Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: A Work of Advocacy

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  • Craig Ranapia,

    (Morse, remarkably, is an interviewer as well as interviewee in the film)

    What. The. Frak. I'd quite like you to ask Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones if they had any second thoughts about blurring the line between subject and film-maker like that. "Advocacy" has its place in documentary film-making, but when you're quite happily accusing others of having a moral compass without a needle, it might help to be scrupulous about your own.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    What. The. Frak. I’m sorry, but even in the realm of ‘advocacy’ film-making, didn’t anyone stop and say “this is ethically problematic”?

    Peter Calder covered that with them:

    Wright and King-Jones are aware of the charge that they sometimes appear almost to merge with their subjects. At one point, one of the more eloquent of those arrested, Valerie Morse, accosts Detective Sergeant Aaron Pascoe, the head of the operation, outside the Auckland District Court. "Do you really think I am a terrorist?", she asks.

    The microphone she thrusts towards him is plugged into King's camera and I feel constrained to ask him whether he has crossed the invisible, but important, line between a documentarian and his subject.

    "I think it's impossible to be totally neutral when you are making something. It's very difficult to understand what the environment is for being a political activist in NZ if you don't spend enough time finding out."

    It is what it is, basically.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    As I mentioned to Russell via Twitter last night and this morning, the documentary is great fodder for a chapter in my thesis, a chapter on the use of selective evidence explanations and the claim by conspiracy theorists that the powers that be use disinformation to make their official theories look warranted. I think the documentary, perhaps unwittingly, is both a good example of how selective the official theory of the October Raids is and how the response from the defendants is also selective in its use of evidence. The difference, as I see it (and Russell alludes to in his post) is the whilst we, the public, can't legitimately see some of the salient evidence for the official theory and have to take it on trust that the evidence warrants the official conclusion, we can look at the evidence presented by the documentarians. That difference makes the documentary seem like a more trustworthy account on first glance; we don't have to take the evidence on trust.

    What is problematic is the allegation that the police used disinformation. It's not proven beyond reasonable doubt in the documentary, because no evidence other than an allegation of propensity is provided, and whilst I think it's quite possible the police did act as agents provocateur it detracts from the overall story.

    Roll on tomorrow's show; I'm going to try and write up my thoughts in a much more academic form this afternoon.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 424 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I really don't get this. Whether you believe they were terrorists or simply idiots playing with dangerous stuff or victims of a police conspiracy, by making and screening this you surely must prejudice any trial. What am I missing?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3434 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Morse appears as an interviewer in the documentary in so far as the documentarian's film her "interviewing" people outside of court. It's not as if she is an interviewer for the documentary but rather that as a part of her activism she interviews people and the documentarians capture that.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 424 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I really don’t get this. Whether you believe they were terrorists or simply idiots playing with dangerous stuff or victims of a police conspiracy, by making and screening this you surely must prejudice any trial. What am I missing?

    We'll discuss that on the show. One thing I really wondered about was whether they'd have released the film if most defendants were facing a jury trial. A judge is considered far less likely to be influenced by such things.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to HORansome,

    Morse appears as an interviewer in the documentary in so far as the documentarian’s film her “interviewing” people outside of court. It’s not as if she is an interviewer for the documentary but rather that as a part of her activism she interviews people and the documentarians capture that.

    True, although its blurry. It's their mic she's holding.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to HORansome,

    and whilst I think it’s quite possible the police did act as agents provocateur it detracts from the overall story.

    I was muttering under my breath during those parts. But, as I noted, it seems likely the police will use a similar form of argument in the trial. The mirror-image element is fascinating.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to HORansome,

    Morse appears as an interviewer in the documentary in so far as the documentarian’s film her “interviewing” people outside of court. It’s not as if she is an interviewer for the documentary but rather that as a part of her activism she interviews people and the documentarians capture that.

    That’s either a distinction without a difference, or one that should have been made a lot more clearly.

    What is problematic is the allegation that the police used disinformation

    As far as I can tell, it’s a little more than that – they’re also accusing media outlets of knowingly disseminating said “misinformation” (or “lies” in English) to preserve their access to Police sources. Russell: Please correct me if that’s an unfair or inaccurate statement of the film, but that's going a damn sight further than saying the MSM are partial or just got shit wrong.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    by making and screening this you surely must prejudice any trial

    Any more than the half-baked media coverage at the time did?

