The Love Children of Mystic Mogg
Private Eye used to have a column called "Mystic Mogg" reporting the hilariously erroneous predictions of William Rees-Mogg, sometime editor of The Times. I suspect this kind of journalistic aberration occurs when their analysis of what is happening is subverted by what they wish would happen. There was a splendid instance this week, when apocalyptic predictions across the media of a Labour vote collapse in Oldham West and Royton were embarassingly contradicted by the actual result (a 7% swing to Labour). Here are some of my favourite gazes into the journalistic crystal ball, which turned out to be more of a hallucinogenic disco ball.
The ever-reliable left-hater, Dan Hodges from the Telegraph on November 21st:
"The word among Labour MPs is that their party is in trouble in the Oldham by-election. One northern MP said: “The white working class vote is haemorrhaging. And it’s haemorrhaging in our heartlands. We’re reaching the point where you’re going to see double-digit constituencies drifting into recount territory.”
But readers of this blog will be accustomed to hearing that the so-called liberal press is more extremely anti-Corbyn. Rafael Behr in the Guardian excels himself:
"Labour will probably cling on in Thursday’s byelection. But the party’s troubled relationship with its northern heartlands seems to be on the rocks......Hopes that Corbynism might be the adhesive reconnecting a dislocated core to the party seem misplaced. It feels more like a catalyst for decline, another iteration of tin-eared disregard for local sensibilities – distinct from Blairism only in the sense that they are opposite sides of one Islington coin."
This is only some of the bile in this sadly unprophetic article.
Ian Warren in the Guardian on 1st December: "I have identified three distinct groups that will decide this byelection on Thursday – and it doesn’t look good for Corbyn." Ian's distinction is that he is director of an election analysis consultancy. I hope this article is added to his CV.
I'm a big fan of the experts, and there are none better than Rob Ford, research fellow at Manchester University's Institute for Social Change, in the Guardian: "Labour has good reason to feel nervous about its poll test in Oldham" he pontificates on 28th November, but the rest of his "analysis" sounds more like Armstrong and Miller's desperate royal correspondent: "Low turnout and Tory recruits can narrow the gap, but a Ukip win would also require large numbers of voters to switch from Labour to Ukip." No shit, Rob! By the way, Rob Ford is the co-author of a dodgy book arguing that UKIP was more of a threat to Labour than the Tories, which maybe explains his psephological errors, as dissected by Richard Seymour.
Robert Hardman in the Daily Mail on 3rd December was also hedging his bets: "...there is no doubt that its whopping 14,738 majority, won just seven months ago at the General Election by the late Michael Meacher, will be slashed.....a tropical heatwave would not avert this slump in Labour’s appeal."
Now begin the surreal. The Daily Mirror's Dan Bloom, who prepared his readers for Labour's demise with the headline "Dark Night of the Polls for Jeremy", had to refute himself a few hours later: "Jeremy Corbyn has defied his critics in spectacular fashion as Labour won a thumping victory in his first ballot box test." Throughout this "turnaround" in elite expectations, a notable feature has been a lack of humility about previous mistakes.
One example of this is Helen Pidd, who benefits from local knowledge by being the Guardian's Northern editor in Manchester. She was cringe-makingly racist about Asian voters in Oldham, and then failed completely to retract anything, keeping in sync with the Blairites' "despite Jeremy" argument: "The message from the leadership came after Corbyn’s critics, who had predicted a narrow win for Labour in the byelection, were confounded by the scale of McMahon's victory. Shadow cabinet ministers had predicted a collapse in the white working class vote, with many of those voters turning to Ukip." She modestly fails to mention her own role in this error. Amusingly, when Corbyn visited after McMahon's victory she tweeted the name of the constituency as Oldham West and Royston, unconsciously linking it to the League of Gentleman's Royston Vasey, a fictional northern town of feral grotesques. Sometimes I have the feeling that middle-class journalists project their own unacknowledged prejudices onto an image they have of a racist, ignorant white working class. "Jeremy Corbyn, never 'eard of 'im." "But he's on every leaflet UKIP pushed through your door." "Oh, ah thought that were Father Christmas."
