Thinking Theatrically for Powerful Protest

316105.jpgIt was a little surprise to find this talk given by Larry Bogad on the TED talks list.

Larry Bogad is an author, artist, and professor of political performance. Scots may remember him being in the Clown army when the G8 came to Gleneagles.

In this talk he talks about how creative actions are highly planned and rehearsed, including many of the actions of the civil rights movements.

It’s a short but interesting watch…

From The Dark Underbelly of British Politics

In 2005 the G8 met in Scotland. A few days before the summit itself many protesters made their way to Dungavel, Scotland’s detention centre.

I blogged about it at the time for spinwatch

Respecting the Right to Protest – Exactly Where Did This Happen?

Tuesday Morning. Meet in George Square to get the bus to the protest at Dungavel –Scotland’s concentration camp. There was already a large police contingent in the square. What they were expecting us to do I have no idea.

On the bus we began to wonder why it was taking longer than it should have to get there. The police had put in a number of diversions and actually had ‘Road Closed’ signs in a lot of places. We considered stopping the bus and removing them, as it was nothing more than a tactic to ensure less people got to Dungavel.

When we arrived people were whispering to each other that the police were trying to provoke an incident so that they had an excuse to cancel the following days protest at Gleneagles (more to follow on this). People were also telling each other not to take the bait and to save it for Wednesday at Gleneagles itself.

It certainly felt like the police were attempting to scare people. There was a line of horses at the back of the car park where we were congregated. Police, some of whom had dogs,were standing a foot or so apart right around the area we were standing and they ringed us in. Mark Brown made a speech early on…something along the lines of “we’re all animal lovers here; we like dogs and horses but can I say to the police that if they want to take their horses for a trot could they look out for all the kids that are around.” I got the feeling if he hadn’t said this then something fairly bad would have happened. There were also reinforcements in a field just out of sight of where the protestors were standing.

As the day went on a whole group of protestors were surrounded and not allowed up to the detention centre. No explanations were given. A hundred or so protestors came back out of the stage area down to the entrance to see what was going on. After holding them back for about 20 minutes for no apparent reason at all they let them go.

Soon after this Rosie Kane arrived on stage and told of one of the buses which was stopped (not hers). She left her bus and found that everyone on the bus which had been stopped was having their name and address taken and they were about to be individually photographed by the police. They were told if they did not comply the bus would be turned round and sent back to Edinburgh. Other buses were given the run-around with dodgy directions and diverted traffic signs.

At the end of the demo people joined up and marched out together with one last message before going back to their buses. No borders, No nations, Stop deportations. Unsurprisingly, the roadblocks and diversions were gone and the journey back was not subject to searches or harassment.

The only reason I can think of for this behaviour is that the police were either A- afraid of another Woomera – which is unlikely as they had moved all the prisoners out (see Ska TV’s excellent film about Woomera here http://www.archive.org/details/skatvWoomeraRegugeebreakout – after downloading it you need to change the file name for some reason) or B- they were trying to provoke an incident in order to have an excuse to cancel the demo at Gleneagles – which they tried to do anyway – but they didn’t have an excuse! Gleneagles in next blog.

The intimidation that day was something to behold.

This is the audio from the protest.



Him and Bono

Here is article I wrote a while back. It still has some relevance I think…




Here is a thought for you… there is a certain species of man, his role being undefined or undefinable, that those in power, unsure of what to do with him, grab him and put a hook in him and leave him dangling on a line for his fellow men to grab onto.

Now the truth is I don’t know where that thought came from. I woke up with it this morning after I was struggling to think of what to say in this article last night.

And there he was in my mind, brave Bob, from the 80s, banging the table, send us the fucking money (even though he didn’t really say that). Where did he come from? What was this hairy thing that had come out of nowhere to remind us all that there was a world outside our homes, offices and schools?

Here was someone actually trying to do something. Making us all feel that we were doing something too.

Ahhhh, I think we have discovered where the problem begins.

Making us feel that we were doing something.

What was Bob starting in the 80s? A caring revolution? It certainly felt that way for those of us who were young at the time and didn’t know enough to see through the bullshit.

