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  • Writer's pictureFiona Prior

Washington's burning ...

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

Anyone who has read Henry for a while knows that I’m a complete nerd for symbolism and semiotics; whether in reality or representation.

This week we experienced a sickening moment, where Washington’s Capitol – one of the world’s most iconic symbols of democratic government – was trashed and lives were lost in the process. Though America may wish otherwise, an inescapable fact is that the image of the Capitol in a cloud of smoke and overrun by looting rioters will join that album of significant images that illustrate world history. Such a reminder that extremist behaviour is becoming ever more confidant all over the world.

In 1989 Tiananmen Square – another significant public space – was colonised by a group of young and idealistic people. Ironically, they were demanding a more democratic rule; relative freedom. I guess we can be relieved that while the Chinese tried to rewrite this piece of barbaric history (can you remember the televised coverage split screen? One carried the Chinese Government’s official footage and commentary on the events, while the other screened the international free press version), we have been telecast a reasonably accurate account of what was going down in Washington this week, however brutal and demeaning to the nation's ideals. (*Though President Trump's Twitter account has been shut down, I do wonder what 'official' story is being distributed by Trump supporters on their social media networks - the alternative media of the 21st century?)

Closer to the present was the mobilisation of the population on Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the Arab Spring uprising. Short lived, the use of social media here also organised a crowd – this one full of hope for the future. Ironically, and similar to Tiananmen, this one was all about a push for a more democratic government.

So many iconic images of crowds in public spaces, the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, the Sorry march across Sydney’s Harbour Bridge in 2000, the Hong Kong student protests 2019-2020.

I could go on with this illustrated history of world events, delving more into the impact of social media on civil uprisings and/or even the impact of video taking over from still photography in the coverage wars, but instead I will now segue into this week's selection from the SCCI Cinéphile Hub .

I’ve chosen ‘The Last Time I Saw Paris’ because of the image of Notre Dame burning but this podcast is about so much more. Enjoy!

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