The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'protest'
Where punk still means something: There's a piece in the Observer about the trials and tribulations of Russian punk-rock protest group Pussy Riot, a sort of hybrid of Plastic People Of The Universe-style rock'n'roll absurdism with the semiotics and feminist ideology of riot-grrl and a touch of Situationism, who took on the Putin regime, and (in being crucified by it) may yet bring it low:
Russia's leaders have always understood the potency of the visual imagery of power. Of hammers and sickles. Of nuclear warheads and a well-muscled man doing manly, bare-chested outdoor pursuits. And, in the latest instance: of five young women in brightly coloured balaclavas jumping up and down in the symbolic heart of the Russian state: Red Square.
Miriam Elder, the Guardian's Moscow correspondent, who has covered the case assiduously, met a group of them shortly afterwards, one of the very few journalists to have interviewed them. "They were just very determined. Very purposeful. Everybody was so angry at that time. But what came across was just how educated they were. How well thought out their ideas were. They quoted everybody from Simone de Beauvoir to the Ramones. It wasn't just a silly prank. There was a real message behind it."The members of the Pussy Riot collective are anonymous, covering their faces and going by noms de guerre. Nonetheless, three members were arrested after invading a Russian Orthodox cathedral and playing a song calling for Putin to be dismissed, a gesture which was deliberately calculated to highlight the complicity of the Church with the Putin-era state in attempting to reassert absolute control over Russian society:
"More than this, though, is how the church has started to act as if it is the propaganda wing of the government. Before the election, Patriarch Kirill said that it was 'un-Christian' to demonstrate. And then he said that Putin had been placed at the head of the government 'by God'. No one was talking about this before. And now everybody is."The state has moved to make an example of the Pussy Riot Three; they have been detained incommunicado pending a trial, and face up to seven years in prison. Though public opinion, both within Russia and in the outside world, has moved against the state. Amnesty International, ignoring the tradition of religious privilege to take offence, has also designated the three to be prisoners of conscience.
In 2004, typographical troublemaker Jonathan Barnbrook updated the Olympic pictographs to account for the unsavoury realities of the modern Olympics, from rampant commercialism to restrictions on civil liberties. Now, Barnbrook has updated his pictograms for the 2012 Olympics, producing Olympukes 2012:
Because it was in London, where I live, a place I love. So the issues we discussed in the first Olympukes are even more keenly felt by us because it affects us so directly. There are so many issues surrounding the Olympics – about what has happened to the communities where the games are being held, the draconian restrictions because of every atom of it has been defined by sponsorship, and as a graphic designer the missed chance of the logo and the ignoring of the wealth of talent in graphic design for commissions such as the Olympic posters. The original idea of Olympukes was prompted by the almost religious treatment of the Olympic pictograms by designers. There was a time when it was one of the top jobs in design, where it was felt it could unify the human spirit. Now rather than being at the forefront of design in interpretation and concept it has become a cynical marketing exercise. I also think the idea of speaking to all nations a bit of a redundant concept. The world has fragmented; we now celebrate difference. Our idea of the pictogram as a transparent vehicle for communicating and idea also feels rather dated, the classic pictograms are loaded with western assumptions about the structure of society from the role gender to the material objects people own. This project clearly uses these to formulate an opinion which I think is a least more honest.Olympukes 2012 is free for non-commercial use from FontShop.
Britain isn't the only place where protest activity is being deterred: in Israel, an activist named Jonathan Pollak has been gaoled for three months for taking part in a nonviolent bicycle demonstration against the blockade of Gaza:
"It is not common that someone found guilty of illegal assembly will be sent to prison," said (Pollak's lawyer) Lasky, who has worked in this field for eight years. "We are in the midst of a high wave of detentions of activists," she added. "The criminalisation of leftwing demonstrations is a policy these days".When Israel's aggressive foreign policy and handling of the Palestinians are brought up, one rejoinder often heard is that Israel, the premier (if not only) pluralist democracy in the region, has a very robust culture of democratic debate, with more dissent and criticism heard there than in, say, the U.S, and certainly more than in the Middle East in general. In light of this, the gaoling of nonviolent demonstrators is particularly disturbing.
Meanwhile in Tennessee, state anti-terrorism officials have listed the American Civil Liberties Union on a map detailing "terrorism events and other suspicious activities", after the ACLU warned schools to ensure that holiday celebrations "are inclusive". Officials now say that this was done by mistake, but it does make one wonder whether, for some officials, terrorism is the new Communism.
Joe Hewitt, the developer of the iPhone Facebook application, has publicly sworn off iPhone development, over Apple's heavy-handed approval policies:
My decision to stop iPhone development has had everything to do with Apple’s policies. I respect their right to manage their platform however they want, however I am philosophically opposed to the existence of their review process. I am very concerned that they are setting a horrible precedent for other software platforms, and soon gatekeepers will start infesting the lives of every software developer.
