Let me spell it out for you

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Iran Protests Irish TimesOk, so this isn’t really history, but it’s in the news and might be some sort of history in the making. Looking at the photograph from Iran (left) that adorned the Irish Times website this morning, it struck me that for every recent large-scale protest that has drawn worldwide media attention, whether it be in Thailand, Iran or elsewhere, more and more protesters (preferably, as is the case here, an attractive young woman) are wearing t-shirts and brandishing signs with slogans in English.

Now, we know all about English becoming the language of commerce, notably for the central European states, and the concerns of a variety of governments – not least in France – about its growing influence in Europe, but is this widespread use of English as a medium of protest a new phenomenon in the age of globalised news? Are we witnessing the birth of a new form of democracy in which protesters have happened on a very clever way of transforming the concerns of the world (not simply governments) – in this case the obvious difficulties with the outgoing administration – into pressure on local administrators for change? Or, perish the thought, perhaps protesters believe that we in the West are incapable of digesting the issues without them being presented in the plainest black and white, in a language we cannot misunderstand.

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