I covered a lot of elections during the dawn of this century. Then I stopped and unplugged from it all, and, instead of journalism, I turned to ten years of helping raise my child, making art, writing poetry and prosaic thoughts and, finally, helping my father transition from this world.
I used only WordPress blogs and Youtube channels and Twitter – but not Facebook, nor by extension Instagram, because from the beginning I despised Mark Zuckerberg and his bullshit machine and saw it for what it was – a Fuckerberg. It’s why you won’t see me in the metaverse.
For reference, back in ’20, I described myself in that context.
Hey everyone, excited for the season and I’m going to try a new type of post this year that I’m calling The GBC Reader, which I hope will serve as a link archive of current stories and topics of interest, because I feel like there’s a TON of coverage already of our Giants that’s a little redundant.
So instead of just repeating what Marty or Hank or Haft or Brisbee or AlPav or Baggs or KNBR or CSNBayArea has already, I’m going to drop these every three or four days or every week or ten days …let’s just say “as necessary,” to collect interesting pieces in one place – hence, a reader … like these:
Johnny Cueto on the first pitch of a night game against Oakland, got drilled in the forehead, which was pretty scary, but he got up and was all right. He stayed in the game and was diagnosed with a contusion, but not a concussion … here is a comprehensive piece by Haft on the matter.
Here’s Steve Berman’s current projection of the Opening Day Lineup, which speaks to the strength of play by Gorkys Hernandez this Spring and other interesting tidbits.
Brisbee, predicting a lot of playing time for Chris Heston has some in-depth on the young hurler who became the first Giant rookie to throw a no-hitter (vs. the Mets last year).
At age 51 and as batting coach for Miami, Barry Bonds aka The Greatest Power Hitter to Ever Swing a Baseball Bat, defeated a bunch of Marlins – including Giancarlo Stanton – in a HR hitting contest. Brisbee, of course, gushed, but I really like the video clip at the top of this piece on CSNBayArea in which Barry speaks frankly about how he knows he is a Hall of Famer and the fraternity of people, like me and everyone here at GBC, who know it, too. Love you, Barry Lamar.
All righty, that’s GBC Reader No. 1, for ya then … don’t all rush to read it at once.
Tim Lincecum’s season debut evokes ink including national press like Senior Baseball Columnist Scott Miller at CBS and ESPN’s David Schoenfield calls it an important start. but Bay City Ball’s excellent two pieces analyzing Lincecum’s numbers over the past few years are best
( a one hour talk delivered to students at Academy of Art University in San Francisco on Friday, March 1, 2012. There was no recording. Slides appear in order here as images, and some video clips and links have been added to this online version).
Good afternoon, I am M.T. Karthik.
I’ve organized this talk chronologically, and into three general parts, starting first with historical examples of mass media used for sociopolitical language here in the US;
then second, a line between politics of the past and the present drawn by the invention and use specifically of television,
and finally politics in the Digital Age, which will conclude with some discussion of the contemporary situation.
The largest arc of this one hour talk is pluralism of mass media in sociopolitical language – from pamphlet to newspaper to radio to television to cable television to the Internet to FB to Twitter over the last 236 years.
In the last part of the talk, I will also be sharing some of my original work in the field. I have sought to report upon, document and portray through art, certain social interests primarily because I believe they are being written out of history, even covered-up by specific interests and aggregation of public opinion around a monocultural viewpoint of our nation’s political past.
No discussion of American political thought and expression can start without the Declaration of Independence –
– Thomas Jefferson’s seminal document authored against the monarchy in England, which set off an age of revolution on behalf of individuals against kings and nation-states and which, with the U.S. Constitution, created the bond between the Colonies that holds as Federalism to this day.
It’s important to read the Declaration in context, because of the scale of Jefferson and the Colonists’ reach.
Jefferson was influenced by the French and other European thinkers as a result of visits there, but really, the scale of the task was unprecedented.
How would you author a letter to all the Kings and governments of the nations of the world declaring the creation of your own new country – led collectively – with an unprecedented democratic governmental structure set up by its citizens?
It’s said Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, has supported secession of Texas from the United States. How would his Declaration of Independence read, today? Would he address it to the UN, the Senate, the President, the Supreme Court? – none of these institutions existed for Jefferson to appeal to. He was writing to the nebulous notion of a “world at large” and against the British Monarchy.
What kind of persuasive language do you use in such a context?
“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
But how was it possible for Thomas Jefferson to set down these words in Virginia with such confidence? The seeds had been sown by a Philadelphian, who wrote and published a pamphlet which became an instant best-seller here and abroad.
Perhaps more than any text in that nascent revolutionary period, Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense – addressed audaciously to “the inhabitants of America” – pushed the colonists toward independence. The text demanded an immediate declaration of separation from England a full year before Jefferson sat down to write the great document.
