On the morning of Friday 28th Oct, I had occasion to be in the vicinity of the foyer of the Odeon cinema. A strange foyer it is too. Chatting with a member of Odeon staff a while back, I was told that the reason for it’s oddly chasm-like appearance and unused ticket desk is funds shortage.
In this cinema foyer there is a newspaper stand full of the oft-vilified Sun newspaper. I’d noticed it before, gleaming red as it does next to the rubbish bin and the tiny notice of the show times. The stand offers the passer by the following temptation:
ODEON THE SUN
PICK UP YOUR
OF THE SUN
Previously I had disregarded this. Something about the way the wind was blowing on Friday 28th Oct made me feel differently this time. I was with our son, and as he is never one to shy away from acting impulsively, I made a suggestion.
From the get-go, I should state that I am not a fan of The Sun. I wouldn’t buy it. I find that if someone is reading it, loud sirens go off in my head about that person. To be perfectly frank, I am in hate with The Sun and all that it stands for.
With that knowledge floating around in your mind, you are now ready to hear that I had suggested emptying all the free copies into the recycling bin – handily just outside the Odeon. I can’t claim this as a completely original idea. I had see video of a big burly guy in an airport I think it was, taking out the entire pile in one and dumping them wholesale into a nearby bin. I can at least claim innovation – I wanted this paper recycled. I care about the environment.
So young Master Colcestrian and myself set about shifting the whole lot of papers, in batches, from the red stand offering “Please take a free copy” to the council recycling bin outside. At one point a couple of young girls stopped us and one of them said “You can’t put all those in the bin.”
“It’s ok,” i said. “We’re recycling them.”
“Oh, no problem then!” she replied, and we carried on.
We carried on until there were none left, and the recycling bin was groaning after it’s equivalent of a Thanksgiving Feast and Christmas dinner all rolled into one. My son and I parted company when his friends arrived , we congratulated each other on a job well done and I began to walk home, putting together a little tweet using some pics I’d taken of our handiwork.
Little did I expect than within half an hour there would be around 50 RTs. What was going on? It didn’t stop there – more and more RTs, likes, comments from people all over the UK – not just my wonderful home town of Colchester. It was going bananas, and I sat back not knowing what to think. I thanked a few people, made a few comments and just absorbed the viral nature of it all.
It had been very much a spur of the moment thing; a sudden urge to remove what I viewed as a scourge of the mainstream media from the level of children walking in to watch Trolls. It was done as a throwaway thing and I hadn’t thought more of it. I didn’t expect the response I got. As of writing this blog, the tweet has been seen by just over 65,000 people, it’s had over 8,500 people press the little pictures with their fingers or mouse (that gets me the most for some reason!) and it’s been RTd 633 times and Liked 829 times. Considering most of my tweets get ignored and if I get one like or RT I’m surprised, you can picture the slack-jawed guppy walking around Colcestrian Manor…
I have to say that the overwhelming majority of response this tweet received was favourable, bordering on frantic enthusiasm (see below). But, a small percentage seemed to come at the ‘stunt’ as nothing more than a childish prank to attack free speech and the freedom of the press. One particular lonely voice amongst the congratulatory public was a councillor for the local area (also see below) who made it very clear over and over to me and other voters that free speech was being trodden on here and I was taking away the common person on the street’s choice.
— St Jason of London (@SaintTheJase) October 28, 2016
— Andy Shore (@shoregains) October 28, 2016
— Gossip Girl (@thetwatsquad) October 28, 2016
I know, I know what you’re going to say… isn’t there a newsagents just next door to the cinema that sells all colours and flavours of the news chronicles that the lovely people of this fair land like to get informed by?
Yes, yes there is. Any Colcestrian – not just the one badly hitting these keys at the moment – could freely walk into Jane Bloggs Cinema Newsagents and purchase The Sun, The Guardian, The Financial Times and stroll off happy. I question whether the two Colcestrians in the body of myself and my son were really harming the choice of news material for the local area.
— DomINic Graham (@domcgraham) October 28, 2016
— DomINic Graham (@domcgraham) October 28, 2016
And this is where we get to the crux of why I’m writing this blog. Why pick this point? Why did the councillor and some other people (a couple of whom I knew) take such an opposing view point and feel the need to point it out repeatedly?
Is it ideological? Were they making a point of principle?
I kind of hope so, because the other reasons are petty vindictiveness, and plain cranky lack of finger on the pulse of the people. There are so many other things to get on your high horse about, both locally and further afield. Why decide to go after one man and a boy staging a peaceful protest against the machine?
I didn’t harm the right to free speech by recycling a bunch of Sun papers. That implies a level playing field where the common person’s voice is as loud as that of an oligarch. I think Newscorp might have more influence over the spread of news than me.
I wonder whether these people would have stayed the arm of Winton from 1984 when he wished to rail against Big Brother. “Come on mate, I’m no fan of BB, and I know he controls all that we see, say and even think, but freedom of the press and all Winny!”
It has really made me question if I’m living in the same reality or world-view as some other souls that I walk the Earth with.
At the same time as I was handing a nice bit of pulping revenue to the local council, not far away a homeless man had made it to safe harbour having been set upon viciously by an anonymous gang. His injuries were so severe that he required immediate medical help and was concerned to be seen by those helping him.
The Sun plays a huge part in feeding the kind of narrative that leads to divisions which make us fear ‘the Other’. It’s a nasty, sexist, misogynistic, racist, inciting, vile war-mongering piece of tabloid filth, and the sooner it and others like it disappear into the heart of the actual sun, the better humanity will be.
This is the reason stores around the country are refusing to stock the publication. Why there are groups like Justice for the 96. This is why millions of people get behind Lily Allen and Gary Lineker, rather than side with the press. I’m not in the minority, wanting to see the back of Murdoch’s populist rag. The minority are those shouting ‘Free Speech oppressor’ at me for recycling some papers from the foyer of the Odeon.
I know I’m not damaging The Sun’s readership by removing a hundred or so copies from circulation. In fact, I may well have given them the impression their free ‘sales’ were up. This in turn could lead to more advertising revenue for them, and so on and so on… but!
And it’s a big butt!
But, i’m not just recycling papers. I’m also tweeting about it. I’m getting into arguments with local councillors. I’m one of many people raising the profile of #DontBuyTheSun. I’m calling out The Odeon for entering into the uniquely monopolising stance of giving just one newspaper away in their foyers.
If the people vociferous against this kind of action were as vocal about the things The Sun did, I think things might be slightly better.
So have a go at people doing this if you must, and say we’re wasting our time – that’s fine. Say these acts will have no effect, by all means. But don’t call it censorship, when clearly it isn’t going to quiet the voice of multi-billionaires in any way.
I will leave you with something a wise woman once said to me:
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.