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Have I Been Censored By The BBC?

BBC Worldwide have taken down from YouTube a video I made 7 years ago at the time of the first bombing of Gaza. It features the late Tony Benn's magnificent indignation at the BBC's refusal to show the Gaza charitable appeal.  Takedowns of news clips, especially a blacking out of the video in all countries, are unusual these days. Most copyright disputes on YouTube are now settled by leaving the video up, banning adverts by the poster and/or reserving to the copyright holder the right to put ads themselves. The video is available again, if only temporarily, while I dispute the claim.

 

Here is my dispute:

"The subject of the video is to criticise the censorship of a charitable appeal by the same broadcaster that has made the copyright complaint. This is a legitimate and fair exercise of free speech, and satisfies the conditions for fair use. The video is not monetized, and therefore non-commercial, it is from a factual work (a news broadcast), and the amount used is only sufficient to show the indignation of the guest of the show in question at the censorship of the material. The ability of BBC Worldwide to profit from the sale of this 7-year-old news broadcast of an interview with a now deceased politician must be very small, and in any case is not impeded by the clip's being cut into this video critique. It would be perfectly appropriate for BBC Worldwide to exercise its right to prevent the monetising of the video, which in any case we as producers have never done, but to take it down is an attack on free speech. Prior approval of the copyright holder for a usage which so clearly criticises that same copyright holder would clearly be impossible to obtain, and therefore the principle of fair use has been applied for this non--commercial work, for which there many precedents, not only deriving from the statutes governing YouTube, but also from UK case law regarding the public's interest in critical material."

I have won such copyright disputes before. The US legisIation permits re-mixing for critical purposes - it's fairly well established. Might there be some other motivation for the takedown? Could it be Benn's comment: "Let me be clear about this. People will DIE because of what the BBC has done"? Other BBC news clips on YouTube (unedited, without any critique, so straightforward "steals") have been left unmolested, including one of the same clip I have used. Is the BBC's problem precisely that their clip is contextualised, edited together with the aid appeal they censored, plus a devastating orphan's story from Gaza?

Watch this space.

The Shack-dwellers movement: using democracy to replace capitalism

The problem is capitalism, but what, for the poorest people on the planet, are the solutions? This was the constant theme when the Anarchist Bookfair on October 27 2012 was addressed by Lindela Figlan from the South African Shack-Dwellers Movement (Abahlali baseMjondolo - AbM).

The AbM grew from the discontent of poor shack-dwellers with the neo-liberal policies of the African National Congress government since 1994. Since foundation in the Kennedy Road settlement in Durban, it has won victories over land rights and infrastructure, while remaining fiercely independent of both politial parties and NGOs. This grassroots movement is famously democratic, and as such reminded me of the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST), with whom they are linked. Currently they are organising popular assemblies for decisions to be made, a parallel political structure from the grassroots. Their leaders are unpaid, and Lindela describes them as "servants of the people". Everything the movement does seems designed to contrast clearly with the kleptocratic corruption of the post-apartheid political system.

Their door is always open for meeting with politicians, but, Lindela says, rather than come imposing their own agendas, the politicians must listen to the democratically-decided demands of the shack-dwellers.

The movement's radicalism has provoked violent repression, with arrests and torture common, and there have been  cases of armed raids. Lindela himself sleeps in a variety of places for his personal safety.

Answering a question about the role and threat of NGO involvement, it was clear from his reply that the movement has no delusions about help offered. Lindela described how one NGO bussed in AbM activists to a meeting with the NGO's donors, but afterwards refused the movement's request for modest help to organise a march. He made an analogy: as long as your car (the movement) keeps travelling, the dogs (the NGOs) run after it barking, but if it stops, they cock their legs against it. He contrasted the canine NGOs with War on Want, who had listened and responded to their needs.

The AbM is in no way a single-issue movement. They recognize, for instance, that new housing projects are not enough. As Lindela explained, if a person gets a new flat, but can't eat, they then sell the flat for a fraction of its value to put food on the table. So Abahlali baseMjondolo is adamantly anti-capitalist, arguing for a complete transformation of society from the bottom up.