And many many more were mollified – let them know its Christmas, we are the world, 20 quid donated and all is right again. Or, at least they won’t upset us with those pictures of the babies with the swollen stomachs and the flies anymore.

Do something, by not doing very much at all. Send your money now he said, and thousands, millions did.

Thank you, he said. You really made a difference.

But we didn’t. It just continued to get worse, but Bob’s saintliness continued to grow.

In the 20 years that followed, so many other things sprang up. Comic relief, Sport Aid and many more. The NGO sector ballooned to a size it has never known before. Charity standing orders, sponsor a child, Oxfam will even send you a free pen so you can fill in the form immediately, and all the guilt is dissipated. Or suppressed.

And all the while, the Western governments policies toward the third world were changing. The Bretton Woods Institutions were making policies designed to loot the third world for its wealth. There was no more Communist threat so the subsidies designed to keep the developing nations on side against the red menace were slashed. Markets were opened, resources were plundered. The NGOs and the charities became a sticking plaster over a bullet wound.

Bob was still flying round the world though, showing us all the good that these sticking plasters were doing, and going to new places to show us where more were needed.

He was meeting the people in power, and telling them straight that if they didn’t do something then he would have to have another concert and make them look bad again.

And on and on it continued, and the G8 came to Scotland.

Bob gets in the mix early, so the leaders, not wanting to look bad, join in. Bob is photographed after an MTV interview with his head on Blair’s shoulder looking like a dog having its belly scratched. He believes Tony is a good man, and really wants to help. But we must keep the pressure on…by having a party.

Sing and dance he said, not while you are facing the water cannons and the dogs, but so you don’t have to. If we party hard enough then they will have to change things won’t they?

Partying is absolution he said, it is the end rather than the means. A party is all it takes. A corporate-sponsored cocaine- fuelled celebrity wankfest will change the world. You can even buy McDonalds on your way there. We can bring Bill Gates on and introduce him as the greatest philanthropist in the world. You don’t even have to give any money this time. Just wear white, hell, you can even buy your new white t-shirt at the gap. It will help to give some people jobs. Madonna will ask us if we are ready for a revolution.[1]

Don’t worry that asking Bush and Blair to deal with poverty problems in the worlds poorest nations is akin to asking a superbug to run a hospital. Party hard enough and it will all come good, or you will be so drunk that you won’t notice anymore.

Don’t worry about the war. We won’t even let people bring you down by talking about the war. Our organizers will make sure that those people are not allowed on the stage. We will even say that the issues of poverty and war are unrelated.[2] It is better, after all, to look at starving Africans who are dying because the rain didn’t come than to look at blown up Middle Eastern children who are dying because of your indifference.

Don’t worry if you think I am taking too big a role in this. Some of the nice NGOs can come along for the ride too. They can join the campaign. They have been working in the field for a long time and know the problems more than most. Their donations might go up a bit. It doesn’t really matter if the need for all those donations becomes more crucial because it will be a good party.

Don’t worry if you think we are too closely involved with the powers that be – even Gandhi and MLK had a dialogue with the power people. True, they didn’t phone them up and ask permission first if they wanted to register people to vote or march through a salt mine but that just shows how much things have progressed now doesn’t it?

Don’t worry that I am now ‘Sir’ Bob and ‘Sir’ is a title given to those who serve the state. If they gave it to me surely that shows they really want to help the people in poor countries doesn’t it?

Don’t worry that we are not letting anyone African near the stage or the microphones.

Don’t worry about the nagging doubts at the back of your mind that even though it is utterly inadequate, the money you spent today could have been better used if you had donated it to someone.

Don’t worry about the fact that if you had all chosen to buy nothing, eat nothing and not go to work for a couple of days this would have worried the G8 far more than the sort of nothing you are doing today (empathizing with someones lack of things to consume by consuming more).

Don’t worry about all those nasty anarchists trying to frighten your children. We will help the police to brutalise them and the media to vilify them. The Daily Mail will call them “gangs of masked extremists.” We will make it appear that they are something between Al-qaeda and football hooligans, even though it is us who are begging for scraps from the table of those who instigated an illegal war.

And at the end of it all they will let me, yes ME, Sir Bob, your representative, into the G8 to have a quick word with them before the real meetings…and they might not even laugh in my face.

