February 3, 2012; Source: The Guardian | Tim Pool gained national attention for his in medias res coverage of Occupy Wall Street’s (OWS) eviction in mid-November. He garnered infamy within the movement that same night when he refused to stop filming several masked protestors deflating a police cruiser’s tires. This crystalizes a conundrum that many who are both activists and journalists in the world of new media face: they are morally bound to cover a situation accurately, but also bound by belief to a community of action. What happens when the two collide?
In protests around the world, citizen journalists are chronicling history with anything they have at hand. Armed with iPhones, they document and pass along what is happening in the midst of direct action. In this case, Pool’s filming of a fairly mild but controversial incident of civil disobedience was picked up by Al Jazeera on a live stream.
OWS’ loose-leading Direct Action Work Group is not amused by Pool’s klieg lights on its full “diversity of action” strategy, but Pool is not without backers; he has raised thousands of dollars and has 11,000 Twitter followers.
Is Pool an activist or a journalist? “When you have anarchists draining police tires who are saying don’t film me because I’m doing something illegal, I’m going to film them,” Pool said at a January 29th OWS rally in lower Manhattan. On the other hand, Occupy Wall Street organizer Jason Ahmadi posits that this is tantamount to “informing the police. And when you inform the police of an illegal activity, that is the definition of a snitch.” He goes on to suggest that Pool is very specifically protected by the police, citing the fact that he has never been arrested, though other live streamers have. Pool says that those types of feelings are resulting in a series of indirect threats on Twitter, but also in other protestors declaring that they will “have his back.”
Protester Ted Hall believes that Pool is a hero of transparency for Occupy Wall Street: “We have people within our movement who are doing things that the vast majority of people in this movement would not agree with,” he says. “Our strengths are not in secrecy. Our strengths are in transparency. Anything that’s secretive is going to attract instigators and undercovers like a moth to a flame.” –Louis Altman