Old News

(This is a follow-up to this post)

So as most know by now, Don’t Tase Me Bro ended the other day with Andrew Meyer’s apology (via).

I went there to ask an important question. The question of voter disenfranchisement in America cuts to the heart of our democracy, and my failure to act calmly resulted in this important town forum ending without the discourse intended. For that, I am truly sorry.

The comments represent most of the various reactions left or liberal types will have about this turnaround, briefly: a) it’s a conspiracy b) he got scared c) angrily repeat what was said last time about police brutality and free speech d) ask where are the protests. I prefer c), if only because I know there were protests, but no one paid much attention to them at the time and now they are over, too. I think it illustrates a valuable point about how to deal with student protests: bear with them until the end of the semester, and eventually the institutional mechanisms of final exams and papers will take over. The really depressing line in that last piece I linked to is the closer, which she probably got from reading the “baffled and impressed” Thomas Friedman:

Gwen Kaster, a UF religion junior, said she’s not surprised the protests have died down.

“Our generation joins Facebook groups instead,” Kaster said.

A good antidote by and for the kids to that boomer-sponsored upchuck is this:

Many of us have protested, but we — by and large — felt like we were imitating an earlier generation, playing dress-up in our parents’ old hippie clothes. I marched against the war and my president called it a focus group. The worst part was that I did feel inert while doing it. In the 21st century, a bunch of people marching down the street, complimenting one another on their original slogans and pretty protest signs, feels like self-flagellation, not real and true social change.

When Friedman was young and people were taking to the streets, there were a handful of issues to focus on and a few solid sources of news to pay attention to. Now there is a staggering amount of both. If I read the news today with my heart wide open and my mind engaged, I will be crushed. Do I address the injustices in Sudan, Iraq, Burma, Pakistan, the Bronx? Do I call an official, write a letter, respond to a MoveOn.org request? None of it promises to be effective, and it certainly won’t pacify my outrage.

We can’t be you, because we don’t live in your time. We don’t have the benefit of focus, the cushion of cheap rent, the luxury of not knowing just how complicated the world really is. Instead we have corporate conglomerates, private military contracts, the WTO and the IMF, school debt, and no health insurance. We are savvy and we are saturated and we are scared.

Not to whine or anything, but I think she’s right, at least about her demographic. The world has always been complicated, but now it’s even easier for it to be confusing, debilitatingly so. It is harder to justify being particular, and impossible to even pretend to be comprehensive. Older forms of action aren’t as helpful. As with language, action too can ossify into cliche through ineffective repetition. But also like language, forms of political action decay at different rates, depending on the (historical, cultural, economic, technological) situation. The only real constant seems to be the importance of organizing. No form in which this tries to happen can be automatically discounted with the word ‘outdated,’ just like it can’t automatically be privileged with the words ‘cutting-edge.’

Which brings me to other old news. Events in Jena have not ended, but have been advancing, slowly and quietly (here is the Jena Times chronology to get caught up).

On eye-witness accounts of the beating, posted earlier last month:

I knew that there was no way that six athletes beating an unconscious victim would have done so little damage. And I was right; it wasn’t a 6 on 1 beating. Here are the two most pertinent witness statements – by friends of Justin Barker who took part in the fight:

JH – Jena 6 Incident 05
“Justin and KR was walking out of the gym when I saw a black boy heard a black boy say something to Justin I turned my head and I saw somebody hit Justin. He fell in between the gym door and the concrete barrier. I saw Robert Bailey kneel down and punch Justin in the head. ES pushed Robert Bailey and he fell. Then Carwin Jones kicked him in the head. Eric pushed Carwin back. I ran over there and Theo Shaw tried to kick him and I pushed Theo Shaw down. I also saw Mychal Bell standing over him. Then somebody yelled teacher and they all ran away. The last person I saw was RB
(Bug) standing over him, but I’m not sure if he kicked him or not. Then I saw Coach Lewis kneel down on the ground beside Justin, but I never saw him during the fight.”

Okay, let’s review that –

  1. Sombody hit Barker
  2. Barker goes down
  3. Robert Bailey gets down on the ground and begins to punch the unconscious Barker in the head
  4. ES quickly joins the fray and knocks Bailey down
  5. Carwin Jones joins and kicked Barker in the head
  6. ES pushes Jones back
  7. Our witness, JH, jumps in and stops Theo Shaw from kicking Barker

That statement from, I must emphasize again, A FRIEND OF BARKER’S WHO HAS NO REASON WHATSOEVER TO DEFEND THE JENA 6, describes a 5 on 2 brawl. And not just any witness from the crowd. A person who was close enough to see what happened and who participated.

Now, the other person who participated was ES.

