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Gil Scott Heron was right - the Revolution will NOT be Televised


 
So I’ve been trying to sum up how I feel about Occupy Wall Street and the media coverage (or non-coverage) of the demonstrations the last few days, when I found this clip and realised that one of the most brilliant poets of the last hundred years had already summed it up perfectly. Of course.

I was gonna say that the oldstream media has been over for me since 2000, when I saw some peaceful protests badly misreported on TV and in the papers. I wanted to mention how my obsession with this summer’s “Murdochgate” sprang from a desire to see the established news channels I detest so much crumble, to lose all respect with their audience through their refusal to cover a story with such huge significance. I’ve been struggling to express how we don’t need validation through a mainstream that has always ignored us or deliberately misrepresented us, that people shouldn’t worry too much, the message is getting out there loud and clear.

But fuck it. Gil Scott Heron beat me to the punch (hard) thirty years ago. 

This incredible recording of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (as a spoken monologue with no music and some ad libs) is from 1982. It was performed at the Black Wax Club in Washington DC, as part of a documentary film on Scott Heron called Black Wax. His voice is a thing of rich, easy-going beauty but his words are like dynamite. Yeah, the times and technology may have changed, but this is still so prescient and just so damn relevant it’s amazing.

Gil Scott Heron died only four short months ago, and it’s a real pity he can’t be around now to see the people of his home town out on their streets and taking direct action, how he can’t be there himself to rally the crowds with this incredible monologue and share his no doubt sharp-as-a-pin insights into politics and society. It’s true - sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. But we DO still have this recording, and I hope that everyone, including all the people involved with the protests in New York, gets to hear it.

Because the revolution will NOT be televised.

THE REVOLUTION WILL BE LIVE.
 

 

You see, a lot of time people see battles and skirmishes on TV and they say
“aha the revolution is being televised”. Nah.
The results of the revolution are being televised.

The first revolution is when you change your mind about how you look at things, and see there might be another way to look at it that you have not been shown.
What you see later on is the results of that, but that revolution, that change that takes place will not be televised.

After the jump “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (Black Wax monologue) transcribed, plus footage from the fantastic Gil Scott Heron “Black Wax” documentary/live film.

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Does Murdochgate spell the end of oldstream media?


 
The News of the World/News International scandal (or Murdochgate as it has been dubbed by the UK media) continues to grow amid allegations that NI’s The Sun newspaper illegally obtained information on the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s newborn child while he was still in office.

This broadens out the problems in three ways. Firstly, while the information on Brown’s child may not have been hacked necessarily (as is being reported) it was still possibly obtained illegally, through the process of blagging, or obtaining classified information under false pretences. Ironically Brown’s Labour government introduced heavier punishment for blagging while still in power. Secondly, it brings into doubt the old red-tops’ excuse that they only investigate or dig dirt on people who “deserve it” (the argument wheeled out by Paul McMullan on Newsnight last week). As Prime Minister, Brown did deserve to be investigated of possible wrong doing, but exposing private medical details about his new born child just seems like a nasty step too far with no real journalistic purpose other than to put the PM on a Murdoch-controlled leash. 

Thirdly it proves, as many people had previously speculated, that the rot within NI has spread much further than simply one or two rogue investigators or even one particular publication. It’s getting harder and harder for the Murdoch organisation to claim that these incidents are isolated, as opposed to part of a broader culture at NI. As more and more salacious details leak out and more journalists, politicians and police are implicated, Murdochgate is shaping up to be he biggest scandal in British public life since the Profumo affair. News Corporation lost $3.4 billion in market capitalization yesterday, and now even the American media is interested, which is really saying something.

So, are these crimes going to be the undoing of the oldstream, printed press? Perhaps, but not fully. Yes News International are up to their necks in a sea of shit, but what is really sounding the death knell for newspapers to my ears is the fact that this is a scandal that is breaking and being consumed on the internet. I can’t remember this being the case before, but the web seems to be the only place to keep track on the ever evolving story, as more and more facts and bizarre twists emerge that prove too much to be neatly encapsulated by traditional news narratives.