Hilary Benn's speech was pants (don't believe the media)
The Spectator magazine went so far as to publish the full text for us to ogle at. Here is my quick dissection of his scandalous, tub-thumping, murderous imperialist rhetoric.
BENN: Thank you very much Mr Speaker. Before I respond to the debate.... (CUT patronising encomium to Jeremy Corbyn)
Now Mr Speaker, we have had an intense and impassioned debate and rightly so, given the clear and present threat from Daesh, the gravity of the decision that rests upon the shoulders and the conscience of every single one of us and the lives we hold in our hands tonight.
RH: And as his master Mr Blair would have said: we feel the hand of history on those same shoulders that reach down to those oh so conscious hands. But at least Blair had a bit of self-awareness, and prefaced it by saying "now is not the time for cliches").
BENN: And whatever decision we reach, I hope we will treat one another with respect.
RH: Because when you're discussing whether we should dice up kids with shrapnel, the most important thing is to be polite.
(CUT... complimenting a long list of other people who made speeches - who does he think he is, the PM? Oh. I see now!)
BENN: The question which confronts us in a very, very complex conflict is at its heart very simple. What should we do with others to confront this threat to our citizens, our nation, other nations and the people who suffer under the yoke, the cruel yoke, of Daesh? The carnage in Paris brought home to us the clear and present danger we face from them. It could have just as easily been London, or Glasgow, or Leeds or Birmingham and it could still be. And I believe that we have a moral and a practical duty to extend the action we are already taking in Iraq to Syria. And I am also clear, and I say this to my colleagues, that the conditions set out in the emergency resolution passed at the Labour party conference in September have been met.
RH: They definitely haven't. Conditions 1 and 2 have not been met, and with conditions 3 and 4 it is too early to tell.
BENN: We now have a clear and unambiguous UN Security Council Resolution 2249, paragraph 5 of which specifically calls on member states to take all necessary measures to redouble and co-ordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Isil, and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria.
So the United Nations is asking us to do something. It is asking us to do something now. It is asking us to act in Syria as well as in Iraq. And it was a Labour government that helped to found the United Nations at the end of the Second World War. And why did we do so? Because we wanted the nations of the world, working together, to deal with threats to international peace and security – and Daesh is unquestionably that.
So given that the United Nations has passed this resolution, given that such action would be lawful under Article 51 of the UN Charter – because every state has the right to defend itself – why would we not uphold the settled will of the United Nations, particularly when there is such support from within the region including from Iraq. We are part of a coalition of over 60 countries, standing together shoulder-to-shoulder to oppose their ideology and their brutality.
RH: This is a highly complex legal area, and while it is a “clear and unambiguous” call to take action against ISIL/Daesh, Resolution 2249 does not invoke Chapter 7, which mandates military action. Some lawyers believe the self-defence argument, used repeatedly by Benn, can only be used if there is a real and imminent threat, not merely an intention or an unspecified threat some time in the future.
BENN: Now Mr Speaker, all of us understand the importance of bringing an end to the Syrian civil war and there is now some progress on a peace plan because of the Vienna talks. They are the best hope we have of achieving a cease-fire. That would bring an end to Assad’s bombing, leading to a transitional government and elections. And why is that vital? Both because it will help in the defeat of Daesh, and because it would enable millions of Syrians, who have been forced to flee, to do what every refugee dreams of: they just want to be able to go home.
Now Mr Speaker, no-one in this debate doubts the deadly serious threat we face from Daesh and what they do, although sometimes we find it hard to live with the reality. We know that in June four gay men were thrown off the fifth storey of a building in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor. We know that in August the 82-year-old guardian of the antiquities of Palmyra, Professor Khaled al-Assad, was beheaded, and his headless body was hung from a traffic light. And we know that in recent weeks there has been the discovery of mass graves in Sinjar, one said to contain the bodies of older Yazidi women murdered by Daesh because they were judged too old to be sold for sex.
