Week of Oct. 27: Video

Next week (not this week!!) you’ll be viewing a video documentary in class. I wanted to mention it now because I would like you to understand the relationship between this video and the readings for THIS week.

Burma VJ tells the story of an organized effort by volunteer reporters who video’d the almost-revolution in Burma (called Myanmar by the military junta that runs the country) in 2007.

It does not matter if you have no interest in Burma — this documentary is great for at least two reasons (in my opinion).

One is the use of technology and media to document a large public protest inside a country that is one of the most restricted and repressed in the entire world today.* Because of small, cheap video cameras, the reporters were able to record what was actually happening in their country (even after the government expelled all the foreign journalists). Because of the Internet and satellite transmissions, the world was able to see it.

The other reason is related to the ideas of activism and dissent. I would like you to think about “regime change” while you are watching this video. Think about what the population can do if the government is not serving the public good. Think about the American revolution, the French revolution, the Russian revolution — any historic moment when the people stood up and said, “Enough!” Think about any historic situation you know when the people did not stand up — for example, Nazi Germany.

The right to dissent is protected in a democratic society. In undemocratic countries, dissent is punished with arrest, imprisonment, and even death.

So think about what Rohlinger and Brown (2009) found people saying about patriotism and dissent after September 11 in the United States.

Think about whether dissent is safe or risky.

  1. When is it risky, and why?
  2. If people are risking their very lives to dissent, to oppose their government — why do they do that?
  3. What are the possible outcomes?

* Freedom House ranks nine countries as the least free in the world: Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.

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