Television and newspaper reportage just doesn’t seem adequate in this particular case - it took three to four days of issues being covered by a select few sources before the mainstream media deemed them newsworthy, by which time the public was already well aware of what was going on. The delay in reportage was indeed a bit of a gaffe, but more seriously it also brings up the question of media trustworthiness. Why now trust what the media says when the media themselves are directly implicated in a scandal? Press impartiality is out the window, as evidenced by the lack of coverage of Murdochgate in Murdoch’s biggest UK title The Sun.

While it’s ironic that a newspaper broke this story of press misdoings, what’s more telling is the traffic being directed not to the printed Guardian newspaper itself, but to the paper’s website. This paper’s news blog and its live feed is the premier source for keeping up with the scandal as new elements emerge. It’s also highly ironic that the story that sees internet news coverage really come into its own is the story of the major failings of the mainstream media. The author Will Self, in a slightly verbose but incisive article for the Guardian, calls this a tectonic shift in the media. I think he’s right, and I don’t see how the oldstream press can recover from these multiple knocks in confidence and consumption.

Thanks to Richard Metzger for the financial information.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Richard Morris’ ‘Tyler: The Creator, or an Old Skool Sexist?’


 
Amid the ongoing internet brouhaha surrounding Tyler The Creator’s lyrical content, this article from the website Soundblab is the best I have read on the subject so far, and pretty accurately nails the problems I have with Tyler’s approach to writing about sex and abuse. Yeah, I get that he’s still a kid so hasn’t had a great deal of real life experience in these areas, but like so many of the other excuses brought up in this debate, that’s still pretty weak. Richard Morris writes:

Now, there are three arguments being put forward to explain, excuse and otherwise justify Tyler’s lyrical concerns. These arguments are the same ones which get put forward time and time again when hip hop artists produce dubious lyrics: he’s just reflecting his background; he just repeating what’s everywhere in hip hop culture; he’s playing with a persona. A moment’s reflection is all you need to work out that that last excuse can’t exist with the first two. Either Tyler is honestly reflecting where he comes from and the culture he’s surrounded by, or he’s concocted a character as satire or narrative aid. It can’t be both.

...

However, if you still want to buy into any or all of those arguments listed above, fine, but I have a question for you: where are all the songs by female artists about attacking and raping men? If that seems a ridiculous thing to ponder, ask yourself why. Why does it make sense for a man to rap about raping a woman but not the other way round? The answer, when you pick it apart, is probably that there would be no audience for those kind of songs. Similarly, there’s not much call for songs where gay artists have a go at straight people. No one would buy into that kind of stupid prejudice. Gay activists would condemn it as counter-productive.

Tyler, the Creator has identified an audience and, with the media’s help, he’s milking that for all it’s worth. That audience is primarily made up of white young men. A couple of weeks ago, Hamish MacBain took Tyler to task in the pages of NME, pointing out that Odd Future had bypassed the traditional hip hop audience, instead crossing over quickly to the kind of alternative music fans who read Pitchfork, the Guardian and, hey, Soundblab. It’s exactly these alternative, typically liberal-leaning fans who repeatedly let hip hop artists off the hook when it comes to misogynistic and homophobic lyrics.

For me the problem is not so much that these excuses are not applicable - it’s that twenty years after the release of Death Certificate we’re still having the exact same debate. We’ve not moved on. It’s disheartening to see that popular hip-hop has devolved into a negatized musical format whose primary function is to piss off suburban parents, and where shock tactics outweigh genuine insight. Much of the blame for this can be heaped on the feet of the media, but surely the music is just as much at fault too? Because to me Tyler’s lyrics do not feel in any way transgressive. Really, they don’t, they’re the same old thing I have heard countless times before. If you do think they are transgressive, then I would say you are part of a social group that has thankfully never been subject to the threat of rape or abuse. Tyler’s lyrics simply re-enforce the status quo, and as such they’re just boring.