We know they have killed 30 British tourists in Tunisia, 224 Russian holidaymakers on a plane, 178 people in suicide bombings in Beirut, Ankara and Suruc. 130 people in Paris including those young people in the Bataclan whom Daesh – in trying to justify their bloody slaughter – called ‘apostates engaged in prostitution and vice’. If it had happened here, they could have been our children. And we know that they are plotting more attacks.
RH: The attacker in Sousse, Tunisia had never been abroad, and was radicalised in Tunisia itself. In the case of the Russian airliner which came down over Sinai, Benn is getting ahead of the evidence. Egyptian authorities are still examining the black box and trying to recover data from the voice recorder. While security experts think that a missile from an ISIS-related group in the Sinai is unlikely, there are still three extant possiblities: a bomb planted on board, technical failure, and human error. If it were a bomb on board, it suggests again an attack from someone based in the local country, most likely on the airport staff. The ISIS group based in the Sinai claimed the attack was "in response to Russian air strikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land”. So how does Benn think that launching similar attacks in Syria will make Britons safer? As we already know, the attackers in Paris were from Belgium and France, again observing the killing of Muslims in Syria and Iraq, and seeking revenge.
BENN: So the question for each of us – and for our national security – is this: given that we know what they are doing, can we really stand aside and refuse to act fully in our self-defence against those who are planning these attacks? Can we really leave to others the responsibility for defending our national security when it is our responsibility?
RH: As shown above, the argument for bombing Syria for the sake of self-defence and national security is completely specious. FFS, do we really need to repeat the security services' conclusion that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 substantially increased the risk of terrorist attack, as tragically proven on 7/7? Surely everyone knows that? Surely Benn himself knows that? I'm beginning to think he's a bare-faced liar. He can't possibly be that stupid.
BENN: And if we do not act, what message would that send about our solidarity with those countries that have suffered so much – including Iraq and our ally, France.
Now, France wants us to stand with them and President Hollande – the leader of our sister socialist party – has asked for our assistance and help. And as we are undertaking airstrikes in Iraq where Daesh’s hold has been reduced and we are already doing everything but engage in airstrikes in Syria – should we not play our full part?
RH: Britain's ruthless pursuit of imperial interests in the Middle East is as historic as France's, so within Benn's imperialist conceptual framework, this makes perfect sense.
BENN: It has been argued in the debate that airstrikes achieve nothing. Not so. Look at how Daesh’s forward march has been halted in Iraq. The House will remember that, 14 months ago, people were saying: ‘they are almost at the gates of Baghdad’. And that is why we voted to respond to the Iraqi government’s request for help to defeat them. Look at how their military capacity and their freedom of movement has been put under pressure. Ask the Kurds about Sinjar and Kobani. Now of course, air strikes alone will not defeat Daesh – but they make a difference. Because they are giving them a hard time – and it is making it more difficult for them to expand their territory.
RH: This is a completely separate argument, and should be made in the style: although it increases the risk for UK citizens, it is our duty to stop the expansion of ISIL/Daesh in Syria and Iraq. Benn muddles them up. When you're voting to kill people, you can't write something that reads like a last-minute student essay, to be ripped to shreds by your tutor. In any case, the extent to which bombing is effective is disputed, and may have been lied about by the US government. In July 2015 there was an unprecedented mass whistle-blowing from the US intelligence community (“Intelgate”), where “more than 50 intelligence analysts at Centcom have formally complained that reports on the Islamic State and the Nusra Front — Al Qaeda's Syria branch — have been repeatedly altered by senior intelligence officials to fit with the Obama administration's insistence that the US is winning the war against the two militant groups.” I wonder where Benn is getting his information.