With Common Sense, began the era of the political pamphlet in the United States. The authors of the Revolution used the format in the next ten years to author the Constitution. Should we refer to the American political pamphlet as a medium?
Here’s a recent one:
The pamphlet brings with it the creation of whole industries: printing, typography, stenography, journalism, cartooning, and begins an arc of American sociopolitical language that pluralizes to include newspapers, magazines, radio, television, cable television and the Internet. This talk will discuss the use of all of these and pluralism of media over the 236 years since the Declaration of Independence was written.
The serial publication of essays, viewpoints and even texts of speeches became the normative method for political discourse in the Colonies. It birthed the centralization of thought in new-born cities and the media channel of our oldest newspapers and journals.
The Federalist Papers were a series of 85 articles or essays promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution.
77 of these were published serially in The Independent Journal and The New York Packet between October 1787 and August 1788. A compilation of the 77 and eight others were published as The Federalist or The New Constitution in two volumes in 1788.
From these documents and the discussions they generated, came our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Promptly thereafter, colonial cities birthed the “two-paper town” as the newly minted First Amendment of the Constitution produced contrasting viewpoints in the form of newspapers, which bore, defined and built the “constitution” of American political thought for a hundred and fifty years.
The era made editors-in-chief men of great power a hundred years before Citizen Kane.
Note that the Presidents of the US at this time are mostly forgettable bureaucrats. Perhaps Van Buren stands out for his hemispheric reach, but great debate and intellectual work wasn’t being done by the President. It was occurring in the Senate, at the level of the Supreme Court and with the birth of newspapers’ Editors-in-Chief like Horace Greeley of The New York Tribune – who began to take on greater responsibility for political language.
During the period of 1840 – 1860, after years of the establishment of new civic centers and States, with their own newspapers and journals, the country faced its greatest sociopolitical unrest. Correspondingly, an era of great newspaper publishers and editors representing contrasting viewpoints emerged.
By 1858 it was common for newspaper-editors to employ stenographers to attend speeches and to publish the speeches in totem in their papers.
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 were a series of seven debates between Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate for Senate in Illinois and the incumbent Senator Stephen Douglas, the Democratic Party candidate. At the time, US Senators were elected by state legislatures so Lincoln and Douglas were vying for control of the Illinois legislature.
The main issue in all seven debates was slavery and ultimately all of the issues Lincoln would face in the aftermath of his victory in the 1860 Presidential Election – issues which would lead directly to the first dissolution of the Union and the first Civil War in U.S. History.
The debates were held in seven towns in Illinois, but became so popular that they were distributed by papers elsewhere.
But editors of papers who favored Douglas would take the stenographers’ notes and clean them up, fixing errors of notation, context or even meaning only in Douglas’ words. Papers that favored Lincoln did the opposite. The power of the Editor was never before so clearly visible.
Lincoln lost the Senate election, but afterward he had all the texts cleaned, edited properly and republished as a single book – which was read broadly and helped lead him to the nomination in 1860.
The issue of Slavery was defined for vernacular discourse by the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, a remarkable moment in U.S. political history and language. Here’s the Centennial Stamp:
And so for long years newspaper men and politicians were bound in this country and great cultural and social consciousness that helped define the nation emerged through muckraking and whistle-blowing, but also, inevitably, corruption and yellow journalism.
The Spanish-American War may have been born from such yellow journalism, as the sinking of The Maine, falsely attributed to the enemy by papers in the U.S., pushed Americans into the war. More examples exist, and indeed as media pluralizes over the next century, this cozy corruption between politicians and journalists has been exacerbated by new media.
By the turn of the 20th century, the dominant medium was the printed word, and then, the word as heard through radio and both were being used to push political interests and social agendas.
News and official information delivered by voice over the airwaves is warm and available, lucid by the intimation of the sound of the voice, not subject to interpretation of the reader. Baseball and music and DJ’s sounded great on the radio and political communicators quickly recognized it.
Writing for broadcast began.
An excellent metaphoric example of the power of radio before television as a vernacular medium in politics can be found in the Coen Brothers musical film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?.
Set in the southern state of Mississippi before television, one narrative thread of the film follows a Governor’s race. Throughout the film, various people in the State are shown at home following the Election by listening to the radio.
Three escaped state prisoners form a musical group on the run, and anonymously record a single at a rural radio station which becomes immensely popular throughout the state through the power of radio. The men appear in disguise to perform their song live at an event which both candidates are attending.
The Governor’s opponent is insensitive to the popularity of the group, focusing instead on denigrating the men for both their fugitive status and their race. In a moment that predates television’s power in this regard, the challenger is revealed to be a racist statewide over the air. The challenger, unlike the incumbent, has no grasp of the power of the radio.
