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Lt. John Pike Goes Viral (5)

In a surprising development, it appears that the “citizen journalist” documentation of Lt. John Pike nonchalantly pepper-spraying seated protesters on the campus of the University of California-Davis on November 18 has gone viral not just in the west but in mainland China as well — with the blessings of the Chinese Communist Party. (For my own commentaries on these stills, videos, and photocollages, click here.)

Asia Times Online logoAs Peter Lee has reported, “Photos and video of the event went viral and gave the Chinese state media an opportunity to point out that the United States, which has demanded that oppressive regimes (like the People’s Republic of China) grant their citizens free expression, is not equally welcoming when local, home-grown anti-capitalist demonstrators threaten the fragile self-regard of the rich, public hygiene in the city center, and downtown shopping in the crucial Thanksgiving-to-Christmas period.” (See Lee’s provocative essay “Lieutenant Pike, Li Gang, and China’s Internet dilemma,” datelined November 24, in the Asia Times Online.)

This raises, if indirectly, the question of whether Pike is actually a covert operative for the Chinese Communist Party, deliberately overreacting to nonviolent protest in order to discredit the United States and strengthen the hands of totalitarian governments everywhere. I hope that this question will get raised by at least one of the five (that’s 5 — count ’em) committees investigating this lamentable episode.

Lt. John Pike with pepper spray and Lolspeak caption.

Lt. John Pike with pepper spray and Lolspeak caption.

Nothing much will emanate from the UC Davis hierarchy, nor from other official sources, I anticipate, until the reports from those committees begin to roll in and their conclusions and recommendations become public, sometime in early 2012. Commentary based on the evidence to date does proliferate, of course. For example, Christopher C. Cooper, a former U.S. Marine, has called ex-Marine Pike “cowardly” and urged his arrest for battery in an open letter to acting UC Davis Police Chief Joyce Souza.

On the right, we have attempts to discredit the protesters and their supporters from such conservative sources as right-wing political speechwriter Margaret A. Bengs in her December 6 op-ed for the Sacramento Bee, “Viewpoints: Is there more to the pepper-spray uproar?” See also “New Video Proof of Media Lies About UC Davis Protests” by Cliff Kincaid, editor of the Accuracy In Media Report, as published in the Canada Free Press on December 1. (Here’s a link to the video to which Kincaid refers, “Occupy Protesters Blockade UC Davis Police,” posted by the Davis College Republicans on YouTube on November 30 and drawn from footage they shot.)

Meanwhile, I’ve busied myself distilling the situation to date, in this series of posts and in various media and formats:

"Pepper-Spray Cop: The Comic," by A. D. Coleman (cover)

“Pepper-Spray Cop: The Comic,” by A. D. Coleman (cover)

• “Pepper-Spray Cop: The Comic.” My first experiment with comic-book form as a vehicle for critical commentary. Available in five formats:

  1. Movie version (full 14.5-minute version), 640×480. With voiceover. On Vimeo.
  2. Movie version (in two 7.5-minute segments), 1240×720. With voiceover. Click here for Part 1, and here for Part 2. On YouTube.
  3. Web version (html).
  4. PDF file, viewable online or downloadable to your computer, ebook reader, or other device.
  5. Audio version.

• “A. D. Coleman describes the evocative impact of images in the social networking era,” a half-hour interview with journalist Melinda Pillsbury-Foster for her show at Rumor Mill Radio/Radio RMN, published online on December 6, 2011. Click here to listen to it online and/or to download a podcast. (Yes, this is the same Chicago-based Melinda Pillsbury-Foster who plays a role in the “Lost Negatives of Ansel Adams” story covered here at length.)

Megyn Kelly's MK-9 Pepper Spray for Kids (advertisement)

Megyn Kelly’s MK-9 Pepper Spray for Kids (advertisement)

• “Megyn Kelly’s MK-9 Pepper Spray for Kids!”: In which my alter ego, The Derrière Garde, narrates an advertisement for Fox News neocon bimbo Kelly’s own branded version of what she has declared is “a food product, essentially” in an appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor.” On YouTube.

• My own photocollage, “Anonymous the Squirrel vs. Lt. John Pike,” a spaghetti western-style showdown in which meme meets meme . . .

"Anonymous the Squirrel vs. Lt. John Pike," photocollage by A. D. Coleman, 2011.

“Anonymous the Squirrel vs. Lt. John Pike,” photocollage by A. D. Coleman, 2011.

As we’ve already plunged into holiday madness, replete with the dreaded onslaught of Xmas music, Xmas-themed movies, and Xmas-themed TV specials, I expect no significant developments before they mothball “It’s A Wonderful Life” once again, the new year commences, and the new semester begins at UC Davis. Unless something noteworthy occurs, therefore, I’ll leave this story for awhile and move to other subjects.

For an index of links to all posts related to this story, click here.

Center for Creative Photography logoThe Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson started advertising an opening for a “Senior Curator of Photography” on April 26 of this year. Application reviews began on June 6, and the search ended on September 30, 2011. Even in this dire economy, they do not appear to have found anyone willing to take the job who’s qualified to do so — an inference I make from the fact that they’ve issued no announcement about the search results.

Unless they’re holding back the news for some reason I can’t imagine, most likely they’ll reopen the search in early 2012. Per my running coverage of the barrage of flak you can expect if you take this position, including a dependable hail of “friendly fire,” I advise investing in a suit of full body armor if you take this on. Consider yourself forewarned.

Portrait of Harold Feinstein, by Judith Thompson

Having urged my readers earlier this fall to lend their support to the Kickstarter fundraising effort toward a monograph on the black & white work of New York School photographer Harold Feinstein, I’m pleased to announced that the campaign proved successful: 399 backers pledged $40,450, putting the project well over its $35,000 goal.

Congratulations to Jason Landry, new director of Boston’s Panopticon Gallery, for spearheading this push. Information about the forthcoming book will appear here as it progresses.

I try to stay reasonably on-topic here at this blog — though, as regular readers know, I indulge myself periodically in off-road adventures. However, as a photography critic I’ve always cast a broad net in defining my territory, figuring that just about anything relating to vision and light may pertain to my concerns.

Liter of Light logoOn that basis, I commend to you Kate McGeown’s September 18, 2011 BBC report from Manila, “How water bottles create cheap lighting in Philippines.” It describes a brilliant project called Isang Litrong Liwanag (A Liter of Light), run by the Philippines’ MyShelter Foundation, which was established by social entrepreneur Illac Diaz. Employing the simple device of installing water-filled plastic soft-drink bottles through holes in tin roofs, it’s bringing daytime indoor lighting to the homes of the poor in the slums of the Philippines — and, we can safely assume, soon into homes of the poor around the world, at least in the warmer climate zones.

For more details, see Ben Coxworth’s report, “Social project uses pop bottles to provide indoor lighting for the poor,” datelined September 14, 2011, at Gizmag. You’ll find numerous other stories about this online, and also videos showing how to make and install these solar water bottles — it’s a simple, almost cost-free DIY project that recycles plastic waste, enables micro-entrepreneurship, saves energy, makes homes more comfortable and workspaces more productive. Gladdens my heart, and makes me proud of our species. To learn more, or to make a donation, click here.

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