    EDIT: and I hadn't seen Craig's comment when I wrote that. I'm talking media coverage in totality, not any specific allegations about collusion.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I think there's an interesting comparison with the propaganda films with the New Zealand police every week, broadcast on primetime television. Compelling television, with, and in the service of the police. The camera is with the excited officers in the car, runs around with them around the scene of the crime, stares at the accused, speaks warmly to the arresting officer after the fact, and declares the criminal charges laid at the end of the segment. It is entirely compelling television, and often first rate entertainment. Yet I suspect if the camera was on the other foot, we'd have a story of harsh and unreasonable police violently invading and destroying the house of a humble drug-dealer who provides the good herb to his community, and then taking him away from his loved family.

    I'm not suggesting moral equivalence, or that either is entirely dis/honest. Like Russell says, each is what it is. I find either interesting not so much for what they tell us about the truth of the matter, but what they tell us about what people believe, and what they want others to believe.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    As far as I can tell, it’s a little more than that – they’re also accusing media outlets of knowingly disseminating said “misinformation” (or “lies” in English) to preserve their access to Police sources.

    More passing on "tips" from police sources so they've got something to fill their reports. I don't doubt that police sources drove a lot of the original coverage.

    OTOH, a good deal of what we've heard from the activist side so far has been disingenuous.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to George Darroch,

    It is entirely compelling television, and often first rate entertainment.

    I prefer Motorway Patrol, which deals with the less serious and is therefore funnier. But, yes, even there police officers are spectacularly reasonable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    That’s either a distinction without a difference, or one that should have been made a lot more clearly.

    It's not a distinction without a difference; there is a lot of footage of activists outside of court, parliament and businesses heckling or trying to get comment from others. The Morse footage is just more of that kind of thing. I, for one, thought it was quite clear, in the context of the rest of the documentary. Perhaps your viewing differed.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 424 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to HORansome,

    It’s not a distinction without a difference; there is a lot of footage of activists outside of court, parliament and businesses heckling or trying to get comment from others. The Morse footage is just more of that kind of thing.

    Hmmm. I think it's a little more than that, especially if it is the directors' camera and microphone.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I prefer Motorway Patrol, which deals with the less serious and is therefore funnier.

    I find Motorway Patrol too sad to watch. Every time they pull over an unwarranted, unregistered, or otherwise defective car belonging to some poor person unable to afford their duties to the state or safety, my heart sinks to the floor. I identify with the villains far to much.

    I haven’t seen the film, although I have no doubt I’ll catch it soon, but I’m sure my connections to many of the defendants will make it an interesting viewing. My own moral compass has a loyalty to people I think are generally good, and a conflicting one to principles that seem to go against much of what was left out of the film.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I prefer Motorway Patrol, which deals with the less serious and is therefore funnier. But, yes, even there police officers are spectacularly reasonable.

    Obviously what we need is for every police patrol to be accompanied by a TV doco crew.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I prefer Reno 911.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4480 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to George Darroch,

    Exactly George. It's all about narrative, and the narrative we get from the state media is around the brave police protecting us from evil anarchists, gang members, foreigners and other criminals. The prime-time cop shows might not actually be staged with actors, but they might as well be.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4480 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to James Butler,

    Obviously what we need is for every police patrol to be accompanied by a TV doco crew.

    I, for one, do not think that would be a bad idea at all.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 424 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    It is entirely compelling television, and often first rate entertainment.

    I love a lot of reality television, but I can't handle those shows. Most of the time I feel so sorry for the poor person getting arrested that I can't quite manage to be entertained. (The American shows are worse/more egregiously unjust, but I don't like our versions either.)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3662 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to HORansome,

    NZ version of "World's Wildest Police Videos" anyone? We can trust Fox to be fair and unbiased.

    "No idea where the footage went, Sarge. Musta dropped out of the car during the struggle."

    Funny how reality TV seems anything but.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 295 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to HORansome,

    Obviously what we need is for every police patrol to be accompanied by a TV doco crew.

    I, for one, do not think that would be a bad idea at all.

    There's a proposal to put a video camera in all police cars, to protect both sides of the "transaction". Obviously it's not quite the same as a walking video crew in every car, but it's a big step up on what we have now and it's infinitely more practical than embedding a videographer with every patrol.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3913 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Dismal Soyanz,

    “No idea where the footage went, Sarge. Musta dropped out of the car during the struggle.”

    Yeah, but nah. Unless you're suggesting the "struggle" includes going to the boot, breaking into the secure drive storage bay, removing the drive, and "losing" it.
    No tape, not accessible to the officers, and not in a place where one could damage it by accident.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3913 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    An exaggeration on my part, Matthew but who gets to be the custodian of the footage?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 295 posts Report Reply

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