ES – Jena 6 Incident 01
“Me and JH and Justin and KR were walking out of the gym. Me and JH were in front of them. It was a lot of black people standing in front of the gym and me and JH walked out by them. When I heard one of them black boys say that there’s that white mother f***er that was running his mouth. Then I turned around and I seen somebody hit him but I don’t know who hit him. Then he fell in between the concrete barrier by the gym door. And I seen Carwin Jones and Robert Bailey hitting him and kicking him. It was so many black boys standing around him I really couldn’t tell who else was hitting him. All I knew was that all of us …… before they hurt him worse. I know I got Carwin Jones and Robert off because I knocked them two off and I landed on them two. And when them two ran off, another black boy name RB stepped across him and stepped on his face and he smarted off something. And I pushed him away and then some boy grabbed me and then all the coaches were there. And we went to the office.”

Let’s review that statement:

  1. Somebody hits Barker
  2. Carwin Jones and Robert Bailey hit and kicked him.
  3. ES got Jones and Bailey off of him.
  4. Another boy, RB, who was not charged at all, “stepped on his face.”

Again, this is from a friend of Barker’s, who certainly would not take the side of the Jena 6 in any way. He was literally the first one to jump to Barker’s defense. These two statements are consistent both with each other and with Barker’s injuries. They describe a brawl. It was certainly not brutal beating people think of, nor was it 6 on 1. Reed Walters reported this complaint by a Jena 6 defender:

Their anger at me was summed up by a woman who said, “If you can figure out how to make a schoolyard fight into an attempted murder charge, I’m sure you can figure out how to make stringing nooses into a hate crime.”

Go over the testimonies yourself here.

Remembering the importance of technical definitions — that this incident was a beating, not murder, not aggravated second-degree battery, not a felony committed by adults — is important, because like a novel or a film, the Jena 6 story appeals in part for its many possible (and highly charged) interpretations. Like a TV show, new ones keep popping up. Like, say, this one. Photos from Robert Bailey’s (now-deleted) MySpace page ‘thuggin’ with hundred dollar bills in his mouth, and photos of Carwin Jones and Bryant Purvis ‘thuggin’ at the BET awards show, have been cut into a snarky YouTube video and distributed around the Internets. The obvious suggestion is that Bailey has been spending the money people have donated for his defense fund on bling, and that Jones and Purvis have been made into celebrities by the hip-hop community for beating whitey.

If anything this demonstrates that celebrity politics — or basing a political movement around an individual — is a form of communication where that individual must become the message, and so must be carefully controlled, managed, etc. Presidential elections are an example of how difficult this is, and how easily an image can be tarnished. It requires a special sort of training and/or talent to be an effective celebrity, and small-town Southern black kids with criminal records don’t cut it, regardless of the racism and legal oversight that led up to the beating, and regardless of the systematic injustice in the U.S. criminal justice system. They are targets for the other side.

Lest this become yet another rant about how we need to stay focused on systematic problems and leave aside the sensationalized scandals that bring these problems to public attention, here is an interesting bit from Alan Bean, head of Friends of Justice. He does a very charitable fisking of a piece that attacks the media sensationalism from the opposite ideological side, by Craig Franklin of The Jena Times (Bean’s comments are in italics):

Myth 12: Two Levels of Justice. Outside protesters were convinced that the prosecution of the Jena 6 was proof of a racially biased system of justice. But the US Justice Department’s investigation found no evidence to support such a claim. In fact, the percentage of blacks and whites prosecuted matches the parish’s population statistics.

It must be remembered that the US Justice Department is part of the American criminal justice system. Donald Washington was right: most of what happened in Jena was legal. That is because we have decided to gift prosecutors and judges with great discretion. Mr. Walters’ threat to black students, the prejudicial announcement he published in the Jena Times in mid-December, 2006, and a number of his recent comments are clearly grounds for recusal. Ethical standards have been violated. But were these acts illegal? We’ll see–the ethical bar for prosecutors is set very low.

Friends of Justice decided to bring this case to the attention of the nation because it illustrates what is happening, albeit in less spectacular fashion, across the nation. We aren’t trying to get the Jena 6 off; we’ve been trying to get them some justice. The next few stages in the legal process will demonstrate whether we have succeeded. I suspect we have. There will be no repeat of the fiasco that was the Mychal Bell trial.

Regrettably, however, the mainstream media has rarely asked what the Jena story says about the fairness of the American criminal justice system. “Objective” journalists aren’t supposed to even address that question–they can only repeat the critique advanced by their sources. And thus far, sources like Al Sharpton haven’t settled on a consistent message. One moment, Jena is a throwback to Jim Crow justice; the next moment, Jena is about contemporary America. Al Sharpton et al, need to clarify their message.

The media has created the illusion that Jena is a uniquely racist community by asking Jena residents the wrong question: “Do you think this is a racist town?”

Black residents, with few exceptions, do see Jena as a racist community; white folks disagree. Conflicting quotations give the appearance of a town divided along racial lines. Tulia, Texas received the same treatment, with similar results.

