Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Democracy when?

As we in Canada await news of a possible election, the U.S. is deep in their own process. I get much of my news of the U.S. election from Democracy Now!, an independent, decidedly left-leaning (that's way left... left of Nader left) daily news program hosted by Amy Goodman. I podcast the show through iTunes, and love it as much for its lack of polish as I do for its non-mainstream positioning. DN is typically full of technical glitches, off-camera coughing and chatting, and throws to the wrong bit of tape. I appreciate seeing behind the machinery of media.

Last week, during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, DN expanded to two hours from their standard one, and covered the slick politics to a depth you will never see on CNN. The producers of the show and its host, Amy Goodman, have a knack for grabbing just the right guest at just the right moment to give the viewer just the right glimpse at process.

I was looking forward to this week's coverage of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, especially since it began with an impromptu interview with Daily Show host Jon Stewart who happened to be waiting for his luggage at the the same carousel as Amy Goodman.

But that was before two Democracy Now producers were detained by the twin cities police after a series of pre-emptive raids on protesters. See the youTube video link below for footage of Amy Goodman herself being hauled off to jail yesterday after she tried to intervene on behalf of her staffers. I am absolutely itching to download today's podcast. Live from the Minneapolis-St. Paul big house, this is Democracy Now!

Oh, John McCain. You're going to need a whole lot of folksy to get past this one.


Craig Burnett said...

For the Democratic National Convention, protestors were given a designated zone in which to protest far far away from Obama's stadium. Last I checked, people in that country have a right to free assembly and peaceful protest and if they aren't breaking any laws the police should not be impeding their motions for any reason.

This, however, is one viewpooint of what happened. Fortunately for Obama, no syndicated journalists were in the crowd so this probably won't slow down the hope train.

John said...

Hi Craig,

Well, my post was intended to be more about the interruption of the media coverage of the RNC these arrests represent -- the attack on a free media. It would have been hard for the cops to miss Amy Goodman's identification papers since she was wearing them around her neck. She was clearly a member of the media and not a protestor (though I also think she sometimes lets herself cross those lines on purpose).

I've done my fair share of gathering in the street and shouting slogans, and honestly I'm generally okay with the interaction between the crowd's right to assembly and the mandated public safety response of law enforcement. I suppose having law enforcement in my family encourages such a perspective. I don't know.

I once watched a colleague of mine, a student journalist, pick up a large rock and attempt to bash in the doors of Queen's Park with it because Mike Harris was inside the building preparing his common sense revolution. I'm just glad the kid wasn't hurt when he was rightly and necessarily arrested. I don't want social change through rocks (or lock-breaking for that matter, hmmmm)

American rights to free assembly and protest -- and our own such rights -- belong within a social contract that demands certain restrictions -- permits, acceptable behaviours, peacefulness, no willful property damage. If a protest follows these rules and is nevertheless attacked and dispersed by police, I trust our society will seek and obtain justice.

On the other hand, there are dudes at every protest who are just looking to cross all the lines and to end up arrested. I'm not convinced of the efficacy of such protest methods, since it becomes very very difficult for anyone, especially the men with the sticks to differentiate between the jerks breaking windows and those seemingly supporting them.

Protest movements who refuse to take responsibility for the willful and pointless violence at their fringes remind me of other philosophers of social change who refuse to speak out against real damage being caused in their names.

Clearly, you are no fan of Barack Obama, but to his credit, his people assessed what was happening in the streets and agreed to meet with the protestors to hear them out.

Craig Burnett said...

(or lock-breaking for that matter, hmmmm)
We both want the same thing - for creator's rights to be respected. The difference between us is that you think legal protection for DRM can cause people to respect creator's rights. It doesn't work and that isn't respect. Those who feel a genuine sense of gratitude for the creator's work will pay. Those who are greedy or apathetic won't. Another solution is required. I'm done having that debate, as far as this blog is concerned.

I agree with all else that you said in your comment in this thread, though. :)

As for Obama, if I were an American, I would be voting for him. Of the two remaining candidates, he has the most potential to make some positive changes and I'm even less of a fan of McCain. Obama's close ties to Zbigniew Brzezinski and the CFR don't bode well for America though. They are faced with a tough choice and my heart goes out to them.

As for police officers, yeah, I agree that they have a really tough job. There are a lot of really great cops out there but the problem is that the rowdy cowboys don't always get disciplined when they abuse their power, particularly in the states. It usually results in "paid suspension" which I like to call "vacation". Canada is a little better but they do still like to take care of their own, as it were. There's the crux of the problem. Law enforcement investigating law enforcement.

I kinda like Jello Biafra's idea to let the citizenry vote for their police officers.

Free, unfettered media? Yeah, absolutely a key ingredient in a free society.

Thanks for posting.

John said...

"The difference between us is that you think legal protection for DRM can cause people to respect creator's rights"

I keep having to correct people on this point. My thinking around legal protection for DRM has nothing to do with whether or not it will work to make people respect copyright. I simply respect the principle that locks should not be broken just because they represent a consumer inconvenience. Consumers have a very powerful weapon against such locks that has nothing to do with breaking them or buying the tools to break them. They can, and should, simply not buy locked technology if it is going to stop them from doing what they want to do.

As to people respecting creator's rights... I don't know how to turn that around. But greater, louder public advocacy for such a thing from the consumer mafia might help.