BENN: Now, I share the concerns that have been expressed this evening about potential civilian casualties. However, unlike Daesh, none of us today act with the intent to harm civilians. Rather, we act to protect civilians from Daesh – who target innocent people.
RH: Given ISIL/Daesh's modus operandi in towns and cities, hiding in tunnels and bunkers or among civilians, this is meaningless and heartless rhetoric. He also callously ignores the pleas from civilians in Raqqa not to bomb published on Sunday in The Observer.
BENN: Now on the subject of ground troops to defeat Daesh, there’s been much debate about the figure of 70,000 and the government must, I think, better explain that. But we know that most of them are currently engaged in fighting President Assad. But I’ll tell you what else we know, is whatever the number – 70,000, 40,000, 80,000 – the current size of the opposition forces mean the longer we leave taking action, the longer Daesh will have to decrease that number.
RH: Here Benn culpably narrows the range of numbers for anti-Daesh Syrian rebel forces. Robert Fisk on Monday wrote: “At one point last week, one of Cameron’s satraps was even referring to this phantom army as “ground troops”. I doubt if there are 700 active “moderate” foot soldiers in Syria – and I am being very generous, for the figure may be nearer 70 – let alone 70,000.” Benn has himself become a satrap in selecting the figures he has, and by using the ridiculous term "ground troops". If the number is 70, should we bomb ISIL/Daesh strongholds in the hope of preserving 30 or 40? How would bombing have this effect? The reality is that so-called “moderates” have been cooperating with Islamists in Syria for some time, and in some cases converting to their side.
BENN: And so to suggest, Mr Speaker, that airstrikes should not take place until the Syrian civil war has come to an end is, I think, to miss the urgency of the terrorist threat that Daesh poses to us and others, and I think misunderstands the nature and objectives of the extension to airstrikes that is being proposed. And of course we should take action. It is not a contradiction between the two to cut off Daesh’s support in the form of money and fighters and weapons, and of course we should give humanitarian aid, and of course we should offer shelter to more refugees including in this country and yes we should commit to play our full part in helping to rebuild Syria when the war is over.
Now I accept that there are legitimate arguments, and we have heard them in the debate, for not taking this form of action now. And it is also clear that many members have wrestled, and who knows, in the time that is left, may still be wrestling, with what the right thing to do is. But I say the threat is now, and there are rarely, if ever, perfect circumstances in which to deploy military forces. Now we heard very powerful testimony from the honorable member for Eddisbury earlier when she quoted that passage, and I just want to read what Karwan Jamal Tahir, the Kurdistan regional government high representative in London, said last week and I quote: ‘Last June, Daesh captured one third of Iraq over night and a few months later attacked the Kurdistan region. Swift airstrikes by Britain, America and France, and the actions of our own Peshmerga, saved us. We now have a border of 650 miles with Daesh. We’ve pushed them back, and recently captured Sinjar. Again, Western airstrikes were vital. But the old border between Iraq and Syria does not exist. Daesh fighters come and go across this fictional boundary.’ And that is the argument Mr Speaker, for treating the two countries as one, if we are serious about defeating Daesh.
RH: There is actually a well-known political division between the government in Iraqi Kurdistan quoted by Benn and the Kurds of the YPG currently fighting ISIL/Daesh in Syria. The YPG consider the Iraqi Kurdistan government to be pro-imperialist, whereas they are anti- all imperialist forces, be they Turkish, Russian, US, British or French, and favour a non-sectarian, radically democratic communal state. Benn does not mention them.
BENN: Now Mr Speaker, I hope the house will bear with me if I direct my closing remarks to my Labour friends and colleagues on this side of the House. As a party we have always been defined by our internationalism. We believe we have a responsibility one to another. We never have – and we never should – walk by on the other side of the road.
And we are here faced by fascists. Not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us in this chamber tonight, and all of the people that we represent. They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision tonight, in contempt. And what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. And it is why, as we have heard tonight, socialists and trade unionists and others joined the International Brigade in the 1930s to fight against Franco. It’s why this entire House stood up against Hitler and Mussolini. It is why our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice.
