Please don’t read any further until you’ve signed the demand to Russia to free my jailed friends, or taken some action, any action, of your own invention to further their cause.
Aaron Sorkin, I have your next move. You’ve done politics in West Wing — showing us what politicians ought to be as a hopeful glow and glimmer beneath the dull and finely observed clothing of what they really are.
You’ve done journalism. You’ve shown us the honor and integrity of the people who work in The Newsroom and held it up, in every one of those perfectly penned soliloquies by Will McAvoy, as something all of us can aspire to.
It’s time you tackled activism. Yes, I saw that frustrated cheap shot you took at Occupy. But I saw it as tough love. I saw it as the same cocked eyebrow I throw at my own cause, and the organisation I work for, on any given day when idiocy or complacency saps your strength and feeds the teleprompter of your inner voice with soundbites from your worst critics. But you know as well as I do that’s not what’s real. That’s not what’s at the core. What Occupy or Avaaz or Anonymous or 350 or Amnesty at their best have been, and what I saw today from my desk at Greenpeace, is a magic I know you can capture: bruised, unburnished, and with that ever cynical eye that says this isn’t easy stuff, but which resonates at its core with the music of truth. It’s the story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things for causes they believe in so deeply that they will go to incredible extremes, risk impossible odds, and keep on believing — sometimes against all evidence — that they can change the world.
If the West Wing made me regret not pursuing that Washington internship and The Newsroom made me pine for my days at Georgetown’s student newspaper, today I was in an Aaron Sorkin script, working an enviable job among incredible, amazing, overcaffeinated and sleep-deprived people in a place unlike any other. Come hang out with us for a while, and your next series will write itself.
Come tell the stories of our activists jailed in Russia, facing 2 months in a miserable jail cell for having the courage to challenge Big Oil’s insane march into the Arctic. Cast some feral talent as Iain the Engineer, pacing back and forth in his witness cage telling the judge “this is bullshit. You’ve committed an act of piracy, we were not invited, they know that’s a lie, it was an act of war you stupid people.” Flashback to their On Board Campaign Training and build a character sketch of Faiza, the fierce young woman who seasickness couldn’t stop, briefing her campaign team with a bucket by her side, pausing to toss her cookies and then asking if there were any questions. Figure out how television can convey what it feels like to be Sini and get hit by the cold blast of a water cannon as you shimmy up a safety line swinging from an oil rig with numb fingers, when you hear shots fired from above. Take your camera on one of those long uninterrupted tracking shots through the office while all this is happening in the Arctic. Attach yourself to the fast moving media officer who is trying out the soundbite from his press release on the social media intern to see if it will play in Twitterville, follow her through the video suite where live footage is streaming in and the editor is shouting down the phone that he needs the English, not the American, transliteration of those Russian names if he’s expected to caption according to styleguide. Squeeze past the desk of an Argentinian woman speaking Chinese on the phone and French across the cubicle while she takes notes in English, then bump into and spin away from a lawyer who hasn’t slept in 3 days explaining to the coast guard on his cell phone that “seizing a vessel outside of territorial waters is allowed under only two conditions according to the Law of the Sea and taking non-violent action against oil in the Arctic is not, dammit, one of them.”
And Aaron, while you’re at it, you can make up for that cheap shot at Occupy. You can do one of those setups where you show the petty rivalries and competitions between organisations that ought to be pulling together for their common cause, how they can snipe at each other and split hairs over differences of values or tactics, then strip away that layer of ugliness and show what I saw today: the rallying of diverse organisations around the human story of 30 people facing terrible consequences for trying to make a better world, and one by one raising their voice in solidarity with them and their cause in a mighty wave that looks a lot, when it finds focus, like a movement: Greenpeace, Occupy, Avaaz, Amnesty, 350, Anonymous: a continuous landscape of unarmed resistance to The Way Things Are.
I’d watch that show. But for now, I get to live a part of it.
Please support the people of #FreeTheArctic30, who faced gunfire and, as I write this, a cold Russian jail cell far from the ones they love, to make their stand against the tyranny of Big Oil in the Arctic.