For more information: http://abahlali.org

Catch the DATES of Lindela Figlan's UK TOUR here

A Psychopath Comes Home: "Skyfall" and the Zeitgeist of the Elite

The latest 007 adventure “Skyfall” has been widely praised by reviewers, and welcomed by fans as a return to the series' core values. For me, though, it was probably the divergence from those values that made me so keen on the much criticised previous outing “Quantum of Solace”. But “Skyfall” goes a lot further than a mere return to the conservative spirit of the 50-year-old series. Any mistaken idea that Berkshire-born director Sam Mendes is a typical London theatrical liberal is decisively squashed by this deeply reactionary movie. Mendes' British stage productions are normally described as “dark”. I haven't seen them, but I'm guessing they belong to a very contemporary zeitgeist of paranoiac grimness, with very little critical ideology at all. Incidentally, I have never been able to understand the ecstatic reception given to Mendes' first Hollywood movie “American Beauty” (1999), a mild and inconsequential drama of suburban manners.

 

As for the half-century-old Bond, we can make a brief retrospective by looking at 007's enemies. In the Sean Connery / Roger Moore age, the real, drab, if sinister, Cold War adversary from the KGB is substituted by much more entertaining Pacific-island-owning, cat-stroking megalomaniacs bent on world domination. Mike Myers' Austin Powers derives much of its hilarity from being only a small step further down the road of caricature. Only when the Soviet Union was finished could communists actually appear. The Russian Futurist design of Pierce Brosnan's first film “Goldeneye” (1995) is one of its more appealing features. Communist-capitalist rapprochement even became possible in “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997). Michelle Yeoh's agent Wai Lin and Pierce Brosnan provide a more sexy version of Mao Tse-Tung and Richard Nixon's meeting of more than 20 years earlier. “Who said Communists have no sense of fun?” quips Bond, yoking Yeoh's character to the same stereotype as Garbo's Ninotchka of 70 years before. Coming back to villains, it was a very pleasing departure to see the colourlessness of Mathieu Amalric's Dominic Greene in “Quantum of Solace”. In the only left-wing film of the series, the villainy here lies not in a crazed individual, but in an impersonal corporation which wants to steal Bolivia's water supply. This is clearly a reference to real events, the water privatisation tried at the behest of the World Bank in the city of Cochabamba in 2000, heroically overturned by mass protest. These events were themselves recently made into a film, “Even the Rain” (2010). “Quantum of Solace” is “Even the Rain” with sex and stunts, and without of course the actions of the people.

By contrast, the fatal political weakness at the heart of Thomas Paul Anderson's “There Will Be Blood” (2007) is the grand guignol villainy of Daniel Day-Lewis' oil prospector central character. Watching the film, I was more curious about the other oil executives he encounters at one point in a restaurant: a group of normal, family men, who are presumably exploiting both people and natural resources in ways similar to Day-Lewis' character. This depiction of wrong-doing, that it is the act of twisted individuals rather than a function of the system, dogs many otherwise political films. Good examples are the treatment of Nazis in many post-war dramas. For instance, in both Bunuel's “Diary of a Chambermaid” (1964) and Bertolucci's “1900” (1976), the fascist character is not a dispassionate bureaucrat sending Jews to the camps, but a child rapist and killer. But of course if Nazism had been able only to rely on the participation of people like Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the Holocaust could never have happened. This is one of the great strengths of Pontecorvo's “Battle of Algiers” (1966). Ruthless, torturing paratroop colonel Mathieu is so admirably objective, turning French journalists' questions back on them: “The question is: should France be in Algeria?” If it should, then he needs to torture. If not, not. There is no way to have both human rights and the empire, as pro-war liberals often try to maintain.

 

The enemy in “Skyfall” is Javier Bardem's turncoat MI6 agent, a computer geek. Chillingly, the substituted enemy here is neither the KGB nor Osama Bin Laden, but Julian Assange and the masked youths of Anonymous. “Skyfall” has therefore taken an exceptionally reactionary turn to focus on the “enemy within”.

 

Mendes' “dark” world is very much in evidence, showing a menacing London not far from the dystopia of “V for Vendetta”. So much is this the case that I was impelled to ask, what is MI6 protecting exactly? Presumably the 1%, target of the Occupy movement and those same masked Anonymous youths. Can I have been the only viewer who was not upset to see MI6' notorious ziggurat on the Thames blown to bits?

 

Judi Dench's role as M has also become darker. Since her first appearance in 1995, she has been Jocasta, mother to Bond's Oedipus. In his “The Life of Ian Fleming”, John Pearson suggests that M may even be based on Fleming's own mother. In “Skyfall” she is more the child-murdering Medea, or Woody Allen's mother in “Love and Death”, ever prepared to sacrifice him for the good of the nation.

