On August 11th 2011, California’s Bay Area became (probably) the “first place in the United States to have had its electronic communications deliberately disabled in order to pre-empt a political protest.” The Bay Area Rapid Transit agency (BART), fearing protests against their continued coverups of police violence and inability to address public outrage, pulled the switch on a number of stations in down town San Fransisco and Oakland. This scary new development in the tactics mirrors those used by the Mubarak regime in Egypt to block people’s ability to communicate and come at the same time the British government is mulling increased surveillance and/or shutdowns of social network sites in response to the London Riots sparked by the police murder of Mark Duggan.
Here are 3 seemingly (un?)related media snippets to throw into the mix.
1) An in depth article from Indybay exploring #muBARTek incident
The San Francisco Bay Area, historic birthplace of the Free Speech movement and a pioneer in the digital age, is now apparently the first place in the United States to have had its electronic communications deliberately disabled in order to pre-empt a political protest. As an act of prior restraint against potential protester free expression, the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency cut power to the underground mobile phone antennae within the BART system for several hours on August 11th, thereby denying tens of thousands of evening commuters access to broadband internet networks, telephone service, and even 911 calls. Civil liberties organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as well as the hacktivist group known as Anonymous, are now vociferously objecting. Without even realizing how premature it was to smirk and brag to the corporate media about having disabled the antennae after service was cut, BART appears to have stepped in another big pile of shit as it so often tends to do. Besides the public shaming it is now receiving across the internet in an ever-growing number of articles and op-eds, FCC, legal, and hacktivist repercussions for the agency may be yet to come. The protest BART hyperventilated about never even happened.
Read the rest of the article here
2) A little bit of the context for some of the reasons for the UK riots are provided in an offensive interview conducted by the BBC with Darcus Howe, a West-Indian writer and longtime resident of London. The BBC’s manner of attack and attempts to discredit Darcus’s more structural analysis of what the mainstream has labelled “mindless thuggery” (though there was definitely alot of this too) are strikingly similar to this interview with Jody McIntyre. In both cases, the interviewees are able to avoid these traps and talk about the underlying issues.
3) An audio report from Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report comparing race issues in the UK and US.[audio:http://bmediacollective.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/2011_08_11_barmp3.mp3]
In the wake of the London Riots and the many deep and painful questions that will *hopefully* be asked about the causes and consequences… but it is hard not to wonder when this will happen in the United States.