Category Archives: Politics

“The War You Don’t See”

Taking a moment to give credit to (and promote in a totally unbiased way…) the latest film by John Pilger and Directed by my father Alan Lowery called “The War You Don’t See”.
The documentary film investigates the media’s role in war, ‘tracing the history of ’embedded’ and independent reporting from the carnage of World War One to the destruction of Hiroshima, and from the invasion of Vietnam to the current war in Afghanistan and disaster in Iraq. As weapons and propaganda become even more sophisticated, the nature of war is developing into an ‘electronic battlefield’ in which journalists play a key role, and civilians are the victims. But who is the real enemy?’

Check out some clips from the film here – well worth a watch to get you inspired:

The film aired on ITV1 in the UK last December (at the peak of the Wikileaks controversy) and has just announced screening in Australia – so for all my Aussie followers here are the details:

“The War You Don’t See”: SBS is 8.30pm on Sunday April 10th. (The trailer is already running)
Cinema screening: Dendy Opera Quays on Monday April 4th at 6.30 pm.
Plus some ‘activist screenings’ organised by Green Left Weekly.
Eastern Sydney:
6.30pm Thursday March 31, Robert Webster Building, Level 3, Theatre – Room 327, UNSW Kensington Campus.
Inner City:
6.30pm for 7pm Friday April 1, St Lukes Hall, 11 Stanmore Rd, Enmore.
Sydney West:
6.30pm Wednesday April 6 Parramatta Town Hall, Jubilee Room, Church St
Other screenings around the country we’ve organised so far include:
Brisbane Fri April 1, Sat April 2, Sun April 3 @ 74B Wickham St Fortitude Valley
Fremantle: Wed April 6, 6:30pm @ FTI Cinema, 92 Adelaide St, Fremantle
Newcastle: Thurs April 7, 7pm, @ Royal Exchange, Bolton St
Adelaide: Sat April 16, 6:30pm @ South West Community Centre, 171 Sturt St,

More info available at JohnPilger.com

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The perils of protest

From The Guardian / UKuncut:
Fortnum & Mason protesters filmed by UK Uncut – video
Footage filmed at the anti-cuts protest was shot by Green & Black Cross legal observers and handed to UK Uncut, which passed it on to the Guardian. It shows a police chief inspector telling demonstrators inside the Fortnum & Mason store they would be allowed to leave. After being led outside, Guardian footage shows the protesters being kettled and then arrested:”

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Now I’m not going to get into the whole debate about ‘anarchy’ vs. ‘thuggery’ vs. ‘protest’ but personally I find this video evidence of the police telling seemingly peaceful protesters at the UKuncut sit-in at Fortnum & Mason on Saturday that they would be able to leave and go home (only to then find themselves arrested once they exited the building) totally disgraceful.

Unfortunately I was ill on Saturday and unable to attend the march, or the boat race for that matter as I thought it would’ve been good to infiltrate the Tory party from within by the banks of the Thames! (NB – if a certain someone is reading this then you know this is in jest – and you know who you are!) However watching this video obtained by The Guardian this morning I was appalled by the clear evidence that the police tricked protesters into believing they were being let go home.

It was then that I noticed several faces I knew, aquantances and people I had worked with recently on other NGO events and activities. People who in my experience would never cross the line from protest to vandalism or thuggery or do anything that would warrant arrest. The scenes of the sit-in from inside F&M didn’t seem outrageous, nor was any great damage done from what I can see so surely being forced to go to trial is an unnecessary weilding of police power – a threat to future actions perhaps? I also believe from those who were arrested (and then held in custody for 24 hours) that they not only had their mobile phones withheld but also their clothes – and are not being given them back until after the trial – surely a little extreme?!

The scenes in the video reminded me of the protests during COP15 in Copenhagen in December 2009 when hundreds of peaceful protesters were caught up in a kettling of Black Bloc anarchists and held for more than 5 hours in the sub-zero temperatures.

Police holding protesters during COP15

This actually happened right outside the apartment block I was staying in and we were unable to leave – the student residents above us were playing Michael Jackson’s ‘Heal the World’ out of the window at full volume to the crowd of protesters awaiting arrest seated below with their hands tied in handcuffs. They also beamed messages of support through a projector onto the building above them causing the police to storm our building (and terrifying us as to what would happen as 4 Australian NGO workers with an apartment full of filming equipment!).

Police holding protesters during COP15

It was a pretty harrowing experience, not least witnessing the brutality of the police and how they stormed the group with little regard for mothers carrying their children in the otherwise peaceful protest. I’m not excusing the actions of those who deliberately vandalise and attack buildings and symbols of power, it’s a shame that these actions are what make the news despite being only a small percentage of what happens at protests. It’s even more of a shame that groups intent on damage and vandalism use these protests to wreak havoc and damage the cause – are they even aligned to the cause or just to the excuse for violence I wonder – although I don’t know enough about them to say.

Nonetheless in the case of those arrested from the sit-in and comparatively peaceful protest last Saturday this really does seem like an overreaction and putting police and court resources into the wrong targets.

Practise what you preach

We’re all guilty of it – doing one thing and saying another. But surely our politicians stick to their word as elected representatives? [Insert clearly sarcastic emoticon here] Ok well perhaps that’s a little optimistic but when someone publicly voices their dislike for something and then does this themselves surely that’s hypocrisy at its best?

I’m referring to Robert Halfon MP who last month publicly voiced his disdain about receiving ‘mass’-emails from his constituents via online campaigning organisations: “The problem is that these charities seem to think that impersonal emails – often with impersonal invitations to attend this or that reception – are the best way of lobbying MPs…Nothing could be further from the truth…the impersonal nature does nothing to ensure that I feel well disposed to meeting with or helping that particular charity or pressure group. These computer generated emails are more a curse than a blessing…” [Guardian Voluntary Sector Network Blog: Feb 3, 2011] In fact he even quotes an ‘old Soviet joke’ – “We pretend to work, you pretend to pay us” – hmmm anyone else see the irony there?

Ok granted he does acknowledge in his original article the amount of things sent to him by post but seriously if an MP wants to engage with people then how are they expecting this to happen – by carrier pigeon? Harry Potter would approve…

So when, in light of his comments, I went to the trouble of not only printing (environmental impact?) but posting a signed personal invite to Mr Halfon to participate in our ‘Activism vs Slacktivism‘ debate I at least expected an appreciation of this effort – ‘cos let’s face it how many people post invites these days? Perhaps it was as this was so unusual for me to do that I imagined a look of delight as he acknowledged the effort I had been to as he opened the letter – ok slightly idealistic I know!

Instead what did I receive by way of a ‘response’? A polite but clearly template standardised response – by email! Without even a subject line! (Shock horror at the non-professional email etiquette!) See below:

From: Robert Halfon
Date: 8 March 2011 16:38
Subject: (no subject)

Dear Ms Rogers Lowery,

Thank you for your letter inviting Robert to join you in Oxford on 21st March. Unfortunately, due to commitments in the House of Commons, Robert will have to decline you invitation.
Best Wishes,

Victoria
Office of Robert Halfon MP

Mr Halfon says the best advice for charities is to ‘make it personalised and local’ – well perhaps the local was where I failed, so sorry but I just don’t like Harlow enough.

[In acknowledgment of the speed of email over Royal Mail, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and wait eagerly for the post but I’m not holding my breath – after all email is a far more convenient way don’t you think Mr Halfon?]