Sion's Videos & Multimedia

  • Lebanon Vigil
    A short video on a vigil outside the Houses of Parliament, to protest against the recent Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
  • Beyond Words: Visual Literacy at the SS Robin
    A video report for the Times Educational Supplement on photography workshops for children organised by the SS Robin Trust, a photography gallery and media centre on a 19th Century steamship.
  • Shaken and Stirred
    A video report shot for the Daily Telegraph Travel Section website.
  • Afghanistan: Dawn to Dusk.
    A slideshow of my coverage of the war in Afghanistan in 2001.

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Comments

Santo Barbieri

Pray tell, the organization running the climate camp is right wing, neo-con, fascist?

Sion Touhig

Hi Santo,

They're not Rightwing, Neo-Con or Fascist in the slightest.

Which is what makes their utterly paranoid and draconian media restrictions all the more ironic.

Just in case anyone thinks the blog links I used are trying to label the Climate Camp as 'Nazis' or 'Fascist'...that's not the intent, because they're clearly not.

The links are simply to show they're using exactly the same Orwellian repressive media tactics which have been discredited by history, and other 'spin' methods that are used nowadays, by entities like 'New' Labour and the Pentagon.

John Adams

It is quite a remarkably stringent approach to media. Definetly deep suspicion of the media.

It does sound Orwellian...i just wonder how NORMAL this sort of approach is. For example 'embeded' journalists with the army in Iraq.

What is remarkable is that this information is freely available, i`d bet that many businesses and event organisers would try this kind of thing at events...the whole camp is a mixture of openness (minutes from all meetings online) and closed (strict media control).

I wonder how real the concern is that media would distort the intentions of the camp and use any scrap of material against the organisers?

Sion Touhig

Hi John,

This kind of approach is quite normal (as you suggest) from organisations overly concerned with spinning 'their' information, their way.

Most of those organisations would never overtly claim to be in the transparency business. It's all about preserving their 'brand value'.

As you say, the Climate Camp would though (I assume), claim to be in favour of openness.

But you either stand for openness or you don't. You're either willing to front up and advocate your principles in the arena of free debate, or you're not. That means engaging in the debate with your opponents, and you can't do that by telling them to take what they're given, or piss off.

I'm sure the Climate Camp's excuse would be they're concerned with their message being distorted by the Big Bad Meeja.

But they'd probably get a kicking from the rightwing press whether they allowed them in or not. So worrying about that, is totally irrelevant.

Unless your principles are so weak, or so dodgy, that a bad write-up in the Daily Mail, means turning yourself into Alistair Campbell to convince people of your argument.

Being on the side of the angels doesn't cut you any slack if you insist on behaving like Rupert Murdoch. It just means you're apeing the very corporate media spin tactics you claim to despise.

gazz

Wow, what bruised egos!
The camp people are more concerned about being photographed and the police using it to fit them up on conspiracy charges.

Two people have already been aressted for riding a bike near Heathrow, and with the injunction the camp people don't want to be distubed during workshops and talks, its not a church fate they are holding!

Sion Touhig

Hi Gazz,

The BAA injunction attempt to restrict access to Heathrow comes from exactly the same mindset that is trying to control media access to the Climate Camp.

Even the excuses are similar. BAA says 'we have to control the protesters (our opponents) because they'll cause trouble'.

The Climate Camp says 'we have to control the MSM (our opponents) because they'll cause trouble.'

As for people being nicked for riding a bike? Look, anyone with any sense should realise the moment they step put of their house on the way to the Climate Camp, they're gonna be on CCTV.

When they get to the camp, they'll be photographed going in and out by the Police Forward Intelligence Team (FIT). The question is, whether that's enough to stop them from going, or enough to crumble their principles to dust.

I'm assuming it's not, so if that's the case, why should they give a toss if they get slagged by the Daily Mail, or stitched up and nicked?

It shouldn't matter a jot, and neither should it matter if you get snapped by someone working for ANY media.

Like you said, it's not a church fete. Nobody said the Climate Camps opponents were gonna play fair, 'cos they aint.

But its a bit rich to be claiming the moral high ground over the BAA injunction, while using exactly the same methods to gag your opponents.

In fact it's worse than that, because the Camps restrictions even bars journos who might AGREE with them...unless they 'volunteer' to join the Tranquility Embedded Lackey Squad, kow-tow to the media restrictions, and agree to have an eco-minder waving a 'Media Leper Alert' flag and looking over their shoulders while they work.

This is the kind of guff journos had to put with from Saddam Hussein's press office minders.

Nah mate, its not a Church Fete - it's a Ba'ath Party! RSVP! Not!

Leo Murray

Hmm, I think I can shed a little light on this scenario, as I've got a pretty good understanding of the process that led to what looks like a pretty bizarre set of conditions.

