Facebook Follies

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.

Radical Media?….. or just more corporate adverts?

A global media company that makes adverts has trademarked the phrase ‘radical media’ and is threatening legal action against grassroots media groups covering radical politics for using ‘radical media’ in the title of a conference this October. http://radicalmediaconference.org






It’s corporate globalisation gone mad.
A protest is being held at Radical Media’s London office on World Press Freedom Day to tell them ‘We make radical media, you make adverts’.

Check out Radical Media’s adverts: http://www.radicalmedia.com/
Talk to them on Twitter: @radicalmedia

Protest on Tuesday, May 3 · 5:00pm – 7:00pm
Location Radical Media London office
1 Alfred Mews

If you are involved in radical media work, then consider adding your name to this letter.

Dear friends,
In response to @radical.media’s attempts to bully us into changing the 
name of the 2011 “Radical Media Conference” (see www.radicalmediaconference.org), we’re sending the letter below to the national press on Monday (2 May) morning for possible publication on the 3rd (World Press Freedom Day). To have your name added as a signatory please e-mail us at rebelliousmediaconference@riseup.net no later than midnight on Sunday (1 May). Please include any institutional info eg. 
Best wishes,


Welcome to our world of mash-up!

Richard Hering introduces our new multi-media “book” of the largest UK protest since 2003

“If I was going to start a news business tomorrow, I would start a business that was not designed to produce one new bit of news, but instead to aggregate news for individuals in ways that mattered to them.” (Professor Clay Shirky – NYU)

Ten years ago, if faced, as on 26 March 2011, with the largest public protest since the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, I would have been out on the streets with my video camera, trying to capture a slivver of the excitement of that day. If I’d been well-prepared, I would have gained the trust of a direct action “affinity group” ready to do something really visual, and keen to get it seen. I would then have tried to sell this footage to the mainstream news in time for the evening bulletins, to get it watched by normal people, and to cover costs and possible legal expenses incurred by the protesters. And finally I would have lovingly crafted a short punchy film that told the story from our point of view. Capacity for social change: small.

Or else I would not have attended the protest at all, and would instead have been honing meticulous 2-page proposals for investigative documentary on Channel 4, which, if successful would send me on a long and arduous journey in return for a slot on primetime TV. Viewers: many. Personal prestige (awards etc): great. Capacity for social change: tiny.

But on March 26, I did not walk the streets of central London at all. Instead, Marc Barto and I sat scrutinizing the stream of data coming into our laptops in an improvised studio lent to us by the University of London Union. We were using the phenomenal new software Storify to compile a timeline of the day, as it happened before our glassy eyes. The latest tweets, newsy or funny or attitudinal, were carefully selected alongside the best photos, and the first videos to come in that really told a story. (These last mainly used visionOntv’s video citizen journalist templates, made by members of the London Video Activist Network, guided during the day from the same studio space). Later we added an edited selection of eye-witness accounts, some by experienced journalists such as Laurie Penny of the New Statesman, and others by first-time writers being hosted by other blogs. We also added the higher-quality videos which take between a day and a fortnight to edit, such as Michael Chanan’s “A Tale of Two Demonstrations” and our own Kayte Fairfax’ and Shaun Firkser’s brilliant “Anarchists Unmasked!” (I will review the video content from March 26 in a following article.)

The result is only one of many possible stories of this massive protest against the cuts. We have tried to reflect all points of view among the protesters, from those who marched and attended the rally in Hyde Park in the hope of challenging power through numbers, through to those who think that the only solution is deep systemic change. It puts both sides as the protesters debate the value of tactics such as damage to property. It excoriates the laughable coverage by the mainstream media. It is a genuine, multi-faceted, and multi-media, story from the grassroots, crowd-sourced from citizen writers, photographers, and film makers.

Welcome to our wonderful world of mash-up media.


Check out the March26 timeline here!

NEW SHOW! – People2People

I am currently experimenting with using skype video calls for a new show called People2People, “the show where citizen journalists talk to other citizen journalists around the world”. It gives a really exciting opportunity for eye-witness reportage by a method which is technically fairly straightforward.

We are aiming to upload these shows directly, without editing, because skype is low quality to begin with, and another compression should therefore be avoided.

We’re using Supertintin Recorder, which allows you to record skype in avi format. So far I have recorded 640 x 480 pixels, which produces a reasonable quality image (23mb for 5 mins – would be better if it was twice that – but it says it’s recording a video bitrate of 2300 kbps, which is lots – next I will try the higher pixels setting to see what effect that has on picture quality).

I like the fact that Supertintin has a 5 minute limit in the free version, because that’s plenty long enough for a watchable skype show. Really it is! Almost all talk shows on the internet are far too long….

The software also allows you to set both the position and the size of the interviewer’s picture-in-picture.

For cutting from interview to video or stills, we are using skype’s sharing option. The main problem with this is the slowness of the changeover of picture, with some freezing of the talking heads occurring and so forth. We may be able to get quciker at this, or do it more smoothly, with more practice. The important thing is to keep talking, and have no gaps while you wait for pictures!

