The differences between the accommodation for our world leaders and the camps set up by their humble, protesting subjects may not be as great as you would first assume. Both camps love to control the media.
No doubt George Bush will this morning rise refreshed from plump white feather pillows within the immaculate white walls of the historic spa resort of Heiligendamm. For the 15,000 or so protesters gathered in three home-made campsites outside the seven-mile security fence in Germany, their start to the day will be less comfortable. The toilets are starting to smell and there are not enough solar-powered showers to go round.
But the contrast between the camps of the world leaders and their revolting subjects may not be as great as you’d imagine.
Aufnahme von Tornado über Camp Reddelich
“The camps may be understood as fields of experimentation for leftwing socialisation,” says one earnest German organiser on one of the protest websites. Drums, musical, clowns and kids areas make the camps predictably colourful, relaxed and egalitarian places. The protesters though have felt forced to introduce elements of security and control more familiar to the politicians they despise.
Standing tall over the camp by the village of Reddelich is a wooden watchtower where protesters can keep an eye on the police parked outside. The organisers seem proud of it but it has uncomfortable echoes of prison camps – or worse.
The protesters understandably feel under siege from the police who are routinely stopping and searching them whenever they try to leave their enclaves of alternative living. But they have introduced stringent controls on media access to the camps that are more reminiscent of Alastair Campbell than Che. Journalists are banned from wandering around the campsites or talking to protesters without a press officer on hand. Photographers are prevented from taking any pictures of almost everything and everyone inside the camps.
Most journalists don’t want or need the kind of lavish food, drink and entertainment laid on by the G8 for the hundreds of journalists at the official G8 media centre – that seems almost obscene. But it would be nice to find a willingness to open up their camps to interested and honest media.
Many anti-capitalist protesters view mainstream media as cut from the same evil corporate cloth but that does not do justice to the vast differences within the media. Plus, as the protesters keep saying, if they can’t blockade the G8 they can at least try and win the propaganda war.
Patrick Barkham Posted by Patrick Barkham Wednesday 6 June 2007 09.04 BST guardian.co.uk