Acts of communication, by themselves, aren’t especially interesting. We’ve always had protests, riots, and revolutions, and the people who carried them out have always found ways to spread the word. If the medium for those communications shifts from word of mouth, to printed flier, to telephone, then to texts and Twitter, what does it really matter? Technology becomes an important part of the story only if it’s changing the nature of the events — and the nature of the social groups that are carrying them out.
See also: How to run a protest without Twitter
Today’s In Focus shows the fall of the Soviet Union, culminating in the dissolution of the Communist Party on December 25th, 1991. The post includes an essay by Alain-Pierre Hovasse, Chief Photographer for the Agence France Presse, who was on assignment in Moscow.
We really had a notion that life here was changing dramatically, almost every day. Being a child of the Cold War, I remember feeling elated and privileged to be there at that time, to witness the apparent demise of this repressive political regime.
Astra Taylor writes about space and OWS in the third edition of the n+1 Occupy Gazette:
Space matters for Occupy. But when we seize it—whether it’s the sidewalk, the street, a park, a plaza, a port, a house, or a workplace—we must also claim the moral high ground so that others can be enticed to come and join us there. Occupy Our Homes made clear the connections between the domestic sphere and the financial sector: The occupation of abandoned bank-owned properties is actually a reclamation, a taking back of that which has been taken away, a recouping of something already paid for through other means (by unfairly ballooning monthly payments and the still-indeterminate government bail out, for example). The focus on Duarte Square, I fear, fails to draw the same kind of obvious unswerving link to the urgent issues that Occupy Wall Street emerged to address.
Zuccotti Park was a sort of village square that thousands of people visited each day to get information, attend meetings and satisfy their curiosity about the movement. Every time I dropped by, I saw tourists arriving to gawk and leaving armed with leaflets and ideas to bring back to their own communities. It was a place where strangers immediately started talking to strangers—not small-talk about the weather but serious conversations about topics of genuine concern. People talking—and listening—to other people has been at the heart of the movement from its inception. … It is more crucial than ever for OWS to acquire a physical home base that members of the general public can visit. It should be either outdoors or in an easily accessible storefront location, ideally in Lower Manhattan, since this is the seat of economic power that is the central target of the movement’s efforts. The space can be rented, donated or occupied. But there needs to be a there there.
Following up on the link-bait article “If I Was a Poor Black Kid”, Kashmir Hill — a staff writer from Forbes — contemplates the conflict of interest in their contributor payment model:
Forbes has a stable of 850+ writers who are “contributors” — they get a little special tag on their pages that says, “The opinions expressed are those of the writer.” Forbes pays these folks for the unique visitors and repeat visitors they attract.
She poses a rhetorical question:
Does having a payment model that rewards controversy encourage writers to bait readers with offensive material?
Yes, I believe that is the problem. She offers a surprising “market-based” solution:
So what keeps people from trolling? When your name and face are attached to what you write, you start to develop what our CPO Lewis D’Vorkin loves to call “a personal brand.” I think of it as voice, authenticity, and reputation. As writers’ bylines become bigger and our photos become more prominent, this comes to matter more. After a certain amount of race- and gender-baiting, you establish a “troll” brand and that brand may become so toxic that you become irrelevant. And that is the worst fate for any writer (and every troll): to be ignored.
Personal brands and larger byline photos? No, sorry, this is basic editorial irresponsibility. As much as they’d like us to believe otherwise, the brand here is Forbes. Some commenters are applauding the piece for its “transparency,” but it’s a useless kind of transparency. Nobody is seriously going to start evaluating each and every author under the masthead, having now been informed of the publication’s tiered contributor model.
The solution is simple: fire the trolls, and fix the broken revenue model that rewards trolling.
See also: Cord Jefferson’s response in GOOD
American higher education now justifies itself on economic grounds: that we are producing the workforce for a global world. Such rhetoric has defined its function and has become its purpose. When was the last time debates around education articulated the virtues of higher thought, scholarship, a liberal education in the sense of one that frees the mind? When was the last time we explored the impact an idea, a novel, or a work of art can have on a person and on what they might decide to do with it? The danger of losing Cooper Union to the privatized, tuition-based educational model is not simply that we would lose one of the last bastions of non-instrumentalized education. The danger lies also in the fact that it would be like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, as even tuition-based institutions are faltering everywhere.
