Publicity for the film, “The Bank Job” (2008)

I did a PR inter­view for the 2008 film “The Bank Job”, which was included in the extras on the DVD

In the inter­view I dis­cussed MI5 dirty tricks and spy influ­ence over the media.

WikiLeaks Discussion Panel with Julian Assange, HAR NL 2009

Last year I had the hon­our to meet Julian Assange, the founder of the bril­liant whis­tleblower web­site, WikiLeaks, that has been caus­ing such a stir recently with the release of the decryp­ted US mil­it­ary film,  “Col­lat­eral Murder”, and recently with the Afghan War Logs

I have noth­ing but respect for WikiLeaks — it shines a torch into the dark corners of cor­rupt gov­ern­ment and big busi­ness, and is the way for­ward in hold­ing these organ­isa­tions, which largely believe them­selves to be above the law, at least some­what to account. 

Julian was kind enough to invite me to take part in a panel dis­cus­sion with him at the Hack­ing at Ran­dom fest­ival in the Neth­er­lands last year.  The dis­cus­sion focused on whis­tleblow­ing and gov­ern­ment account­ab­il­ity.  Here’s the video:

The Secret Garden Party, UK 2010

SGP_2010 In July I was invited back to speak at the Secret Garden Party, a music, polit­ics, and arts fest­ival held annu­ally some­where, er, secret in the UK.

What a fab week­end.  I have a well-known anti­pathy to sleep­ing under can­vas, but this was an excel­lent fest­ival — and even the com­post loos were not too grim.  

Lis­ted as one of the “Star Acts” in the prin­ted fest­ival pro­gramme (I blush), I had the lux­ury of an hour and a half to speak in the première debate tent in the Rebels and Intel­lec­tu­als sec­tion of the fest­ival — The Forum — a concept that the organ­iser, Ben de Vere, prom­ises to trans­plant to Lon­don some­time in the near future.

Any­way, I ser­i­ously recom­mend put­ting this fest­ival in your diar­ies for next year, and keep an eye open for the spread of The Forum.….

Here’s the video:


 

Gestapo Past and Present

So last week I was on hol­i­day with my lovely Dutch­man in Cologne on the Rhine in Ger­many, a city steeped in his­tory and now chiefly fam­ous for its Gothic cathed­ral, widely reputed to be pretty much the last build­ing left stand­ing in the city at the end of WW2.  Eas­ily res­ist­ing both this reli­gious hot­spot and, with slightly more dif­fi­culty, the  siren calls of the brauerei, we decided on a bit of cul­ture, some museums and a stroll along the river. 

How­ever, it turns out that not one but two build­ings had sur­vived WW2 in their entirety.  Tucked away on a back­street, we found the second sur­vivor: the Gestapo HQ, which had been pre­served as it was found at the end of the war to serve as a ghastly warn­ing to history.  

Gestapo_HQ2Well, as someone who reg­u­larly speaks at con­fer­ences across the world about human rights, total­it­ari­an­ism and encroach­ing police states, I felt I had to have a look.  The build­ing is a non­des­cript office block that looks per­fectly inno­cent from the out­side.  Three floors are open to the pub­lic.  On the first is the museum, with the his­tory of the rise to power of the Nazis.  It was hideously fas­cin­at­ing to read how freedoms and rights were incre­ment­ally eroded as the state slipped ever more from demo­cracy.  The major­ity of the Ger­man people went sleep-walking into national social­ism.  As soon as Hitler had any sort of polit­ical power his attack-dogs, the SS, used dis­pro­por­tion­ate, sud­den, and shock­ing viol­ence against Germany’s own cit­izens to crush any nas­cent res­ist­ance.  So from 1933 onwards the pop­u­la­tion was ter­ror­ised, as “undesir­ables” were routinely snatched from their homes for ques­tion­ing, tor­ture and imprisonment. 

Gestapo_HQ_Annie_2And the pro­pa­ganda in the media that was on dis­play.….  Shall I just say, even more unsubtle than that which is used against us today.  I sup­pose these dark arts have developed over the inter­ven­ing years.