RH: The Labour Party has definitely not always done that, but let that pass. This is perhaps the most spurious part of Benn's speech. The dubious, and neo-conservative, political science which equates radical Islamism (itself a number of different ideologies) with the European fascist movement is much derided. As security expert Daniel Benjamin wrote: "there is no sense in which jihadists embrace fascist ideology as it was developed by Mussolini or anyone else who was associated with the term." Back in 2008, US federal agencies stopped using the term “Islamo-fascism”, as it was considered offensive, pejorative and confusing. Why is Benn still clinging to this old canard?
BENN: And my view, Mr Speaker, is that we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria. And that is why I ask my colleagues to vote for the motion tonight.
RH: And why, might I add, were so many Labour colleagues persuaded by this? Is it not their job to research an issue as important as raining bombs on other people, so they could be well enough informed to reject this drivel?
David Cameron's 12-point plan for bombing Syria
David Cameron's 12-point plan for the bombing of Syria, as approved by Cabinet today:
1. Bomb the enemy.
2. Backtrack a bit, and explain who the enemy are. They are ISIL militants. They are not the forces of Assad (that was 2013), though they may be bombed again in the future. They are not members of the Free Syrian Army or any other "moderates", if they exist.
3. Don't bomb any "moderates". Despite the fact that "moderates" often become hardline Islamists or work with them, we will have no trouble deciding who is who.
4. Reassure the public that no civilians will be killed. Our 1000lb precision bombs mean that any militant who tries to hide in a group of civilians or deep in a bunker will be taken out, and he alone.
5. Persuade the public that our contribution on top of US, French and Russian bombing will be the turning point in the Syrian civil war.
6. Make an infographic which clarifies the difference between good bombs (ours, French, US) and bad bombs (Russian, ISIL suicide bombs).
7. Fight the argument that all these bombs could raze Syria to the ground with maps, eg showing that the Golan Heights are really quite high.
8. Don't help the Kurds too much. They're commies in conflict with our friends the Turkish government.
9. Pretend that the pleas from civilians in Raqqa not to bomb them do not exist.
10. Use the phrase "stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the French" in every media interview. If a journalist mentions Saudi Arabia, change the subject.
11. Appoint Lord Chilcott to lead a public inquiry into the legality of the bombing, to be completed sometime after our death.
12. If there is a terrorist attack on UK soil, say the solution lies in monitoring Muslim children more closely, further invading the privacy of UK citizens, and return to point 1.
Corbynmania - the Sock Puppets Fight Back
Has it struck you as strange how lifeless are the three right-wing candidates for Labour leadership (or "moderates" as the press calls them) when they debate on TV, when they address tiny meetings in community halls, or when they fearlessly abstain in Parliament? We can reveal that this problem - what shall we call it? the New Labour zombie effect? - may have sunk much deeper into the Labour Party apparatus than was previously imagined.
Meet Maria, Sara, Emilia and Jvlia (and that's not a typo). These charming young women have several curious things in common: the uniform blandness of their names, the stock photo attractiveness of their solitary photos, and their bizarrely recent joining of the facebook empire, given their age (in their 20s, all of them).
Further investigation makes things look even odder.
Maria Wilson, age 25, first post 6th August 2015, is a fan of Archway Kebab in Jeremy Corbyn's constituency, despite living in California City, California (pop: 14,120).
Sara Edward, age 25, law graduate from Bournemouth University, first post 5th September 2015, is a resident of New York, Norfolk, a hamlet in the Broads affectionately known as “The Little Apple”. I made that last bit up. It does not of course exist.
I'm fascinated by Emilia Brown (above), also 25, who graduated in psychology at Nottingham University, but previously studied at Nottingham High School, New Jersey. I'm guessing she's now looking for a job in Nottingham, Alabama.
