Wednesday, January 9, 2008
It was on November 6, 2001 when Fox Network launched their later to be Emmy and Golden Globe award-winner TV series 24 and the idea of an Afro-American president to the USA was still a futuristic "what if" Hollywood experiment. Dennis Haysbert looked convincing and promising as David Palmer, commander of the world's most powerful armed forces. But it was just a TV series.
In just a few hours from now Air Force 1 will be landing in Ben Gurion airport and I wonder if it might has anything to do with the fact that today, six years and two months of George W Bush later, Israel's second popular daily newspaper Maariv had the front page of its print version covered with one of the most amazingly ridicules titles any Israeli daily ever came up with.
A scan is here on the left but as you probably can't read Hebrew I'll freely translate it. It says "Concern in Jerusalem: Obama Gets Closer to Presidency". Concern in Jerusalem??! I know for some, perhaps most, Israelis saying goodbye to George and his - how shall I put it - "approach" towards the Palestinian issue, Middle East and conflicts in general must be sad. I know Obama is Afro-American. I know he is a democrat. But concern? It sounds a bit dangerous when Israel is "concerned" over something, isn't it?
My guess is that someone at Maariv came up with an idea to use this half-threat half-complaint and convince Americans they just have to make this minor adjustment to their constitution and have George elected for just four more years. Otherwise we'll all be far more concerned soon. We might all have a Palmer-Obama as our next commander of armed forces and he might just not like using them as much as we want him to.
That would be horrible. It might end up with a little peace in the Middle East.
Friday, January 4, 2008
A plan to allow "domestic view" of data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can "see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers" has been recently approved by the USA government. For the good and bad of it, Information age enhances the ability of states to control citizens and of business corporations to enlarge leverage our privacy into profit: better security means more information in corporate hands and less privacy. Furthermore, Information age allows business corporations and states to deliver their message more efficiently than ever before. This means more products, more advertisements and less free public space. Yet, Information age also allows activist groups and their counter messages to be heard by millions. Following is a fresh collection of popular and particularly interesting strategies, case studies and resources demonstrating the two-edged sword face of new media - where counteradvertising, commerce jamming and propaganda remixes make a stand.
1. The Blackspot Sneaker: Cutting Through the Hype of Mediated Reality
According to AdBusters Media Foundation, publishers of the most popular subvertising magazine in the world and a leading activist group based in Vancouver Canada, well made subvertisments need to efficiently "mimic the look and feel of the targeted ad, promoting the classic 'double-take' as viewers suddenly realize they have been duped". With a list successful media projects such as the TV Turnoff Week which was aired on CNN, the Buy Nothing Day videos of 2006 and 2007 and a series of viral TV subvertisments titled The Product Is You, AdBusters continue to demonstrate how TV commercial language can be altered and manipulated to "cut through the hype and glitz of our mediated reality" and reveal "a deeper truth within."
The Blackspot sneaker, designed by John Fluevog, is Adbusters' recent Commerce Jamming project, a first Anti-Brand and your chance to "unswoosh Nike's tired old swoosh and own one of the most Earth-friendly shoes in the world": 100% organic hemp upper, recycled tire sole, made by Vegetarian Shoes in a European union shop including a hand drawn (!) logo plus.
2. Busting Phillip Morris: Why are you buying your food from a tobacco company?
In fact, some culture jamming ads carry indisputable facts about their targets making some disturbing unfamiliar truths to be a little more familiar to the public. "Why are you buying your food from a tobacco company?" showcased a list of popular food products owned by Phillip Morris, the world's largest cigarette company: "...Chances are that you've been helping to promote Marlboro cigarettes without even knowing it. You can withdraw that support by personally boycotting these products" the ad said. "It's like giving money to a health organization that is working to find a cure for cancer - but in this case you are taking money from a corporation that causes it. So next time you go buy food- try it. You'll like it."