Also related: cooperunion.biz, a satire of both Cooper Union’s financial situation, and the “educational colonialism” model of NYU
The claim made by Gingrich that there never was a Palestinian state is one often made by people hostile to the plight of the Palestinians. This claim is made in an attempt to deny an indigenous people the right to dwell on their own land. What this claim essentially does is, it takes what is after all a modern European concept — the idea of the nation state — and uses that as a prism through which to view a non-European people and judge them as not being worthy of the right to live on their own land. Remember also, that the word Palestine has existed in some etymological form for far longer than the names of most states in the world today.
John Knefel, an uncredentialed journalist, on his experience getting arrested by the NYPD:
Journalists — like activists — shouldn’t be afraid of going to jail. If and when we do get arrested it is not an inconvenience, or something that we shouldn’t be subjected to. It’s a chance to refocus our outrage, a chance to tell the most important stories, a chance to bear witness to the horrors of our criminal justice system. I don’t think the NYPD will ever offer me official credentials, but I won’t be asking them for any. Our right to observe and document police misconduct is not contingent on the approval of the authorities. And if the police think that intimidation is going to stop this movement, they should know better by now.
See also: Central Booking by Keith Gessen
There have been many reports of press suppression at Occupy Wall Street protests, but this is the most obvious example I’ve seen.
While we don’t have an exact copy of the memo, NYT’s VP and assistant general counsel George Freeman said:
It seemed pretty clear from the video that the Times freelance photographer was being intentionally blocked by the police officer who was kind of bobbing and weaving to keep him from taking photographs.
And while the NYPD’s department head has acknowledged receiving the note, there has been no response from Commissioner Kelly or one of his representatives. Because who needs to answer to journalists anymore?
Recently there’s been some discussion about Newt Gingrich’s views on Palestinians, that they are an invented people:
Remember, there was no Palestine as a state, it was part of the Ottoman Empire, and I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and were historically part of the Arab community.
An American talking about “invention” in the context of a people’s right to statehood is so mind-bendingly ironic. Anil Dash sums it up in 129 characters:
One of the best things about the U.S. is that it's an invented country populated by an invented people with an inventive spirit.— Anil Dash (@anildash) December 11, 2011
This position gets even weirder as Thomas Friedman (yeah, really!) points out where this line of reasoning takes us:
If the 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians are not a real people entitled to their own state, that must mean Israel is entitled to permanently occupy the West Bank and that must mean — as far as Newt is concerned — that Israel’s choices are: 1) to permanently deprive the West Bank Palestinians of Israeli citizenship and put Israel on the road to apartheid; 2) to evict the West Bank Palestinians through ethnic cleansing and put Israel on the road to the International Criminal Court in the Hague; or 3) to treat the Palestinians in the West Bank as citizens, just like Israeli Arabs, and lay the foundation for Israel to become a binational state. And this is called being “pro-Israel”?
It’s surprising that a right wing politician might be, in essence, arguing for a One State Solution. Aside from Friedman’s use of quotes around the word illegal — as in, “illegal” settlements — I think it’s a solid op-ed. But this notion of a group of people having their identity called into question is better explained by Laila El-Haddad:
After booking a flight online with British Airways out of Cairo (the nearest accessible airport for Palestinians here, eight hours and a border crossing away from Gaza), I attempted to enter my “passenger details”, including country of citizenship and residence.
Most people wouldn’t give this a second thought. But being the owner of a Palestinian Authority passport (which one can acquire only on the basis of an Israeli-issued ID card), I have become accustomed to dealing with Kafkaesque complications in routine matters.
And sure enough, in the drop-down menu of countries, I found the British Indian Ocean Territory, the Isle of Man and even Tuvalu – but no Palestine.
I collaborated with Laila on You Are Not Here and she told harrowing airport stories, of being detained and questioned on account of her “invented” status. I remember following one such adventure as she tweeted about being denied entry into Palestine by Egyptian authorities:
arrived in Cairo- am not being allowed through the airpot. been waiting w/ kids for 4 hours now. can't go back to US-visa expired.— Laila El-Haddad (@gazamom) April 7, 2009
Imagine traveling from Copenhagen to New York, with a stopover in Montreal. Imagine being held by Canadian authorities because they don’t like your “American” passport. They send you back to Denmark because, you know, the United States doesn’t even have a legitimate monarchy! Who can trust these “invented” people?
The kicker is the lack of recourse, no Palestinian embassy can hold those Egyptian authorities to account. Gingrich’s position inadvertently calls attention to the estimated 12 million stateless people in the world. Their rights are not adequately protected in large part because they’re not considered legitimate people.
I’ve censored the following, in protest of a bill that gives any corporation and the US government the power to censor the internet–a bill that could pass THIS WEEK. To see the uncensored text, and to stop internet censorship, visit: http://americancensorship.org/posts/6562/uncensor
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