Journalists should be asking if the Jena 6 can get a semblance of Justice in LaSalle Parish. They should be asking if the plight of the Jena 6 suggests unresolved issues within the American criminal justice system. Unfortunately, the mainstream media doesn’t like that question because they fear that Middle America doesn’t like it.

Notice inseparable importance of both message (spin) and the underlying structural factors that allowed the scandal to erupt. As I argued last time, the lasting benefit of scandals like Jena 6 and Don’t Tase Me Bro are the opportunities they present for organizing and strengthening already existing organizations. It is less important if the movement ‘wins’ or ‘loses’ (in this case frees the Jena 6) as it is that the movement make possible future movements. The learning of new techniques, making new connections between organizations, etc. Getting the six boys well-funded, adequate defense is about the most anyone outside of the legal system can expect to do. In the context of the image war, repetition of the core message and damage control seem like the most vital tasks, with the focus shifted as much as possible away from the individual (win/loss, hero/criminal) and toward the system. Jena 6 is a platform on which to stand and say and build other things, before it eventually dissolves. The sheer level of attention the scandal got was already a major victory. The chief concern is to make sure it doesn’t backfire.

Maybe the most interesting thing I found while writing this post is the following interview with Alan Bean, where he describes how Friends of Justice started and how it works:

WHAT IS Friends of Justice all about and how did it start?

FRIENDS OF Justice was formed in response to the infamous Tulia drug sting in 1999. It took us four years to win justice for the victims of a corrupt undercover operation. By the time the fight was done we realized that what had transpired in our little town was simply an egregious example of business as usual.

In the Tulia fight, we created a scandal by bringing together a coalition of civil rights groups, framing the case for the media, and organizing the affected community in Tulia. We learned how to change the narrative, how to humanize defendants, how to “sell” a story to the media, and how to try a case before the court of public opinion. The common wisdom was that what happened in Tulia was a once-in-a-lifetime fluke. But Friends of Justice didn’t see any reason why the recipe that worked so well in Tulia couldn’t be replicated elsewhere.

You can’t do our kind of work unless you are willing to cross racial, religious, and cultural barriers at every turn. Charles and Patricia Kiker, my parents-in-law, had worked hard to integrate a traditionally white congregation in Kansas City before retiring to Tulia. This experience proved invaluable. Gary Gardner, a rotund farmer from a little town northeast of Tulia, called himself a racist redneck—and his racial vocabulary backed up the assertion. But Gary was a brilliant strategist who believed in equal justice under the law. I owe him an enormous debt.

But the key to our success is a fundamental willingness to listen to the victims of injustice. We let them teach us the basic elements of the story; then we reassemble the parts into a compelling whole. The life experience of the affected community blends with the verbal skills of a preacher to produce a crackerjack story. But it all begins with listening. People rarely listen to poor people, but I have learned amazing things from folks like Freddie Brookins in Tulia, Ann Colomb in Church Point, Louisiana, and Caseptla Bailey in Jena.

Of course, we have to begin with a particularly horrendous set of facts; a gross injustice where the unfairness and racism of the system is patently obvious and undeniable. But stories like Tulia and Jena rarely surface on their own. These scandals must be created.

First and foremost, you need a group of motivated and articulate defendants or family members. One or two good spokespersons will generally suffice—but these folks can’t always be found. The Jena story has become a national nightmare because of the passion and conviction of the affected community.

Friends of Justice was the first organization to respond to the call for help in Jena. Other civil rights groups had been monitoring the situation since the noose incident surfaced in the autumn of 2006, but nobody had an intervention strategy. As a matter of stated policy, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Legal Defense Fund, and the Southern Poverty Law Center don’t do criminal law. For a long list of good reasons, they prefer to file civil suits on behalf of the victims of injustice and overt racism. Thank God for that. The downside is that when poor people of color are awaiting trial their appeals for help generally go unheeded. It’s not because people in the civil rights community don’t care; it’s because the prevailing wisdom holds that civil rights lawsuits have far more impact than criminal cases.

Friends of Justice came to Jena intent on recreating the game plan that worked so well in Tulia. We recruited Tory Pegram of the Louisiana ACLU. We helped the community organize a chapter of the NAACP (getting 100 members out of a Black community of 350 was an amazing feat). We started asking prominent members of the civil rights community to throw their weight and prestige behind the Jena Six. As the story spread by word of mouth, talented people (most of them under thirty) started showing up in Jena to shoot documentaries and write stories for prominent blogs.

Most importantly, I spent dozens of hours doing interviews in the Black and white communities in Jena, poring over old copies of the local newspaper in the library, and rummaging through legal documents at the courthouse. When I felt I had a firm grasp of the essential facts, I wove them into a chronological, this-led-to-that narrative. When I was finished, a story about a roaming gang of Black thugs had been transformed into a story about how a blatantly racist reaction to a principled protest ended in tragedy. I argued that the perpetrator of the real crime in Jena was now prosecuting these cases. I gave the media the facts and the framework they were looking for.