The web is still unrestricted and free, and so I am returning to my roots as a web developer. In the long term, I would like to be able to say that I helped to make the web the best mobile platform available, rather than being part of the transition to a world where every developer must go through a middleman to get their software in the hands of users.”I wonder whether this will make enough waves to shake Apple into loosening their grip somewhat. Perhaps that'll take Jamie Zawinski to take up iPhone development, attempt to port DaliClock to it and then storm off in a huff.
Let it not be said that China is not willing to democratise; the Chinese government has announced that, for the Olympics, it is adopting one aspect of American-style late democracy: free speech zones, in which protest is permitted. As long, of course, as the protesters have permission from the police:
Liu Shaowu, director of the Beijing organising committee's security department, said protests would be allowed in Shijie, Zizhuyuan and Ritan parks.
"They are all close to the city proper and the Olympic venues," he told a press conference on the city's security preparations. But Mr Wu was hazy about how potential protesters would apply for permission, and on whether spontaneous demonstrations would be allowed.
Someone has invented a must-have accessory for the radical urban itinerant, a means of getting free accommodation whilst striking a blow against car culture: a tent shaped like a car cover, which turns any parking space into a campsite:
Photo-sharing site Flickr has recently implemented a draconian censorship policy; under the new policy, users in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Germany are prevented from turning off content filtering which blocks them from seeing any accounts which have posted non-"safe" content. (I'm surprised that Australia, with its strict censorship regime, is not on this list. Perhaps they forgot about it?) There has been a firestorm of protest here.
Flickr's management have issued a sequence of content-free communiqués regretting the decision and saying that they're working on a solution, and basically spinning like Tony Blair on speed to appear cool and easy-going, without actually committing to any course of action; it appears that for all their professed hipness, they have as much input into how Flickr is actually run as Frank the Goat has into LiveJournal, and the risk-averse bean-counters and lawyers at Yahoo HQ are calling the shots.
Anyway, as long as this policy is in place, I will not be uploading new photographs to my Flickr account, and I urge those who are concerned about freedom of speech to do the same. Should this policy persist, I will look for alternative hosting for my photographs.
A New York artist has created a wearable anti-surveillance outfit with a provocatively Middle-Eastern appearance:
The design of the headdress borrows from Islamic and Hindu fashion to comment on the racial profiling of Arab and Arab-looking citizens that occurred post-9/11. The design of the headdress is thus a contradiction: while its goal is to hide the wearer, it makes the wearer a target of heightened surveillance.
The laser tikka (forehead ornament) is attached to a hooded vest and reflective shawl. The laser is activated by pressing a button on the left shoulder of the vest. When pointed directly into a camera lens, the laser creates a burst of light masking the wearers face. The wearer can also use the reflective cloth to cover the face and head. The aluminized material protects her/him by reflecting any infrared radiation and also disguises the wearer by visually reflecting the surroundings, rendering the wearers identity anonymous.Of course, in jurisdictions where shoot-to-kill policies apply, one wears this at one's own risk.
I wonder how long until the CCTV camera-zapping technology is integrated into thug hoodies or Burberry-print baseball caps?
Speaking of hoodies, someone is now making them for iPods; perfect for your 50 Cent/Lady Sovereign MP3 collection.
The British government has found yet another use for the ever-versatile anti-social behaviour order, or ASBO: using them to ban protesters from approaching US military facilities; the Ministry of Defense has sought an ASBO against a 63-year-old grandmother and peace protester who has been upsetting personnel with protest signs outside the NSA listening post Menwith Hill.
Shortly after the McLibel defendants won the right to legal aid and a retrial, the British government is making sure that something like that doesn't happen again, by pushing to criminalise the handing out of leaflets, along with many other forms of protest (now redefined as harassment).
Ukraine recently held a presidential election; exit polls suggested the pro-Western, reformist challenger was to win. Imagine the surprise when the pro-Moscow incumbent declared victory. Russia immediately announced that he had won fairly, but observers from the EU and US claimed widespread voting irregularities (and the Ukraine didn't need butterfly ballots or Diebold trick voting machines, when a few thugs intimidating voters and pouring acid into pro-opposition poll boxes would suffice). The public didn't buy it and took to the streets in mass protests; several cities have also refused to recognise the result. The "winner", Viktor Yanukovych, is ready to put down the protests "quickly and firmly". I wonder whether we're going to see another Ceaucescu-style fall of the ruling regime, another Tienanmen Square, or something in between. And whether anyone's blogging the unfolding events.