 

Apart from Dench's character, “Skyfall” is incredibly negative in its portrayal of women.

OK, I know that being shocked by James Bond's sexism is like being surprised by the Pope's religion, but here once again Mendes has given the standard Bond line a further twist to the right. There are a number of progressive currents running through the 007 canon. There are consequently choices that producers and directors can make. One of the attractive aspects of “Quantum of Solace” was the feistiness of Gemma Arterton's Bond girl. As such, in this world of sick, sorry, playful male fantasy, she must of course be killed, but that only gives her the same fate as every mere sex doll he meets. In “Skyfall”, though, we have Naomi Harris' hapless Eve Moneypenny, who, having accidentally nearly killed Bond, at the end of the film retires to a woman's “proper place” as secretary.

 

For the first time, in “Skyfall” we see Bond's social origins, as a member of the presumably English landed gentry in Scotland. These very “1%” roots are consistent with the political world of the rest of the film. Recent research on happiness in a deeply divided society suggests that the 1% may be as miserable and unfulfilled as the 99% in this state of affairs. Bond's strangely unmoving childhood trauma, and his consequent shallow and callous hedonism, make him the perfect agent to protect this grim world, in which he may be sacrificed at any moment. In this world individual human beings count for nothing. The preservation of the system is all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Road to Freedom with Open Source

Finally I'm completely liberated from Windows and Mac.

For a while now, I've been running a "dual boot" Windows 7/Ubuntu machine. Open programmes on the Linux OS were able to match or better any pricey software made for Bill Gates' system. And Windows insisted on treating me like a child. I mean, how the fuck does Windows 7 have the right to disable my sound card from recording audio streams?  Open source software was as good or better for everything, that is, apart from one solitary activity: video editing. My reliance on the professional features of Adobe Premiere was the final thread tying me to the dark world of monopoly-capitalist control. The open source editors were never quite up to snuff.

But then I discovered Kdenlive.

Powerful, intuitive, with a host of professional features, Kdenlive straight away passes the most fundamental of tests - import and export. Its compression of Full HD mobile phone footage was both high quality and fast. It has its idiosyncracies, but so do Premiere and Final Cut Pro, as any long-suffering user will agree. Editing with cut-aways, the basis of reportage, is integral rather than an awkward and reluctant add-on, as in iMovie and MovieMaker. A very useful feature is the ability to edit Full HD at lower resolution, then export the movie at full spec.

Never having tried it before, I had a tight deadline for a news report about the struggles in Turkey (see below).

As you can hear, I didn't have time yet to master the audio mixing, but such pro features seem to be as easy as on the closed software. And there's a great guide by Mick Fuzz for FLOSS Manuals.

So bye bye Mr Gates. Being infantilised by you and Steve Jobs hasn't been fun, and now I can enjoy my adulthood as part of a massively helpful community. Plus it's free of charge (though they really deserve a donation).

Finally a suggestion, in full "cyber-utopian" vein. Isn't the victory of open tools actually inevitable? (Think Linux, Open Office, etc). And are they not vital in the fight against the most serious threat to our freedom and our creativity, the corporate enclosure of the internet?

#Balcombe latest!

 

Local protester Rob occupies a fracking works truck at Balcombe, West Sussex. Hear his reasons for his acrtions below.

Rob D-locked himself to the truck, causing a four-hour road blockade outside the Cuadrilla fracking site. 30-40 police surrounded him, but for a long time only managed to capture a shoe.

Fellow community protectors have sent Rob bust cards (useful advice if he gets arrested) by small helicopter (video to follow).

Latest report and photos by visionOntv's Hamish Campbell.

 

Rob was interviewed on two occasions, by visionOntv's Richard Hering and D Murphy, before taking his direct action.

 

 

 

Prior to his action, Rob gave two interviews to visionOntv's reporters Richard Hering and D Murphy, here and here.

 

 
Get all the latest video news about fracking protest: http://visionon.tv/grassroots

 

 

How to talk to a climate change denier

Now the IPCC predicts a rise of between 1 to 6 degrees in our childrens' lifetime, and the fossil fuels industry has primed the media with lies about it, it's time to talk to Uncle Bob....

The fastest video news in the East

My 8-year-old son Xav does art reviews around the preview nights of the galleries of East London. This might sound precocious, but initially this was a cunning plot for me to be able to see the new art while with someone who prefers to sit at home playing DS, making something quite boring for him a bit more fun. But it has become a project with a life of its own.

