Only days into the new Conservative government and the capital is already facing the brunt of anti-austerity campaigners. The question though is whether or not these protests are merely protests: Should they be characterized as riots instead?

Just like the protests in Ferguson things have turned ugly. Or rather, traditional media has chosen to focus on the ugly parts. Clearly there are individuals who don’t understand or care about the goal of an otherwise respectable protest. That’s when things get violent. One clearly ill-minded individual even defaced a WWII memorial for the women that helped the allies win the war. No doubt this defacement is painfully stupid but what do traditional news sources have to say about it?

The reason protesting doesn’t work is simple: the media. So let’s have some fun. Take the Mail Online article by Darren Boyle & Jennifer Newton and compare it with the Guardian article by James Tapper. Let’s compare headlines.

This is the headline from the Guardian:

 ‘Anti-austerity protesters take to UK streets after Tory election victory’

And here is the Mail’s headline:

‘Hate mob in No.10 rampage: Hard Left’s shame as rioters attack police and deface WWII memorial as socialists lay siege to Downing Street’

Aside from being overly wordy I think that speaks for itself. The Mail goes on to call the protesters ‘mindless thugs’ and ‘scum’. Of course they have to prioritize their message but if we resort to name-calling we might as well give up.

In contrast the Guardian article opens in a decidedly measured way despite their own anti-Tory proclivities:

‘Anti-austerity campaigners launched impromptu protests across Britain, less than 48 hours after David Cameron was returned to power with a parliamentary majority’.

The Guardian balances their agenda with an admission that Cameron is in fact a legitimate Prime Minister. In other words, they are unbiased in their assessment of the situation. The Mail shows us absurdities from both sides but only addresses those that are convenient. You’d think journalists who wanted you to side with them would either address this picture or take the opportunity to sympathize with the protesters, yet they don’t even make mention of what seems to be happening here:

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I’m sure he was just giving that unarmed lad a nice friendly face-massage – with his fist.

As easy as it is (if you’re a sociopath) to portray one side of the story, is it not human nature to at least fain empathy? I can’t help but empathize with the police. They shouldn’t have had to deal with something like this and chances are good that the officer in the picture was defending himself, given that the protester is grabbing his coat. See? Despite my anti-Tory ideals I can’t spew pro-protest vitriol like the Mail can. That takes a special kind of hate. One that only seems possible through years of practice and laser-focused rage.

To be clear, I condemn the actions of these protesters. Not all of them mind you, but certainly the protester that scrawled ‘F*CK TORY SCUM’ on the memorial. That was both disgusting and painfully stupid. It’s hard to disagree with a spokesman for The Royal British Legion who said:

‘This senseless act could not have been more inappropriately timed. This weekend we commemorate those who fought and died for the freedom to have elections and the freedom to enjoy the lives we have today’.

But when would be an appropriate time to protest the return of the Conservatives? Granted the timing isn’t ideal but if the protesters had waited until afterwords no doubt the same paper would have criticized them for not responding sooner.

Despite this, apparently the Mail aren’t entirely inhuman.  A glint of hope seems to show itself at the end of the article. They quote the tweets of Laurie Penny, a writer and activist. Perhaps the Mail is capable of human compassion after all. Or else this apparent lapse in sociopathy is due to my pre-existing opinions in her favour:

 

Protest or Riot? The Papers Will Decide

I should probably point out that this is a matter of opinion; the opinion of people who are paying attention.

 Protest or Riot? The Papers Will Decide

 

When relics matter more than lives there’s something deeply wrong.

In the end it all comes down to empathy. If the idiot who defaced a war memorial had respected the history it represents this wouldn’t have been a story. If the borderline sociopaths at the Mail had considered how people were affected by the election, the article might not have been such a hate piece. What the Guardian article really tells us is that it is possible to present your own agenda while maintaining basic human empathy. You might almost define the Daily Mail and the Sun by their disregard for other people (especially after the Sun ran the now infamous Katie Hopkins piece). These are papers that no longer have a place in this world. They must either evolve or die.

Here’s hoping the latter.