Friends of Justice can’t do all of this ourselves, of course. Our job is to provide a compelling narrative and an overall strategy, then we put out the call for assistance. It’s sort of an “if we build it, they will come,” approach to activism. If the facts are sufficiently horrifying, a few sticks of kindling quickly become the kind of roaring conflagration you see in Jena.
More recently, we have been working behind the scenes to draft top-flight attorneys into the legal fight. At the same time, we continue to lure the major media closer to the fire we have built. Beyond a certain point, the process is self-sustaining.
I do most of the on-the-ground activism and my daughter, Lydia, a PhD student at Harvard, handles the lion’s share of the development and outreach. She runs our Web site, writes grants, and reaches out to potential funders and potential allies. During the past year, Lydia has played a large role in formulating and articulating our strategy. Our work calls for exceptionally innovative thinking—and that’s Lydia’s strength.

There’s a lot here, but the main things I want to emphasize are the importance he puts on developing the organization and the narrative from the bottom up, the flexibility required to navigate between different, potentially antagonistic cultural groups (presumably without trying to change anyone’s mind or get in arguments), and the lack of importance he puts on public opinion. In this model, the narrative is written for the media, with nothing more specific than attention as its goal. Once it’s blown up, money and fundraising is targeted at groups and individuals who are already sympathetic to the cause. “If we build it, they will come.” Show business philosophy, fit for a preacher (or ex-preacher in the case of Bean), but it is within the facade, not through it, that foundations are being laid.


34 Responses to “Old News”

  1. traxus4420 Says:

    in a related bit of old news, Mychal Bell is in jail again (since October 11), though I really don’t understand how even after reading this article:


    can anyone explain to me how this is legal?

  2. “We don’t have the benefit of focus, the cushion of cheap rent, the luxury of not knowing just how complicated the world really is.”

    Spare me. This is America that I’m talking about here, from an old guy’s point of view looking back. Antiwar and black power and women’s liberation all competed for attention on the barricades, along with a more diffuse resistance to capitalism. One had a sense that all these issues were converging on some kind of broader societal revolution.

    Is the “don’t tase me bro” dude worth protesting over? I wouldn’t: he seemed like a grandstander. That no one did anything as it was happening is what’s most remarkable. That people, including Kerry, would be so ambivalent about what to do, that they had to think about it afterward and plan a response, when the moment was there for the grasping…

    What I don’t grasp is why protest is assigned to the younger generation, as if it’s a right of passage before you enter fully into responsible adulthood.

    I’m only a little ways into your essay, but I couldn’t wait — MY VOICE MUST BE HEARD! (I’ll continue after dinner, if I don’t doze off.)

  3. traxus4420 Says:

    “Spare me.”

    sorry. i’m sure it’s just as obnoxious for you as the friedman was for me. i still think it had to be said. maybe i’m being cynical but i don’t feel a revolution coming on at all, despite the number of fragmented, active, and competing social movements.

    “That no one did anything as it was happening is what’s most remarkable.”

    that’s what the protests were for, i think. the moment that was lost.

    “What I don’t grasp is why protest is assigned to the younger generation, as if it’s a right of passage before you enter fully into responsible adulthood.”

    yes, i think much of the confusion is due to shifting of when the conditions of ‘fully responsible adulthood’ actually appear. even university undergrads act like they have a lot to lose and can’t afford to take risks. that was a generalization.

  4. Thomas Friedman? The guy who persuaded the Democrats that waging war against Iraq was a GOOD idea, who said that the generals were right to complain that Rumsfeld didn’t send ENOUGH firepower into Iraq? The guy has a lot of nerve, pretending he’s not complicit in what’s wrong with America. The big 3 causes he’d like to assign to the youngsters? Climate change, social security, the deficit. Fuck him: he’s fucked.

    Back in the good old radical days the sense of impending revolution made it seem as if all the causes hung together in an alternate worldview that might actually displace the status quo. No doubt the Vietnam War was the catalyst, bringing various radical causes into mainstream college-kid consciousness. Was it just the draft looming over our heads that drove us into the streets? Certainly the draft caught my attention. But it was also exciting, exhilarating, fun — a lot more stimulating than attending class. I can’t be sure, but in that context the “taze me bro” dude would likely have provoked a kind of gleeful anarchic riot, probably preventing the cops from taking him out the door. It wouldn’t have been duty that mobilized the crowd, but the serendipitous opportunity to express an excitement that was already there, always ready to erupt.

    When the tide of public opinion turned and the war come to an end, the Xers felt — and justifiably so — that they’d had something to do with it, that they could effect change on a societal level. And maybe that was the beginning of the end, the sense that our generation owned the country and that we had made it better than it was before. It’s hard to recognize the slow co-optation when you feel like this is the society you helped put in place.

    I still haven’t made it much farther into your post, but I’ll keep at it.