3. The Reality of War: Vertigo vs. Australia's Department of Defence
In March 2003 Australia's Department of Defence has withdrawn advertising from all student media across the continent in response to a controversial full-page parody of Defence recruitment advertising published on Vertigo, a student newspaper at the University of Technology, Sydney. The spoof ad satirically portrayed the Department of Defence as "a political tool of an Australian government intent on participating in an unsanctioned invasion of Iraq" and was followed up and reprinted by other student publications.
This act of solidarity was like a golden medal to the Vertigo activists who saw the fact "students are no longer being inundated with inaccurate representations of the Defence Force" as a great victory. Vertigo spokesperson, Jano Gibson argued that "the 'exciting', 'inspiring' and 'feel good' Army ads that appear in uni diaries, on billboards and television differs extremely from the reality of participating in a war" and that Vertigo's parody "simply corrects the omissions of the Department of Defence." For a larger version download the pdf here.
4. Volkswagen vs. a Sick Joke: The Suicide Bomber Polo Driver
Sometimes facts are not the issue neither is the spoofer's opinion and the busted ad is made either "for" a non-existent product, or with a real one simply as parody of advertisements. Rarely, a familiar brand language is mimicked so well that the entire world is successfully fooled. In January 2005, managers at German car manufacturer Volkswagen found themselves in the center of a global row after a meme hack sick video joke featuring a Palestinian suicide bomber in a Polo car was virally distributed across the world via the internet.
The spoof TV advert showed an "oriental" looking man stepping into a Polo car wearing a keffiyeh scarf, known as a symbol of Palestinian nationalism. After driving around the city for a while the driver stops near a resonant populated with lots of innocent civilians and detonates, yet leaving the car intact.
The video was punched-lined with the familiar style slogan announcing "Polo: small but tough". Check it out and see for yourself: Even though it is not very clear which "deeper truth" is actually being revealed here, this culture jammer was mimicking the familiar Volkswagen language so well it simply got people to believe it’s a real one.
5. Excuse me - Is that blood in your gas tank? Dave Ward vs. Hammer
"Please download the large version and pass it along to forums, websites and other people who might appreciate it. Spread the meme!" – Those were the words of Dave Ward, a professional photographer who in 2005 created two anti-Hummer spoof ad campaigns. Suggesting the real reason behind the ongoing blood shed in Iraq is to support America's oil demand fueled by manly Tofu hater ego-driven cars of the Hammer type, Ward's anti-war eco-friendly spoof ad became almost as popular as the originals and were massively and virally distributed on Internet.
In July 2006 the second Hummer ad titled "Excuse me - Is that blood in your gas tank?" showed up on Ads of the World, a commercial advertising archive for the best and most interesting creative work worldwide. I bet they didn't like this so much at Hammer's headquarters but in light of recent developments in America's approach to international global climate responsibility you might say this culture jamming attempt might have had some part in making a change.
6. The Madeleine Spoof: Extremely Hurtful and Not Funny
Not all ad spoofs are made with humanitarian causes in mind and some are made for profit or publicity and leave a very bad taste behind. An 'advertising' spoof published in a German satirical magazine named The Titanic included an allegedly double-spread ad for a supermarket, depicting a number of products promoted with the image and name of Madeleine McCann's. This poor-taste parody was later described by Madeleine's parent's spokesman as "extremely hurtful". Not much to say about this one. Perhaps just that it's a good example for a 'not very funny' spoof.
7. Doctors Ought to Care: I smoke for smell
Other spoofs can be very funny and can hardly defined as unjustified by anyone, that is unless you are a lung cancer tycoon. The idea to sabotage the interest of cigarette corporations using their own media weapons is far from being new and came up almost 30 years ago when the Doctors Ought to Care (DOC) organization was pioneered countered development and jamming tobacco ads. In a 1980 paper published in JAMA, DOC founder Alan Blum, MD, wrote that "humor can be an effective tool" in this war. Thus, in one of its poster series, the DOC parodies the classic I smoke for taste advertisement with a picture of a similarly defiant, macho character with a cigarette dangling from one nostril and the caption I smoke for smell.