I actually happen to agree with Sion about the wrong headedness of this type of approach to the mainstream media but the problem is this: the climate camp process is totally open and inclusive, with all decisions made by consensus. Amongst the broad spectrum of different climate activists that make up this disparate group, there are significant numbers of people who have an insurmountable mistrust of the corporate press.

To be fair, it's not as if that mistrust is particularly unjustified. People who openly challenge the capitalist model do not get good press, which is like a fact of nature when you consider how the mainstream media works (hmm, see manufacturing consent if you don't know what I'm talking about).

Anyway, whilst plenty of climate campers think that this is just something you have to try to mitigate, work around, and subvert as pragmatically as possible, the way decisions are made means that the strongly held views of those who want absolutely nothing to do with mainstream journalists must be accommodated, and the media policy you see above is a careful attempt to balance the widely differing views of a very large number of very disparate people.

I think that whilst the outcome is far from ideal in my opinion, the process by which it was arrived at was actually very close to ideal. The camp's organisational structure can be very slow to make decisions, and sometimes not very efficient. But it is a way of organising human social relations which strives to be as equitable as it is feasible to be, and I usually feel that the decisions reached in this way exhibit a truer, more complete, and somehow more significant understanding than decisions reached by other means. Whilst I would personally have preferred a different choice with regards to openness to the press, I left the discussion about it with a sense that my views had been listened to, properly considered by those present, and taken into account in the shape of the final decision.

It's strangely compelling to be a participant, and I would urge anyone reading this blog to suck it and see, before writing the whole camp off as xenophobic or indeed Orwellian. This dictat comes not from faceless beaurocrats in some remote boardroom, but has emerged from a confection of the contrasting perspectives and motivations of everyone who chose to participate in the decision. Now That is a remit.

One supposes in an ideal world the media management strategy might be devised in a discussion like this at the actual camp, but boy I think there will be more important stuff to discuss at the camp than how to indulge the MSM. Hopefully there is a changing mindset in the activist community about interfacing with the press, but it's tentative and halting. I feel like progress is being made anyway...

Sion Touhig

Hi Leo,

One of Chomsky's major points in 'Manufacturing Consent' is that debate is often skewed if the debaters already choose the ground thats covered. So if you start off with a rabid distrust of your media opponents, then all the open debate in the world over that subject is never going to get people to see beyond that. Their paranoia has already framed the limits of the debate.

For me, the big picture is pretty simple actually. The views of the Climate Camps enemies simply don't matter. They're irrelevant. Or at least they are, if you're secure in your principles.

"People who openly challenge the capitalist model do not get good press"

Yup.

Sooo...is that gonna stop ya? If not, then it simply DOESN'T MATTER if you let your media opponents in.

The problem is, the people who advocate all this media restriction nonsense see themselves as revolutionaries in their own heads, so are up for all kinds of pseudo-covert 'counter-surveillance' action that makes them feel like they're some kind of 'underground' entity. I'd dismiss it as adolescent theatricality, except it ends up being a mirror image of the very forces they claim to despise.

"I think that whilst the outcome is far from ideal in my opinion, the process by which it was arrived at was actually very close to ideal."

Oh well, that's alright then. 'The operation was a huge success, unfortunately the patient died.'

How many times must I say this? It's not the process, it's the principle. You can have the best process in the world, but it means nothing if the fundamental principle is corrupted and skewed.

People simply can't 'suck it and see', because some of them (independent, 'unembedded' journos and photographers) won't be allowed to.

Unless you recognise that 'people' also means 'people' who may disagree with you.

"it is a way of organising human social relations which strives to be as equitable as it is feasible to be"

Arrgh! (bangs head on wall), but it's NOT equitable. It's only equitable if you're open to people who you might not like.

Even journos and photographers who DO like ya don't want to work with these restrictions, because they don't want to be press-ganged into becoming a Climate Camp lackey.

Johnjoe Peters

Hi,

There are three key points:

1). Last year we had no complaints from the press about the 'media hour'. Most considered it an extremely efficient use of everyones time. There were also few complaints within the camp - so the policy is effectively the same as last year.

2). There is confusion about why such a policy exists. The reason is not to 'bury bad news', but to respect the rights of people within the camp to privacy. There is a clear conflict here between the right to privacy and the right of the press to report freely. This obviously becomes more important when people are actually living together in a neighbourhood. Its the equivalent of inviting a journalist into your house. Obviously judgement is exercised in these cases. Overall the policy is an attempt to have a workable compromise.

3). This was one of many open and democratic decisions to place restrictions on the site of the Camp, including restrictions on the police entering, the presence of profit-making stalls, noise late at night, the non-tolerance of sexist, racist and homophobic behaviour, etc., etc. The Camp is an open space, as in open to people to participate and run the camp, not a free space where anything goes. The common theme of the restrictions is to increase participation in the camp. Of course its just the old question of dealing with 'positive' and 'negative' freedoms again and should be recognised as such. Journalists shouldn't feel singled out, as they haven't been.

