Bubble and image-worship

The idol with its editors

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly to our degrees which distract us from Bubble-worship. The truth is that nowadays it’s hard to have a conversation with either General Editor without them trying to tie in whatever you say to the magazine… it feels like I’ve been brought to Durham to serve the website – my phone, laptop and social life all instruments for its designs. I have coffee in the places it reviews, Flat White, go to the exhibition it features and attend the music nights it has covered (Vane Tempest Sessions and Lost Worlds). Find more details on what being possessed by an online magazine feels like and what The Bubble is up to just below, followed by what the London student demonstrations and the staged toppling of Saddam’s statue have in common further down.

Writing this feels like being summoned by a dancing wooden icon, painted yes, but things are uncertain enough for me not to know whether its eye is looking at me (there is only one eye) and whether that would signify its displeasure or the proximity of some reward. All I know is that all my energies have been wired to it for the past ten days, for The Bubble is expanding and needs me. Today, I am to tell you that our posters and flyers have increased readership figures hugely and exciting newness is occurring.

“Paint almost everywhere” is what about 300 people were told as they walked into our White Walls event last Wednesday – check out the pictures of the resulting multicolour madness here. Meanwhile, back on the website itself, the next new big development is the Current Affairs section, to be launched on Monday. In this, the idol’s objective is to set up a short daily briefing on topical issues; write to current@thebubble.org.uk if you want to be involved. And to make these shorter but plentiful articles fit with our format, we will be redesigning the front page. Last but not least, our new creative section, which has attracted a lot of interest, has published the first features in what we hope will be a long series. Do e-mail creative@thebubble.org.uk if you want to contribute anything from one-word poems to 8-hour films.

In my previous editorial I discussed the French government’s August 2010 crackdown on Roma crime. Given how marginal and unpopular Roma are in France, it was heartening to see how significant the indignation was. The French left enjoyed the easy high outraged liberal values offer the unexposed. But, it refused to recognise that many Roma camps in France are hotbeds of crime and therefore failed to offer a viable alternative to the right’s politics of exclusion. The left’s attack of the government’s “racism” did nothing for the Roma since it did not – or could not – undermine the image of the Roma as inherently criminal put forward by the right.

Something similar was going on during the anti-cuts campaign last term. Think back to November: the news reports would focus either on the violence in London or on the government going through the motions. Whatever the media, any discussion of the issues came after these images and would always begin with opponents of the cuts apologising for their side’s violence (unlike the Home Secretary). It was easy to get the impression that the only two possibilities were peaceful acceptance of the government’s proposals or violent unrest: resistance was systematically portrayed as illegitimate. Because the protests split the Lib Dems and were becoming more widely accepted, it sometimes looked like they had the potential to destroy the Coalition. But upset at the disorder prevailed over centrist opinion and cut the movement’s momentum and potency.

In both cases, it is the idea that the Roma are criminal aliens and that the demonstrators were violent extremists which prevailed, not debate. In this context, it might be worth remembering that the last mass popular protests that took place in this country about the war in Iraq. Which Britain joined because the Iraqis had Weapons of Mass Destruction they didn’t have. But I am being unfair. No one relies on the facts to decide – we all decide on what we think the facts are. In the words of the man who convinced the US government and the British cabinet to disbelieve their own intelligence: “we create our own reality.”

And they do, they do. Remember the Iraqi civilians overjoyed with the American toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad? There is ample evidence that this was not the spontaneous celebration the US Army propaganda’d it to be. The Iraqis probably realised before us Westerners that we hadn’t come to free them. But don’t get too paranoid. There are some honest mistakes. Think of the Egyptian protests back in February 2011. Five years later, the army still hasn’t allowed free elections. But at the time, egged on by the BBC et al., we were glad to see Mubarak go…

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