In the climactic scene, the incumbent Governor of Mississippi, seeing the immense popularity of the three escaped state prisoners, pardons the musical phenomenon the ex-convicts have become. The whole of the dialogue is shown to be carried out on radio throughout the State to the folks listening at home, who even hear the challenger run out of the hall on a rail as the Governor leads the crowd in a rousing chorus of “You Are My Sunshine.”
The entire scene is here:
[with respect to the Coen Brothers]
These scenes are remarkably faithful to the truth. In Louisiana, Jimmie Davis, a popular singer and the attributed author of the song, “You Are My Sunshine, became Governor.
“I remember my granddaddy saying that if Jimmy Davis would come around and sing “You Are My Sunshine”, (he wrote it you know), that everybody in the state would vote for him and never even ask him about a policy, a road, a bridge, nothing. We just really like that song down here, I guess.”
This talk, Political Media, Messages and More, is a follow-up to a talk I gave as News Director and Elections Coverage Producer for KPFK 90.7fm in LA, seven years ago at C-Level Gallery in L.A.’s Chinatown, which was subtitled, Pluralism of Media in the Age of Surveillance [mtk 2005].
Pluralism of media is evident at the addition of each new mass medium – radio doesn’t arrive at the newspaper’s exclusion or the pamphlet’s exclusion.
The pamphlet and certain newspapers remain significant modes of sociopolitical communication. They are at the heart of some, arguably all, of the United States’ greatest movements. Women’s Suffrage,
Socialism, the Labor movement’s successes in the first half of the 20th century.
So Pluralism of Media means we media-include, not media-exclude.
Where before you read pamphlets, now you read pamphlets and newspapers. Where before you read print, now you read print and listen to the radio – you add TV.
We add each medium and the media morph to fit our desires of them. Talk radio, drive-time radio, live radio, each is its own form.
This is what Marshall McCluhan meant when he said any new medium contains all previous media in it.
This is all changing now, of course, as Pluralism of Media has matured since 2005 to become the fluid, the cloud, the totality of data that we swim in today, post-TiVo, at the dawn of the streaming era of the web.
END PART ONE
Part Two: THE TELEVISION PRESIDENCY 1945 – 2008
The Television Presidency, born when Truman used it to announce the end of World War II , instantly made the Office of the President of the United States different from every presidency before TV – and television dominated until the Internet and the digital age, a period of twelve presidents.
Ike was the first President on the tube, and in his most important moment on TV, his exit speech, President General Eisenhower famously warned against the growing presence of a “Military-Industrial Complex”
… perhaps it would have worked in color.
But forever the line that defines the Television Presidency will be the Kennedy-Nixon Debates of 1960. If you’ve seen Frost/Nixon you know that Nixon to the end of his days considered television, and the close-up, his undoing.
In the televised debates with Kennedy, Nixon’s problems with perspiration accumulating on his lip and his jitteriness in general on TV, came over as nervous and untrustworthy – on radio or via text this would never have been transmitted to the public-at-large. Nixon was ridiculed mercilessly for it by critics.
Imagine the contrast, Kennedy’s cool, youthful good looks and Nixon’s shiftiness.
Kennedy garnered the potency of the new medium, and, thanks in part to the work of Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Baines Johnson in delivering Texas, won the election by a slim margin.
I really like the blogger J. Fred McDonald’s take on this, who states, in his excellent essay on Kennedy’s relationship with TV: “For JFK, television could turn defeat into victory.”
Kennedy addressed the people of the country often and personably, but politically used the tool at critical junctures to save himself: after the Bay of Pigs fiasco and during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy’s use of television was pitch-perfect.
So, the relationship between live color television and the Presidency began with Kennedy’s handsomeness but then, typically of all things new, was taken promptly after discovery to the other extreme, the visual abuse of his savage assassination.
TV then exposed LBJ and Nixon and Kissinger’s dirty wars and the ugly side of the USA: repression, corruption, racism.
The 1968 Olympics were the first televised live and in-color around the world. They took place at the end of one of the most tumultuous years in history, a year I refer to as The People’s Year. This image of a staged protest against race and class oppression, thanks to live television, was impossible to stop:
I participated in making a monument to this moment on the campus of San Jose State University, when in 2006, I worked intimately with others assisting the artist Rigo 23 in the creation of this:
(At this point in the talk, I describe the Tommie Smith/John Carlos statue project anecdotally and include personal, non-published images of the construction of the statues.)
The impact of the moment as seen on television is described well by this Mormon blogger, who tells of being young and white and American and watching with her father. She describes his reaction both at the time and after watching ceremonies of the courageous act on video 20 years later – his change of heart is set in universal terms.
TV was the king of the failure that was The Vietnam War. It ended the Nixon Presidency. But politicians, as they had in the past, reacted by learning to manipulate the new medium to their advantage. Predictably, it was an actor who synthesized the power of the “small screen” for political propaganda.
Ronald Reagan overcame the tool’s power to reveal – with charisma. TV’s investigative potency withered with the mic in his hands.
TV buoyed Reagan into the White House with a full eight-year script, designed just like a Hollywood movie, with a brilliant new dawn at the front and a cowboy riding into the sunset at the end.
Reagan and TV media convinced most Americans that people in Russia lived in a dreary, black-and-white reality, trudging when they walked, standing in interminable lines as black-booted officers of the Kremlin marched past with truncheons to beat them if they acted out.
Reagan asserted our freedom to shop and drive and declare vast spaces ours to tame. Trained and experienced for fifty years in delivering lines written by others, he powered through TV.
Consumer technology was represented in its farthest reach by television, broadcast into millions of homes then on four channels, perhaps a fifth. It was a medium dominated by the Networks, and owned by private corporations. The unholy alliances between corrupt newspaper men and politicians had become de rigeur for relationships with corrupt television execs.
TV was manipulated on the greatest scale by Reagan. In those days, to be broadcast all over the world on US television was as close to “global communication in real-time” as existed and, on the evening of my sixteenth birthday, the actor-president went on television and gravely told us it was imperative to invest our tax dollars in a Strategic Defense Initiative to protect us from nuclear war. Reagan described this SDI as “Star Wars” technology, in the vernacular of the pop-movie phenomenon.
Every legitimate scientist in the world knew SDI was a ploy of language, a technical and political impossibility to deliver, and indeed, it was later revealed that Reagan’s own speechwriters had advised against his including it in public presentation – he’d made the decision on his own that day to do it. Generals, scientists, politicians and writers protested; others were put on the spot, but somehow the language was never exposed.
A naïve public wowed by Reagan, Star Wars, computers and technology in general – and without the Internet to look up the reaction of scientists and writers – ate it up.
Conservatives have used the phrase to justify defense spending for offensive weapons for decades – even now in Europe. Years later we live with these TV-generated myths, like the “dirty bomb”. (cf. The Power of Nightmares by Adam Curtis)
It was 1984, and the United States was described by most as being a free society, totally unlike the one in George Orwell’s prophetic novel named for that year.
That image – of totalitarian fascism that produced false-flags and enslaved citizens to a national narrative – was projected by the U.S. President onto the Soviet Union, a country he called “The Evil Empire”. It was a term taken directly from popular movies and, wielded by a movie actor through the ubiquity of the medium of television, it became successful political propaganda.
Reagan used his charisma on the small screen to push corporate, private, and even illegal agendas, until the veneer finally broke in the Iran/Contra hearings. But even then, his “I can’t remembers,” delivered pitch-perfect on national television, got him off the hook.
The Dawn of “Pluralism of Mass Media”
By my senior year of high school in 1985, say 10% of students were writing papers with word processors and printing them dot-matrix to take to our teachers. The movement started with stand-alone word processor devices, which were typewriter-like machines that had single-line or paragraph-wide monitors at the top of the keyboard, allowing writers the ability to read what they were typing without printing it first, for the first time ever.
Looking back it seems both obvious and amazing how quickly we made the transition to using the word processor and eventually software on a pc to write. It was a natural step that changed writing forever. Cursive and the typewriter are all but dead. Content began its high-speed ascent. USA Today and CNN were born.
But though the computer was on the verge of changing writing, publishing, and expressing with text and image forever, the single most dominant force of mass media technology wasn’t yet the computer. It was still television, which had expanded through digital technology that created cables delivering far more visual information directly into American homes.
George Herbert Walker Bush, the former head of the CIA, wasn’t close in the primaries when he ran for President in 1980, but was appointed to the bottom half of Reagan’s ticket and became Vice President. Now the actor was termed out.
The Republican Party seized the lessons of the small screen, and having had eight years of method training by a great actor, extended that training to a former serviceman. George H. W. Bush’s team was precise and almost militaristic at staying on message.
Bush repeated phrases without giving policy details, promised Americans more of what Reagan gave them and then repeated the same two or three positive phrases again.
Democratic Presidential Candidate Michael Dukakis’ imagery was by contrast horribly clunky – footage of him in a tank with an ill-fitting helmet had the opposite effect of projecting the desired image of a strong leader.
Bush had the immense advantage of the Office of the Vice President for air-time, but used it sparingly, with few details. When Bush’s campaign did use TV ads, it was to attack – the Willie Horton ad ran ad nauseum and painted Dukakis as a bad judge of character.