Sion Touhig

Hi JohnJoe,

1/ Just because it worked last year doesn't make it right. After all, embedding works for the US Department of Defense. The press doesn't complain because if it does, it wouldn't get access at all.

Being able to successfully bully the press as effectively as the Pentagon might win you efficiency points, but it's a bit low on the freedom scale.

2/ it’s not the equivalent of a journalist coming to your house. Unless you're giving me the old 'its private property, get orf moi laahnd' argument...or maybe it's because the camp land is yours by like, Right of Conquest or something?

You probably won't own the land you're camping on, so any rules you lay down, however they're arrived at, are completely arbitrary.

As far as I can tell, the purpose of the Climate Camp is something between a picket, a static protest and a means of demonstrating an alternative way of living.

If you were having a Climate Camp amongst yourselves in your own garden, your privacy objections might hold water. They'd even be backed up by press complaints regulations and the law. But you're not.

By definition, a 'camp' means you're not at home, and the stated aims of the Climate Camp is to front-up some kind of alternative. So you'll be playing out your ideals in public. But it's pretty pointless if you do that behind a wall.

3/ "Journalists shouldn't feel singled out, as they haven't been."

Oh, but they have. Because anyone else at the camp can take their cameraphone or compact-cam and shoot a pic of anything they please, anytime they please, and don't need any flag-waving minder keeping them in line.

If there is an objection to them taking a phone-cam snap, it'll be upon the basis of their conduct, not their intent, 'cos they aint rightwing meeja scum...so what makes you assume the MSM is gonna steam in at all hours like a bunch of barbarians and start blasting away in lickle babies faces with flashguns?

Ain't gonna happen.

The MSM can be as polite as anyone else.

Trouble is, they ain't gonna get the chance are they? Even non-MSM media won't get the chance. 'Cos they won't be allowed to.

Unless they rollover and accept the Climate Camp Guided Zoo Tour.

It's nothing to do with respecting peoples sensitivities. It's about control.

"This was one of many open and democratic decisions to place restrictions on the site of the Camp"

Look, lets be honest here shall we? However openly the decision was made to restrict Police access, it means nothing.

Ultimately, the cops can come and go as they see fit and you know it. You might kick off if they try it on, but that's the only sanction you ultimately have.

The only difference is you know you can bully us and get away with it, and feel all warm inside that you've got one over on The Man.

Nobody is objecting to simple rules to make the thing run smoothly. I'm certainly not. Obviously people are gonna rub up against each other and you need guidelines so people don't take the piss.

But democratically voting for a latrine rota is not the same as democratically voting to restrict or control peoples access to the camp, just because you don't like the paper they write on.

You can't 'openly' vote for censorship, it’s a contradiction in terms. It's a complete corruption. Its not just a logistics issue - it completely cuts to the core of how your principles work.

It's not about ‘burying bad news’, it’s about burying anyone else but your embedded media pets from doing ANY news from the camp.

JohnJoe

Crikey, some rant!

You say the camps aim is: "It's not about ‘burying bad news’, it’s about burying anyone else but your embedded media pets from doing ANY news from the camp."

Lets focus on the facts:

1. The final accepted media policy has no banned journalists. The discussion was about those few journalists who have a history of repeatedly writing anti-environmental or anti-activist stories. Channel 4's Durkin and the like. Its not about certain newspapers being banned, and never was. Anyway it was not agreed upon.

2. We have already done nearly 100 interviews, so far we haven't turned down any on their potential hostility to our messages. Your fears of obsessive control are largely unfounded.

3. At the camp all journalists are welcome to come to the media hour, plus or course talk to whomever they please coming and going, and cover all the actions taking place off the site, of which there are no restrictions (which is where all the newsworthy parts are likely to be).

Lastly, its worth repeating that having certain restrictions that increase overall access to the camp is an important principle, whether its late night noise that restricts the freedom of some so that others can have their freedom to sleep, or in the jouranalist case, the freedom of people to speak and act and it not be noted down or recorded and published versus the freedom of journalists to report when they wish.

As a concept its not that hard to understand surely!

Sion Touhig

Yeah JohnJoe, ya got me there. I do go on a bit. But I don't ban people who disagree with me.

1/ Like I said, the views and methods of journalists you oppose should be irrelevant. They'll write and say whatever they like. You either let them in or not. If not, they've been banned.

Your restrictions curtail journos witnessing the camp whether they agree with you or not, unless they bow to your restrictions. So you're screwing journos who support you, and using your opponents as the excuse. The 'innocent' suffer with the 'guilty' - and the guilty can't be stopped from slagging you off anyway.

So you're just left stuffing up any independent journos who might agree with you.