  5. “Show business philosophy” seemed to be the dominant motif of the “Don’t Tase Me Bro!” show. Instead of supporting the agitator’s right to speak and impeding the police, individual audience members crept closer so they could capture it the action LIVE! on their phone movie cameras, almost certainly with the intention of racking up hits on YouTube.

  6. sixfootsubwoofer Says:

    “Back in the good old radical days the sense of impending revolution made it seem as if all the causes hung together in an alternate worldview that might actually displace the status quo.”

    …which happened, and it’s called multicultural digital capitalism. There WAS a revolution about to happen, just not the one we needed. While attention to the surface of the “status quo” was being paid to, making sure old forms of culture and social norms were displaced and exploded, the actual substance of the status quo, the “military-industrial complex” as they used to call it, was left free to flourish and cannibalize the whole. No one thought to roll up their sleeves and make policy.

    After all those pent up explosions of fun and free sex, it was just too much work to get the government parallel with their utopian dreams. “Better to just take that tasty job and work on enjoying these new social codes, check out a swinger’s club, explore all those formerly forbidden desires. Besides, politics is boring, it’s lost its meaning. But marketing and advertising allow one to be creative and put into practice the cool new philosophy coming out of France!”

    The fact that the older generation’s “alternate worldview” turned out to help usher in an era dominated by the same voracious monster with a pretty new techno-utopian skin is why my generation is reticent to act in the way that yours did. I think the younger generation has internalized their contempt for the percieved failures of the older generation to the point where it’s not even an active contempt anymore, but rather a passive/aggressive refusal to act. A cultural breath-holding tantrum. Adolescents and kids look and act like little adults these days not because they’re smarter than kids used to be, but because they’re afraid to be kids, they’re afraid of what OTHER horrible monster could be borne from the ashes of a mass youthful, cultural party like the one in good ‘ol ’68. And besides, what cultural problems have we to destroy? Racism is not just gone but illegal, and now sodomy IS legal. What can we protest now but abstractions? There’s no single “this” we can point to and say it must be deleted or changed. We can only say that it all must be changed, and how is one generation supposed to do that?

    And now the military industrial complex is not something “out there” anymore, it’s what we swim in, it’s everything. Just TRY to get outside of it to take a look. You’ll get yer ass tazed, bro.

    “Sins of the father”….

    I think mostly it’s a subconscious fear of repeating those failures. Marching in the streets doesn’t feel futile in the short term, it seems useless when looked at in the long view. And that is one reason why I think Andrew Myers chose a possibly successful career over any sort of notion that he might could instigate political or social change (why else would he apologize?). It’s probably what his dad did, after he had his fun marching on washington that summer….the cycle from antagonism to resignation and assimilation has just gotten shorter, but pretty much it’s the same one.

  7. Now Sixfoot the next logical question is why did 1968 fail? A Christian I guess would say that’s because it’s not man’s business to change the world, and 2) sexual freedoms are iconoclasm, bowing to false idols. That the Communist utopia is only fatamorgana doesn’t help either. I do agree with you that the youth of today finds themselves in a horrible Moebius strip, because there are no causes worth fighting for – or so it seems to them. But on top of that I do think that their resignation is more symptomatic of the Western hemisphere and largely related to their financially comfortable existence.

  8. sixfootsubwoofer Says:

    “Now Sixfoot the next logical question is why did 1968 fail? ”

    I’m not sure that it DID fail. I’m not an expert on the 60’s, but I’ve read the Deleuze and Foucault from that period, and my parents were active back then. From what I’ve gathered, and I hope someone can convince me otherwise, the “revolution” that was desired in 68 was really just a sort of undifferentiated change in moral and social codes, and had very little at all to do with politics and governmental structural reform. There was no defined plan, only that the participants wanted things (racism, sexism, the war, all the surface problems) changed. There was no real revolt against capitalism itself, no one saw that as the core problem. In fact, in the years following the “revolution of ’68”, capitalism was exalted and reified exponentially. What’s more utopian than free sexual morals and lotsa money?

    So it didn’t fail, ’68 sort of got what it wished for, and you know the adage about the horror of getting one’s wishes handed to them. We’re living it.

    And the problem is not, as you said, “there are no causes worth fighting for”, but rather, EVERY cause is worth fighting for. I say there is no “this” to point out because, even if you pick one, like “palestine”, you realize that it’s rather pointless to fight for the eradication of a symptom. In the 60’s, kids thought, rightly so, that eradicating institutional racism would make the world better, and they were right, but battling inequality and indignity around the globe? It’s like our workload has multiplied exponentially.

  9. sixfootsubwoofer Says:

    “But on top of that I do think that their resignation is more symptomatic of the Western hemisphere and largely related to their financially comfortable existence.”

    The lack of success of ’68 is the cause of this symptom. Notice how in France they almost seem to have mass protests on a yearly basis, for something or other. Their government usually responds. Ours? Nada. This is a uniquely American problem because “mass protest” has been turned into an abstraction here, like stock market fluctuations, they’re just expected to happen every so often now, so they’re basically ignored as part of the mediascape. In France, they matter because it’s as much cultural as it is political. Here it’s just all about the cultural.