Just don’t worry, ok?

They were talking about how they were going to march on […], march on the […], march on the […], march on the […] and tie it up – bring it to a halt and not let the government proceed. They even said they were going out to the airport to lay down on the runway and not let any airplanes land. I’m telling you what they said – that was revolution, that was revolution, that was the revolution. It was the grassroots out there in the street; it scared the white man to death; scared the white power structure in […] to death – I was there. When they found out that this steamroller was going to come down on the capital they called in these national leaders that you respect and told them call it off. [The power structure] said ‘look you all are letting this thing go too far’ and old […] said ‘Boss I can’t stop it I because I didn’t start it.’

I’m telling you what they said. They said ‘I’m not even in it much less at the head of it.’ They said ‘these [people] are doing things on their own; they’re running ahead of us.’ And that old, shrewd fox, he said ‘if you all aren’t in it I’ll put you in it. I’ll put you at the head of it, I’ll endorse it, I’ll welcome it, I’ll help it, I’ll join it.’

“This is what they did with the march on […], they joined it, became part of it, took it over. And as they took it over it lost its militancy. It ceased to be angry, it ceased to be hot, it ceased to be uncompromising. Why, it even ceased to be a march – it became a picnic, a circus, nothing but a circus – with clowns and all.



The passage above was Malcolm X was speaking a couple of months after the March on Washington. It is a source of debate how much was actually achieved by that march. At least, at the end of it came a piece of oratory that no one who has heard it is likely to forget. This time there was only Chris Martin from Coldplay, who I have seen painted in some papers as a hardline radical, saying that “this [the concert] is the greatest thing organised in the history of the world.” Possible overstatement? After all funerals, when organised correctly, can be more fun than a Mariah Carey concert.

Geldof, like the marchers may have helped in getting people to believe that something has to be done. However, he has done nothing to help them understand why these problems persist, who is causing them and whether or not something is actually being done about them. On the last of those points in particular he has been counter-productive.

At the end of it all, here are some of the things Bob said…

“10 out of 10 on aid, eight out of 10 on debt.”

“Never before have so many people forced a change of policy onto a global agenda. If anyone had said eight weeks ago will we get a doubling of aid, will we get a deal on debt, people would have said ‘no’,.”

“without equivocation the greatest G8 summit there has ever been for Africa”.

He said this even though many of the NGOs that were part of his Make Poverty History campaign asked him not to.

Here is a quick representative sample of what some of the mainstream NGOs said…

Action Aid – (by no means the most radical of NGOs) “What Africa needed from the G8 was a giant leap forward, all it got was tiny steps. The deal that has been announced falls way short of our demands. We have some aid, but not enough, some debt relief but not enough and virtually nothing on trade. Once again Africa’s people have been short-changed”.

Global Call to Action Against Poverty –were angry that the promise to deliver $50bn extra aid by 2010 was “like waiting 5 years before responding to the tsunami”.

Jubilee Debt Campaign – “G8 debt deal is not 100 per cent debt cancellation” it “immediately benefits only 18 countries” and “reinforces the harmful economic policy conditions enforced through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative”

Here is what some of the more radical ones said…

World Development Movement – “an insult to the hundreds of thousands of campaigners… a disaster for the world’s poor. The agreements on trade, debt, aid and climate change are nowhere near sufficient to tackle the global poverty and environmental crisis we face.”

50 Years is Enough – “By retaining the HIPC structure, the G8 perpetuates the requirement that countries submit to demands for economic disarmament in favor of promoting the interests of foreign capital before they can get the consequential debt considered for cancellation.”

War on Want“[the G8 has] given less than 10% of our demand on debt cancellation and not even a fifth of what we called for on aid. On trade, the G8 has hardened its stance, forcing more countries to open their markets and threatening millions with the misery of poverty. When the moment came to act, the G8 turned their backs on the world’s poor.”

Jubilee South – “The multilateral debt cancellation being proposed is still clearly tied to compliance with conditionalities which exacerbate poverty, open our countries further for exploitation and plunder, and perpetuate the domination of the South.”

