Actions speak louder…

By | March 12, 2008

I had a very interesting chat with Harry Browne a little while ago in which he argued, convincingly I thought, that blogging had no influence on politics and was not just a benign phenomenon but malign, since people put their energy into arguing on hardly read websites instead of getting out on the streets. Marching is a more powerful way to register dissent than ranting on the net :-)

For those who prefer a good old march to a chat on the blog, I shall take this opportunity to promote a march on March, (lots of marches there) 29th assembling at 3pm in Parnell Square organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions. The purpose of the march is to demand a better health service. Now, I must say, the unions have a part to play in that too.

But anyway, people on the street are scarier than people on blogs. So it might have some influence..

My top tip for Marches: Find the Socialist Workers and stick with them – they have lots of marching experience. It can be fun :-)

Now, “What do We Want?” em……

23 thoughts on “Actions speak louder…

  1. FPL

    ‘fraid I can’t agree with you on this one. The protests against the war on Iraq brought millions onto the streets world-wide and here we are within days of the 5th anniversary of that war.

    People on blogs are far scarier to the politicians. If you take Bertie, the only real damage done to him over his “payments” was the Mahon tribunal where he couldn’t spin his way out or manipulate the forum. He had to answer the questions asked whether he likes it or not and also to submit his submissions to the legal process. Didn’t stop FF bullying RTE over their reporting of it though.

    The politicians/big business control the media and in any event television is not a suitable medium for holding politicians to account. The Oireachtas is neutered procedurally and the opposition are too afraid of negative spin to hold polticians to account.

    That leaves blogs, they can publiclly put forward analysis and opinion that won’t be found anywhere else.

    For a good analysis I would recommend Al Gore’s book “Assault on reason”.
    Also see the economist

  2. Tom N

    Arrived in DCU many years ago to the sight or Socialist Workers (an oxymoron) and notices everywhere about their marches. I thought to myself “these guys must be huge”. Nope, unfortunately they just had once over used printer with three colours, red, black and yellow. 15 years later and the same bad quality posters are appearing. They marched but Sellafield is still open.
    There was a march against the war in Iraq a few years back. I refused to join on two grounds. 1. Gerry Adams was at the front of it. 2. What was the use of a protest march in Dublin? If nothing else it highlighted the stupidity of the organisers.
    The million dollar word is “causality” . I have no doubt that everyone including Professor Drumm and Minister Harney want a better health service. Find me one person who finds the subject matter disagreeable.
    The cause of many of the problems is accountability. It’s not the sole cause, but as long as it is absent, the health service will suffer.
    A march in favour of accountability in our health service and government would be a march in favour of sacking loads of incompetent civil servants. How many socialists will be in favour of that? If goverment sack them, they lose their seats. Those who promised to make things more efficient won’t get in.
    Personal responsibility is the reason why things are bad, and is the number one difference between private enterprise and public service.

  3. Sarah Post author

    The Iraq protests came to mind as I wrote that. While they didn’t change anything, I do think they prevented politicians from claiming that they had a mandate, or popular support for their actions. Blair in particular can’t claim he wasn’t told….

    On the other hand people on the street have changed things…but I’d have to research those, and I’m very busy right now :-)

  4. Tom N

    Agree partly FPL. The other thing is blogs allow you to put your toe in the water. Was sick of pub conversations saying how bad the Sunday Independent had become. With little effort, a “isn’t the Sunday Independent rubbish group?” appeared on Facebook. I can’t see people marching against bad journalism. However the group has managed to catch the eye of Brendan O’Connor and ticked him off.

    It’s horses for courses. Sometimes we march, sometimes we blog.

  5. Tomaltach

    since people put their energy into arguing on hardly read websites instead of getting out on the streets“. Where is the evidence that blogging has reduced the support for street marches? Why is this an either/or? And if anything the connected community is a wonderful place to start or organise a March? (You are promoting a march in this very post).

    Not convinced. But the futility of the Iraq march does demonstrate that Marches are of limited value. The only way action can be gauranteed is by sustained action such as blocking a city centre for a prolonged period, or stopping the transport system. That is, a version of the strike. A march down O’Connell street on a Saturday afternoon before retiring for a latte is hardly a convincing weapon.

  6. Dan Sullivan

    The benefit of a blog post is that it sort of forces you to work on what you really think so as to smooth out the contradictions so you get to the heart of what you really feel is important and why you think so.

