When the Spanish conquistadores defeated the Mayan civilization, they wiped out their whole society in just one day. They simply struck at its centre and, because it was a very highly centralised, hierarchical nation it meant that attacking the top of this hierarchy, “decapitation” in today’s military language, brought the entire Maya nation to its knees overnight.
Yet the same conquistadores fought the Apaches for 300 years and failed to defeat them.
The reason for this is that the Apache nation had a very flat, egalitarian social structure; there was no centralised leadership to decapitate. Each tribe or village was mobile, agile and could react autonomously to any attack. If anyone developed in a leadership role and was killed, another person emerged instantly and took his or her place.
This is the same situation big business finds itself in when facing UKuncut. UKuncut is flat, non-hierarchical organisation; there is no leadership to decapitate, no person to smear, to bribe, to threaten or to undermine. If they stop one lot of protests from happening, another autonomous group will start other actions. It would be like trying to catch a whole shoal of fish with one hand.
So the large multinational companies which have been targeted by UKuncut have, desperately decided to employ PR agents to undermine UKuncut. There is clearly a great deal of money to be made, and prestige to be gained by the PR companies that can do the impossible and stop UKuncut. There are only three known ways to stop the shoal of fish of UKuncut and those are;
Extreme violence. In this case not an option because the reaction is likely to be counterproductive in the extreme. Would work in China or Iran but not here.
Working to change the UKuncut organisation from a horizontal one to a hierarchical one. Again pretty much impossible because everyone involved is very wary of anyone being turned into a leader, and such a move would also be highly counterproductive.
So the only way left for these the PR agents to stop this shoal of fish getting bigger and landing hits on both big business and the government they have hired is to “poison the water they swim in”.
What we saw on ITV1’s “Tonight” programme this evening was the first phase of this. Very subtly, the arguments of the big corporations were put across (with words fading in and out on screen to help persuade), in simple terms by people specially employed to put the case for the rich not to pay their fair share of tax.
In contrast the arguments of the expert were put across as complex and the UKuncut protestors talked mainly about practical issues and described what they were doing in their actions but their arguments about why these companies should be held to account were not properly put forward, at least not in a coherent way (and not with subtle words fading in and out as professional PR people cleverly and concisely put their arguments that black is white). Round two to Big Business.
The water that UKuncut swims in is public anger at the scale of tax avoidance in relation to the huge cuts in public services which are affecting everything from the NHS to education. This water was gently poisoned tonight. Not enough, but seeds of doubt were planted, this will be just the beginning, these arguments will be repeated relentlessly over the coming months – Gobbels style – in the knowledge that if you repeat a lie often enough, eventually people will think it is true. Their fightback, organised by shady characters operating behind everyone’s back, through ‘contacts’, clandestine phone calls and closed meetings, has begun in earnest.
So what can UKuncut do about this? My suggestion is that we play to our strengths. We need good arguments, good counter-arguments and easily-understood ways of communicating with everyone through traditional media as well as social media. Yet we don’t need highly-paid, shady PR men to develop and hone our ideas into concise arguments, we have our own people, a resource of thousands. I would propose crowdsourcing our ideas and arguments, inviting the public to find effective and creative ways of presenting our case and communicating our rebuttals of the propaganda now seeping out of the darkest shadows of the business machine.
Let’s put our heads together, let’s get good honest arguments marshalled and distributed to all who are involved in actions in banks, mobile companies, fashion stores and other places, let’s get our collective intelligence to work on counter arguments to the nasty right-wing glibness which will subtly start creeping its way into the national consciousness through the mainstream media. If they try to poison our water we need to purify it, or slowly our movement will die.