No change of policy came, there was a soundbite or two, a cleverly disguised ‘same again’ financial package that in some cases left people worse off than before. Even the few promises that were made were quickly forgotten, or reneged upon. The Italian government very quickly said it probably couldn’t meet its promises. Gordon Brown admitted that there wasn’t really much new money – it was just money brought forward.

The lack of positive outcomes from it all may be disappointing/disgusting/infuriating/inhuman (delete as applicable) but it is not surprising. Why would the caretakers of an economic system that is responsible for the majority of world poverty suddenly alter their views based on a pop concert and a walk around town? The strategy of co-opting the more moderate elements of a campaign in order to freeze out the radicals is as old as the hills. What on earth convinced the NGOs that jumped into bed with Blair that things would be any different this time?

Just maybe, it was Bob.

Couple the muzzling of the NGOs with a failed rock stars predilection for getting publicity howsoever it can be gotten and we are left with a potent recipe for impotence.

All that was achieved was that the government was forced to up the marketing ante to an enormous and enormously powerful marketing campaign and another successful hoodwink was performed on the populace.

After judging last years summit a success, I wonder what would happen if Bob was left to judge himself…

“You can’t trust politicians. It doesn’t matter who makes a political speech. It’s all lies… and it applies to any rock star who wants to make a political speech as well.

“People will always reach over the impenetrable roar of political discourse to help a human on the other side.


I started this out as an academic style article but I changed my mind because there are a few things it would have been just too easy to mention.

It would have been too easy to point out that Geldof’s own production company Ten Alps provided the two big screens in Hyde Park and is closely associated with the government and has made programmes for the Department for Education and Skills and that the exposure it got from Live 8 could not fail to help it.[3]

It would have been too easy to point out that even though he said a somewhat controversial line to her he was an admirer of Margaret Thatcher… “She lashed out at every institution she saw. The Monarchy, The old Tory party, the old Labour Party. She was a Punk.”

It would have been too easy to point out that the Planet 24 TV company he was involved in is responsible for subjecting the nation to CHRIS FUCKING EVANS.

It would have been too easy to point out that although performers were not paid it is alleged that some received gifts up to the value of $1,700 and that the Prince’s trust was paid 1.6 million pounds to cancel its party in the park.

I was going to mention that stuff but it would have been too easy.

[1] the same Madonna that was furious that the Scottish Parliament would not amend the law so that she could keep the public out of the grounds of her mansion

[2] Yes, one of the organizers really did say that. The stop the war people were not allowed a stage as part of the official event.

[3] http://www.spinwatch.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1238


A protestor has died at the G20 protests in London.

I have been keeping a close watch on BBC and Indymedia to see how it is being reported.

I have little hope of finding out what actually happened – especially from the BBC who, along with most other major broadcasters, absolutely revel in being as biased as possible on these occasions.

As it goes, the BBC first reported that…

“One man collapsed and died at the protest, police said, and at least 87 arrests were made.”

This was later changed to…

…the circumstances behind the death of a man who was involved in the protests has been referred to The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Police said the man, thought to be in his 40s, died on Wednesday evening after bottles were thrown at him and he collapsed.


Scotland Yard said he was found unconscious near the Bank of England on Wednesday evening and the London Ambulance Service took him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

IPCC investigators will examine CCTV footage and attend the post-mortem examination.

They don’t seem to be interested in asking why some people saw fit to report it to Independent Police Complaints Commission. It must be official ‘non-information’ in the double-plus ungood category.

Someone on Indymedia said…

“The circumstances are currently unclear, but he died inside a police cordon (or kettle) where police had crushed and baton charged protesters.”

The police may be telling the truth or they may not be. But don’t hold great hopes for the ‘Independent’ police complaints commission report. Remember Jean Charles De Menezes?

Here is how this is all probably going to go if previous similar events are anything to go by..

  1. There will be initial sympathy for the deceased and his family, followed by a series of rightwing lunatics in the press writing ‘it was his own fault/shouldn’t have been there in the first place/lousy malcontent’ sort of articles.
  2. The police report will take so long to come that if it transpires that the police were out of order and the report says that, it will be so far from now that any indignation that remains in the majority of the public will have long vanished behind the next football match/royal event or other assorted nonsense.