8. Constitutions Matter: Billboard Liberation Campaign
A very popular form of adbusting, sometimes referred to as Billboard Modification or Billboard Liberation, takes the form of alternation of public space commercials and billboards to make a spoof or parody of the original corporate or political message. Usually it is the company that pays for the advertisement that is being under the attack. In some cases, however, the target can be the medium itself.
It was August 1, 2007, when the deadline for all billboards in the city of Tacoma, Washington to comply with a (ten years old) law requiring the removal of all (well defined) disruptive billboards. Three days later Pranks, a popular blog by Joey Skaggs dedicated to culture jamming and reality hacking published this follow up about hundreds of billboards in Tacoma which "have sprouted a scary blue and red message reading "Constitutions Matter". All adbusted billboards were left carrying the name "Clear Channel Outdoor", a company of Clear Channel Communications and one of the world's largest outdoor advertising corporations. Photos are taken by Pranks from a local city blog named exit133.com.
9. The Li Peng Story: Step Down to Appease the People’s Anger!
Politics, anti-war and freedom fighting were always of the most inviting countermessage battlefields for artists and writers. The story of the Li Peng poem is an extraordinary example of how mass media can be hacked to deliver political counter-messages even under extreme media control standards as practiced by Chinese government. In March of 1991 the overseas edition of the People’s Daily - China’s Communist Party newspaper - featured the following patriotic homesick poem, written by a graduate student from Los Angeles aliased Zhu Haihong. Apparently the poem was a brilliant "qianzi shi" also known as "inlaid-character" poem. Thus, when read diagonally from upper right to lower left the words "Li Peng must step down to appease the people’s anger!" could be interpreted. Li Peng, for those who don't know, was the Premier of China between 1987 and 1998 and the "chief architect" of the 1989 Tiananmen square massacre.
10. The Propaganda Remix Project: YOU Back The Attack! WE'LL Bomb Who We Want!
Lastly, and with no intentions of getting into any blue-red American politics, here is another great example for political counter messages targeting war propaganda: Micah Ian Wright is an American author who works in film and television and also the person behind YOU Back The Attack! WE'LL Bomb Who We Want!, a compilation of his Remixed War Propaganda with introductions by Howard Zinn and Kurt Vonnegut.
Other books from Wright include If You’re Not a Terrorist... Then Stop Asking Questions! and Surveillance Means Security! and hundreds of posters are available on his site The Propaganda Remix Project. When you are there, make sure you don't miss Wright's amazing collection of Hate Mail. All typos, errors, odd word choices, logic leaps, ad hominem attacks, homophobia, and delusions are claimed to be "quoted verbatim". I've found myself spending some time reading there. It's nice to see some folks know how to take some criticism :-)
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Protests are restricted? Leaders profit from war? Citizens closely monitored? Country might be tuning into a fascist entity? Check the above vid by Dayjob Orchestra for the Top Ten Signs Your Country May Be Going Fascist, submitted by cgt2099 picked up in the Anti War group at Mixx.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Roadside bombs, also known as Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are a powerful notorious weapon used by guerrilla fighters and terrorists against both organized armies and civilians. The war in Iraq, however, made roadside bombs more "popular" than they have ever been. Even though a huge effort is constantly being made to improve protection, according to Wikipedia, since 2003 and until today IEDs have been responsible for at least 40% of coalition deaths in Iraq. While many of the attacks are filmed by the attackers themselves some of them are captured live on camera by the soldiers, sometimes broadcasted on mainstream media channels and sometimes remaining rare citizen journalism documents reflecting the naked horror of reality. Following are 6 of the more unbelievable roadside attack videos taken by soldiers. This is how war looks like when its naked.
This 10 seconds video taken in the vicinity of Baiji in Iraq has been recently distributed anonymously via email in Israel. It shows an unsuccessful roadside attack so there are no hard sights here but the impact is shown in a way I personally never saw before.
One of the horrible sides of war in the New Media age is that, at least in some psychological aspects, it makes all of us a part of it. Yet, this also has some good sides. Hiding the truth became almost impossible. We can actually see how things look from the point of view of those who do it which may help us forming out opinion on the given subject. With this one for example, taken in the Iraqi downtown of Ramadi, you can almost feel the punch.
