Saturday, December 09, 2006

The revolution will not be televised

We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this...Television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us...This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. Good night, and good luck.

- Edward R. Murrow

The availability of cellular phone cameras and video uploading facilities like YouTube are literally pulling the rug from under the controls that authoritarian governments and media corporations are exerting on the broadcast media. For example, rare images of North Korean poverty and public execution are now made watchable at the click of a mouse.

Likewise, you won't see the following images on Singapore's televison. Originally posted on Sg Review, with the video uploaded on, this clip of the Singapore riot police descending on four silent protesters is worth another look, now made more accessible on YouTube.

AFP report of the silent protest

Judge V.K. Rajah's ruling that the protesters' T-shirts and placards were "more incendiary than an ordinary affront or a localised breach of peace."

New wave of rebellion strikes China

In China, when the officially-sanctioned method of protest - filing a petition - becomes ineffective, protesters take to the streets. In 2004 alone, there were 74,000 incidents of social unrest across the country, from about 58,000 the previous year. It looks like the Chinese Communist Party may be buckling under its own weight of unrelenting capitalism and a growing class divide. In this 5 minute video report, Sky News produced a gripping testimony of how a prying media can unnerve State oppressors who, when they think that the outside world is oblivious, are at their brutal best.

In China, stresses spill over into riots
Beijing responds with a new campaign after at least eight recent violent incidents.

By Robert Marquand Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

BEIJING – In an effort to address recent unrest fed by disparate rural, ethnic, and economic tensions, China's leadership has embarked on a "harmonious society" campaign that emphasizes awareness of the country's rich-poor gap, and even tacitly suggests the nation is at a social "crossroads."
At least eight major incidents of violence and rioting have erupted in recent weeks, against a backdrop of thousands of minor incidents in recent years.

A number of the most recent mass blow ups were triggered by minor events, such as a fight or a traffic accident between haves and have-nots, before quickly escalating to involve thousands of people. The prevalence of such cases, where crowd numbers range from 500 to 10,000, suggest a reservoir of anger existing just below China's social surface, as well as a growing "consciousness of rights," say experts like Nicolas Becquelin of Human Rights in China.

"The unrest has been deeper and more longstanding than we've been led to believe," says Mr. Becquelin. "The problem has been keeping track of all the incidents."

The Chinese magazine Outlook put the 2003 figure of local disturbances about 58,000, involving an estimated 3 million persons.

Read the rest