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Monday 18 December 2017

Anton Savage: Water protesters must learn from Dr King and win public opinion

Joan Burton
Joan Burton

The water charges protesters are not film buffs. Or if they are, they mustn't have had time to go see Selma.

Because if they had, they'd be doing a much better job of protesting.

Selma is named after the town Martin Luther King chose (the movie maintains) as a flashpoint in the civil rights struggle.

In the film, Dr King explains how protests in the face of reasonable policing were of little effect. As long as the authorities remained calm and reasonable, the national media and public opinion remained unengaged.

In King's view, the administration in Selma was just Neanderthal enough to provide a response of unreasoned brutality. King knew that public opinion always sides against the heavy-handed and unreasonable. Anti water charges protesters haven't embraced this.

They needed gardai to lose the rag (that didn't happen). They needed to be arrested en masse (that didn't happen). They needed some pro-water vigilantes to beat them with sticks (that didn't happen - and is unlikely, it must be said). In the absence of all those elements, they needed to ensure that they would remain sympathetic - a lesson taught by Dr King.

The protesters are instead associated with wildness, aggression, rudeness, and a somewhat half-baked approach (most recently in the form of the world's most embarrassing hunger strike).

They may be fighting the most righteous fight known to man but they're fighting it wrong. Each piece of coverage is counterproductive.

Their only hope is to learn the lessons of Selma - be the victim, not aggressor. In public statements, show altruism and empathy, not self-focus and animosity.

If they keep up the current tactics, then each column inch, sound-bite and video clip will not further their cause, it will undermine it. Keep the fig leaf Joan

Joan Burton is reportedly "refusing to rule out" a vote-transfer pact with Fine Gael.

Yeah right. Burton (inset) cannot afford to insult her Government partner by rejecting them while sitting around the Cabinet table with them.

But she's way too smart to wed the Labour party to FG in the run-up to the next general.

The last time that was done - the Mullingar accord between Pat Rabbitte and Enda Kenny - it was widely regarded as a failure for the former's party.

Now, Labour's central challenge is not ousting Fianna Fail, it is overcoming a perception the party has crept to the right.

In that context, no smart party leader would make any pact with a centre-right Fine Gael, a move which would copper-fasten the worst perception about Labour. Particularly when there's no need.

Voters for Labour and FG know the two parties favour each other as post-election bedfellows.

A pact would make that no more clear, but it would remove an important ideological fig leaf for Labour candidates - and the Tanaiste would not be thanked for whipping that away before sending her troops to the doorsteps.

Struggle ends in smileys

Apple are making 'ethnically diverse' emojis. That means we will no longer be limited to yellow smiley faces.

Now our smiley faces will be yellow, white, brown and black.

Finally, after all the pain and sacrifice, the civil rights struggle is over.

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