The reason i'm writing about this small activity now is to show how it illustrates the potential of rapid-turnaround citizen media.  We went out last Thursday night to see a show at our local venue, the Doomed Gallery in Dalston. We arrived about 9pm, made three takes with our smartphone one-shot template (the audio failed on the first two - using external microphones with smartphones is challenging!). Then we went home and uploaded.

 

We tweeted and social media-ed, and this "one night only" event was publicised before it finished.

For more info on visionOntv's citizen journalism templates, go to http://streetreporter.org/tools

 

Political satire is obsolete - yet again

It was Tom Lehrer who coined this phrase when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. I was reminded of it twice in recent times (add your own examples). The first was in 2007 when Tony Blair was appointed Middle East Envoy for the "Quartet" (the UN, US, EU and Russia), and charged with "helping mediate Middle East peace negotiations". This was only four years after Blair had almost single-handedly enabled George W. Bush to wage war in Iraq, with the estimated death of one million people.

The second was today, when I heard that one of the leaders of the opposition in Venezuela has been awarded the Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award. Maria Corina Machado has received the prize from the excitingly-named International Foundation for Electoral Systems, a US-based organisation. While the foundation sounds like a doddery academic body of psephologists discussing the benefits of alternative vote over single transferable, in fact this is an institute which receives funding from USAID and celebrated democracy-lovers the US State Department.

So it's time for some faux-naif indignation: can they possibly not know that Machado is one of the people who signed the Carmona Decree during the brief 2002 coup attempt against democratically-elected President Chavez? The decree dissolved democratic institutions, such as the National Assembly and Supreme Court, and suspended constitutional liberties. Can they also not know that she runs a campaign of violent street protests demanding "The Exit" of Chavez' democratically-elected successor Nicolas Maduro, five years before the end of his term? Some of these protesters are so committed to democracy that they have strung wire across public highways to decapitate motorcyclists. Two people have died from this action alone. They have also attacked public transport, health clinics, social housing projects, and a kindergarten, and physically assaulted 169 doctors. And does the IFES really not know that Machado is currently under investigation for allegedly plotting to assassinate the Venezuelan President, saying that it was "time to take out the trash"?

What can we do? Is satire really dead, or can we give it the kiss of life?

POST-SCRIPT September 3 2014

Come on, satirists, shape up! Once again, earnest award-giving institutions have trounced you. GQ Magazine has now made Tony Blair "Philanthropist of the Year", a decision only agreed with by Benyamin Netanyahu. Many thanks to Mark Steel for his concern, which goes some way to redress the situation: "I worry that Tony Blair's award will make him even MORE generous, until there's nothing left for himself. He's just give give give give give."

PPS: November 21 2014

It's getting ridiculous. Now Blair has received the "Global Legacy Award" from Save the Children. It's hard to know where to start with Blair's philanthropy towards children, as an internet search immediately sends you into a world of unspeakable horror. The cluster bombs dropped on Iraq by both US and British forces are one place to begin. I quote very selectively from one Iraq Body Count report:

"Terrifying film of women and children...... showed babies cut in half and children with amputation wounds, apparently caused by American shellfire and cluster bombs. Much of the videotape was too terrible to show on television and the agencies’ Baghdad editors felt able to send only a few minutes of a 21-minute tape that included a father holding out pieces of his baby and screaming “cowards, cowards” into the camera." (Robert Fisk - The Independent, April 2 2003)

"Among the 168 patients I counted, not one was being treated for bullet wounds. All of them, men, women, children, bore the wounds of bomb shrapnel. It peppered their bodies. Blackened the skin. Smashed heads. Tore limbs. “All the injuries you see were caused by cluster bombs,” Dr Hydar Abbas told Antonowicz. “Most of the people came from the southern and western periphery. The majority of the victims were children who died because they were outside.”" (Anton Antonowicz - Daily Mirror, April 3 2003)

"In the deserted emergency ward, Mohammed Suleiman hysterically looked for his 8-month-old daughter, Rowand, brought in after a bomb her brother unwittingly brought home exploded. “Please look at her face and see how beautiful she is,” he screamed when he found the baby's lifeless body, covered with a blanket, her eyes half open, her nose and mouth bloodied." (Associated Press, April 12 2003)

It turns out that the current CEO of Save the Children, Justin Forsyth, was a policy adviser for, you guessed it, Tony Blair. Is it too much to expect this narrow political class to show, if not a moral compass, a bit of self-awareness?

I was going to make a joke speculating about Blair's next honour (the Bram Stoker Award for Services to Blood Transfusion?) But for my own sanity, I feel I must stop updating this catalogue of atrocity and abject moral blindness.

 

Review of our Film of the Week

visionOntv's FILM OF THE WEEK is a key feature of our aggregation of the best video for social change. Here is my first review of the films selected.

It's a real joy to feature thejuicemedia's latest report (play and click through to find it). Giordano Nanni and Hugo Farrant's satirical rapping on the news has been going for almost five years, reaching 25 editions, and here they risk an avalanche of Zionist trolling by taking on Israel/Palestine. Getting hip with the hip hop is none other than activist and son of holocaust survivors Norman Finkelstein.

Heathcote Williams' My Dad and My Uncle Were in World War One is a wonderful antidote to the a-historical jingoism of the likes of Michael Gove, and the reactionary revisionism of TV historians such as Dan Snow. (Snow seemed to parody himself during his recent BBC series, asking questions such as: how did so many soldiers survive the trenches? In fact, Britain lost around 2% of its entire population, or "only 700,000 military deaths" according to Snow. France and Germany lost more than 4%, or one in 25 people. In addition, there were the physical and psychological after-effects on survivors which crippled and traumatized a generation. These effects are calmly recounted in Heathcote Williams' film, for instance how his uncle lost all his friends in the trenches, and never gained another friend for the rest of his life. But he also articulates their quiet, but absolutely indomitable, resistance. How his uncle would scoff at pompous nationalist commemorations, never even collecting his own medal for extraordinary valour, and how he and his comrades-in-arms in the trenches would desist even from loading their weapons.

The video reporting the lockdown of three activists to stop an oil train in their locality in Anacortes, Washington State was chosen because it is a perfect example of how to make a fast-turnaround edited activist report. It is economically but powerfully shot, in a way that can be cut and uploaded the same or next day. In fact it closely mirrors our own video news production template "Edit This!". This template, along with eight others, will soon feature in visionOntv's new publication, the Video Activist Handbook.

Bloggers for Palestine are unnecessarily apologetic about the imperfections of their video A Message to the World (Stop the Killing), as it was made during the height of Israel's latest bombing of Gaza. As they say in the film, "Their F16s, drones and guns can kill our bodies, but they can never kill our voice."

"Giving a voice" to the unheard has long been a mission of radical video the world over, but the voices of people with disabilities who fight back are still comparatively rare. Indefilms33's video of the action in central London to oppose the British government's axing of the Independent Living Fund begins with the voices of the disabled themselves. An insightful moment comes when a cleric from Westminster Abbey is caught saying: "I support everything you say, but Jesus would speak in a nice, quiet way." One of my little hobbies is pointing out to Christians what the Bible actually says, so here is a text this clergyman seems to be unaware of: "He made a whip of cords, and drove them all out of the temple.....; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables." (John 2:15) So much for non-violent direct action! Is the be-cassocked man in the video the actual Dean of Westminster Abbey, who called the cops on the wheelchair-bound?

The only feature length documentary in the list so far is The Internet's Own Boy, made in the year since internet activist Aaron Swartz's tragic suicide. It is both a moving and inspiring biopic and an astutely political film about freedom and the state/corporate nexus against it. Swartz died aged only 26 after hounding from the FBI and zealous, career-ambitious attorneys. He was indicted with no less than 13 felonies in connection with his attempt to download pay-walled academic journals. A further villain of the piece is MIT, an academic institution supposedly committed to empowering its students to undertake risky exploration, but which in this case set a spy camera to trap Swartz to enable a criminal case, and then never interceded to have charges dropped. Like so many institutions of higher education, both in Europe and the United States, which have effectively become money-making corporations, MIT chose to back other corporations over freedom of knowledge.

The Tar Sands Healing Walk 2014 is a stirring and beautiful combination of the traditions of First Nations people in Canada with voices of struggle against the despoliation of their land. In this sense, it reminded me of time I have spent with indigenous peoples in Brazil, who were drawing on similar traditions to oppose illegal logging from their forest. Too often in our societies, a mystical approach is quietist and resigned, an escape from struggle rather than an inspiration towards it. The people in this video show us a clear alternative.

To embed Film of the Week in your website or blog, get the code from here.

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