Camera keeps on rolling
Uploaded last year this 40 seconds clip documents a roadside bomb detonates nearby a convoy of British soldiers. The camera is inside the car when it gets hit and continue rolling.
Camera keeps on rolling. Tough driver continues driving.
Some roadside blasts are followed by a secondary attack. Thus, when you get hit and are able to continue driving it is probably the wise thing to do. Taken from a somewhat unusual angle with the camera installed on the engine hood, the fellow who was behind the wheel here must have been of the toughest as he somehow managed to keep on driving even after the blast, which probably saved a lot of grief for quit a few mothers.
Not just armed vehicles
While most roadside attacks target armed vehicles some are used directly against soldiers when they are on the move or even if just standing, as shown on this shot broadcasted on CNN
Minimal vehicular protection
Lastly, in spite of their very minimal vehicular protection this group of US marines was lucky enough to survived an IED attack described as "small". Watch this and your definition for small might be altered.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Could it be that this time, the who know which time, some real good will grow out of the current global penguin politicians parade? Looking at what is still going on in the West Bank and listening to what the Israeli settlers and right-wingers have to say, watching the way the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are divided over the meeting, allow your humble servant to share his skeptic doubts with you on the subject.
This said, lack of vision has always been one of the worst problems of my country so, with everyone spilling his skeptic doubts all over I know I should do the opposite: According to a statement published at the Annapolis conference today Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed on launching a new round of peace talks with the goal of "reaching an agreement by the end of next year." I think that is very good. lets all cross our fingers see where this is heading to.
Meanwhile, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli TV that the "Annapolis conference is a continuation of one-sided concessions by Israel" the Associated Press reported, and earlier today Israeli officials said they will "begin reducing electric power to Gaza next week in response to rocket attacks launched against Israel from Gaza".
"Begin reducing electric power to Gaza"...? Providing the Israeli government has serious intentions towards Annapolis, this must be a way to educate the Palestinian people for something but I am not sure for what. Perhaps for how to continue manufacturing bombs using less electricity and lower carbon footprint. Perhaps this is why baltimoresun.com says all eyes are on the Annapolis summit. Low-power consumption manufacturing is a hot subject nowadays.
Images courtesy of baltimoresun.com
Friday, October 26, 2007
While we are on the subject of rumors, In our new media enhanced universe it's really just a question of time until everything is revealed. Even some things USIsrael government rather leave hidden. Thus, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) website now serves the original DigitalGlobe imagery pdf report of the location where Israel airstriked Syria September 6 this year.
The photos, taken on Aug 10, show the location reported on the Washington Post this Wednesday, informing us that "The facility is located seven miles north of the desert village of At Tibnah, in the Dayr az Zawr region, and about 90 miles from the Iraqi border". Based on size and proportions of the structures it is suggested that "Syria might have been building a gas-graphite reactor of about 20 to 25 megawatts of heat, similar to the reactor North Korea built at Yongbyon."
Stefan Geens of Ogle Earth, my favorite virtual globe blog with a special focus on Google Earth, published this amazing photo article discussing the recent news and saving us the trouble of searching ourselves. If you have Google Earth installed just click here to save the kml file and run it. "There on the eastern bank" says Geens, "is an unmistakable candidate nuclear reactor building, 45m x 45m in size, apparently still under construction". It also turns out that all of the sudden, since the last time Geens checked (a few weeks ago), the entire Syrian part of the globe has been upgraded with much higher-resolution image coverage in Google Earth. Ha!
A few open questions: Is Bashar al-Assad becoming a celebrity? Are we expecting a better resolution GE images of Israel soon? If so, is this going to be for similar reasons? Just check the bottom left of the last picture above. This is where we live.
