Okay, so that was a little cheesy...but I couldn't resist. What ISN'T cheesy at all is zombietime.com. As many of you know this is one of my very favorite sites online and an invaluable resource to countless bloggers...
Zombie was gracious enough to take time from the busy schedule of protest documenting and answered a few questions. I am well aware that an interview with Zombie is rare event, so I am expressing my very sincere gratitude both for the replies and all the time put into creating an incredible photojournalistic experience...
1)I know that you are very protective of your anonymity and that it's crucial to getting the amazing shots that you continually capture...do people in your "real life" know you do this -or is your online persona completely separate and secret?
"The two halves of my life are completely and totally separate. No one in "the real world" has any idea that I do anything at all online, and certainly don't know I'm "zombie." They don't even know what my political outlook is. And no one online has any idea what my real name is -- not even my closest online colleagues know. Nor do they know anything about me -- age, gender, ethnicity, religion, location. All purposely a complete mystery."
2) Does it get frustrating that you have to remain so anonymous considering you have received so much blog recognition and can't really enjoy the praise?
"No, it's not frustrating. I don't do it for the "praise." I do it to make a difference in the world. I suppose there are different personality types in this world -- those who enjoy public or personal recognition for their achievements, and those who enjoy being a "secret agent." I fall in the second category. But, due to safety concerns, I couldn't ever "go public" anyway; I receive threats almost every day from my "fans." My best and only protection is that no one knows who I am."
3) Have you thought of compiling a book of all the best pictures (the anti-war anarchist scrotum inflators comes to mind) you have taken? Have you been approached about that?
"I'm not particularly interested in making a book out of my pictures. Books are an "old media" phenomenon, the exact kind of thing I'm trying to get away from. And, to be frank, most books sell very few copies -- 5,000 copies sold is considered doing very well for most books (aside from major bestsellers, of course, which comprise less than 1/10th of 1% of all books). I probably get more visitors to my site in one day than I would ever get grand total from a book.
That said, my zombie photos have appeared in two books already -- Michelle Malkin's Unhinged, and a college textbook about media analysis, that used my "Anatomy of a Photograph" as one of its chapters. My pictures have also been on TV several times, and even in a museum exhibit."
4) When you infiltrate these rallies do you hide your camera? Do you dress to fit in or bring a sign so no one suspects you?
"You're starting to pry a little too deeply! I can't reveal much on that topic, although I can say this: I have a variety of strategies, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes I use a hidden camera, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I march with the very protesters I'm documenting (as can be seen in my Nov. 3, 2004 report, when I joined up with a bunch of anarchists who went off to wreak havoc). Other times I'll stand with pro-America counter-protesters to see things from that angle. Or maybe I'll just pose as a passerby, a curious tourist. From one protest to the next, you'll never know what I may look like, or what persona I may be in."
5) Have you ever been confronted about why you are taking pictures or who you are taking pictures for?
"Twice. Both under very stressful circumstances, when I felt physically endangered. Because of the potential security breach, I ended up not publishing a report about one of the events, because I didn't want it known that zombie had even been there. The other event I made a report on it under a pseudo-pseudonym; it was put online by someone else and viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, but the author was not identified as "zombie" but as someone else entirely. I needed to do this to show that the zombie specifically was not there that day, but someone else was."
6) What has been the most disturbing thing you have witnessed at these rallies/protests?
"Well, the most disturbing things happened at the one event mentioned above that I never made a report out of. So I can't really talk about it. Extremely distressing.
Aside from that one incident, the most disturbing thing in general is the overt anti-Semitism and support for terrorism that is so commonly displayed at these things. I know that's not a very exciting answer, but every individual event and incident seems more upsetting than the last."
7) The reason I have stayed away from far-left rallies, or haven't walked with Protest Warrior, is I am afraid I couldn't keep my mouth shut... How do you prepare to go on these shoots and how do you wind down when you get home?
