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Christian Darby Project report MACS390, “Media, war and peace,” autumn session, 2010 Media and Cultural Studies, University of Wollongong The project report.

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Presentation on theme: "Christian Darby Project report MACS390, “Media, war and peace,” autumn session, 2010 Media and Cultural Studies, University of Wollongong The project report."— Presentation transcript:

1 Christian Darby Project report MACS390, “Media, war and peace,” autumn session, 2010 Media and Cultural Studies, University of Wollongong The project report had two components. For details of the assignment see 1. An information pack for an organisation. Christian Darby’s information pack starts on the next slide. Footnotes for all slides are given in the note section for this slide. 2. A fictional dialogue on carrying out the project. Christian Darby’s dialogue is a separate file. This document is located at

2 BACKFIRE Free Speech Movement Berkeley 1964 AND THE POLICING OF DISSENT

3 MASSIVELY EXPANDING POLICE POWERS TO CURTAIL DISSENT 2005 “Anti-terror” laws – allow for arrest without warrant, detention without charge, secret trials with secret evidence, and the criminalisation of calls for illegal action as sedition 1 THE PROBLEM

4 MASSIVELY EXPANDING POLICE POWERS TO CURTAIL DISSENT 2009 “Anti-bikie” laws – allow for groups (including activist groups) to be declared criminal organisations and prevented from meeting 2 2009 “Major Events” laws – permanent version of the temporary NSW APEC laws, allowing for whole areas to be “locked down” giving police powers to set up roadblocks, ban signs, messages, recording equipment and protests within them 3

5 BACKFIRE “Superior force often wins the day, but not always. Sometimes the exercise of force backfires: it is counterproductive for the perpetrator, generating increased support for the target” – Truda Gray and Brian Martin: Backfires: White, Black and Grey 4

6 HOW DOES BACKFIRE WORK? Gene Sharp: “Political Ju-Jitsu” “Cruelties and barbarities… are likely to disturb many people and to and to fill some with outrage… this reaction to repression is especially likely when the opponents’ policies are hard to justify” – Gene Sharp: The Politics of Non-violent Action 5

7 “This, in turn, may lead to shifts in opinion and then shifts in power relationships” Wider public opinion can turn against the opponent Members of the opponent’s group may defect and switch their allegiance Members of the grievance group can be further radicalised and spurred into action 6

8 THIRD PARTY SUPPORT Widespread anger at the extraordinary powers granted to police and the unprecedented size of the security operation for APEC was evident in articles and letters in the mainstream media. Many of these pieces explicitly called the measures suppression of dissent and free speech. 7 This was particularly because footage of police brutally attacking peaceful observers was widely disseminated and shown. 8

9 THIRD PARTY SUPPORT “An emasculated, rudderless police force, with systemic small-man syndrome, acting like bullies…” – Miranda Devine: Sun-Herald 9 “Thank God we all got out alive… APEC will be remembered for making Sydney feel grubby” – David Marr: Sydney Morning Herald 10 “The clampdown on civil liberties is so over the top… Australian protestors have a distinguished history of getting it right” – Adele Horin, Sydney Morning Herald 11 Similarly, efforts to attack non-violent activist Scott Parkin by deporting him arbitrarily met with widespread alarm in the press. 12

10 OPPONENT GROUP DEFECTIONS These were not especially evident amongst politicians and police. The Greens, including Green parliamentarians, were, however, heavily critical of the police NSW government, calling for an independent inquiry into APEC policing. 13 Greens senator Kerry Nettle invited several activists to hold a “Scott Parkin School of Peace” in federal parliament. 14

11 GRIEVANCE GROUP MOBILISATION Despite the threatening rhetoric adopted by politicians and the police, and the extraordinary size of the police mobilisation against it, many thousands turned out to demonstrate against APEC, and may ironically have had their numbers swelled by people’s determination to defy the state’s intimidation. The use of draconian police powers against Scott Parkin also had a galvanising effect upon the Australian peace movement, mobilising supporters in most major cities across the country. 15 Also that year, many groups pledged publicly to break the government’s sedition laws by printing illegal content.