This was the beginning of catchphrase culture.
A culture manifest most strongly on television by ads, and in political communication as satire of the timeliest manner on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, featuring Dana Carvey as a repetitive robotic message man George H.W. Bush against John Lovitz as an exasperated Michael Dukakis, who finally shrugs, and delivers the punchline:
[click that link above to see the bit … Chevy Chase birthed portraying the President on SNL, but Dana Carvey nailed it before Phil Hartman or Will Ferrell]
Though we have been pluralizing mass media from the pamphlet to the television, this era is the dawn of the Pluralism of Mass Media that delivers us to the Internet Era of sociopolitical propaganda – not only because of the birth of word processing and cable television, but because radio returns for what it’s good at.
RADIO and TV in concert
Radio broadcasting shifted from AM to FM in the late 1970s because of the opportunity to broadcast music in stereo with better fidelity.
Rush Limbaugh’s talk radio show was first nationally syndicated in August 1988, in a later stage of AM’s decline. “Limbaugh’s popularity paved the way for other conservative talk radio programming to become commonplace on the AM radio,” states his Wikipedia entry.
Radio became the drumbeat for the President’s made-for-TV messages. The cool medium was used sparingly for headings and rubrics and catchphrases, while radio was used for tribal intercommunication of long, warm discussion of the message.
Limbaugh had an immense following and Bush made sure he got as much access as he needed. My father remembers seeing footage on network news of President George H.W. Bush welcoming Rush Limbaugh, shaking his hand and then picking up his bag for him before turning to walk into a personal meeting.
This potent image deliverable only by television (wordless communication in background footage, not a press conference with the President) was transmitted for the conservative President and his media agent on ABC, NBC, CBS, and perhaps PBS and the TV message – short, cool, specific – conjoined with the radio message, long, rangy, warm – to create a uniform statement.
The 1988 Election was the last Network News Election. The four-channel era of television was over.
Cable News Network, CNN, began and had its watershed moment by being the first embedded network live during wartime. At last, TV had provided war,itself, live and in-color.
George H.W. Bush and his Gulf War versus Saddam Hussein over Kuwait gave CNN more than a billion viewers worldwide, birthed CNN International and pushed Cable News past Network News in terms of relevance.
Television production became tighter, faster, snappier, with jump-cuts and camera motion. Technology was on the cusp of the fluidity of digital. The TV talk show incorporated radio stylings.
The cable news era, which is only just winding down, began with The Gulf War, and the 1990’s are littered with what cable TV invented: Newstainment, and, critically because it signals the demise of the Academy, the creation of star faculty and pundits.
These define cable TV in the 90’s, composing formats used today by Rachel Maddow, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and so many more pseudo-intellectual, corporate-financed, opinion-making cable TV “shows,” designed by marketing and legal teams, by groovy execs and demographers more than journalists.
Whole channels have emerged – and here the Daily Show/Colbert are uniquely successful – from what was drawn so poorly in the 1990’s. The medium’s highly refined message delivery system operates full-tilt, 24/7, and millions call it real-time.
[END PART TWO]
The21st Century : The Internet Meets the Television Presidency
Part Three notes are much less formal as the latter part of the talk is filled with anecdotal descriptions of several projects I have engaged in. However, I am writing it up cohesively and will add it here when finished.
This section starts with the 2000 Election that ended in the Florida Fiasco and into Howard Dean’s successes with the Internet, then moves through the Kerry-Bush Election, the first-ever Congressionally-contested election and then the Obama-McCain election, ending finally with the unique situation of politicians in SF running for Mayor and using Twitter for the first time even as they granted Twitter a huge tax-break to stay in the City. I reference works of my own that parallel these circumstances.
The best of wishes to all on May Day, which in 2011 reveals whole systems of laborers being redefined by changing technology and the rising cost of fossil fuel, a corporate controlled media system owned by very few who present information in a narrow manner at great volume to try to make their viewpoint a national narrative, system-wide corruption that serves wealthy overlords who govern through pseudo-democracy – which in any case we don’t seem to value enough to employ as voter turnout is shameful in the United States.
And since the State is broke, instead of coming up with creative solutions or taxing the rich, it launches straight-out attacks on worker’s rights. The State of Wisconsin unilaterally cheated Unions of representation and tea-partiers sell the line because of a perception of corruption and manipulation by Unions that has been manufactured and pushed by among others, an Aussie incorporated in Britain, Rupert Murdoch, through his network [FOX] and newspaper [WSJ].
In the USA, of course, we do Labor Day in September at the end of summer, but for Labour Day, I propose we really consider how our austerity measures are going to look. We have no choice. We cannot paper over the numbers or pretend the City isn’t broke, or worse running at a deficit. But we must protect our workers. In fact, we need to make taxation more equitable and spread more widely rather than author exceptions to law as the Board has done for Twitter.