    And that phrase “financially comfortable existence” is misleading because, as you’ll note above from the comments, we don’t have the luxury of cheap rent. Our “job security” is way more fragile than our parents, and our monetary needs (if a cellphone is a need!) are greater. We might have tons of shit, GPS in our cell phones, but our rent ain’t cheap, we’re probably working more often than our parents by a factor of three or so. Our world is so much more structured around consumer objects, our “needs” so confused. Our symbolic world does not contain “right and wrong”, but rather an infinite relativism between the two as mediated by a web of media no one can escape from.

    We can only work from the assumption that ’68 was a success! And we must now come up with new ways to change things that do not involve such an explosion of jouissance, we must be more pragmatic, and this is very depressing to learn. Hopefully we’re wrong.

  10. “What can we protest now but abstractions? There’s no single “this” we can point to and say it must be deleted or changed.”

    Sixfoot I presume you don’t live in the USA, because th war seems like a pretty darned good candidate for being the single “this.” But it’s not happening here.

    By the way, I don’t remember anybody paying homage to France 1968 on the American scene. It was the war, and to a lesser extent the assassination of ML King Jr., not the replication of Situationist labor interventions, that moved people onto the streets. International countercultural communication wasn’t as quick and easy in pre-internet days, though I think there was significant cross-pollenation.

    “There was no defined plan, only that the participants wanted things (racism, sexism, the war, all the surface problems) changed. There was no real revolt against capitalism itself, no one saw that as the core problem.”

    That was true in America as well. So did the military-industrial complex decide to sacrifice the war effort in order to save the capitalist infrastructure? Or did they let Nixon get caught for Watergate as a punishment for winding the war down? I never really thought about it much.

  11. traxus4420 Says:

    thanks for all these comments —

    “The lack of success of ‘68 is the cause of this symptom. Notice how in France they almost seem to have mass protests on a yearly basis, for something or other. Their government usually responds…Here it’s just all about the cultural.”

    this is a good point, and i didn’t consider that particular difference when writing the post. the jena 6 protests were diffuse and non-hierarchical and i think had some effect, but this is only because they were backed up by focused organizational effort. and even with that, bell is back in jail and the rest await trial. and this is just one isolated event, with a VERY limited capacity to address larger, systematic concerns. i get the sense that in the french protests awareness of the system (though i hate calling it that) is more of a given.

    “We can only work from the assumption that ‘68 was a success! And we must now come up with new ways to change things that do not involve such an explosion of jouissance, we must be more pragmatic, and this is very depressing to learn. Hopefully we’re wrong.”

    yes! just would change this to ‘hopefully we can be more pragmatic.’

    “because th war seems like a pretty darned good candidate for being the single “this.” But it’s not happening here.”

    it seems to me this is the problem with the protest as a political activity — since it’s basically restricted to sloganeering, it can only resist protesting abstractions (which makes them look stupid to everyone) if knowledge of the system behind it is widespread enough so that the slogans can work as a real reference. otherwise they just refer to (and affirm) TV news.

    “I don’t remember anybody paying homage to France 1968 on the American scene.”

    i think they were related anyway.

    “That was true in America as well. So did the military-industrial complex decide to sacrifice the war effort in order to save the capitalist infrastructure?”

    i would go with this one. the oil embargo in the early 70s had something to do with it. but the protests helped. no one liked the war, there was opposition about the draft, soldier morale was low, the strategy was incoherent, lots of reasons piled up. does this seem right to you?

    chomsky’s version is somewhat different here:


  12. sixfootsubwoofer Says:

    “Sixfoot I presume you don’t live in the USA, because th war seems like a pretty darned good candidate for being the single “this.” But it’s not happening here.”

    I agree, but notice the way they’ve sold us the new enemy. They’re not “over there” anymore, they’re all around us, they could be our neighbors. This has some duped into being FOR the war. Vietnam was so much more defined after a few years in, Iraq is still not just a quagmire there, but in how it is percieved here. Also notice the difference in media coverage: they had oodles of bloody imagery to get them incited to get out on the streets. We get Wolf Blitzer’s flashy graphics and not even a flag draped coffin. Besides, Vietnam war protesters really beilieved that there would never be any future wars like it, how are we supposed to believe that now? If we somehow have a part in ending this one, who’s to say there won’t just be another in ten years somewhere else? It’s gotten to where only the system itself can ba addressed, not the symptoms.

    A lot must be said for images in relation to protests and political action. There were very iconic, visceral images to use as totems of resistance back then, but now images are proliferated so rapidly that they lose meaning as soon as they’ve been disseminated. Can you remember a single image from Iraq that is also simultaneously remembered by a million others like the ones from Vietnam were? We’re in a different world now, images can’t be used in the same way anymore.

