When things go too far- celebrity, social media, and strikes
If 2011 has been a year defined by cuts and financial austerity then this may well be remembered as the week things began to come crashing down. First George Osborne makes his autumn statement, downgrading estimates as to when Britain will be back on the right economic path, announcing a further two years of wholesale penny pinching will be required, along with an extra £111billion in borrowed funds.
On top of this, 2million public sector workers go on strike, leaving little over 200 schools open while setting up picket lines outside key buildings in major towns, cities, and just about anywhere else deemed suitable. Industrial action like this doesn’t come cheap, and certainly will impact on the wider economy. But, if like us you’ve got friends that are social workers, teachers, doctors, and nurses, you probably feel saddened by the situation more than anything else.
After all, these people do a great job, so while it’s quite appalling to have vital facilities brought to the proverbial knees most of these professionals have avoided taking action up until the point where few other options appear to remain. And we’re also a country that practices the right to popular protest. In contrast though, if you’re Jeremy Clarkson, you probably think those involved in the strikes should be “executed in front of their families”.
Harsh words, but then this is one of Britain’s most notoriously outspoken, smug, but nonetheless popular famous faces. Obviously then those that read our recent piece on brands and celebrities will understand that, far from Clarkson’s diatribe against the public sector being the kind of thing to turn a company off, those interested in getting involved with the Top Gear presenter should already be game for this kind of controversy. For producers of The One Show however, on which the comment was made, it was a different story, as they issued a formal apology yesterday.
By comparison social networkers were largely in support of the action. A quick search on Facebook shows the top results for ‘Public Sector Strike’ are largely pro-action, with a causes.com page titled “I Support the Strike Against Public Sector Pension Cuts” boasting 4,167 members, and over 10,000 ‘likers’- some of whom are pictured above. Then there’s this chain post, which appeared on countless profiles:
“Remember when teachers, lecturers, policemen, police staff, ambulance staff, nurses, midwives, doctors and fireman crashed the stock market, wiped out banks, took billions in bonuses, and paid no tax? No, me neither. Please copy and paste to status for 24 hours to show your support against the government’s latest attack on pensions and public sector workers.”
And all of this is in addition to a Guardian survey that asked the public if the strikers were within their rights, to which 77.2% replied ‘Yes’. Of course it’s an individual thing, one’s own opinion, and the paper in question was always going to take a liberal stance. But without taking sides there is one undeniable truth here.
With social media at work we have been able to gauge the popularity of the industrial action better than ever before, pass on messages of support, map out where picket lines, rallies, and marches took place, and, more importantly, what people in those places had to tweet about it. So agree with the protests or not this is all unquestionably impressive, and should make anyone with an active interest in contemporary media- social or otherwise- sit up and take notice far more than any (no doubt tongue in cheek) celebrity rant.