Edit 18:30 GMT+2: roadstoiraq.com reports Google updated their Syria satellite imagery five times sharper from 25 meter/pixel up to 5 meters/pixel and that the upgrade was done two days go. Also according to this blog "It is possible to see all Syria military airports and even count how many warplanes on the ground" and "recognize anti-warplanes batteries, its positions and its types". Yet, roadstoiraq also insists on bringing up the bitter truth, reminding us about similar visuals we all saw a few years ago "exposing" Iraq’s WMD’s and the ones of inside Tora Bora...
Saturday, October 6, 2007
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel criticized Myanmar regime on Friday for cutting off Internet access saying "They don't want the world to see what is going on there". Yet, even though protests seem to have been successfully forced down by the Junta and number of dead and missing persons might be left unknown forever, pieces of information continue to flow nevertheless thanks to some brave people and proxy servers.
We know how Japanese photographer journalist Kenji Nagai was murdered because we watched this citizen journalism video posted to YouTube and broadcasted on Japanese television. We can see for ourselves how really far was this soldier when he shot Nagai who was holding his camera. We know bodies were dropped in front of monasteries as warning signs and that most, perhaps all, of these monasteries are now empty of their residents. We don't know where the monks are, how many are dead and how many are being tortured in the Junta's basements but we do know the Myanmar dictatorship now seeks four more alleged monk 'ringleaders' after 25 of the 29 monks suspected of being protest leaders are already in custody.
We know soldiers were singling out people with cameras. Watching this CNN video can help us imagine what they are expected to be dealing with when they are found. We know citizen journalism now changes the rules of the game, but we also know the high price some need to pay for it as fate of Moezack is still unknown and his blog has been totally wiped out by someone. Other popular bloggers such as kohtike, niknayman and soneseyar which continuously posted news and photographs of ongoing protests have also been shut down priorly to the "damaged underwater cable" eliminating Internet access completely in Burma.
It seems bad guys are winning at Burma, AKA Myanmar, but so does citizen journalism. The news are bad, but at least we know that.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Sunday, September 30, 2007
After decades of brutal dictatorship, the people of Burma are rising up but as the world stand still they are also being brutally murdered in unknown numbers. I just discussed the importance of freedom of press a while ago in my post about Reporters Without Borders and already the cold blooded murder of Photographer Kenji Nagai in Yangon street three days ago serves us as a frightening demonstration for what I was talking about and for the direction things are heading at.
Now we are indeed getting into the next step as it was now reported that unknown dead bodies are burned at YaeWay Crematorium. Here is a transcript of a phone conversation with a Burmese in Yangon, published on Burma-Myanmar Genocide 2007, a blog that publishes updated news about current ongoing genocide in Burma/Myanmar and English translations of Burmese/Myanmar blogs reporting from within the country:
"Er… they shot… people got killed. Er…but it seems like it wasn't as bad as yesterday in terms of number of deaths, however we will know the accurate picture tomorrow. Er… la another disturbing news is that er… I would like to know if you would inform BBC and CNN about? (sob!!!) They burned the injured protesters/civilian people in the YaeWay Crematorium la la . Er… the staff from crematorium told this, crying, to the people who went to the funeral service. Please let this known to CNN and BBC."
Updated pictures from Burma are available on the original Burmese blogs from the following addresses:
As internet reporters risk their lives to get this information and have it broadcasted on the web a special Indymedia team set up this backup mirror for their Burmese/Myanmar friends.
The Australian reported today that Rangoon - the dilapidated former Burmese capital - is in "lockdown, with a curfew in force from 9pm to 5am. and that "Limited phone connections have been restored but mobile and internet services remain closed."
Sunday, September 23, 2007
All right folks, new design is nice but we are in the business of publishing here so check on this "Photo story" titled Make Love Not War I picked-up today thanks to Cooper from wonderlandornot.net. Photographed by Steven Meisel and published by Vogue Italy on style.it this fashion catalog 'tells the story' of US soldiers in Iraq as they reveal the joy of play with a bunch of skeleton like wild looking young women.