12 HOW DOES BACKFIRE WORK? Brian Martin: “Backfire” An attack must be perceived as unjust Information about it must be widely disseminated 16

13 WHAT DO ATTACKERS DO TO INHIBIT THIS? Cover up or hide the attack Devalue and denigrate the victims Reinterpret/recast what happened Force the victims to use official channels Intimidate victims 17

14 COVER-UP The “anti-terror” laws imposed secrecy provisions preventing arrestees from communicating information about their arrest to any more than one person, and providing heavy sentences for anyone or any journalists that did. Similarly, the government attempted to “disappear” Scott Parkin while he was by himself and then refuse to release any information on why he had been detained, 18 while much of the repression, infilitration and surveillance carried out against APEC protestors was done quietly in the lead-up to the summit with the aim of “chilling” counter-summit organising. Activists responded by organising to break the sedition laws en-masse, rapidly getting word, issuing press releases and protesting against the detention of Scott Parkin, 19 and immediately publicly disclosing attempts at bribery, infiltration and blackmail in the lead up to APEC. 20

15 DEVALUING THE TARGET By framing laws as “anti-terror” laws, or “anti-bikie gang” laws, or preparations for summit security as protection against “terrorist attacks,” authorities implicitly implied that anyone opposing such measures, or arrested under them, was a terrorist or violent criminal. The federal government repeatedly used the media to attempt to slur Scott Parkin as a violent protestor, 21 while NSW politicians spoke of violent ‘mayhem involving every major protest group in Sydney,’ scarcely missing an opportunity to link the words “violence” and “protest.” 22 This rhetoric also had the effect of deflecting attention away from the real concerns and grievances of activists and making them appear mindless and intent on causing chaos for its own sake.

16 DEVALUING THE TARGET Activists responded in all cases by emphasising that the real purpose of these laws was to silence dissent, that they had legitimate grievances that they has a right to air, and that they were firmly committed to non-violence.

17 REINTERPRETING EVENTS Governments never described the steadily swell of police powers as a deliberate move to curtail protest and dissent, but instead used other events as cover – the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks to introduce “anti-terror” laws, the 2005 Cronulla riots and 2007 APEC summit to introduce “anti-riot” and “public safety” laws, and the 2009 bashing of a motorcycle club member to introduce “anti-bikie” laws. Activists responded repeatedly and consistently by pointing out that these laws could and most likely would be applied to repress protests and activist organisations. 23

18 OFFICIAL CHANNELS Authorities attempted to soothe concerns over increasing police powers by promising “sunset clauses” – dates after which the laws would cease to apply. The organisers of protests at APEC were distracted by interminable court proceedings to determine if their rally was legal or not. Scott Parkin was attacked through official channels then, in the light of public concern, handling of his case was made the subject of an official review. 24 At an open organising meeting before the main APEC protest participants voted to defy police orders and hold a rally, even if it was illegal, while some publications opted not to wait for sedition laws to expire but deliberately break them as soon as they came into effect. Supporters of Scott Parkin opted to confront authorities publicly rather than rely on behind-the-scenes offical procedures. 25

19 INTIMIDATION The use of infiltrators, blackmail, pre-dawn raids on the homes of activists, threatening rhetoric and massive numbers of police equipped with special powers to “lock down” areas and apply unusually extreme punitive sanctions to control rallies such as those at APEC or Newcastle Climate Camp was all intended to intimidate potential participants and absolutely minimise participation. Similarly, the punishments imposed for even talking about cases under the 2005 “anti-terror” laws, and the use of solitary confinement and bribery against Scott Parkin, were all designed to be so threatening that discussion these cases would never enter into the public domain. The response of many activists in most cases was not to back down but to spread word of events and defy intimidation by protesting and participating nonetheless.

20 THE PROBLEM CLIMATE CRISIS “In the context of the escalating climate crisis as well as the total (albeit expected) failure of governments to deal with the problem, we absolutely have to take disobedient, illegal actions” Tadzio Mueller “I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power stations” Al Gore

21 “Climate activists anticipate a long-term social struggle to change energy sources and reduce carbon pollution. The state, too, is preparing for the climate movement to grow over the coming decade – and possibly for significant backlash as people experience the impacts of climate change – by moving to foreclose space for dissent” – Holly Creenaune, Friends of the Earth

22 It will take enormous effort, mobilisation and discipline to build a movement to tackle the greatest problem humanity has ever faced, and withstand and defeat the state repression that will follow from these attempts. Masses of people will have to be involved in spectacular enough actions to ensure widespread coverage, non-violent discipline must be maintained to ensure, when repression takes place, maximum perception of injustice and maximum backfire, and activists will need to understand and prepare for all the tactics those in power will use against them. It’ll be a tremendous struggle every step of the way.

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