Last Wednesday, the team behind CBS Interactive’s MobLogic went out on the streets of New York to cover the Sean Bell protests. During the protest, MobLogic host Lindsay Campbell (formerly of Wallstrip) was arrested…voluntarily. As the show’s executive producer, Adam Elend, puts it in a blog post regarding MobLogic‘s episode on Lindsay’s arrest, which went live on Sunday:
I’ve been filming at large scale protests for eight years now, and never have I been to one quite like this: The police set up a protest zone, and the protesters went to the protest zone…People who were going to be arrested signed up. Protesters with legal trouble weren’t allowed. Protesters without their IDs weren’t allowed…The mood was relaxed. You got the sense that nothing that either side didn’t know was going to happen.
In the episode, Campbell explains that she signed up to get arrested (literally) partially because she sided with the protesters, who want the state and the city to develop new tactics for investigating police brutality cases, and partially because she “wanted to be where the action was.” But this episode is most valuable for revealing the total lack of action at this event, of the mundanity and the mechanism of the contemporary political protest. The NYPD cops on display may have been, as Campbell puts it, “Keystone,” but based on MobLogic‘s footage, there’s no sign that the protesters had any intention of doing anything incendiary enough to require more than bare competence on the part of the police. It sort of puts a whole new spin on the idea of “civil” disobedience — indeed, Campbell calls it “Protesting 2.0,” with a wink in her voice.
The obvious question raised: What’s the difference between a video of protesters getting arrested produced from the outside, and one produced by a reporter so inside that she actually went to jail? Beyond the fact that there’s a close-up of a “government cheese sandwich” (and I’m curious as to how it was sourced, because it seems unlikely that Campbell would have been allowed to hold onto a camera long enough to be able to document jail lunch — a recreation, perhaps?), I think the real difference — and improvement — lies in the towards-the-end shot of Al Sharpton, rubbing his eyes, wearily answering Campbell’s questions for MobLogic‘s camera. I’ve never seen such a professionally “on” figure allow themselves to be captured so “off” before, seemingly without calculation.
Disclosure: Current MobLogic producer Scott Solary used to produce a weekly movie show called ReelerTv, on which I appeared semi-regularly as a guest.