Secretaries, Bavarian or Federal, who criminalise civil disobedience in their official speak, they clearly are stepping over their own democratic legacy.)