David Cay Johnston’s book Free Lunch, Porfolio (Penguin), 2007, which is subtitled How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and stick you with the bill), is an excellent read that exposes the facts. Here’s a nice post about taxation over at The World’s Got Problems blog.
There are a lot of creative ways we can generate revenue without cutting into pensions and ending city jobs. and there are lots of ways to redistribute current spending. Take a look at my campaign promises, I will lead us to savings and a surplus economy.
Agit-Prop to Info-Prop; Culture Jamming, Alternative Media, Activism and the monolithic corporate-controlled US American Media
performance lecture at C-Level in Chinatown
Good Evening and Thanks for coming out.
Thanks to Michael Wilson who quickly put this together upon realizing that I am leaving the U.S. – due here next week, really – and for recognizing that this departure may be permanent … and for having the appreciation for my work to see that a presentation like this might be useful … for myself as an organizational mechanism and – perhaps, if we are lucky – for you, gathered here tonight to consider the material.
I’m a writer, a book and performance artist and a member of the Booklyn Artists Alliance [you can see our work at www.booklyn.org] there’s a decent bio there and though the list of works, exhibitions and performances is a little stale, some colophons of books I have finished in recent years and links to work in progress can be found by navigating to the Artists page and clicking my name, M.T. Karthik.
One of my most recent public projects was to function as News Director at Pacifica Station KPFK 90.7fm here in Los Angeles from 2003 to 2004 and to produceand direct coverage of the 2004 Election.
I want to frame things a little because this talk is really a companion to two otherformal talks I have done since the election –
one immediately afterward … on that Thursday after the Election, 4 November2004, when the Kerry concession was just 36 hours old, at a panel at Cal-Arts.
I was invited by the artist Mariana Botey and in my presentation, I promoted the idea of rejecting the concession as meaningless to the outcome and really meaningless to democracy in the U.S. at all – focusing on the errors not in political strategy and campaigning as most media outlets were doing at that time, but rather upon the mistakes in vote casting, counting or registering … the mechanics of voting itself and reports of problems and issues.
KPFK News stayed in the context of the actual votes cast and counted – or uncounted – long after others had heaped their towels atop John Kerry’s, thrown so soon after Election Day.
From our position it was clear that the election was still too close to call.
I maintained that claims to the contrary were suspect. But the constant and immediate projection and legitimization of a Bush victory is what we saw… and heard… daily, at incredible volume from every network and publication – that they “did not contest the outcome of Bush’s victory…”
only a handful of alternative media outlets proposedthat votes in OHIO were unclear and that results from many parts of the country that used electronic voting machines were skewed versus long-trending and historically accurate exit polls.
[actually the Herbst Brothers were there – is it correct to call you that? I mean that the editors of The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest were on that panel, as was the artist Mariana Botey, who invited me to participate]
and a second talk I did in San Francisco at New College in The Mission District one month later, on5 December of last year, entitled, “Radio As Meta-Medium.” … that one is available apparently in its entirety online … I haven’t heard it but I understand it’s there … and it was sort of hectic as I was positioned to have to defend myself against my former employers and fellow Pacificans for a projection I made by e-mail
Yes, after the election and before the electoral college vote, I was the only broadcast journalist in the USA to project John Kerry the winner of the state of OH – and thereby the winner of the Presidency by an electoral college vote-count of 3 delegates 270 to 267.
I did it three weeks after election day and only upon the collection and broadcast of numerous testimonials regarding the election from experts, monitors and voters in Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and other parts of the country. I made the projection because I felt that the declaration that Bush had won was no more than an unsubstantiated projection made by corporate-controlled media in the U.S. and parroted by those unwilling to do proper journalism or even proper investigation into electoral problems. I did it more than a month before the Electoral College voted because I wanted to slow the confirmation of George Walker Bush’s second term as President – so a proper investigation of the election could be conducted.
As a side note: I do not believe that George Walker Bush is the legitimate President of the United States of America. The NORC study, an independent, academic investigation into the election of 2000 v. Gore proved Bush lost at that time and published results in the Spring after his first so-called Inauguration – that data can be found at www.norc.org
and I believe Bush, through Rove and his people, have committed election fraud in 2004 to bring about a bureaucratic coup here in the U.S. – perhaps you do, too.
It was this position that forced me out of KPFK and Pacifica –the network was unwilling to take my stance, considered,at the time, too radical. The local station manager claimed she had to play her hand as it was dealt, folding me out and, ultimately, stooging for Pacifica management at the Network’s head offices in Berkeley.