Jvlia Jones, age 28, first post 25th August 2015, lives in London, but strangely is a fan of the unofficial Gosport Labour Party supporters' page in true-blue Hampshire.
The other thing that these keen new users of social media have in common is that they have all “friended” leading members of the Stop the War Coalition, and many other Corbyn supporters. And the lovely Jvlia includes Sian Berry, Green Party candidate for London mayor in her “friends”.
What can these classic social media “sock puppets” actually be doing? Is it really possible that they're part of a plot to find evidence to exclude Corbyn voters from the leadership election? I can't shake the image in my head of a male, middle-aged Mandelsonian clone tapping away into his computer, endlessly recreating himself as these attractive young women. In what are hopefully its dog days, can the “Old New Labour” Party get more ridiculous?
Addendum: We continue to investigate this phenomenon. An alternative theory is that the sock puppets are sponsored by the Israeli government, and may be designed to associate Stop the War activists with anti-semitic posts. Jvlia Jones has already made one such post. Or possibly to attack Corbyn himself, given the difference his leadership of the Labour Party would make for the Palestinian cause......
UPDATE 9 September: Since I posted this alert yesterday, two of these false friends, Jvlia Jones and Emilia Brown, have been overcome by bashfulness, and have deleted their fb accounts.
But there are many more young women seeking friendship with wizened old Leftists, a really welcome sign of the times.
Caitlin Edward, account created 7th September, has made no posts at all, but is presumably the younger, more hip sister of Sara Edward (see above).
Lucy King, age 23, first post 21st August, friend of the usual overlap between socialists and Greens, lives in Chelmsford, so may be a UKIP spy. Except that it's Chelmsford, New South Wales. Are you noticing any pattern here?
Ella Walker is the senior in the group at 44, but looking good for her age. In addition to a predictable taste for StW, the PSC, CND and Save Shaker, she has also joined a new group called "Mark's Zionist Sock Puppets". When Zionist sock puppets are joining groups of Zionist sock puppets, I fear this may all be a Kafkaesque plot to send Corbyn supporters into clinical paranoia, or at least terminal confusion.
Thousands of Venezuelan pro-government twitter accounts deleted
Around 7,000 Venezuelan Twitter accounts were deleted yesterday, including those of an elected state governor, three cabinet ministers, a radio station, a revolutionary daily newspaper, and the official accounts of ministries and other institutions. They all appear to have been pro-government accounts, and none of them of the opposition.
Twitter has been an effective means of communication for supporters of the Bolivarian revolution, since late President Hugo Chavez opened an account in 2010 and reached 4 million followers, making his the second most popular account globally for a political leader, after Barack Obama's.
This appears to have been a coordinated, politically-motivated attack, but we don't know yet how it happened. Twitter spokesman Nu Wexler has flatly refused to comment.
There are basically three ways it could have occurred. Large-scale coordinated hacking and deletion of accounts by opposition supporters is a possibility. It could also be that a similar campaign of reporting accounts for spam triggered an algorithm in Twitter which automatically blocked the accounts (I'm being generous to Twiiter here!). Thirdly, and less likely in my opinion, it could be something much more sinister involving Twitter and for instance US Intelligence agencies.
As of this afternoon, some 50 accounts have been restored by Twitter, including those of Governor Aristobal Isturiz, which has 332,000 followers, and of Communications Minister Delcy Rodriguez. However most accounts have not been restored, for instance of Minister of the President's Office Wilmer Barrientos and of the Women's Ministry and the Bolivarian University of Venezuela.
It is important to set this attack in social and historical context. After opposition candidate Henrique Capriles came close to winning the Presidential election last April, focus has shifted to the local elections coming on December 8th. Both the Venezuelan opposition and their supporters in the US State Department know that a good showing for the opposition would help build support for a referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro in 2016. Dirty tricks to derail the Venezuelan government now abound, principally in the form of economic sabotage, creating shortages in shops which the government is battling to combat. Some commentators therefore think the Twitter attack could be a trial for a much bigger taking-out of Bolivarian social media nearer the elections.