    This is why it’s so goddamn frustrating to read, here and elsewhere, massively intelligent people turning into buffoons for a moment and say something like “spare me. This is america”, and then play the old man on the porch swing bit…”back in my day, well, we’d…”. There is no political wisdom to be gained from our elders, except for their ability to show us how to analyze texts. We can only do what they didn’t do.

    If you are able to think for a moment that what happened in ’68 could happen under current circumstances, then you are truly living inside a fiction, or rather a historical fiction. It is the inability or refusal of the older generation to fully understand the order they helped bring about that is part of the problem.

    It would actually be tremendously helpful if all those who were around in ’68 were to say, as has been told to myself by a few of them, “Wow, you guys have a lot more to deal with than we did, the whole game has changed. I don’t know what to say, good luck!”, instead of this whole “pull up your bootstraps” bullshit.

  13. sixfootsubwoofer Says:

    traxus, you’re most definitely right, I hope we can be more pragmatic.

    The problem is, how is it possible to create a culture of pragmatic, systematic rebellion within an existing cultural matrix that constantly tells you that rebellion is inextricably intertwined with your own jouissance? There are no pragmatic applications of jouissance for us, except in how we choose our purchases. Our revolution must either take place with us all wearing ties in board rooms or wearing fatigues and each other’s blood, it seems. And those who try to “change the system from within” just end up giving in to the comforts of the system. Those who take an angry oppositional approach get tazed.

    If it seems I just keep coming up with excuses, it’s because there are millions of them. Maybe if we rotate through them all my generation won’t feel so impotent. Ha, it seems the whole generation needs to be psychoanalyzed. Let’s get started.

  14. sixfootsubwoofer Says:

    “So did the military-industrial complex decide to sacrifice the war effort in order to save the capitalist infrastructure?”

    I think that’s a yes, as well, and the chomsky bit is good, too.

    But we should look at this question anew by adding a much needed element. We can ask:

    So did the american people, the peace movement, decide to sacrifice opposition to the capitalist infrastructure because the military industrial complex sacrificed the war to save the capitalist infrastructure?

    I think we can just as easily say yes. I think there is more a need for focus on how the average american, those who were previously protesting, followed up on the half-victory of the war’s ending as there is to focus on how the government distorted things afterward.

    I believe there was such a surge of adrenaline after the war ended that those who were previously anticapitalist became rabid capitalist loyalists. The payoff for having done a service to your nation by helping end an unjust war was a great job, the american dream. What is our payoff to be but massive reorganization, chaos, sacrifice and incertitude? How are we to gear ourselves up to do the opposite of what happened then, to give up all jouissance in order to have years more hard work ahead? I think everything will have to be taken away before anyone is willing to do that.

  15. “It’s gotten to where only the system itself can ba addressed, not the symptoms.”

    In light of the possibility that ending the Vietnam war preserved the political-economic system, would you contend that it might be a more radical gesture to support the continuation of the Iraq war in hopes of bringing the whole system down? There were those among the antiwar crowd who wanted to support the Vietcong and NVA for exactly this reason, but they were restricted to a radical fringe element that didn’t really have much support.

    I’m with Chomsky here: the antiwar movement was diffuse and bottom-up. The Students for a Democratic Society might have seen themselves as the disciplined leaders of the movement, but they were always too few and too radical. To dismiss the mass movement as some kind of hippie love fest is to miss the point. It wasn’t leadership and discipline; it was immanent emergence. I also don’t think it was an intrinsically radical movement. It certainly wasn’t a communist revolution, nor was organized labor supportive of the movement.

    I’m not as persuaded by Chomsky’s contention that America started bailing from Vietnam starting with the 1968 Tet offensive. Pro-war Nixon beat antiwar Humphrey by a small margin, but George Wallace’s far-right independent candidacy drained off a big chunk of potential Nixon votes (and probably setting the stage for the mass emigration of Southern whites from the Democratic party in support of Reagan). I was in school in Michigan in 1972, where Wallace won the Democratic primary by a landslide over George McGovern. Wallace was the law-and-order, anti-hippie, pro-war candidate favored by the blue-collar white voters even in big northern cities like Detroit. And of course law-and-order, pro-war, anti-hippie Nixon crushed antiwar George McGovern in the general election. So even as troop strength was winding down, the war effort retained strong popular support across both major parties. There was a definite sense of “the enemy within” — the antiwar movement was undermining American morale and resolve.