Grassroots player test

Loading Grassroots news feed

More grassroots videos and full descriptions from visionOntv‘s channel. Embed this player.

Anti-cuts channel embed

Loading ukuncut news feed

More grassroots videos and full descriptions from visionOntv‘s channel. Embed this player.

Egyptian trade unionists’ declaration 19 Feb 2011

Note: no url source for this, but it looks genuine……


Egyptian independent trade unionists’ declaration

Cairo, 19 February 2011

Revolution – Freedom – Social Justice

Demands of the workers in the revolution

O heroes of the 25 January revolution! We, workers and trade unionists
from different workplaces which have seen strikes, occupations and
demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of workers across Egypt during
the current period, feel it is right to unite the demands of striking
workers that they may become an integral part of the goals of our
revolution, which the people of Egypt made, and for which the martyrs
shed their blood. We present to you a workers’ program which brings
together our just demands, in order to reaffirm the social aspect of
this revolution and to prevent the revolution being taken away from at
its base who should be its beneficiaries.

The workers’ demands which we raised before the 25 January revolution
and were part of the prelude to this glorious revolution are:

1. Raising the national minimum wage and pension, and a narrowing of
the gap between minimum and maximum wages so that the maximum is no
more than 15 times the minimum in order to achieve the principle of
social justice which the revolution gave birth to; payment of
unemployment benefit, and a regular increment which will increase with
rising prices.

2. The freedom to organize independent trade unions without conditions
or restrictions, and the protection of trade unions and their leaders.

3. The right of manual workers and clerical workers, peasant farmers
and professionals, to job security and protection from dismissal.
Temporary workers must be made permanent, and dismissed workers to be
returned to their jobs. We must do away with all excuses for employing
workers on temporary contracts.

4. Renationalization of all privatized enterprises and a complete stop
to the infamous privatization program which wrecked our national
economy under the defunct regime

5. * Complete removal of corrupt managers who were imposed on
 companies in order to run them down and sell them off.
* Curbing the employment of consultants who are past the age of
 retirement and who eat up 3 billion of the national income, in order
 to open up employment opportunities for the young.
* Return to the enforcement of price controls on goods and services in
 order to keep prices down and not to burden the poor.

6. The right of Egyptian workers to strike, organize sit-ins, and
demonstrate peacefully, including those striking now against the
remnants of the failed regime, those who were imposed on their
companies in order to run them down prior to a sell-off. It is our
opinion that if this revolution does not lead to the fair distribution
of wealth it is not worth anything. Freedoms are not complete without
social freedoms. The right to vote is naturally dependent on the right
to a loaf of bread.

7. Health care is a necessary condition for increasing production

8. Dissolution of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation which was one of
the most important symbols of corruption under the defunct regime.
Execution of the legal judgments issued against it and seizure of its
financial assets and documents. Seizure of the assets of the leaders
of the ETUF and its member unions and their investigation.

Employee of the Meteorological Office, Ahmad Kamal Salah
Health Technicians Union, Hossam Muhammad Abdallah Ali
Nurse, Sayyida Al-Sayyid Muhammad Fayiz
Al-Fayyum Sugar Refinery, Ashraf Abd al-Wanis
Omar Effendi Department Store, Abd-al-Qadir Mansur
Future Pipes Co, 6th October City, Hafiz Nagib Muhammad
Egypt – Helwan Textiles Co., Muhammad Hassan
Tora Cement, Mahmud Abd-al-Munsaf Al-Alwani
Egyptian Commercial Pharmaceutical Co., Ali Mahmud Nagi
Hawamidiyya Sugar Refinery, Omar Muhammad Abd-al-Aziz
Egyptian Pharmaceuticals, Muhammad Galal
Suez Fertilisers Co., Shazli Sawi Shazli
Military Factory No.45, Muhammad Ibrahim Hassan
Military Factory No. 999, Wasif Musa Wahba
General Transport Authority, Gamil Fathi Hifni
Cairo General Contractors, Adil Abd-al-Na’im
Al-Qanah Rope Co., Port Sa’id, Ali Hassan Abu Aita
Information Centre, Hind Abd-al-Gawad Ibrahim
Information Centre, Hamada Abu-Zaid
Information Centre, Muhammad Khairy Zaid
General Authority for Cultural Centres, Hatim Salah Sayyid
National Postal Authority, Muhammad Abd-al-Hakim
International Ibex Co., Ahmad Islam
Military Factory 99, Tariq Sayyid Mahmud
Military Factory 999, Nabil Mahmud
Trade unionist, Mahmud Shukri
Military Factory 999, Ahmad Faruq
Military Factory 999, Osama Al-Sayyid
Future Pipe Industries, Yasir Al-Sayyid Ibrahim
Tannery workers, Mahmud Ali Ahmad
Future Pipe Industries, Abd-al-Rasul Abd-al-Ghani
Omar Effendi Department Store, Ali Al-Sayyid
Property Tax Collectors (RETAU), Kamal Abu Aita
Property Tax Collectors (RETAU), Ahmad Abd-al-Sabur
Property Tax Collectors (RETAU), Salah Abd-al-Hamid
Property Tax Collectors (RETAU), Mahmud Umar
Worker, Khalid Galal Muhammad
Petrotrade Co., Muhammad Zaki Isma’il
Suez Canal Co., Saud Omar
Suez Fertilizers Co., Kamal el-Banna

Some Comments on Nick Clegg’s Use of Metaphor




HARD-WORKING Brits are the backbone of the country, the people who will drag us out of recession, says deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Strange then, that you are putting at least 500,000 out of work.

Ordinary, willing folk – dubbed Alarm Clock Britain because they snub the benefits culture and get up early to go to work – will be given Government support.

What planet are right-wing politicians on? The people who have to set their alarm clock earliest are for instance the office cleaners on minimum wage, who still need housing benefit, cut by this government, to keep a roof over their heads. What gives you the right to pontificate about the poor when you clearly have no knowledge of how they live?

Here, he calls for a “coalition of people prepared to roll up their sleeves and get the nation back on its feet”.




THERE are millions of people in Alarm Clock Britain. People, like Sun readers, who have to get up every morning and work hard to get on in life. People who want their kids to get ahead.

I never realised that Sun readers were such an homogenous group. If my friends are made unemployed by your vicious and unnecessary attack on the public sector and its knock-on effects, expect to find a lot of alarm clocks in need of recycling. Is that you mean? Pathetic!

People who don’t want to rely on state handouts. People who don’t need politicians to tell them what to think or how to live their lives. People who are not poor but struggle to stay out of the red.

Excuse me?? How many demonizations of the poor can you get into a few lines of text? But at least we know now that you are not interested in the poor.

They are the backbone of Britain.

These are the people who will get this country moving again. It is their hard graft, day in, day out, that will get us out of the hole Labour left us in.

I’m not a big fan of New Labour, but wasn’t there the small matter of a world economic crisis caused by banks? You must know that, surely. Do you think the readers of the Sun are stupid?

Deputy Prime Minister ... Nick Clegg

Deputy Prime Minister … Nick Clegg

This Government is formed by a coalition of two parties and we want to join the people of Alarm Clock Britain in another coalition. A coalition of people prepared to roll up their sleeves and get the nation back on its feet.


Ed Miliband may be prepared to hide under his duvet from the problems Labour left us with. But we will get up every morning and face up to them. In Alarm Clock Britain, people don’t want a handout but they appreciate a helping hand. And that is exactly what the Coalition Government is offering them.

I’ll ignore the feeble ad hominem attack. Please explain the difference between a handout and helping hand. On second thoughts, don’t, because your argument is going to be pants.

I know that times are difficult right now. We are having to make cuts to pay off Labour’s debts and some bills are going up.

Isn’t it nauseating when the rich pretend empathy with the poor? Clegg, you’ve either got no fucking idea, or no conscience, or you would not have hitched yourself to a party dedicated to an economic policy which a myriad of economists condemn as crazy in purely economic terms.

Now more than ever, politicians have to be clear who they are standing up for. Be in no doubt, I am clear about who that is. That is why the Liberal Democrats made a promise to voters on the front of our manifesto.

That no basic rate taxpayer will pay any tax on the first £10,000 they earn.

We’ve already taken the first steps which will take nearly 900,000 out of paying tax altogether.

From April, every single taxpayer earning less than £42,500 a year will see their income tax bill cut by £200. By the time of the next election, 23million people will be paying £700 less.

The Government is lending a hand in other ways, too.


We are protecting jobs by cutting red tape for employers

Perhaps the most weasally of all his statements. What this means in reality (so far) is enabling employers to sack people during first two years with no risk of a tribunal, introducing fees for employees to go to tribunals, and reducing statutory sick pay, while commentators say this will have no stimulating effect on jobs. Looking after their own as usual.



and stopping Labour’s tax on jobs. We are putting more money into our schools. We are increasing childcare for kids under five to help the mums and dads who get up every morning and juggle work with raising their families.

And we’re helping the grandparents too by protecting pensions and putting billions into social care.

Today, I’ll be meeting some of the hardworking heroes of Alarm Clock Britain.

Sounds like a Royal visit, doesn’t it? Fucking patronising.

They, like many of you, had to set the alarm incredibly early this morning. They are busy doing their jobs long before it’s even light.

The people in Alarm Clock Britain deserve a break.

They drive our economy every single day of the year. Rain, wind or shine they are busy making this country tick.

This is one of my favourites. Is he reaching for the fisherman vote by talking about people braving wind? Actually, when there’s too much wind, they don’t go out. Is he castigating all those who think, “Hey, it’s a sunny forecast for tomorrow. I’ll switch off my alarm clock.” Priceless.