The corporate media at home and abroad play a crucial role in this destabilisation. The UK-based Economist had to print a letter from the Venezuelan Embassy in London refuting two erroneous articles on freedom of the press. The standard line, though, is of economic woes, though all social statistics disprove this absolutely. We can all do a bit to refute media distortions. Only last night I corrected the Bloomberg correspondent in Caracas Nathan Crooks (@nmcrooks), who had spouted an egregious error about the minimum wage. Distortion or carelessness? It's impossible to know, though in response he merely repeated the error. But the media lies about Venezuela, including in so-called liberal newspapers, are so blanket that they come to appear like the truth. Journalists don't expect to get called out, so we should.
The Venezuelan government has officially complained to Twitter, and although a few accounts have been restored, is yet to receive a reply. If Twitter PR Nu Wexler maintains this silence, and thousands of accounts remain suspended, it may be appropriate to observe that in his resume he has been in and out of the revolving doors of Capitol Hill, including time as the Communications Director for the House Budget Committee. I'm not suggesting anything nefarious, merely that he is part of a political elite which regards anything Bolivarian as bad. For that Washington 1%, gross interference in Venezuela's democracy, including its social media, is legitimate.
First of all, liberate your computer
There are two types of computer user. There are wised-up geeks who use open source software, type command lines like it's in their blood, and talk a completely different, totally inaccessible language from the other type of user, who they mainly consider to be losers. This other user may have bought their computer on the recommendation of the guy in PC World, who also tried to sell them support for two years at a special price of 12.99 a month. They then try to run it with the pre-packaged closed-source trash-ware it comes with - the kind of software that wants to control you more than you controlling it. Some of these second type of users have bought a Mac, because, as proven by the fact that it's eye-wateringly expensive, it simply works. Except when they get it home they realize it doesn't.
A friend of mine, despite being a smart and creative person doing a master's in London, was a "loser user". When trying to download a torrent on her Mac through the official search engine Safari, she was getting a .exe file (don't ask me why). When she tried to play videos, she found most of them would not through the proprietary Quicktime player. The solution? To start to liberate her machine - use open source Firefox or closed-source, but more functional, Google Chrome as browser. Bingo, torrent files downloading films in Transmission. Use vlc as media player. Same result, every video file playing. As for Windows users, my reply is simple, but a bit more radical: "I won't fix your broken Windows computer, but I will help you install Ubuntu on it." Nobody I have done this for has ever felt the need to web-surf on Windows again.
My point here is this. Let's close the gap between the smart geeks, who would find my advice crass and obvious, and the general users, who are victims of corporate software and the enclosure of the internet, and who react with joy and relief when they start to liberate themselves just a little bit. Let's begin by helping them to install and use some really basic stuff, and take the opportunity to explain about open source and the open internet.
It's time the National Trust responded on #Fracking
Following up on George Monbiot's article on the National Trust's policy on fracking, it's time they answered two simple questions:
1. Has the National Trust's "presumption against fracking" announced in August changed since Dame Helen Ghosh's statement?
2. If it has changed, have the National Trust's members been informed?
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).
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?
visionOntv supports the wikipedia blackout
Today every page of the English-language wikipedia is offline. This is to protest the STOP ONLINE PIRACY ACT (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP ACT (PIPA) currently winding their way through the US legislature. Both these bills would do well-documented damage to the internet and to civil rights, both in the US and the rest of world. Catch a video on this on plugandplay.
Like wikipedia, visionOntv distributes creative commons material, where the copyright is owned by the producers. Like wikipedians, we monitor films we put out for copyright violation. And like wikipedia, we are adamantly opposed to this legislation, and to other laws being passed around the world at the behest of large entertainments corporations. We consider these laws to threaten the restraint not only of our basic trade, but of the freedoms on which we all rely.