MischaBut it was the lower floors that packed the strongest punch.  The base­ment, just below street level, held the cells — tiny, dank spaces where as many as 30 people had been her­ded together.  And the walls are covered in graf­fiti in all the lan­guages of Europe — sad, des­per­ate mes­sages to the future from people who were “dis­ap­peared”. They seemed to want to leave a record of the fact simply that they had exis­ted: they had loved, they missed their fam­il­ies, they were try­ing to hold their heads high des­pite the agon­ies inflic­ted daily, they were inno­cent, they were about to die.…..

Hold_your_head_highThere was one more level — the rein­forced rat hole deep under­ground, which served both as the air-raid shel­ter for the Gestapo officers (the pris­on­ers were left upstairs in their cells dur­ing the raids), and as the tor­ture rooms.  Con­sid­er­ately, the Gestapo car­ried out their most bru­tal inter­rog­a­tions under­ground, so that the screams could not be heard at street level.

As we emerged, some­what silent, from this museum, I noticed that we, and many other vis­it­ors, all turned to stare at this build­ing: it looked so bland and innoc­u­ous from the out­side.  But then people would inspect the base­ment win­dows that hid the cells.  The smokers in the group all sparked up as soon as they were out­side, drag­ging hard on their cigar­ettes.  Oth­ers just stood silently. 

So the museum does its job.  It is a power­ful warn­ing from the grave.  Homo hom­ini lupus: man is wolf to man, ever has been and ever will be, absent adequate legal restraint.  This is why the Uni­ver­sal Declar­a­tion of Human Rights was put in place in 1948, to pre­vent such atro­cit­ies from hap­pen­ing again.

Yet, at the risk of sound­ing sen­ten­tious, such abuse is going on around the world right now, par­tic­u­larly in the cause of the end­less, neb­u­lous “war on ter­ror”.  We have been lazy, blind and fool­ish, let­ting our basic rights slide away.  People are dis­ap­peared, extraordin­ar­ily rendered, to for­eign pris­ons and tor­tured for years.  Assas­sin­a­tion lists have been drawn up by US intel­li­gence agen­cies; sus­pects face kangaroo, military-style courtrooms, where they face the death pen­alty but are not allowed to know the full case against them; our gov­ern­ments aggress­ively, illeg­ally, invade other coun­tries, and yet the politi­cians who lie to take us into these wars, thereby caus­ing the need­less death, pois­on­ing, maim­ing and dis­place­ment of mil­lions of people, are not called to account for their crimes, as they should be under the Nurem­berg Prin­ciples, the Rome Stat­ute, and the Inter­na­tional Crim­inal Court.

We, the cit­izens of still just-about-functioning demo­cra­cies, should be ashamed.  We need to re-remember our his­tory and take a stand — before it’s too late.

Protest_and Resist

New Film by Ryan JW Smith

I had the pleas­ure recently of work­ing with a tal­en­ted film maker called Ryan JW Smith, and his partner/producer, Brianna. 

Bri­anna is an artist by train­ing, and also a mean hand at pro­du­cing. Ryan seems a bit of a renais­sance man — film maker, poet, writer, actor.  In fact, he wrote a play called “New World Order” in, I believe, iambic pen­ta­meter, and per­formed it to packed audi­ences at the Edin­burgh Fringe a couple of years ago, and recently had a short film called  “Army Strong” screened at a Pol­ish film festival.

Any­way, they are in the middle of mak­ing a feature-length film about the post-apocalyptic, post-9/11 world we all share — the lies of intel­li­gence and gov­ern­ment, the illegal wars, the erosion of our demo­cratic rights.  Just the sort of light mater­ial that I like to work with — and cer­tainly what I think is of vital importance. 

I’m work­ing on help­ing to pro­mote the film later this year, and organ­ise some screen­ing tours for them across Europe and North America.

I think it’s going to be a very power­ful wake-up call to us all.  Watch this space for more news.

Here’s a trailer Ryan and Bri­anna cut from my inter­views with them called “Using Her Intel­li­gence”.  I like: