Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Melbourne Anti-censorship Event on March 6th

I accidentally got myself in the middle of a fight between several factions trying to organise some kind of anti-censorship events across Australia on March 6th. I promoted a Melbourne event that was being advertised as a protest, when most factions, including one that has some Pirate Party members, had decided to go for an informal picnic or barbecue approach.

It was my own fault that I didn't know about the change of direction that some of the groups had taken, as I hadn't read the emails (they'd been filtered out of my inbox automatically). Once I'd realised my mistake, and caught up on my reading, and worked through the aggressive abuse that was hurled my way for my mistake (very productive, that was), I started trying to calm things down.

I won't be naming names or organisations in this post, despite my aim for transparency, as things committed via email and facebook tend to escalate well beyond where they would go over phone or in person, and I think that it has pretty much been a case of frustration boiling over for everyone involved in organising these events.

Anyway, so I started getting involved in working on compromises for the Melbourne and Perth events, as the organisers of those had started organising protests due to the lack of any other events being planned, and not having been told about the picnic plans of the organising groups from the other states.

I started with email, but quickly realised that it would be an ineffective means of communication to really make good arguments that would be heard. So I picked up the phone, and pretty soon, the Perth organiser had compromised on some the the plans for the Perth event, to a point where the other states' groups should have been happy. They weren't.

Then I got involved in the Melbourne planning, getting compromises and format changes so that other than not actually having a picnic, the format seemed to be almost the same as the other states. All the people I have spoken to from Melbourne and Perth have seemed to be nice, reasonable people (though I've only spoken to one organiser from Perth). I was pretty proud of myself about getting these compromises, I must say. I felt like a real deal-maker, and all it took was speaking calmly, having logical arguments and being polite: almost the opposite of most online communication conducted between strangers.

But no matter what I have managed to do to get Melbourne and Perth to compromise on their formats, issues kept coming up with the organisers from the other states either not believing me about the format changes, or just not listening. No matter what I promised about the events, old quotes and badly-written zdnet articles kept being used, over and over to imply that Perth and Melbourne were going to have angry street protests, which was not, and is not, at all the case.

It has resulted in the Melbourne event being ignored by the other groups, and without the endorsement of these other groups, the word is not being put out there effectively. I'm really quite mad about how obstructionist these groups have been. There are a lot of details that I just can't go into here, mostly because if I start, I won't be able to stop.

And to top it all off, the groups from the other states, which had the "perfect" plan about how these events should be run now seem to be imploding, with nothing to show for all their fighting and arguments.

Anyway, the details of the Melbourne Anti-censorship event can be seen on Facebook. At this stage, it is still going ahead, with or without the endorsement of these factions. And no matter what, there will not be a street protest.

I'm going to take a step back from the organising, I think (which I've only helped with a bit so far anyway), as it's not a Pirate Party event and I don't want keep stepping on people's toes.

There will probably be people who are angry at me for even writing this piece, despite so many of the details not being mentioned, though if I am to be transparent in my role within Pirate Party Australia, it's not all going to be pretty, and the mistakes aren't all going to be mine.

Disclaimer: Some of what I have written about is based on rumour, and the state of things is likely to change frequently, as it has been for the last week, so if I have said anything wrong, it is unintentional, and if you plan on quoting me, you'd better get decent confirmation and make sure that your quotes are accurate at the time of printing them. I'm looking at you, zdnet.

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