Let's walk the walk for independent media
How can we really build a vibrant and quality independent media, rather than just hope for one?
Part 1: By creative commons licensing
The license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This is vital for the building of free and independent media, but lots of film makers find this idea quite threatening.
So here's an FAQ to allay your fears!
I don't want to lose my ownership of the footage by making it copyleft.
Creative commons isn't copyleft - it's a copyright license. You're just allowing some people to use it under the same terms, crediting you when they do it.
The BBC told me that they didn't have to pay for my footage, because it was creative commons.
The corporate media often tries this line, but they are "commercial", and your filmwork is your copyright. One of my favourites, from a production company working for Channel 4 UK, was "we found it on youtube, so don't have to pay". Sorry, you do. If they use it without asking, send them a bill.
But I'm worried about people cutting my footage into whatever film, outside of my control.....
They have to credit their use, and in my experience I have basically agreed with all the films which have used my shots. Surely it's good to get your stuff out there as much as possible?
What about the artistic integrity of my original film?
Well, that still exists, right? There is actually a creative commons license specifying "no derivative works", but why lock up your footage in one version only? Mozart wrote the Magic Flute for a troupe that had lampooned his previous work. Good enough for him, definitely good enough for me. And because of the "sharealike" clause, every use of your material guarantees more media available for the creative community.
My contributors have only released their work to this one film.....
You should never promise this to your contributors, because it is meaningless in the digital world. Let's imagine a worst possible case for them, where their contribution was ripped to shreds as a "satire" by a member of the Tea Party and published to youtube. Under the Californian law which covers google's video-sharing behemoth this copyright violation is permitted as "fair use", a basic protection of freedom of speech. In reality this almost never happens.
But you said your entire project was creative commons. What stops someone from simply taking your whole site and rebranding it as theirs?
They would have to give credit, but yes, they could do that, which would be absolutely brilliant. It would be weird if they didn't add something (conspiracy theory films? Extreme sports?). In which case, if we liked what they added, which in the case of extreme sports is possible, we could put it in our site as well. Everyone gains, and we make the world a better place.
Creative commons is one of the key ways we can build an open and better media. Part 2 will deal with media rss.
With over 50 UK-based activist groups deleted by facebook prior to the Royal Wedding last Friday, we have a great opportunity to reassess our relationship to this social media monolith.
Let's be clear. As activists, we would be pretty dumb and self-defeating not to use facebook, which holds accounts for 1 in 12 of the world's population.
It makes absolutely no sense to be using an unconnected parallel network with a small fraction of the members.
But facebook has a basic structure very unsuitable for campaigns and activism. Let's define it politically and ideologically. It is designed to be a network of individuals who connect to their "friends". The full set of features, for instance the crucial facility to direct-message people, is only given to individuals. The suggestion that activist groups should set up "pages" rather than "profiles" is impractical for this reason. At base, facebook is designed to allow people to group themselves, but only within the walls of fb itself. Pre-existing groups, or groups with a life of their own, violate the terms and conditions and can be closed at any time. This fundamental facebook structure feeds the server / client relationship beloved of corporations (they serve us content, which we consume), rather than the horizontal peer-to-peer network on which the internet is based (we can all be content producers sharing with each other - this latter is the corporate nightmare). To adapt Monty Python's "Life of Brian", facebook's insistence that "you're all individuals" should cause us all to shout "we're not!"
So what we need to be doing when we post to facebook is constantly linking to networks and resources outside of it, to net the fb user fish and take them out to safer, clearer, more sustaining waters.
And more broadly, to quote Aaron Peters, "this requires us to start using and building viable alternatives that are in every sense of the word ‘ours’, meaning that they are commons-based in production, distribution and ownership."
visionOntv is currently working on tools that will enable our site to live within facebook as itself, a plan which knocks holes in the infamous fb walled garden. Watch this space!
There is an open meeting on Thursday May 5 for people to stand up to the latest attacks on our civil liberties, organized on, er, facebook.