Read all of Richard Morris’ excellent article here. Soundblab also has another article defending Tyler’s lyrical content, by James Bray, which you can read here.

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Adam Curtis on the death of Bin Laden

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Regular DM readers will know by now that we are big fans of the documentary maker Adam Curtis. He deals with current events and how they fit into a broader scheme of social and political history. Just the other day Richard posted the trailer for his upcoming documentary “All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace” which is to air on the BBC soon.

Curtis yesterday published an article through the Guardian about the death of Osama bin Laden, and what that means for the global political spin-machine. In it Curtis addresses the bogey-man status of Bin Laden and how his death will impact on the ongoing Western cultural narrative of “Goodies” vs “Baddies”:

Journalists, many of whom also yearned for the simplicity of the old days, grabbed at [the Bin Laden story]: from the outset, the reporting of the Islamist terror threat was distorted to reflect this dominant simplified narrative. And Bin Laden grabbed at it too. As the journalists who actually met him report, he was brilliant at publicity. All three – the neoconservatives, the “terror journalists”, and Bin Laden himself – effectively worked together to create a dramatically simple story of looming apocalypse. It wasn’t in any way a conspiracy. Each of them had stumbled in their different ways on a simplified fantasy that fitted with their own needs.

The power of this simple story propelled history forward. It allowed the neocons – and their liberal interventionist allies – to set out to try to remake the world and spread democracy. It allowed revolutionary Islamism, which throughout the 1990s had been failing dramatically to get the Arab people to rise up and follow its vision, to regain its authority. And it helped to sell a lot of newspapers.

But because we, and our leaders, retreated into a Manichean fantasy, we understood the new complexities of the real world even less. Which meant that we completely ignored what was really going on in the Arab world.

Curtis neatly sums up, in one statement, just why there is so much distrust for politics and the media in this day and age, be it from the right or the left, the fringe or the more mainstream:

One of the main functions of politicians – and journalists – is to simplify the world for us. But there comes a point when – however much they try – the bits of reality, the fragments of events, won’t fit into the old frame.

The article is highly recommended reading and you can view the whole thing here. I especially love Curtis’ work on the effect of the media in propagating certain cultural memes, particularly oldstream media, which tries to pretend it has no effect on politics and society even though it has a huge impact on how we think and function. If you’re not aware of Curtis’ work and his sharp insights (or even if you are) here’s a segment he produced for Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe on media and political paranoia:
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Excellent Russell Brand interview on celebrity culture by BBC’s Newsnight

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I’m very curious to find out what my American cousins make of Russell Brand. Yes, I know you know he’s a comedian, and it’s pretty obvious that guy has the gift of the gab. His reboot of Arthur has just been released (to some pretty damning reviews) so we’re seeing a lot more of his promotional material at the moment. But have you seen him in a context like this? His mouth is off the leash here as usual, but the focus is not on wackiness and jokes but on serious conversation and in particular ruminations on celebrity culture, media narrative and his part in that.

Newsnight is the BBC’s nightly investigative news broadcast, and Jeremy Paxman is the BBC’s masthead “serious” anchorman (Chris Morris’ character in The Day Today is basically Paxman amped up). It’s safe to say they are taking this interview seriously, and it’s great that Paxman doesn’t patronise or talk down to Brand but speaks directly to his intelligence. 

Brand has been a well known TV personality in the UK for the best part of a decade now. He really hit his stride as the host of Big Brother’s Little Brother, a daily, live, audience-based re-cap show where he developed his motor-mouth dandy routine. To see him handle a large crowd of drunken, excited young-people with nothing but the power of words was very impressive. As with Andrew WK, it’s refreshing to see someone dropping their public persona and revealing themselves to be highly intelligent:
 

 
Thanks to Aylwyn Napier for the link!