This is a very short article and I just want to make one small point and ask one simple question on more general issues. The small point is that yes, there are lunatics out there but in any form of sane society the worst, greediest, most egotistical and bloodthirsty ones wouldn’t be the ones controlling it from inside the most beautiful buildings.

The second is that if they are ‘our’ representatives truly fighting to work for the interests of the people of the world, why do they need so much protection from the very people they claim to represent?



The guardian has published this article about it…



The next in the Unprofessional Interviews series is none other than singer/songwriter David Rovics who I was delighted agreed to do it.

You can read the interview by CLICKING HERE.

And here is a little song of his to persuade you.

WHAT IF YOU KNEW – David Rovics

If you knew that the earth was dying
If they said this on the news
If they would clarify the picture
Instead of seeking to confuse
If you could see the ice caps melting
If you could watch the oceans rise
If you could see the consequences
Right before your eyes
If you knew the kids were dying
If you could look inside
The river where their food comes from
Filled with cyanide
If you could hear the parents pleading
If they were looking right at you
If you could see the anguish in their hearts
What if you knew

If you knew the bombs were falling
If they showed them hit the ground
If you could see the bodies flying
If you could hear the sound
If you could see the rubble
Where the hospital once stood
If you saw the child’s lifeless limbs
Would you hold them if you could
If you knew that they were lying
Every time they spoke
For every laser-guided pinprick
There were lives lost in the smoke
If instead of just the generals
They had doctors, too
To describe the carnage of the cluster bombs
What if you knew

If you knew what they were saying
When they think you cannot hear
If you understood what they do
If for you it was so clear
If you knew they shut down the factory
In an economic ruse
If you could kiss the cheek of the child
In the sweatshop that made your shoes
If every time we went to war
To fight our evil foes
They told you we were really fighting
For the good of CEOs
If you could feel the hunger of the many
And see the riches of the few
If they told it like it is
What if you knew

If you knew that you were living
In a huge conspiracy
Would you leave your suburbs
Get out of your SUV
Would you hit the streets
And fight for all our lives
Would you hold your ground
When the stormtrooper arrives
If you knew that the whole planet
Depended on what you do now
Would you take command
With the speed our times allow
If the pundits told the truth
For just a week or two
And real life was shown on TV
What if you knew


The BBC are reporting something about the G7 nations pledging to fight the economic crisis.

The BBC don’t mention this apparent miscount.

G7 . Did I miss a meeting? I thought it was the G8.

Is this Russia’s punishment for not doing what the USA wants – they are to be excluded from the fruity little club of world leaders?

Have Russia excluded themselves or just not been invited?

More information please if anyone has any.


In Rob Newman’s ‘History of Oil’ show he commented that the extraction and burning of the fossil fuels that are still left in the ground ‘would make the mere collapse of industrial capitalism seem like a sideshow bagatelle.’

George Monbiot developed the theme a little in the Guardian today

The real answer to climate change is to leave fossil fuels in the ground

All the talk in Bali about cutting carbon means nothing while ever more oil and coal is being extracted and burned

George Monbiot
Tuesday December 11, 2007
The Guardian

Ladies and gentlemen, I have the answer! Incredible as it might seem, I have stumbled across the single technology which will save us from runaway climate change! From the goodness of my heart, I offer it to you for free. No patents, no small print, no hidden clauses. Already this technology, a radical new kind of carbon capture and storage, is causing a stir among scientists. It is cheap, it is efficient and it can be deployed straight away. It is called … leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

On a filthy day last week, as governments gathered in Bali to prevaricate about climate change, a group of us tried to put this policy into effect. We swarmed into the opencast coal mine being dug at Ffos-y-fran in South Wales and occupied the excavators, shutting down the works for the day. We were motivated by a fact which the wise heads in Bali have somehow missed: if fossil fuels are extracted, they will be used.

Most of the governments of the rich world now exhort their citizens to use less carbon. They encourage us to change our lightbulbs, insulate our lofts, turn our televisions off at the wall. In other words, they have a demand-side policy for tackling climate change. But as far as I can determine, not one of them has a supply-side policy. None seeks to reduce the supply of fossil fuel. So the demand-side policy will fail. Every barrel of oil and tonne of coal that comes to the surface will be burned.