Though ultimately foiled by the inner-workings of the institution, I was able to get key pieces of information out, was able to make certain kinds of journalism happen that had not yet happened in much if not all of U.S. electoral journalism. And techniques that had not been tried in U.S. American journalism were tested some of which thrive today at KPFK News and nowhere else.
This was the inevitable conclusion of the piece … It was predictablethat the artists methodology would eventually conflict so firmly with the so-called journalists methodology, or that of Pacifica, the pacifist, listener-driven community medium. That there would be some kind of tautological or industrial or logical paradox or collision … this was inevitable. I sought to control this long enough to participate in the election of 2004 in a way that no other media outlet would.
For myself, secure in my methods and what I have learned, I do not accuse Pacifica management of anything more than cowardice, complacency and ignorance. They just don’t get it. They are confused about methodology. Their techniques are sadly outmoded. There are luddites among them and they can’t keep up.They are held hostage by their fear that they will cease to exist and so they function like hangers-on, desperate for attention and support, unwilling to take strong positions. They do not know how to change the way journalism is done in the U.S. They do not know how to take advantage of their unique position. They struggle to stay afloat because of bad management which wastes opportunities and the tremendous goodwill extended in the form of cash contributions by the listener-sponsors.
Pacifica is also deeply infiltrated by agents known as moles. It doesn’t take much … I mean it’s a community station and the doors are wide open. The RCP, Democrats and Right-Wing agents have access and they regularly manipulate Pacifica’s content. I knew this going in, as a listener it is apparent – and I tried to navigate the environment for the term of the project in an attempt to cut through.
The question for myself as an artist was how strategically could I flex in this context. Could I identify stories or angles that were NOT being allowed to break through the U.S. American Media vacuum and push them through the tool?
In the instance of the Election, that circumstantial evidence pointed to manipulation of votes and vote-counts by Republicans and that a fraudulent election had been alleged by reputable elections monitors? The answer is … No.
In the instance of investigating the polarizing events of “nine – eleven” … no. not really.
Well, at least not to more than a few hundred thousand listeners at a time.
Well, I think it’s best NOT to duplicate the material discussed in the previous talks as much as possible. I’d rather bring other things to bear here tonight – perhaps a more global and academic view, now that there has been time to review the period – and then the three talks taken together will have a kind of thicker … meaner … impact.
The title of tonight’s lecture
Pluralism of Media In The Age of Surveillance
Is really very broad because I conceived it quickly in a phone call with Michael to pull this together, but it really suits, to the direction I want to go with the material I have gathered in the last eight years.
I coined a term a few years ago to describe one type of public art or public intervention or public work I am engaged in and that I am encouraging others to participate in, and that’s in our subtitle here:
Information Propaganda is an extension of the 1968 term Agitation Propaganda or Agit-Prop.
Info-Prop is art meant to convey truth past the massive volume of lies and omissions being generated by technocrats and corporate controlled media. It seeks truths that have been buried or evacuated.(We’ll get into this tactic later – the evacuation of collectively held truths)
Info-Prop attempts contemporaneous revision of what is being recorded as history at The New York Times, or on FOX in an attempt to create and maintain parallel histories to that documented by the largest of our mass media.
The incredibly creative signs, performances and clothing I have seen, not just at protests, but everywher over the past few years that include graphics of complex data, visual portrayals of the power structures that exist, images of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983, facts represented on charts that are not made available through corporate media … this is what I mean. Information Propaganda. Info-Prop.
Info-Prop is an outsider art form that can be exercised by professional artists and non-artists alike. As a movement of cultural production Info-Prop has been driven primarily by the nexus of the Information Age: the Internet.
This immediate, free, global connection – invented by the U.S. defense department to allow for internal communication in the event of a nuclear attack [this was before they figured out that EMPs would probably take out all power] … then given second to academics and then finally to everyone else but only through deregulated, proper Capitalist structures … Internet Service Providers and so on … this Internet is still very very very young.
Here in the U.S. we push, sit upon and ride the half-ass, trickety jalopy we call the Internet at the dawn of international communication in real-time, awaiting a sensibility to take hold of the English-language part of our social intercourse that isn’t fundamentalist Christian and radically right-wing or from Texas with a hardline agenda or wearing an elephant tiepin in the form of the flag of the United States of America.
It is apparent now that the United States of America is occupied by a political force that can only be called a faction. This faction controls communications media with near-absolute restriction of content, controls agencies that monitor, manage and distribute the collective funds of the largest bank account in the world, and controls the most powerful military to which it granted more than 400 Billion dollars last year, the best funded, most powerful war machine on earth.
Among the fools in this faction there are elderly bigots who are given swan-songs of attention, there are hyper-militarily minded protocol hounds who have seized the language they wrote only two and a half generations ago. There are House Niggers. And House Wiggers, too. House Immigrunts.
