Friday, September 27, 2013

Come back Emma Goldman

Dr. Judith Butler, professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, talks at Vassar College about Zionism, anti-Semitism, and Palestinian rights.

She was great and the hall was packed full of people. What more did I want? Well maybe the recording could have been better; I did it on my iPhone.

No, there was something else missing. The students thought so anyway. By the end, they were playing video games on their phones or just dozing the way college students can do if they have been up too late the night before.

Maybe it was passion. Dr. Butler says the right things: Zionism has taken a militaristic turn, has fused the Jewish religion to the fascist state of Israel, and has excused that state's apartheid ways by using the Holocaust.

According to Dr. Butler, Jews have always taken the side of human rights victims against their oppressor. Now influential Jews in America attack the critics of apartheid Israel by calling them anti-Semitic. How that cheapens the term, and makes it unusable in really fighting the anti-Semitism that still exists worldwide.

But the talk left me wishing for that fiery Emma Goldman. She would have left the crowd cheering or maybe chasing her out of the hall. Social justice can't be divorced from passion. Human rights should get us worked up; it should be the center of our being.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The most vicious lobby

GUEST: Jeff Cohen, media critic, director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, and founder of the media watch group FAIR, talks about his "inspiring" trip to the West Bank.

We had to record Jeff before the program because he teaches during our Thursday broadcasting time. I recorded Jeff on Skype the night before.

I knew why Jeff had called his visit to the West Bank "inspiring" because I had read his recent article. But I asked the question anyway. Read the article rather than my summation, but he was impressed with the nonviolent courage of Palestinians facing such enormous odds in the occupied West Bank. People can show immense courage when faced with almost impossible odds.

I asked Jeff how his view of the Israeli Lobby fits with Chomsky's. While expressing great respect for Chomsky, Jeff said that he had spent more time in the Washington media environment, and thought that Chomsky didn't give lobbying groups like AIPAC enough importance. Jeff thought that the Israeli Lobby was the strongest and most vicious lobby in Washington, able to take down almost any politician. And the US policy towards Israel and even towards the entire Middle East often comes directly from AIPAC.

Listen to the interview on http://www.classwars.org. I think it is one of the best we have done.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Support WVKR, a highpoint on the FM dial.

Today we have our once in a year fund drive for WVKR, 91.3 FM broadcasting from Poughkeepsie, NY. Please call us at 845 437-7178 and pledge any amount to support Independent radio, a highpoint on our FM spectrum dominated as it is by corporate propaganda and Jesus talk.

When you call in, thank WVKR for bringing back Democracy Now, and pledge any amount to ACTIVIST RADIO!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bezos and The Washington Post: You May Not Want to Step In It

by Gary

When Jeffrey Bezos, founder and chairman of Amazon.com, laid down $250 million to purchase The Washington Post, one of the most important journalistic enterprises in the world, people, understandably, had questions.  What did this Internet retailer know about the newspaper business? 

The primary impact of Amazon on the world of publishing has been about the same as it has been on many other businesses: a massive beat-down.  Those local stores that managed to survive suburbanization, mall-ization, and WalMart-ization were now confronted by an even greater competitor: a company that enjoys a global clientele, pays a pittance in rent and taxes, and does sufficient volume to be able to undersell anybody and everybody.   It is a measure of this catastrophe, but of little consolation to the “mom and pop” stores on Main Street, that they are hardly the only victims.  They’ve are now joined in the life raft by many of the big box stores.  Circuit City?  Borders?  Swept away.  While we were busy lamenting the loss of the beloved local shops where one might not only purchase books, clothing, and music, but might actually have the opportunity to engage a human being in conversation – perhaps even ask a question! – Hurricane Amazon changed the entire economic geography of America.

While the book publishing industry had, like every other industry in the world, seen a steady stream of mergers and consolidations, the Amazon onslaught made such consolidation less a matter of competitive advantage of more a question of survival.  If you’re going up against Amazon, size is not (to paraphrase the thickheaded but practical Vince Lombardi) everything, it’s the only thing.  Quality?  Personal service?  Amazon has relegated these concepts to the dustbin of history.

As far rich people’s toys are concerned, a newspaper has always had a certain appeal.  Any piece of owned property can bestow pride and profit, but a newspaper is a public megaphone with few rivals for power and prestige.  William Randolph Hearst was hardly the only mogul to understand this (James Gordon Bennett and Joseph Pulitzer preceded him), but he was the first to seize the full power of the press to feed his own ego and ambition.  Not satisfied to merely influence public opinion, Hearst realized that this tail could wag the dog of national policy.  He didn’t just create reading material, he made wars.

I’m not suggesting that Bezos is in the same class as Hearst or his contemporary step-children in media manipulation, Rupert Murdoch and Silvio Berlusconi, but exactly what class (other than upper-upper 1%) is he in?  This guy knows how to run an efficient warehouse without wasting money on air conditioning in summer of heat in winter.  He knows how to keep a strict ceiling on wages (other than his own, of course).  He knows how to avoid taxes.   What interest might this titan of click-commerce have in producing news?

In view of these understandable questions, Bezos followed the news of his purchase with a pilgrimage to the newsroom to face his new employees and assuage their concerns.  He told the assembled parties that he was really, really committed to quality journalism.  Being in the presence of people who make their living with words, one would think Bezos would choose his carefully.  What he said, among other things, was, “Getting a subscription to the Washington Post should be as easy as buying diapers on Amazon.”

I, for one, am not reassured.

First of all, selling newspapers is not like selling diapers, or any other product for that matter.  Journalism is the only professional practice that is afforded protection by the U.S. Constitution, and rightfully so.  Without a functioning system of news-gathering and dissemination, along with a repository for previously published stories, democracy is simply not viable.  This is not the place for a discussion about the benefits of print in comparison to broadcast or Internet news, but there are a couple of quick things to be said.  First, the title of Danny Schechter’s book The More You Watch the Less You Know is not ironic…it is the simple truth about television news.  Second, although the Internet contains an amazing amount of information and opinion, unless you are on the reliable website of an established, credible news organization, it is a risky proposition.  News on the Web is a cornucopia without a context and, as such, is as tool that does as much harm as good.

Second, the diaper analogy is a bit disturbing.  In a situation in which Bezos was trying to demonstrate his respect for the journalistic profession, to compare a newspaper subscription to plastic repository for shit can only be seen as a Freudian slip.  I would wager that Bezos actually has less respect for writers and editors than the average parent has for poop.

I suppose we should suspend judgment until Bezos begins to play with his new toy.   It’s not as if the Post wasn’t in decline, editorially and financially.  But the Post is a venerable newspaper and its role in the nation’s capitol, and therefore on national politics, cannot be overstated.  I cannot help but think that Bezos’ takeover is just the first of many of stories in which the news is mostly bad.

-- Gary Kenton

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The rigid boundaries of "normalcy"


GUEST: Eli Mann, local activist and LGBT speaker, talks about transgender rights.

Eli was a great guest. He brought up and explored a number of provocative issues, and I was thrilled our audience was listening to something that would make them think about sexual stereotypes and personal liberty.

The term gay.inc was so intriguing that I was glad we had a chance to talk about it. Have some gays sacrificed a part of their identities to fit better into the straight culture? Is creating their own nuclear families and having children another capitulation to straight society? In a sense, transgenders push the boundaries and force the straight community to consider what sexual identity really means to them.

Why can't a society be free of sexual identity fears? Who benefits from maintaining the rigid boundaries of "normalcy"? Why have fascist systems always resorted to state violence to deny citizens the right to their own sexual identities?

We hope Eli will be able to come back at some point and help us explore these issues as well.