To all March In March (MIM) deniers: if the MIM were the irrelevant, easily dismissed non-event you claim it is, why are you all going on about it so long, loud and vehemently? By your very speech you proclaim what you’re attempting to deny, and you broadcast your clear unease that around 100,000 of your fellow citizens are so unhappy about the way they’re being governed that they organised not one, or two, but literally dozens of successful marches.
Despite this clear and overwhelming evidence, the deniers are doing the best that they can to trivialise, blunt or, let’s face it, deny, what just happened.
Here are my top 5 MarchInMarch denier statements:
1. They complained about the “Ditch the Witch” signs, and now their signs are ten times worse.
- The March was not about the signs. It was about people’s honest, grass-roots dismay at the way we are being governed. Around 100,000 people took the time and effort to get up and say that. The previous “demonstration” had roughly 1,000 people attending. To even compare the two is ridiculous and offensive to the 99,000 additional marchers.
- Of 100,000 marchers, the vast majority of signs were not violent, obscene or offensive. I’ve challenged several “sign critics” to estimate the proportion of offensive signs, and none will engage, because the inanity of their criticism is immediately apparent. The presence of an impolite, rude or offensive minority does not somehow magically cancel out the vast majority who marched.
- None of the podiums had huge, official, offensive signs behind them, and no shadow ministers stood happily grinning in front of offensive banners. Individuals held individual banners, a small proportion of which were offensive. It’s called free speech, and we all enjoy it, more or less. It’s when your entire movement willingly identifies itself with an offensive banner that it calls for comment. That happened last time, not this.
- If this is the worst criticism you can level at those who marched, you clearly show your unwillingness to admit the total size, will and purpose of 100,000 fellow citizens, and your attempt to trivialise their concerns into an argument about a few signs just shows how desperate you are to pretend it doesn’t matter.
2. There was no single cause, it was just a big bunch of people whinging.
- There was a single cause, and it was very clear – we are not happy with how we are being governed.
- To point at the multitude of examples of that concern doesn’t make it go away. If anything, it highlights just how broad and deep it runs. If the only reason 100,000 people marched was Climate Change, or Gonski, or the Reef, or Asylum Seekers, or Womens’ Rights, Health, or… then that would be a significant issue, and would command attention and debate, and not about silly signs.
- The fact that there are so many examples of that basic underlying concern doesn’t weaken the force of those 100,000 marcher’s issues. Just the opposite. That they were happy to march shoulder to shoulder with each other clearly demonstrates the essential community of purpose as well as the really endemic nature of the problem. Deniers, you’re saying this is a really broad problem, yes? How does that make it small or irrelevant?
- In an age where public marches are rare, a national uprising (because there’s no better word) taking place from idea to execution in only a few months is not “whinging”. Sending 140 character snide remarks is “whinging”. Comparing rude signs is “whinging”. Making a sign, going to town, and spending your day marching for a cause is not “whinging”! It’s being moved to action and protest.
3. The government was elected by x million people, and have a right to govern. A few thousand people have no right to challenge that.
- This is not an election. This is a protest. Please don’t confuse the two, or you may be in trouble at the next election.
- The MIM was not claiming that the government is illegitimate. It was protesting at the way the government is behaving. That’s a right we always have, and was enjoyed almost daily by the Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition. It’s actually ok to do it outside of the Parliament as well.
- Don’t confuse the right to govern with the right to do anything you like. Many of the actions of the current government are without a mandate, or are contrary to what was promised before the election. For the MIM, the reasons why people are protesting are not so important as the fact that they are protesting. When was the last time a new government drew massive protests after 6 months in office? Would “never” be about right?
- Just because a few marchers are calling for the sacking or resignation of the Prime Minister or the government doesn’t mean the reasons for their protest are invalid, or that 100,000 people are saying that. Again, it’s an attempt to marginalise the vast majority because of a few. “Oh look, one marcher made a constitutional error, that means the other 99,999 are irrelevant”.
- Although it’s irrelevant to the argument, it’s interesting to note that if this were an election, the current government might be in trouble, so although around 32% of Australians voted for Tony Abbott’s party at the election, around 47% of the country didn’t, and the marchers are probably drawn from both those groups.
4. The marchers are just a bunch of hopeless lefties
- Without any survey, demographics or statistics I’m impressed that so many deniers have been able to come up with an analysis of the 100,000 MIMers. Well done! Please publish your statistics and methodology. Until you can, please shut up, you’re embarrassing yourselves in public.
5. Marching will achieve nothing, it’s just people feeling good about having a cause
Of all the denials, this is the most pernicious, and comes from people who ostensibly support some of the causes as well as the deniers. It’s wrong.
- Marching, of itself, causes a few things: shoe sales, drink sales, sunburn, and traffic jams. Of course it doesn’t directly change policy, topple governments, or anything else. Unless the marchers storm parliament house and lynch those inside…
- At face value, it’s clearly true that the march itself does nothing. However that’s also obviously not what a march is about.
- A march expresses a level of dissatisfaction and intent that’s orders of magnitude above that old-fashioned measure of concern, “letter writing”. Every politician knows that for each letter they receive there are probably 10 or 20 or 50 more electors who are thinking the same thing, but can’t be bothered to write. They will probably bother at the ballot box, however. To move from writing a letter to marching in the streets shows a massive increase in both concern, and will. Each marcher is someone who is truly motivated in their concern, and desire to see change.
- To deny that the MIM will have an effect is just wishful thinking. To support its causes but claim it’s pointless is defeatism of the worst kind. “It won’t solve the problem, so it’s not worth doing”. That is the politics of disruption, not support. That 100,000 people are marching shows with enormous clarity that, so far, there isn’t a better way forward, but it also should energise everyone who wants one.
- It’s undoubtedly true that if all that marchers do is march, then nothing more will be achieved. It’s also true that inevitably someone or something will come along to harness that will and concern. Undoubtedly all opposition parties will now attempt to co-opt the clear disaffection of the MIM participants, and I wish them good luck, because in my view many MIMers are almost as unhappy with all politicians as they are with the current government. How and when that already large groundswell next emerges is so far not clear, but to pretend that 100,000 people in the streets “will achieve nothing” is to be supremely dismissive of human nature and of the course of political movements.
- Many government members in marginal electorates will now be wondering, if they weren’t already, about the wisdom of their party’s current actions. They may not speak publicly, but the MIM makes clearly visible something that only showed up in polls and rumour. The MIM was there, it was real, and now they have a measure of public unrest. That’s not nothing, already.
- To assume that, having marched, everyone will go home happy is obviously facile. If nothing changes, or if it gets worse, then so will the reaction. It has already caused the deniers to come out in force. That’s not nothing, and there’s much more to come.