Monthly Archives: July 2005

Citizens censored?

Helen Boaden, the BBC’s head of news, quoted in The Guardian, says that:

“Within minutes of the first blast we had received images from the public,” says Boaden. “We had 50 images within an hour. Now there are thousands. We had a gallery of still photographs from the public online, and they were incredibly powerful.”

Thousands? You wouldn’t know it from BBC News Online’s coverage. I can find maybe 25 in several different places at news.bbc.co.uk, most of which have been there for several days. What have they done with them all? Are they all sub-standard? Too graphic? Faked? Out of focus? I’d really like to know if there’s a flood of images from citizen reporters dammed up behind the BBC’s editorial code of practice.

The wisdom of the mayor

Since Thursday’s bombings, Ken Livingstone’s been telling a story about London as open, tolerant and free – the opposite of the miserable theocratic monocultures advanced by the miserable bombers and their miserable egomaniac bosses. Of course, I like this story. It’s what I (and millions of incomers before me) love about London. It’s resilient, accepting, adaptable. A contemporary city rooted in a couple of millennia of immigration and assimilation.

Of course I couldn’t help being a bit suspicious of Ken’s motives – he’s a politician to the bone and his story sounded, well, a bit too political for a moment like this. But then Juliet read me the names of the twelve people still missing – Laura Webb, Monika Suchocka, Shahera Akther Islam, Michelle Outto, Jamie Gordon, Neetu Jain, Rachelle Yuen, Philip Russell, Anthony Fataji Williams, Slimane Ihab, Philip Beer, Richard Ellery – and I suppose that was enough. The Mayor’s right. Those names say it all. London is a city defined by its readiness to accommodate newcomers and its principal weapon against the nihilists is its openness.

Incidentally, Frank Gardner, the BBC’s Security Correspondent, was on Start The Week this morning. He’s an Arabic-speaker and an all-round Middle East expert (and he was paralysed by an Al-Qaeda gunman a year ago). He reckons the Arab press is full of rather surprised editorial about just how heterogeneous the population of London is.

7/7?

Looks like only the foreign press has adopted 7/7 as a name for yesterday’s bombings. Seems crass to be worrying about labels but a unique tag for the events would be useful – it would make finding references (in the blogosphere, news, flickr and so on) much easier.

That terrible day was characterised by a flood of images from the thousands of people directly involved while the professional photographers hung around uselessly outside the expanding police cordon. Here’s a deadly serious application for folksonomy: stitch together the historic record of the July 7th bombings. Update: a flickr pool for the bombings. A Technorati search for “london bomb” is also fairly useful.

The day after infamy

A big city is an amazing thing. It’s obviously more than the sum of its parts. This city’s history makes it wide open, accepting, perhaps incautious and that makes London a perfect target for the psychopathic criminal nihilists but it also makes it a robust and adaptable entity. Even an ingenious, distributed attack on the city’s transport network can’t break it.

The city continues to function today and will do so without significant pause. I’m very, very proud of London and the Londoners (and the honorary Londoners who work here) who came through yesterday’s nightmare with such nobility. I’m also certain that no one can break the will of this city to remain an open, happy and productive place. London really can take it.

What’s wrong with Live 8?

Smug, patronising, reductive, counter-productive. Nauseating, clapped-out (McCartney? Sting? The Who?), bullying, sentimental, phoney, boring. Recycling twenty year-old images of suffering people. Providing no insight at all into African subjectivity – ambitions, desires, success stories. No new ideas at all (hold on: Sail 8. That was new) – at least nothing that other people hadn’t spent years coming up with, without Sir Bob’s help (like Oxfam’s Make Poverty History campaign).

Clueless, egomaniac artists hugging random Africans. Witless celebrity liggers congratulating each other incoherently on the telly. An ugly, opportunistic media consensus that seems to embrace the entire mainstream media (enough pull-out-and-keep supplements to sink a battleship).

Africans insulted and demeaned – literally excluded by Geldof’s arbitrary sales cut-off (“Welcome to Cornwall, losers!”). A continent reduced to yesterday’s basket-case imagery projected behind yesterday’s rock stars. I’m sorry. I can’t help it. Does this make me a bad person?