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Setting the Facts Straight on the Facebook Fiasco

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UPDATE: 4/19/2001 Read Richard Metzger: How I, a married, middle-aged man, became an accidental spokesperson for gay rights overnight on Boing Boing

It’s time to clarify a few details about the controversial “Hey Facebook what’s SO wrong with a pic of two men kissing?” story, as it now beginning to be reported in the mainstream media, and not always correctly.

First of all, with regards to the picture:

The photo which was used to illustrate my first post about the John Snow Kiss-In is a promotional still from the British soap opera “Eastenders.” It features one of the main characters from the show (Christian Clarke, played by the actor John Partridge- left) and someone else who I don’t know. I am not a regular viewer so I can’t say if the man on the right is an extra or an actual character. 

This picture has itself caused scandal in the UK, as it was a gay kiss that was broadcast before the watershed, and as such led to a number of complaints to the BBC. However, since this episode aired (October 2008) Christian now has a boyfriend and a few more gay kisses have taken place.

In relation to the John Snow Kiss-In event, I used this particular photo because I considered it to be quite mild (no groping, no tongues). The photos I had considered using before I chose that one are much more racy. Oh the irony!

Secondly, the removal of the Facebook John Snow Kiss-In event:

It turns out that the Facebook event for the John Snow Kiss-In was not blocked by Facebook, but made private by the creator of the event itself. Paul Shetler, the organizer, left this comment on the previous thread:

“Hey I just saw this. Before it goes too far, I just want people to know that FB have NOT removed the kiss-in event page; it’s still there, but _I made the event private after the event_ was over and only visible to those who had been invited as there were starting to be trolls posting abusive nonsense on it.”

Thanks for clearing that up, Paul. Now if Facebook will only reply to Richard’s query about why they removed my original post and photo when he put it up on his wall…

It has been erroneously reported in the media that our own Richard Metzger (who lives in Los Angeles) organized the London “Kiss-In” event, which is untrue, and also unfair to Paul Shetler and the actual organizers. Also, Richard did not state in his post that Facebook HAD taken the event page down, he just questioned IF this was the case and IF there was a connection with MY post about the event being removed from his own wall. This seems to have confused some people.

Here is a report on the John Snow Kiss-In from the Guardian, featuring an interview with Mr Shetler:
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
H1N1 Flu rapper has new hip hop hit with ‘The Gap Rap’
08.03.2010
12:44 pm

Topics:
Media
Music

Tags:
Music
hip hop
media

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Dr. John Clarke stars in a public service video he produced called “The Gap Rap.”

Apparently there’s a problem at Long Island Railroad stations with people falling into the gap between the train and the platform. So, Dr. Clarke decided to create his ‘health hop’ video.
 

Dr. Clarke, who captured wide media attention for his H1N1 Flu Rap,was enthusiastic about his new video, “I recognize that gap accidents are quite preventable. I knew that Health-Hop would be a perfect way to spread the message and make an impact.”

Upcoming ‘health hop’ projects for Dr. Clarke : Aids, Global Warming and Lindsay Lohan.

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
“The whole world becomes kaleidoscopic”: Birthday Boy Marshall McLuhan Meets Norman Mailer

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Marshall McLuhan would have turned 99 years old today, and his status as the god-daddy of media studies still seems pretty rock-solid. I wasn’t previously aware of how often the Canadian theorist appeared on TV, and was especially unaware of his November 1967 duet with New York novelist Norman Mailer on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation show The Summer Way, bravely moderated by Ken Lefolii.

Recovered from recent treatment for a benign brain tumor he suffered while teaching in New York, McLuhan gamely tugs at a few of Mailer’s pretensions. Mailer is recently back from levitating the Pentagon with the Yippies, with the siege of Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention in his future.

McLuhan pops off a bunch of gems, including:

The planet is no longer nature, it’s now the content of an artwork.

Nature has ceased to exist…it needs to be programmed.

The environment is not visible, it’s information—it’s electronic.

The present is only faced by any generation by the artist.

Communications maven Michael Hinton goes speculative on his hero’s televised meeting with the Jersey-raised boxer-novelist, but of course it’s best to just check the thing out yourself.
 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment