Maybe what we need is more activist photographers?

It’s disconcerting being photographed. I presume that was part of the reasoning of East German Border Guards taking copious amounts of them of the hoards of tourists that used to visit Checkpoint Charlie in the old days (or February 1986 to you and me)…

It puzzled me for years afterwards what they might do with a set of photographs of people I presume they could know nor log or even process effectively in those days when Intel processers were much slower and still largely industry only.

The only real effect had to been breath out a cold sense of fear to those visting for the first time.

I’m not sure that’s precisely what the loyalist activist behind this video was up to when he shot these images yesterday (before an apparently orchestrated loyalist riot around the corner), but his/her video had a chilling effect on some of its nationalist subjects:

Several thoughts:

One, the presence of video cameras can have an impact at least on incipient riot situations. Apart from one adult march most of the stone throwing involves minors who quickly hide their faces once the adults around them realised they are being filmed.

Two, everything that happens on the streets of Belfast now is subject of a propaganda war. There seems not to have been nationalists at the site of the Loyalist rioting, so the only YouTube residue is of Nationalists behaving badly. You might say, they are learning.

Three, such ‘citizen reporting’ is necessarily one sided but in the absence of more comprehensive analysis it makes for good copy. It is part of a wider power play for the upper hand in the public mind. Traditionally, loyalists have been useless at it.

Once policy makers thought what community activists needed was mobile phones to each other in touch with what’s happening on the other side.

But I am not sure what can be done to put the lid back on a situation that is in danger of unravelling beyond anyone’s control but those activists who are driving these bare-bellies-in-the-car-park type of confrontations.

Perhaps what we need is just more citizens with cameras?

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty