Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 7th 2013 Contents B1
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More than two million people in China are
employed by the government to monitor web
activity, state media say, providing a rare glimpse
into how the state tries to control the Internet.
The Beijing News says the monitors, described
as Internet opinion analysts, are on state and
China's hundreds of millions of Web users
increasingly use microblogs to criticise the state
or vent anger.
Recent research suggested Chinese censors
actively target social media.
They are "strictly to gather and analyse public
opinions on microblog sites and compile reports
for decision-makers", it said. It also added details
about how some of these monitors work.
The reports says the software used in the
office is even more advanced and supported by
thousands of servers. It also monitors Web sites
China rarely reveals any details concerning the
scale and sophistication of its internet police
It is believed that the two million Internet
monitors are part of a huge army which the
government relies on to control the internet.
Postings deemed to be politically incorrect are
routinely deleted. (BBC)
'Two million' monitor Web in China
He bounces into the Hyatt lobby
like a friendly smoking dog,
giving no hint of transatlantic
jetlag; eyes flashing enjoyment, curiosity.
Black jeans, black jersey and natty locks;
black coffee, Marlborough cigarettes and
a berth on the waterfront patio.
We re set to go, and just like the relief John
Akomfrah tells me he felt arriving in London in
the 1960s, after fleeing the coming coup in Ghana,
I sense my celebrity anxiety evaporating in the
wake of the Spirit of T&T as it slides dockside.
He s just a normal guy, one of those street-
and world-savvy brothers I used to encounter in
the squats, galleries, rehearsal studios of West Lon-
don in the time of God Save the Queen, Long Live
the Facist Regime, when cool Britannia was forced to
look for the missing black in the Union Jack.
But then I have to remember this entirely unassuming fellow-
smoker enjoys other identities: diasporic traveller and thinker;
moving force of black British cinema; multi-award-winning
experimental documentary and feature film writer/director and
pioneer of digital filmmaking.
Akomfrah carries all his accolades (including a 2008 OBE for
his contribution to the British film industry) with that same
lightness as he dispenses poetic epigrams or references to cultural
theory, which might otherwise grind a conversation to migraine
or awkward silence. He was in town for the TTFF, which this
year paid tribute to his work and screened five of his films
including his latest, The Stuart Hall Project, his own tribute to
the Jamaican-British intellectual responsible for contesting,
shifting and deconstructing the delusion of monolithic British
culture, introducing the more fluid concepts of multi (cultural)
diasporic aesthetics and identities and a multi-disciplinary
approach (cultural studies) with which to analyse them.
It was Hall who provided the voice, example and com-
mitment for the militant 1970s cadre of black British youth,
from which Akomfrah graduated, to frame their collective
assault on the centre, and to open dialogues which besides
challenging an assumed cultural hegemony are especially
relevant now when the engine of neo-liberalism threatens
all "Other" discourses.
When he was born in Accra, Ghana in 1957, both
Akomfrah s parents were political activists targeted
in the anti-Nkrumah backlash, which culminated
in the coup which removed him.
"It was clear something really bad had hap-
pened. The dragnet was closing in...The neigh-
bours behind our house were chanting You re
Escaping to the anonymity of London with his mother was
a huge relief for a small scared boy: "I loved it, not standing out,
being a target."
London, as it was initially for Lord Kitchener, was the place
for Akomfrah and continues to be: "I consider myself a Londoner
more than anything; it s the place I know the most."
Like many other diasporic refugees, travellers and nomads,
for him the experience of living and working in the colonial-
cum-postcolonial centre, what Marti referred to as "the belly of
the beast," catalysed an exploration of diasporic identity, the
praxis suggested by Stuart Hall s theorising: "The diaspora expe-
rience...is defined not by essence or purity, but by a recognition
of a necessary heterogeneity, diversity; by a conception of identity
which lives with and through, not despite, difference; by hybridity."
It s no exaggeration to note that Akomfrah, along with others
like Paul Gilroy of Black Atlantic fame and the English cultural
theorist Dick Hebdige, young black British reggae band Aswad,
Punk subversives The Sex Pistols and cross-over bands like Mad-
ness and The Specials were responsible for deconstructing
London s normative culture and by extension, notions of "British-
ness." As he fondly remarks of his hometown: "If I have any
roots to speak of, they re there. I helped make it."
As "a bookish youngster" growing up in west London during
the incendiary late 1970s, Akomfrah spent time "troublemak-
ing...organising student occupations" and challenging the insti-
tutional racism he realised had obstructed diasporic elders like
Trinidadian filmmaker Horace Ove in their individual efforts.
Aware of the powerplay between politics and culture, he
observes; "It s a fine-fitting suit, you need the elegance to wear
Another lesson learnt was that collective rather than individual
action was needed.
There was anything but elegance in the punk explosion of
1976/7, which quickly forged alliances between white working
class and black British youth.
"When the Sex Pistols swore and abused Bill Grundy on his
own TV show, it lifted the lid. We thought We re off now. It
was a generational thing."
For Akomfrah living within walking distance of designer
Vivienne Westwood and impresario Malcolm McLaren s shop,
Sex, and film director Don Lett s Antiquarius shop on the New
King s Road (hot meeting spots for this new generation of sedi-
tionaries) punk was localised, its centrifugal impetus spiralling
out from his own "manor," as they say in London.
Akomfrah points out it s hard from our position in 2013 to
fully grasp "the rebel spirit of the 1970s against the backdrop
of shared assumptions" about social responsibility, when this
has been replaced by the stark logic of: "You re on your own."
For the young Akomfrah, "It was the first time you sensed
that an alliance of those on the margins had made a seismic dif-
ference to the centre."
Continues on Page B2
who is shaking
John Akomfrah at
the Hyatt Regency.
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