Pissed off about Bush winning a second term? Planning to leave the US or renounce your citizenship? It's not that easy. Getting permanent residency in Canada takes more than half a presidential term in itself, and other countries are equally difficult (unless, of course, you are fabulously wealthy, in which case various Caribbean tax havens are more than willing to sell you citizenship, or if you prefer, you can live on a Liberian-registered ocean liner on the high seas with other cranky rich people). Meanwhile, the US State Department won't let you renounce your citizenship unless you have another one to fall back on, and apparently even if you do go overseas, the IRS will still require you to keep sending the income tax cheques back to fund all those wars of conquest and faith-based missile-defense systems and such. (via bOING bOING)
Left-wing demonstrators at Yale infiltrate pro-Bush rally dressed in formal attire, holding "Blood for Oil" signs and chanting slogans like "Defend Enron". The authorities had trouble distinguishing the "Billionaires for Bush" protesters from actual Young Republicans.
"I thought it would be great to support global warming," a demonstrator who would give his name only as Seymour Benjamins said. "You can see how white I am, and global warming gives better tans."
Then again, who needs to parody the pro-corporate right when there are Objectivists quite sincerely talking about "life-giving" pollution; and is "Defend Enron" all that far removed from the "Campaign for the Moral Defense of Microsoft" that the Randroids mounted a few years ago?
Discordia is a new collaborative blog "working at the intersection of art, activism and emerging networked technologies", which sounds a bit like an Indymedia only without quite so much Rage Against The Machine on the office stereo, or perhaps a Plastic run by 21C alumni rather than ex-WIRED people. (via the Viridian list)
This Friday is Fair and Balanced Friday. Use said phrase on your website to protest Murdoch's attempts at censorship through copyright. (via Charlie's Fair and Balanced Diary)
In San Francisco, culture-jammers have closed down at least eight Starbucks shops, or at least made it look that way. The unnamed freedom fighters/economic terrorists poured glue over the shops' windows and stuck up "FOR LEASE" signs, as well as faked press releases on Starbucks letterheads announcing that the company has had a crisis of conscience and decided to go out of business:
"The global economy requires a relentless substitution of quantity over quality and shareholder value over human values," it read. "At our current market level, Starbucks cannot in good conscience guarantee all of our beans meet both our rigorous quality standards as well as our commitment to social responsibility. We are moving over and making room for local coffee bars."
Police are in hot pursuit, and the good citizens of McWorld can rest assured that the perpetrators of his heinous crime will be brought to justice. (via jwz)
Struggling UNIX vendor/patent owner SCO sues IBM, making nebulous claims of stolen trade secrets in Linux. Penguinheads hold protest outside SCO offices. And SCO staffers hold counter-protest. with identical-looking hand-drawn signs reading "I (heart) Software Piracy" and "Give Communism a try - use Linux". Are they sure it was SCO employees, though, and not some group of Ayn Rand zealots? (via Slashdot)
Anti-US T-shirts seem to be all the rage in Canada, with Canadians eschewing peace signs for angrier statements, of the sort that might get one hospitalised south of the border.
Anti-war slogans seemed to be getting increasingly anti-American, with people going to everything from protests to the gym to trendy parties wearing tops that say Bush is a Terrorist or Twin Terrors above pictures of Bush and Osama Bin Laden.
Reaction in kind to FOXNews-style flag-waving triumphalism, or a futile passive-aggressive statement from a junior partner? How much do you want to bet that if US troops were to invade Canada (let's call it Operation Second Term), all those Canucks with "American Psycho" T-shirts would claim that they were just kidding?
"As far as clothing went, it was more about the peace symbol. Though you would see people sewing U.S. flags on the seat of their pants, so they'd always be sitting on it."
You know, one could probably make a killing selling shoes with American flag-patterned soles in the Middle East (where stepping on something is considered the most grievious insult).
Everyone was joining in, including the guy who goes around with the "psychatric laws are absurd and serve organised crime" sign. His view on war is that religion is to blame, it seems. Of course, he must be an utter crackpot as nobody in their right mind would blame religion for war, would they?
US man buys "Give Peace A Chance" T-shirt, wears it in the same mall, and is arrested for trespassing for refusing to take it off; if convicted, he could face a year in prison. Um, what is this "liberty" thing we're meant to be fighting for again? (via bOING bOING)
Chinese political dissident Wu Chong has declared that he's proud that his T-shirts were used in the Global Weekend of Protest. The 45 year old former University professor, who is serving a 10 year sentence was delighted to learn the T-Shirts he makes in the prison sweatshop had been screenprinted with anti-war slogans, such as "No hoWARd" and "There's a village in Texas that's lost its idiot", and worn in rallies in London, Madrid and Sydney.
"I'm honoured they chose my T-Shirts to find against injustice." He said he thought that the choice would have been based not just on the competitive price of his T-Shirts, but the quality of his stitching. He noted his labour camp had some of the strictest "quality control incentives" in China.