Cooper thought it should have been described more like a "photo fantasy" targeted at ignorant men and suggested it has a "rape me" subtext. I tend to agree with Cooper on the subject as the "rape me" style seem to be gaining popularity recently. yes. I think it's there all right, at least in some of the images, and the fact it does not contain Iraqi looking women doesn't change much because that's how it works. because they don't have too. and mainly because western like women would fuel both male and female consumers much better.
I think the interesting thing about this campaign is that it does far more than just carrying another version of the "rape me" message. It is innovative in the sense of what it dares to do. Amazingly I should say, it seem to be notionally flirting with recently published information Iraq and the involvement of (some...) US soldiers in rape of Iraqi women. Hollywood is already aware of the trend and knows how well such a story is able to sell.
Famed film director Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables) was quoted just a week ago saying when he read about the Mahmudiyah incident in Iraq 2006 (that would be five US soldiers raped a local girl, killed her and her family) he knew he has "a story." Now don't get me wrong: I LOVE De Palma, it's just that I am almost positive the guys from Vogue had more or less the same idea in their mind. Love sells well, but rape sells better.
Looking at those images a few times, I can almost hear how it went: The creative team was perfectly aware of the recent stories. The subject was brought up and discussed. The advantages and disadvantages were discussed, I presume someone must have got up and said something like, “yeh, sure it might turn against us as some pretty ladies will claim this and that, but think about all the people who would talk about it...”.
True, the “any publicity is good publicity” equation might be changing nowadays as the new rules set by the “age of conversation” permeate deeper. Still, things are changing slowly and this campaign will probably achieve its mission, and some of it would be thanks to Cooper and myself. But I still think I should write this and you should read this. This is still the kind of world we live in.
See it all here judge yourself: Make Love Not War
Monday, August 6, 2007
On August 6, 1945, exactly 62 years ago, the nuclear weapon Unit L-11 nicknamed Little Boy was dropped on the city of Hiroshima by the crew of the American B-29 Superfortress bomber Enola Gay, directly killing an estimated 70,000 people. Approximately 69% of the city's buildings were completely destroyed, and 6.6 percent severely damaged as the United States became the first and only country ever to use an atomic weapon in warfare. In the following months, an estimated 60,000 more people died from injuries in Hiroshima, and hundreds more from radiation.
Three days later, on August 9, 1945 the port city of Nagasaki was destroyed by a second atom bomb nicknamed Fat Man with the ultimate loss of 140,000 lives. The results were that Japan surrendered and World War II was ended. Here is some additional information according to The Manhattan Project - An Interactive History (the emphasizes were made by me):
Development of the bomb followed two paths, one using uranium-235, which occurs naturally, and the other man-made plutonium. In the end, both were built and used: The uranium-based "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima, while the plutonium-based "Fat Man" laid waste to Nagasaki.
How heavily populated cities came to be chosen as the targets remains a matter of controversy. The scientists involved in developing the bomb favored demonstrating their weapon to the Japanese in an isolated area but military and political planners rejected the idea, arguing that the shock of total destruction would have a more profound impact.
The United States maintains to this day that the decision to drop the bomb was made primarily to avoid the necessity of invading the Japanese home islands, an undertaking that would have resulted in enormous casualties on both sides. But that argument ignores the deterioration of Japanese resolve by that point in the war. Although the emperor's government rejected the Potsdam Declaration in late July, which called for an immediate and unconditional surrender, the Japanese had been sending out peace feelers through the Soviet Union, and early signs of starvation, even on the main island, were apparent.
Many historians believe that the real U.S. motive for dropping the bomb was to end the war quickly before the Russians could become involved, thereby denying them a postwar stake in the Pacific -- and, by practical example, to send a message to Stalin.
Whatever the reasons, the bombs were dropped and most of the scientists involved in the Manhattan Project later expressed remorse for what they had wrought.
The above photograph (source: About History) shows Comdr. A.F. Birch, numbering LB (Little Boy) unit L-11, before loading on trailer in Assembly Bldg. #1. Unit L-11 was the one dropped on Hiroshima. Dr. Ramsey standing nearby. (August 1945).
Here is a 10 min video piece from BBC's Hiroshima.