"I have an extremely calm demeanor. Nothing ruffles me. I can mingle elbow-to-elbow with the most loathsome creatures and not blink an eye or say a word. I know that the greatest revenge is to maintain my equanimity and document what these people are doing, and show it to the world. Afterward, I don't need to calm down or anything -- I've gotten used to it by now.
The truth is, there's so much intense moonbattery in the Bay Area on a daily basis, that the protests are not much more extreme than what I see every single day. It's just that at protests, all the craziness is concentrated in one place, and is thus more photogenic. But the beliefs expressed are par for the course for my cultural milieu, so I don't get any more worked up about them than I do on a regular day."
8) Considering you have been in attendance at so many of these rallies/protests, I am interested to know whether you think the media downplays the number in attendance (as those groups often suggest) or if the media inflates them?
"To be frank, I don't trust my own "crowd estimation" skills, so I often don't know myself how many people are in attendance. Plus, I general don't pay much attention to what the other media are saying, so I don't know what numbers they're estimating anyway."
9) Many times in pictures and in video it seems the "peace protestors" look hostile, angry and often resort to violence when confronted --do you find that to be true or is that just small moments captured that don't represent the whole of the movement?
"The term "peace protesters" is just an Orwellian euphemism. Maybe 5% of the people at a typical event are in reality "peaceniks"; the other 95% are simply on the side of the enemy. That's one of the main points of my photos -- to show where their sympathies really lie. And because they're not really "peace protesters," they are free to be as violent and hostile as they want. Of course, it usually takes something to rile them up. The vast majority of the time, there is no violence at a rally. Only when they see some pro-American counter-protesters, or encounter the police, or get whipped into a frenzy by a demagogic speaker. But that only happens sometimes. Generally, the hostility is in their belief system, not in their demeanor."
10) Many people claim most of these protests are populated with "career protestors" --the same people that were marching against Vietnam and the Gulf War. As a first hand observer, do you feel these groups are recruiting new members?
"Yes, there are a lot of career protesters - -'60s retreads who having their second adolescence. And adolescence is a good word to describe it. They were childish in the '60s, and now as old folks they're still childish. And, sadly, yes, they are "recruiting new members," if you can call it that, though the recruiting is not done by the protesters themselves but by the professors and teachers and media members throughout our society, who intentionally propagandize the "youth" to faux-rebellion. But these young protesters will for the most part grow out of it, just as most of the '60s protesters did back then. Only the hardcore psychos still go out protesting."
11) If you could say something to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan that feel these groups represent a majority of American thought -what would it be?
"I don't make my photo reports to claim that the protesters are "taking over" the country, or that they represent mainstream opinion: I do it to show just how extreme and anti-American they really are. And I have to do this because the mainstream media wants you to believe that the "anti-war movement" is both huge, mainstream, and reasonable. It is not. I would estimate that perhaps 20% of the American population agrees with these protesters, and the other 80% don't. And that other 80% would really hate them if they just knew what the protesters' beliefs really were. Which is why I try to expose them.
There is also a strong geographical and regional component to this whole thing. Anti-American sentiment is common only in certain neighborhoods of certain cities in certain areas of certain states. San Francisco/northern California; parts of Los Angeles; parts of New England; college towns and urban areas in the upper Midwest. That's where 90% of the anti-American sentiment is located. Out in the rest of "normal" America, you would never see any of this.
The "anti-war" movement is really an "anti-American movement," even if many of the people participating in it themselves aren't conscious of how hateful they have become. The media tries to demoralize the country by portraying the anti-war movement as reasonable, widespread, and destined for victory. But in fact it is a hate-fueled fringe movement that only maintains even a hint of credibility due to media misrepresentation. That's something I'm trying to correct.
I could get into a long essay about the overall culture wars in America, of which this is just one part, but there’s no space for that here. Just know that the values of freedom and democracy, as represented by the United States, are as strong as ever, and that the forces that want to tear down Western Civilization are ultimately doomed to be unsuccessful."
Thank you Zombie --it was great to put a "voice" to the force behind the camera. I know it's "old media", but I would certainly put a "Real Look at the American Left" book on my coffee table.
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