2/ 100 interviews...good start. But that's before the camp has started. This blog concerns itself with photography, the Climate Camp hasn't started - so there's nothing to photograph yet.

So the interviews are irrelevant as far as photographic coverage of the camp is involved. As you insist on facts, the fact is that when the camp opens, all photographic coverage is banned - except from embedded lackeys or photo tourists on the One Hour School Trip.

Unless you can confirm otherwise.

3/ As I stated in my last post, the need for reasonable rules to govern the reasonable running of the camp is of course, er...reasonable.

But your excuse that its about policing conduct is nonsense, because a camp resident making noise at night is at least at the camp, in the night, and presumably will be politely asked to pack it in, or sod off.

But any journo won't have the same rules applied. They can be as quiet as a mouse and nice as pie, in broad daylight. But they won't even get a polite request to decline, or even a final warning, or even be told to bugger off.

Because they won't even be allowed in, unless it's for the Climate Camp 'Hour Of Power'.

You continually assert that because the restrictions have been arrived at democratically, and because you've arranged only an hours access to the camp, out of several days, that somehow that outweighs the facts, which are:

Any journalists or photographers arriving at the camp outside the one hour media tour are banned.

Only journalists or photographers who submit to having a minder, or agree to be on your embedded photo-pool (which is only 2 photographers working at any given time) of 'approved' photographers, get the run of the place.

Presumably their conduct and their conduct alone, is acceptable to the sensitive camp flowers, even though the regulations state they can sell images to your opponents in the MSM, "if essential".

They then have to relinquish their copyright to their work, and have their images vetted before being sent out.

"having certain restrictions that increase overall access to the camp is an important principle"

So having a 'no noisy music' rule is on the same level as censorship, yeah?

This is what seems not to be sinking in, and maybe why I'm ranting a little. I'm stunned that the press team from an organisation like the Climate Camp can simply brush aside a press ban (except on your strict terms) as a mere 'people management' issue.

Whichever way you cut it, it's not about managing competing rights, because Camp residents won't have their rights to speak or not, pitched against a journalist or photographers right to report.

Because the journalists and photographers won't be allowed in to report AT ALL, except under your restrictive terms.

And thats a concept that I'm amazed you don't seem to understand.

GuyT

Surely, given the hgh profile of the camp thanks to the injunction and Monbiot's piece in the Guardian yesterday the place will be crawling with undercover journalists? If anyone wants to screw the camp over in print or on film they're hardly likely to declare themselves in advance.

Reminds me of when Globalise Resistance organised the train to Genoa in 2001. 10 declared journalists, and at least 6 undercover, which in an open camp or event is impossible to restrict.

In the event, three of the undercovers were discovered having filed very sympathetic pieces about us. Because we ran things in an open way, involved people, got those without mates there into affinity groups and generally explained decisions and kept everyone in the loop. The woman from the Daily Mail was grossly upset when her words were dumped and a different, antagonistic piece written by someone in London was printed instead.

So scores of people who won't attend press briefings (if the camp is holding any) will be wandering round with crap looking cameras and privacy won't withstand the scrutiny. Little chance of winning them over if the press feel antagonised. If their remit is to smear the camp, this policy will harden them to take an aggressive line.

BTW will George Monbiot be accompanied by a flag waver?

davey

The media access restrictions are nothing to do with keeping out people who disagree nor stifling debate.

Anyone is welcome to come in and say what they want. People from the camp will gladly talk to any media outlet in any format about any relevant topic.

More, they will do it at any time.

where's the spin or control of the story in that?

It's just that people there have a lot to get on with and having journalists around inhibits a lot of it. It's not like a public demonstration.

Other gatherings, such as Earth First or the anti-G8 camps, didn't have full access either. The Climate Camp has more than these.

The people on the media team are obviously people who believe in engaging with the media, but they're balancing access according to peoples wishes for privacy and some people who don't want to engage with the media. That's not spinning the story, it's finding a compromise that everyone organising the Camp can live with.

It's about how the site itself is run.

It's about

Sion Touhig

Hi Davey,

Apologies for the late publishing of your comment. I've been away for a coupla days.

The comment was also truncated (as seen above) hen it arrived, so if you'd like to expand on 'its about...' then please feel free to continue, or post your comment again in its entirety and I'll put the full version up.

paranoidman

davey said "they're balancing access according to peoples wishes for privacy and some people who don't want to engage with the media."

eh?

it's a major public protest. If people don't want to "engage with the media" then what's the point of the protest. If it wasn't covered by the media how would anyone's views be changed

as far as I'm aware the protesters have voluntarily arrived at land owned by someone else to publicly protest against airport expansion. They are the protest itself and unless they don't want that protest covered then they've waived any right to privacy.

unless, of course, they haven't thought this through properly or they're there for the benefit of their egos rather than as a public protest. Once upon a time protesters walked it like they talked it

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