Since this is a blog about media (among other things), I would be remiss to completely ignore the US presidential elections. Even here in Italy (where I live) there is nightly coverage of the US primaries on the television news (my Italian friends joke that everyone in the world should be allowed to vote in US elections– I agree completely!). But frankly I am so cynical about the process I have lost total interest in tracking the elections. It comes down to this (as the above video about The center for Public Integrity‘s efforts to document campaign spending confirm): who ever spends the most wins. Presidential slogans are like toothpaste campaigns more about branding and exposure than real issues. Ultimately I do not think the current form of democracy is compatible with the form of mass media as it exists today, especially since they fail to challenge the number one issue at the core of our historical tragedy: militarism. I’m sorry to report that I know of no other alternative at the moment, and even sadder to come across as apathetic, but I simply do not believe in the process any more. If anyone has a better idea, please let me know.
Stephen Marshall, co-founder of Guerrilla News Network (GNN), has written an anti-globalization manifesto, Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing, challenging Thomas L. Friedman’s creepy spin in The World is Flat. I’ve met Stephen and find him an intense, sincere investigator and artist. I have never met Thomas but every interview I have seen with him has gotten under my skin in a bad way. A brief scan of this chapter excerpt is chilling. I hope Stephan is actually wrong. My only caveat concerning the politics of dissident news organizations like GNN is how they define themselves in the mold of a negative “us” vs. “them” paradigm. I think there is a danger in the concept of the information-will-set-you-free strategy of the left, but in this case it may be necessary to be a better informed consumer of the feel-good cheerleaders of liberal global markets.
Marshall cites Samir Amin’s The Liberal Virus: Permanent War and the Americanization of the World as Friedman’s foil. I like the concept of the virus, but for real social change I’d like to propose that the most destructive virus is alphabetic literacy. It is one of the most cannibalizing mind fraks ever invented by human beings. It has the capacity to subsume the holistic perception of the right-brain. No doubt, a person trained in the left-brain print literate universe sees everything as flat. Is the alphabet evil? Not necessarily, after all, I’m using it as a tool for education, yet what is wrong is an imbalanced mind, one that only thinks in the materialistic capacity of the left-brain. The point of this small diatribe is that I hope critics will also avoid the materialistic, flat world approach to critical thinking.
If Thomas Friedman is the prophet of 21st century capitalism, then Samir Amin is his anti-Christ. But to hear Amin tell it, Friedman is the only one leading humankind into the depths of Hell. Writing from Dakar, Senegal, where he runs the Third World Forum, Amin’s thesis is essentially that liberalism, if allowed to continue on its path of creative destruction, will lead to an apocalyptic end. He likens the globalizing force of liberalism to a virus that has destroyed all ideological competitors and that is now making its final assault on its host species. According to Amin, the ethic of liberalism — “Long live competition, may the strong win” — is now ravaging societies of the Third World, causing further “social alienation and pauperization of urban classes.”
It’s nothing new from the far, far left. There are shelves full of books by anti-globalization writers from the developing world. What made me pick up Samir Amin’s essay, though, was the striking specificity of his warning. In Liberal Virus, he argues that liberalism’s most decisive effect will be to divide the world into an apartheid system that sees 3 billion peasant farmers pushed from their land and forced into the cities where they will die. This, he explains, will result from the implementation of a 2001 World Trade Organization (WTO) mandate that all agricultural markets be opened to the expansion of commercial agribusiness producers. Without the ability to make a subsistence living from their own land, half the world’s population will have to migrate to the urban centers where there is no work for them. And thus, he concludes, they will be trapped in an “organized system of apartheid” on a global scale.
Sorry to hit a cynical note this morning, but I received an email announcing the Democratic Party’s winner for their bumper sticker slogan competition. First of all, I don’t understand the appeal of pumper stickers, which to me are not meant to change people’s minds, but to inform the world of the driver’s politics or subcultural affiliations. There are only two that have made my day: “Visualize Whirled Peas” and “Visualize Turn Signal Use.” Oh yeah, this one too: “Duality Sucks.” This campaign by the Democrats is phony grassroots participation, and it’s just lip service to the bandwagon of user generated media. If they were serious about representing their voters, why don’t they stop the war? Instead they give Bush, arguably the weakest President in the history or the United States, everything he wants. The Democrats seem to believe if they change the toothpaste slogan, we’ll believe there’s better toothpaste. I hope that is not the case. Though I think Lakoff‘s ideas about framing are brilliant and a necessary aspect of understanding political language and public relations, changing the wording of slogans does not change the intention of the party. This we know from the manner in which the Republicans have used Orwellian language to promote their nefarious policies. Promoting a slogan that is attached to the number one cause for why we are in Iraq, the oil guzzling automobile, shows that once again the Democrats have no real vision. Too bad. They really could do something good for once, but I suspect they will continue to haggle over the management strategy of the Empire rather than dismantle the war machine.
I’ll give you one very good reason why not to vote for Hillary Clinton. Click here and you will understand perfectly.
PS The viral video made in advance of this is worthy of some serious deconstruction. Consider the set and setting and the type of image of “America” that is projected: a diner, Cub Scouts, a little juke box, the nuclear family. I also understand this is a parody of the Sopranos last episode, but I haven’t seen it, so I don’t get the joke, if there is one. Why does the Fifties repeatedly regenerate itself in the political imagination of America? It was really an awful time. Truly. With one exception: Naked Lunch, Howl, and On the Road. (OK, that was three.) Anyhow, I give Clinton credit for playing with the Internet and having some fun. I just won’t vote for her. Ever.
Technorati Tags: Hillary Clinton
Photo by Alex Zhavoronkova
As you have heard, the air around here is intoxicating, hence Romans are pretty easy going (except when driving). I enjoyed this photo from the recent protest against Bush. It reminds me of the Emma Goldman quote, “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”
PS Communists still exist?
From my friend Jordi Torrent:
In the article “Party Unfaithful-The Republican implosion” (The New
Yorker/June 3, 2007) by Jeffrey Goldberg, Rove states:
There are two or three societal trends that are driving us in an increasingly deep center-right posture (…) One of them is the power of the computer chip. Do you know how many people’s principal source of income is eBay? Seven hundred thousand (…) So the power of the computer has made it possible for people to gain greater control over their lives. It’s given people a greater chance to run their own business, become a sole proprietor or an entrepreneur. As a result, it has made us more
market-oriented, and that equals making you more center-right in your politics.
See “Let the children speak pt. 1.”
Democracy Now! devotes its show to the student walkout in SoCal.
Talk about extracurricular activity! Apparently many of the high school students who walked out of class on Monday in Southern Califaztlan to protest the proposed draconian immigration bill (HR 4437) had been inspired by the film, Walkout, which taught the kids a lesson they probably wouldn’t learn in school about Chicano power. Glad to some new homies carry the torch!
Blog | Max Blumenthal: Walkout! | The Huffington Post:
“Many people I talked with around the city yesterday questioned whether Edward James Olmos’ newly released documentary about mass Chicano student protests against discriminatory educational policies in 1968 East L.A. high schools, ‘Walkout,’ influenced yesterday’s events. In an interview yesterday with Hoy, an L.A.-based Spanish language paper, Olmos refuted this idea by claiming the conditions that precipitated the protests against HR 4437 were drastically different than those that animated Chicano life in 1968. However, a student demonstrator from Manual Arts told Hoy, ‘Before I saw the movie, I didn’t think we could do something like that. I didn’t understand how you could affect change. But after I saw it, I felt in my heart that I could do something.'”
(Via Huffington Post.)