It’s crazy to me how the world is so violent that people videotaping for social change need to look out for their safety because people (usually authority figures) might harm or kill them. It seems absurd that people have to plan strategies for getting out of deadly situations because of the media they are trying to create.
Joey Lozano describes how a smile has gotten him out of tight
It’s very important to understand the cultural tradition of people in particular
regions. For example, in the Philippines we have this very strong affi nity for
family. Once, a friend and I were arrested by the army. They were all drunk.
“This could be the end of me,” I thought. They looked menacing—the alcohol,
the smell. They tried to pull us into the building. I said: “No, do it out here.”
The interrogation lasted four hours. Finally, a staff sergeant came. When he
paused, I butted-in to ask if he was a married man: “Where is your family?
Do they live with you?” He really softened. He missed his kids. He started
opening up with family talk. That saved me and my friend. No matter how
menacing soldiers look … when you mention family they soften up. If they
hadn’t, that would’ve been goodbye for me. You really have to know these
kinds of techniques to be with the oppressors. To be nice with them, but not
forget your mission with the oppressed.
I feel like even more than just using rule of thumb strategies, having an intuition for what will make people not hurt you is key. Maybe some army officials would kill you for mentioning their family.
Another point that got me thinking was the distinction between creating media within your own community or if you were going into another one. My initial expectation for the advice in this area is to be respectful of the other communities you encounter and aware of the norms and values that could affect how people react to you. Instead, the biggest warning was for filming or producing media within your own community because people might recognize you, remember you, and make life dangerous for you in a lasting way that is avoidable when going into other communities that you can leave behind. This reminds me of when I was in junior high, and a group of friends and I decided to disrupt the regular pattern of things by going out to a nearby busy road on rainy days and video taping ourselves dancing, fighting, and acting strange while wearing costumes, masks, and waving large foam swimming noodles around. We were basically trying to film situations where people would slow their cars or interact with us in some way. Eventually, someone who knew my mom and I told her that she saw me out there and asked what it was about and my mom, although she knew that we were going out dressed up in the rain to make funny videos, talked to me about not scaring people in the public because it’s not nice.
Video activism is extremely powerful, but we need to be careful about choosing who we make uncomfortable. When it is random harmless passerby’s who we are not directly advocating for, I do not feel good causing people extra trouble. I see some main goals of video activism as disrupting the forces that you are fighting against, staying safe, and limiting the disruption of peaceful observers to your activism because that will affect how the final product is interpreted.
Another point that got me thinking was that video is not always the best tool. I think audio recording is extremely underrated because it is so easy to just click on a recorder in your pocket, and then any sort of debate over dialogue is captured. I think specifically of helping to prevent police abuse because when people say the right things, police should not hurt them. Still, video and photo gives more information about what is going on. If a cop is pointing a gun at someone, a picture is very powerful, but a clever way of getting around that using audio could be to ask the cop to please put his gun down and record his response about why.