    Take the new alcohol level, I think the change is wrong because it is targeting the wrong area. I’ve posted on it and I think I’ve offered an alternative approach and all in less than 200 words. Now what good would marching do me?

  7. Gerry

    I must say this sounds much more like a march to show that the Trades Unions are still relevant. Why don’t they have a march for motherhood as well. and one for peace. i think there is a general desire for a better health service. It’s just really hard to deliver. In fact why am i writing about this – I ought to go out and march about it

  8. crocodile

    Huge generalisation – but marching is seen as a left-wing carry-on these days, whereas blogging is the province of the individualist and most bloggers are young enough to have internalised the pro-business, anti-union mood of the Tiger Years.
    Maybe in America bloggers are characteristically more liberal than the MSM, but in Ireland there’s no surer way of drawing down scorn on your head than by posting a comment that advocates organised labour or questions entrepreneur-worship.

  9. Gordon Davies

    If we really want a better, more equitable, health service how about everybody giving up their health insurance, a boycott of private consultations, including GPs who charge a dayss work at the minimum wage for a short visit, refusng to sponsor “charities” that plaster over the cracks in a deficient health service, and voting for a party that actually wants to change the present situation!


  10. Sarah Post author

    “The only way action can be guaranteed is by sustained action such as blocking a city centre for a prolonged period, or stopping the transport system. That is, a version of the strike. A march down O’Connell street on a Saturday afternoon before retiring for a latte is hardly a convincing weapon.”

    Hear Hear.

    And Gerry too :-)

    But maybe the march will make the news where lots of blog comments won’t? I’m not being deliberately provocative here, but I think there is a strong case that people on the street are more visible and hence a bit harder to ignore. (not that the march will change anything but still..)

    hmm so its either get really militant or stay at home?

  11. Darren Prior

    Research amongst focus groups says that marches don’t make much of a difference- unless, I suppose, if a lot of people attend them.

    Thans for letting me know about that march on the 29th Sarah. I certainly won’t be going near the SWP though.

  12. Niall

    Marches, in themselves, have never really had an effect on politics. What matters is not the March, but the amount of media coverage the march gets. If 5,000 people marched down O’Connell street tomorrow as part of a campaign to get better treatment for travellers and nobody reported on it, then it would have little to no effect. If 500 people marched and it became an issue closely examined by all aspects of the national media, then the marchers would have some sort of effect. Blogging is just another way of shaping the discourse and it has the advantage of giving people the opportunity to air their views in an unfiltered manner.

    Either way, I doubt any march organiser has ever called up an activist to check if they’d be attending a march only to hear that the activist would be unable to attend because someone online was wrong about something.

  13. FPL

    I suppose, in a media age, the only thing a march gets you is onto the Nine O’Clock News. Not sure how much use that is.

  14. Andrew Lawlor

    The last march that really achieved anything in this country was when the British marched out of Dublin Castle. Since then successive governments, aided and abetted by lazy, work shy unions, have slowly been destroying everything of any use that they left behind.

    (Consider this. When the new docklands station opens it will be the first new train station commissioned in this country for almost 150 years)

    One of the main reasons for our current lack of competitiveness on the world stage is the incessant demand from unions for higher and higher wages. This would not have been so bad if it had led to higher productivity, but in the vast majority of cases it has not. In the public sector these benchmarked pay rises have never led to an improved level of productivity. Successive FF led governments rolled over and let the unions dictate to them for the sake of industrial peace. Now that we have priced ourselves out of the labour market they try to convince us that this is a good thing.

    A complete absence of manufacturing, it seems, is the ideal situation to be in. Now we are placed in pole position to develop a knowledge based economy with well paid, highly skilled jobs in pharmaceuticals and software development. If Bertie and Brian could be bothered to glance East for a moment they would see several other nations lined up in pole position to develop knowledge based economies. The difference, however, in Poland and Latvia and Hungary etc. is that you can get a Tech Graduate for the price of an Irish van driver.

    Also, if any of you do go on the march, could you please ask the Socialist Workers Party what the hell is wrong with profit? They bleat on about corporate greed as if it was a bad thing. Without corporate greed mankind would still be living in a cave and beating his dinner over the head with a club. (Thanks to corporate greed we can now enjoy a bottle of cavé with dinner at the club!!) It is a desire to better our circumstances, which has driven the extraordinary advances we have seen since the industrial revolution. A couple of guys had strange notions about everybody working together for the good of society and they called it socialism. Socialism is fantastic. I mean that. Socialism in its purest form is the perfect way to order our society, except for one thing. It accounts for everything except human nature. For socialism to work we need to overturn the Darwinian imperative which is inherent in all of us. To undo 4 billion years of evolution over a weekend is just not possible. In Soviet Russia they tried it for seventy years and discovered that they had the same greedy bastards running the show as we had in the west.

    So, if you bump into the SWP, or Clare Daly or Joe Higgins, tell them from me.
    Profit is good. Without profit we are nothing.

  15. Gordon Davies

    Profit is not the problem, the question is how the profit is distributed. At present we seem to be enduring a long term swing in favour of those who provide the capital to the detriment of those who provide the labour. Irish Governments, and their financial contributors, have enthusiastically embraced this movement in favour of capital, ensuring that the burden of financing essential services does not encumber the most wealthy citizens.

    This is not a stable and sustainable situation, the balance will swing back.

    As for the knowledge economy…the Government does not believe in it. If they did they would invest in education.



  16. V

    Tom, the opinion sections of the Economist are one reason why you would want to turn away from traditional media.

    Sarah, if your idea of militancy is going on a march then we can fear no public order problems anytime soon..

    Andrew, that’s what you get if there is no social democratic legacy outside of Trade Union pay deals, they are the filing cabinet of Irish socialism. You are right though, that it’s all about the race to the bottom, that both capitalist and communist technocrats could never find a formula for human irrationality and that true Marxism is a thing of the future, not the past.

    Blogs are handy for ‘hidden discourses’ the subjects that Irish people don’t have the ability to discuss rationally in public like issues on Sex, drugs and taxation. Observe the comments on this website surrounding the ‘Katy French’ and ‘Cathal o’Whatshisname’ issues, never will you get that level of honest debate from mainstream media, because people are embarrassed to be wrong, be criticized look like an idiot, seem to be against the common morality. But of course there is the danger of Irish Blogs becoming a safe area for the discourse and allowing no public development of it. No substitute whatsoever for marching or direct action.

    Finally, I like blogs because I live abroad and I can’t just start chatting to someone in the pub about ‘Jabba’s’ latest mistake or Bertie’s latest reptilian card trick.

  17. Sarah Post author

    No V I mean “more militant” ie not just march but civil disobedience, like someone said, close O’Connell street or something.

    I firmly believe blogs are many things, but mostly social networking. Its a conversation!

  18. Joseph

    The invasion and subjugation of Iraq?

    Well a stroke of genius perhaps. Anyway next up Iran maybe?

    Sure there are plenty of critics and anti American agitators. That is ti be expected and par for the course when a great power starts to exercise some of that power [reluctantly]. In is never so apparent the success or failure of such a big strategic shift. For years people speak of failure and all the negatives but in the long run it will all be fine.

    Iraq and later Iran will be able to transform into a more civilized and reasonably structured society in which order and personal freedoms can coexist . In 20 years or so we will be able to look back and be grateful of the actions taken by the great power and force for good in the world.

    America is not perfect now or ever but it is the best chance we have to secure some order and progress in the world. Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to step forwards two steps. Or as they say: U goota break some eggs to make…… etc

    America bashing and phony pious indignation is just that phony shrill and all too easy for the masses who prefer to be sheep.

  19. V

    If someone turns up at your door with a big suitcase of cash that they want to give you but at the same time rape the wife, shoot the dog and torture your brother, you are not inclined to take kindly to that person, in fact, you may even reject the case of cash. I don’t classify that as a stroke of genius. But hey, if you wait long enough you can rewrite any History so there may be hope still.

  20. Joseph

    “If someone turns up at your door with a big suitcase of cash that they want to give you but at the same time rape the wife, shoot the dog and torture your brother,”

    And what has that to do with what I wrote? Nothing as far as I can see except more fantastical and blinkered anti American innuendo.

    Sure shut happens in all wars and conflicts but you wanna tell me that Bad man hussein done less damage? Dream on

    The moral of the story is also just to put it in crude terms, any nation who screws with the USA does so at its peril. If you are a big power then sure you have certain latitude but if your a mickey mouse state like Iraq Iran or Syria then you should expect bad things to happen TO YOUR REGIME.

    take the USA out of the picture and you will have something far worse fill the void.

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