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Stateside With Rosalea: Reality VG?

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

Reality VG?

It is 1998. I'm standing at the window of the staff cafeteria in an office building that overlooks the Wellington railway yards, where the Cake Tin is taking shape. The engineer I'm talking to is telling me with a faraway look in his eye that the technology he's helping develop will enable him to send live video of his kids from his cellphone to his Dad, who lives half a world away.

That's the first thing I thought of when I saw the cellphone pictures that garnered a large part of the early attention regarding last week's London tragedy. Then something else came to mind--the NHK documentary Media Jihad, which I saw at a conference about public television back in May.

Looking through the notes I took at that screening, I read: "images sent from a mobile phone in a suicide bomber's car include his last screams." In late August of 2004, the documentarians met the 18-year-old who claims he is a Taliban fighter and has been producing jihad videos for three years, using a single PC, as an antidote to what he sees as US media suppression of the true casualty rate in Afghanistan.

My mind jumps from that to the pizza parlour up the street where the clientele play video arcade games while they wait for their food. The games are all the shoot-em-up variety, set, for example, at an airport that is being attacked by terrorists. You lose points for shooting innocent bystanders. Those jihad videos, and the videos various US battalions put on their websites, I think, must just seem like Reality Video Games.

The pizza parlour is in a suburb that has a lot of unemployed young people, a fact not lost on the US Army, which has its recruiting materials on the counter promoting a program called PaYS--Partnership for Youth Success. The tagline on the PaYS logo is: Reconnecting America with its Army. It's basically just a work scheme like those NZ had in the 80s, except that instead of being put to work hoeing weeds, the unemployed get sent to dig up roadside bombs.

Meanwhile, back here in dippy San Francisco, I receive a breathy email from CurrentTV offering me $250 for any "citizen video" I might send them about my reaction to the London event if they accept it as part of a program they're going to air in August. There's not a word of commiseration in the email for the victims in London:

"Folks, Early this morning, a series of bomb attacks wrought havoc and death in London. You probably saw the coverage on TV, or on a news site. It's grimly familiar. This time, there's been another thread of reporting, too: normal people with cameras and computers. This is a new kind of news. And now's the time to be part of it."

The first piece of video they put up their website is from the anarchist blogger who leads CurrrentTV's SF meet-up group. He is bleating about how he wandered around on July 4 and heard the fireworks exploding and thought: So this is what it must feel like to live in Iraq or Palestine; what about all the innocent civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US?

Later, the same craven fool goes out and films an anti-G8 demonstration in SF's Mission District--a rather more fertile ground for PaYS than for rich-kid hobby anarchists, I should think. This new footage also airs on a local TV station, KRON4, which has started its own blog/citizen journalism initiative in order to make inroads into CurrentTV's 18 to 34-year-old demographic even before the new station begins broadcasting next month.

It is 1998. I'm standing at the window of the staff cafeteria in an office building that overlooks the Wellington railway yards, where the Cake Tin is taking shape. The engineer I'm talking to is telling me with a faraway look in his eye that the technology he's helping develop will enable him to send live video of his kids from his cellphone to his Dad, who lives half a world away.

rosalea.barker@gmail.com

--PEACE--


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