The Camcorder as a Shield

From Mexico to the Czech Republic, camcorder-toting nonprofessionals are turning video into a human rights tool.

Photo: Necessary Illusions Productions

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That many of the biggest news events of the past decade were captured by camcorder-toting nonprofessionals suggests that reality TV might well be a medium of the people. By gathering incriminating images from around the globe — from the mistreatment of psychiatric patients in Mexico to neo-Nazi activities in the Czech Republic to police violence against migrants in South Africa — Seeing Is Believing depicts the camcorder as a shield. Human-rights abusers, the theory goes, are less inclined to shoot bullets if someone nearby is shooting tape.

The film centers on brutalized Filipino tribespeople who are seeking land reform; their horrifying video images of murdered civilians end up on U.S. network television. Seeing Is Believing doesn’t delve into the question of what kinds of raw footage are too raw for the networks — perhaps because, with its precise one-hour running time and pbs-ready voice-overs, the movie wants to get on the air itself.


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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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