It's Extinction Rebellion again
I've blogged earlier about examples of pressure group success, with regards to Black Lives Matter (see here: https://www.tutor2u.net/politi...) and the student rent protests (see here: https://www.tutor2u.net/politi...), and also the anti-HS2 protests (see here: https://www.tutor2u.net/politi...).
These can be rated as having different levels of success.
And they are all examples of direct action. A reminder about this type of pressure group activity (words hijacked from an article I wrote many moons ago about DIY politics for the now defunct Talking Politics magazine).
What is direct action?
Direct action can take several forms, but at its purest it is when a group seeks to address the issue at hand directly rather than seek to influence policy makers by more traditional forms of protest such as lobbying.
An American research institute has identified a total of 198 methods of non-violent action. Wyn Grant’s typology consists of a more manageable six main forms: protest marches; boycotts; stunts; blockades, occupations and other disruption; destruction of property; violence against individuals.
Why direct action?
The story of political participation in the twentieth century is one where political parties dominated the first half, and pressure groups the second. And during the 1990s the dominant narrative was that of the sudden explosion of ‘Do It Yourself’ (DIY) style protests.
Of course, direct action is nothing new; one thinks here of the Diggers in the mid-seventeenth century. However, what was novel was the range and popularity of non-violent direct activity (NVDA), from the cuddly images of elderly ladies forming protest lines against live veal exports at Shoreham and Brightlingsea, to the more hard-edged actions of activists who sought to stop expansion of Manchester Airport, or when what were originally intended to be peaceful protests by Extinction Rebellion have turned violent in central London, last September.
The growth of direct action is the consequence of perceived failings by more established groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace in the environmental sphere.
Their critics would argue that they have become too institutionalised in a bid to win favour with the government. NVDA therefore fills the vacuum left by groups that have altered their tactics.
The shift towards DIY politics can also be viewed in terms of a search for empowerment on the behalf of protestors. In an era of globalisation, people feel increasingly marginalised and mainstream politics doesn’t satisfy their needs. Getting out and doing something helps people express their political identity in a way that letter writing doesn’t, or possibly couldn’t.
Often we see that direct action may not effect significant policy change, but it is often the preserve of groups who are unable, or sometimes unwilling, to campaign by traditional means.
Then there is the related question of whether the actions of these groups can be considered 'successful'. Success is, I think, a somewhat nebulous concept, and often hard to define. Does it mean an immediate and dramatic change in policy, a subtle change in policy, or simply raising public awareness. Anyway, success can depend on the following factors:
How do some pressure groups achieve success?
Which brings us to the flurry of activity over the past two weeks by Extinction Rebellion.
I have lost count of the number of stunts pulled by XR in recent days, and this is not, therefore, an exhaustive list...
Blocking a thoroughfare in Covent Garden: https://www.theguardian.com/en...
Similar activity, this time at Oxford Circus: https://www.theguardian.com/en...
Glued to Science Museum in anti-Shell protest: https://www.theguardian.com/en...
Though I do wonder if these types of activity are counter-productive since their actions might put people off who might be generally sympathetic to their cause?
I am thinking in particular about dousing a statue outside Buckingham Palace with red paint. See here: https://www.standard.co.uk/new...
I'm not saying that The Sun is the voice of the people, or it is a bastion of great journalism but it is in the business of selling papers and to an extent prints what its readers want to read. And with regards to the Palace protests, it described XR several times in its report as "shameless' eco warriors. See here: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/...
Last, but not least, there should be some short video clips below. One from the news, one for XR itself. Both os these sourced from YouTube, where XR also has its own page, if you want to learn more about the group: https://www.youtube.com/c/Exti...
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