Flip cam journalism

Several weeks ago, a Muslim Student Association meeting was interrupted when a man with a flip cam set out to do some “citizen journalism.” The incident has since provoked a bit of a stir.

Several weeks ago, a Muslim Student Association meeting was interrupted when a man with a flip cam set out to do some “citizen journalism.” The incident has since provoked a bit of a stir.

When asked in the video, later posted on YouTube, what he planned to do with his video, the mysterious man stated that he didn’t know. He was asked to leave and was ushered out by students, who he proceeded to argue with and film. What he described as “journalism” soon turned into harassment as the man shouted, “Are you all hiding something?”

In an increasingly digital age where many people have at least a camera phone, it’s incredibly easy for someone to be filmed without knowing it. While it may not seem like a big deal to some, it is somewhat worrisome that a video of anyone could appear online at anytime.

While my time in the park or presence at a lecture may seem innocuous, if I’m being filmed without my permission, it kind of gives me the creeps.

Yet, there is another layer of discomfort to this story. Not only were these students being filmed without their permission, the goal of the film was to perjure them. The filmmaker, whose YouTube profile is named “LaughingAtLiberals,” has made it his duty to film various “liberal” events throughout Portland. Whether it be a May Day rally or a lecture by a Portland State teacher, he’s made it his goal to capture “liberals” in their natural habitat. And it appears that, liberal or not, we are all at risk of being caught in his lens.

As the Vanguard reported [“Muslim student group racially targeted on Internet,” April 26], students and lecturers are protected from being filmed on PSU property by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. FERPA prevents students’ records from being released without their permission. Information that cannot be released without consent includes religion, gender and ethnicity. The reason the man filming the MSA meeting was in breach of FERPA is due to the fact that he was revealing PSU students’ religious leanings without their consent to be filmed.

“Citizen journalists,” such as James O’Keefe, a young man who was arrested for going “undercover” in organizations such as Planned Parenthood and Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, have brought up questions of whether or not bias-driven amateurs can maintain journalistic integrity. To some, there is a sense of satisfaction in “catching someone in the act.” But what is the “citizen journalist” from the MSA meeting trying to reveal? That some people at a college are liberal? That’s like going to an Animal Collective show to film ironic hipsters, or going to a strip club to film men wasting money. Of course there are college kids who are liberal and politically active.

So is this really citizen journalism, or is it just silly hatefulness? I would have to consider it the latter. Real journalism takes patience, hard-work and a really fancy pair of shoes willing to hit the pavement for facts and information. What this appears to be, at least in the case of filming the MSA, is rather plain and simple: harassment thinly veiled by the guise of “investigation.”

But, students don’t be alarmed. While some may have a camera and a dream, you have something more—tolerance. This isn’t the first incident where people were targeted for their beliefs and religion, and it certainly won’t be the last. Instead of getting all riled up about it and causing a fuss—ignore it.

Let’s move on as a student body toward something more important, such as world hunger or the fact that Four Loko still isn’t as satisfying as it used to be. While we need people such as LaughingAtLiberals to remind ourselves to be a little more tolerant, such a purpose has been fulfilled. Let’s get back to getting along with each other. ?