All have been seized by soldier mentality and blood-lust – that is the stage play CNN, NPR, PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, HBO, The New York Times, Washington Post, and every major news outlet in the United States is meant to project because what happened is:
The free-est economy in the world puffed itself up for eight years – wrapped itself into a Y2knot by getting dumbed into a hitch in the 90’s – and had to be “system re-booted.”
When all intranet debts were erased by a tidal wave of media, pumping the same fiction (a well-known – not obscure – mafia move). They hate our blue jeans and Matrix movies so we get to go kill them and take their oil. All the drunk parasites clinging to the largest multi-media assault on international humanity ever attempted by any country, any peoples.
This faction is guilty of producing, staging and titling “9-eleven” to salvage the failing economy and to stimulate younger generations of participants into their System of Society. They do this with pride. Named themselves neoconservatives and have a fascist mentor, author and originator in the Russian-Jewish immigrant University of Chicago Academic Leo Strauss, a TV-watching, hate-filled neo-Hobbes.
We witness these neocons drop megatons of death from the sky upon the heads of others, elsewhere, anywhere in the world they wish. These, who have said aloud – and continue to say it – they believe they are doing God’s work while openly engaged in murder, manipulation of masses, demagoguery, espionage, political deceit, covert operations and corporate protectionism.
There is significant reason to believe that the Internet, your e-mail, is not secure and that the content is being manipulated by Intelligence agencies of the U.S. and other Nation States as well as by rogue operatives as these agencies claim. That all our phones are tapped.
But, it is important to note –
as this graphic by San Francisco-based, Portuguese artist Rigo 23 illuminates –
how few people really have access to the Internet still.
At the talk in San Francisco late last year, I called “Live Radio” a meta-medium, unlike other media because of its intimacy, its vernacular aspect, its aural and oral nature and the fact that it “happens” in real time.
By distilling content from the Internet, Television, Print and other media into a script to be read over the airwaves by a reader, radio, like television, seeks the trust ofthe listener in the reader and her or his script and attempts to make itself meta-mediator of content.
If you are blind perhaps the radio is the only way to get the information, but the vast majority of radio listeners are not blind – they have chosen the radio as their mediator. Trust has been established.
Radio is a Meta-Medium.
This is actually how the right-wing in America has achieved so much, using broadcast and particularly a.m. radio to great effect to create trust in voices who bend truth, commit prevarications of omission and outright lies in order to push an agenda of their party and their interests. Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Dennis Miller, etc. etc.
Corporations give them volume … the sheer volume of the “mass” in mass media. This is how dollars are translated into historical fiction.
We live in a condition where small groups of committed, intellectual individuals interested in truth have been cordoned off, marginalized and re-framed. While their messagesmay be true and may occur in a pluralism of media, these messages are drowned out and disappeared, by tactical disinformation, damage control, spin and evacuation.This is what I mean by evacuated. Vacuo. Vacuum. the idea that some stories are made invisible because once they are reported special interests with access to enormous tools of media create a vacuum around them, bury them in irrelevancies or reduce them in importance in the National psyche.
One of the major problems is that the intelligence capabilities of the other side in this media war are so completely all-pervasive that they are able to nip any impending growth of movements around ideas early and prevent them from growing.
I think of the pre-emptive strikes in New York during the RNC in which 1900 people were arrested. Think about this, folks, three times the number of people arrested in Chicago at the DNC in 1968 were arrested in New York in 2004 at the RNC and nobody cared … well, not nobody … but who really knew that the Republican Party … the Federal Government and Bush had instructed the New York Police Department to arrest protesters in New York in advance of their committing acts of civil disobedience because these were known to participants and police in advance of their occurrence and who cared that the Republicans PAID for the lease on Pier 59, to have these peaceful protesters – women, men, grandmothers – put into a filthy, toxic holding pen. Who now knows that the place had been leased by the Republican Party for this purpose?
These tactics are the physical parallels to the pre-emptive tactics applied in media on a daily and weekly basis by political factions.
You know that a group is going to launch a major story about you because you have them surveilled. You then take whatever steps necessary to make the story disappear or seem ridiculous.
And now we see the title of our talk today more clearly:
Pluralism of Media in the Age of Surveillance.
U.S. American – For many years the term ‘American’ used to describe people of the U.S.A. has been offensive, a classic form of propaganda – mitigating the genocide the whole of the Americas has been experiencing for 512 and a half years under a rubric of the hemisphere’s Master – the U.S.A.
George Walker Bush, Dick Bruce Cheney
2. Media Itself – I think that intercessionary tactics have to be exercised into various media where they are not expected. – example of the NYU kids.