Coincidence or conspiracy? As anti-war protests took place in London, the city's webcams went dark "for operational reasons". Did Tony "the Smiler" Blair take a cue from his fictional counterpart and decide to eliminate unofficial accounts of events? Was it to allow Alastair Campbell to claim that only 12 people showed up, or perhaps to make any possible riot-police action justifiable as Bracks-style "self-defence"? Perhaps not; in fact, it may have something to do with Loony Left Red Ken's congestion charging starting today.
This is what happens when street theatre goes bad: Radical-leftist fruitloop Andrew McCrae decided to protest police brutality, corporate irresponsibility and "police-state tactics", so he did the most logical thing, and shot and killed a police officer as he was refuelling his car in California. Prior to doing this, he registered himself as a corporation, giving himself immunity from prosecution, or at least turning the inevitable trial into a dramatisation of corporate excesses. Ooh, clever move, that. Afterwards, he posted a rant on IndyMedia, confessing to the murder and justifying it as a political statement. Soon afterwards, the police cornered him at a hotel, from which he tried to deliver a "Declaration of Renewed Independence" to a journalist.
Not surprisingly, the authorities (and indeed a lot of the posters on IndyMedia) are being pigheadedly literal-minded and refusing to view this as just a piece of street theatre.
Alternative points of view: Pro-war activism is not just for hairy-backed bloggers and talk-show callers: pranksters and conceptual artists can do it too.
Partridge calls the protesters "TV babies" who are spoon-fed reactions and for whom war exists only conceptually. "These folks are not thinkers; they are only a crowd that operates with a unit mind," he says.
Partridge says he happens to actually believe war is groovy, but he especially likes to upset people with his revolutionary ideas. Before this protest, Partridge visited a group of hard-core Christians who were condemning the "sinners" downtown. He started handing out pamphlets that said, "Christ is for sissies."
He seems somewhat more lucid than the Ayn Rand zealots who hold pro-Starbucks demonstration to piss off the Nu Marxists; or indeed the My Country Right Or Wrong crowd, for that matter. (via rotten.com)
Comedy Festival: Tonight I went to see Cyderdelic. They're a UK comedy outfit whose act is being a mad anarchist outfit/sound system, probably inspired by Chumbawamba, the KLF and the anti-capitalist movement. They played some ravey musical numbers (which were mostly prerecorded; or at least, the Roland S-50 on stage wasn't plugged in), slapped each other around, ranted hyperbolically (at one stage arguing heatedly over whether an animal-research lab experimented on badgers or budgies) and showed videos of their antics at various demonstrations. The show finished with them leading the audience out into Swanston St., megaphone in hand, and proceeding to blockade taxis whilst chanting "we all live in a fascist regime". Classic.
To protest biotechnology patent laws, which often give multinational corporations absolute rights over basic foodstuffs (even if they had been grown for centuries), a development charity is planning to patent salted potato chips. By patenting a new pre-salted chip, ActionAid are hoping to own the rights to the concept of salted potato chips, which in theory could be used to levy license fees from chip shops under threat of patent infringement lawsuit.
Ominous tidings: Riot police shoot dead a demonstrator at anti-globalisation protests; the officers will probably be charged, but who gave the orders to shoot to kill? Meanwhile, a Russian programmer is in jail for revealing the secrets of Adobe's access controls (a crime under the DMCA), and hence Alan Cox has resigned from the USENIX committee in protest. Whether this will make a point or marginalise the penguinhead pirasite colony remains to be determined. Meanwhile, the US Government has created a special elite cyber-cop agency of highly-trained aspheads to hunt down intellectual property thieves, crackers, copyright violators and other enemies of capitalism (and that means you, hiding there with the DeCSS source and the eight gig of MP3s on your hard disk; don't think they cannot see you), further escalating the War On Copying.
They take things so much more seriously over in Europe. While Australia's local dreadheads are planning to spend May 1 doing impressions of that peasant guy from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, an anarchist group in Britain has been training its members for violent paramilitary tactics. Or had meant to, had Scotland Yard not demolished the disused factory they were using as a base. The group, calling themselves the Wombles, are an offshoot of an Italian anarchist group which hijacked and torched a train last year and has been behind many violent demonstrations across Europe.
Detectives are increasingly worried about a significant outbreak of violence being planned for May Day. Det Supt Randall said: "Last year's demonstration was largely organised by Reclaim the Streets, which is a peaceful organisation, although there was trouble. This year the organisation has been overtaken by far more violent groups."
That seems to be happening here, with hard-core Marxists having pretty much taken over anti-multinational activism. (If you don't believe in the need for a revolution, the abolition of private property or that Cuba is a workers' paradise, you can't call yourself "anti-corporate" these days.) Makes me wonder whether they're not secretly funded or otherwise promoted by strategic consultancies in the employ of multinational corporations, in order to paint anybody worried by the concentration of power as One Of Those Nutters.