With the release of Gil Scot-Heron’s remix album from last years incredible return from the wilderness I’m New Here, it’s hard not to ponder what he would make of what is happening across the Arab world. Why do we care what Gil thinks? Well in the early 70’s he told us that the Revolution WIll Not Be Televised, yet that’s precisely what’s happening today. Sure it’s not sponsored by Xerox, nor does it make you look five pounds thinner, but there were pictures of pigs shooting down brothers in instant replay. All over the world. Instant replay being you-tube, facebook and all manner of social media. Gil of course was talking about television, suggesting that the corporation that owns your favourite television station has little interest in doing anything other than selling you things you don’t need and if you want your revolution you probably have to turn off the box and get off the couch. This still stands, particularly in Libya for example who immediately banned foreign media from entering the country, meaning the serious news journalists like the rest of us were initially reliant upon shaky images from mobile phones and real people on the street for information.
A few weeks ago Fragmented Fish spent one harrowing night glued to internet updates. The livestream to Libya was down, there was an internet blackout and there was precious little information aside from rumours getting out of the country. Youtube however offered a compendium of the carnage, a parade of horrors. The kind of verite that terrifies. With shaky cameras moving in and out of focus, deafening booms and the sounds of protestor chants distorting, becoming shrill, peaking out the crappy mics, the energy was palpable. You could literally feel the tension in each of the camera operators. They didn’t stay still for an instant, always roving, always trying to locate the threat. The images were harrowing, injured bleeding people being dragged away followed by a gaggle of guys pointing their mobile phone cameras. There were people lying dead on the street, protestors throwing rocks at police vehicles, and makeshift morgues. Perhaps most terrifying were the images of Libyan youths on the street, marching together confident in solidarity, then the sound of gunshots as the camera movement became frantic and then the confusion as people scattered in all directions fleeing from unseen gunmen.
Gil was right however. This was footage too terrifying to appear on the evening news, a place where families sit down over dinner to see what Charlie Sheen or Ricky Nixon have done now. Revolution has never been good for business. Yet this and the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have expertly used new technology and social media sites as a means of communication and to spread the message both within and outside the country. Make no mistake this is the facebook/Twitter/ You-tube revolution, an unexpected by product of our desire to poke each other and challenge each other to games of scrabble. And sorry Gil, but it’s definitely televised. It couldn’t have happened any other way.