    Ooh, Subwoofer, I just got to your sarcastic caricature of my greying and flaccid persona. Here I thought we were having a nice conversation, but now I find myself under personal attack. I do appreciate the “massively intelligent” bit though…

    I have nothing to say about pulling up bootstraps. As I said before, in the good old days of stopping traffic and occupying ROTC buildings and getting teargassed there was more of a sense of anarchic ebullience rather than disciplined leadership that fueled the protests. Okay, if it’ll make you feel better: “Wow, you guys have a lot more to deal with than we did, good luck young feller, let me know how it turns out, etc etc. zzzz…”

  16. This whole generational thing I can’t get with. Is it because I lament my lost youth or resent my wisdom not being taken seriously enough? Maybe, but I’ll prattle on anyway. The majority of today’s US college generation say it’s very important to them to make a lot of money — a big shift from when I was in college. But as we got older my generation too made the shift away from the idealism espoused in our younger days toward making the big bucks and having power within the system. I too am frustrated by my own generation, as well as with the present one. I too experience rage and impotence at not knowing what actions to take. Conversations like this one force me to think about things I’ve ignored for thirty years. I’m catching myself up, and it’s helpful for me to plug the new information and perspectives into my pre-existing but dormant schemata. If my reminiscences don’t work for you, let them go. But I don’t think it’s necessary for you to tell me what I should and shouldn’t say. Anyhow, I’m glad you engaged some of my thoughts, even if they served mostly to distance us from one another in what might well be a common cause.

  17. traxus4420 Says:

    and now for some light reading:


    have any of you seen this? it’s this myth-history of anglo-america that interprets history through generational cycles. we’re in a period of ‘unraveling’ right now, boomers are ‘prophets,’ gen-Xers are ‘nomads’ and we (the 12-25 set) are ‘heroes.’ fun like reading a horoscope is fun.

    i think there is a lot of confusion about the millenium generation and what they’re ‘all about.’ probably an entire generation can’t be understood in terms of ideological categories. there was a new right as well as a new left that came out of ’68 (and the new right was much more successful). if any generalizations make sense, they would probably have more to do with something like Bourdieu-ian ‘habitus,’ or the skills/behaviors/attitudes that are adaptive within a given social context.

    just to be clear, i don’t dispute that the ’60s protests had effects, just that they don’t work as well anymore in the U.S. the ’emergent’ bottom-up model is very influential with post-68 left thinkers, but speaking merely as an armchair theorizer it seems to me that this spontaneous quality was a real weakness — the protests could affect a constellation of issues, but lacked the organizational discipline required to change or seriously damage ‘the system.’ their model was unsustainable, in other words. now the issues seem (only seem) more diffuse and the protests’ range of potential effectiveness is much narrower.

  18. “lacked the organizational discipline required to change or seriously damage ‘the system.’”

    What might discipline accomplish, do you think?

  19. Regarding the generation gap, on subjects addressed here I suspect I have more in common with you than I do with the vast majority of my age cohort, and I suspect I’m more similar to you than your average 12- to 25-year-old.

  20. sixfootsubwoofer Says:

    Ktismatics, I must apologize. Something about the anonymity of this blogging thing (new for me) lets slip out all kinds of unintended vitriol. I’m still working on making my humor or hyperbole more obvious. There was no personal attack at all , I was simply attempting to express frustration at a general feeling of disconnect between “generations”. I hotheadedly used your offhand statement only as an example. Nothing personal at all, and thanks very much for taking time to respond to my comments. BTW, your persona is anything but flaccid; since discovering your blog a few days ago I’ve experienced more than a few of those rare intellectual highs here. Oh, and grey hair is really sexy, too.

    That said, if you were truthful in saying “Conversations like this one force me to think about things I’ve ignored for thirty years”, then perhaps it was the anger you sensed in my tone that brought up these thoughts? I only ask because I’ve dealt with, in certain types of activist organizations, a great deal of sanctimoniousness among those “who were around back then”, and once a debate got heated, it seemed both parties were offended into thinking more abstractly and became more open to the other’s position. As frustrated as I am with impotence from all age groups on the left, I am as equally frustrated at the codes of excruciatingly facile comity among those groups. It seems so many meetings I’ve attended by activists or leftists left me with the feeling that there was more energy spent in trying not to offend anyone’s sensibilities than in attempting to actually get anything done. There is respect and then there is obsequiousness. I’ve seen old films and heard a million old stories of heated, angry debates among 60’s activists, and that level of impassioned debate seems to have been somewhat damaged since those years. I think it has a lot to do with a sort of neo-puritanism in our culture. But there is absolutely no good reason that those of us who are aligned along the same political axes can’t yell at one another, attack each other’s intellectual or class positions, and still remain friends working toward some common goal. Think of the family, there is not always cool, civil debate going on there, sometimes a bit of honest, angry expression can form cohesion. Just a small point that I’ve been working on finding a way to express, but maybe I’ve just been reading to much Virilio or something…

    Anyhow, your reminiscences DO mean a lot to me, as well as to the present younger generation, and I would be very interested to hear your take on this phenomenon. Am I wrong? Do you not yourself notice a decline in passionate debate among leftists and activists? Have you noticed the same sentiment of not-wanting-to-step-on-toes that might not have been so important in years past?

    Your responses to my comments opened up a ton of new questions in my mind, particularly your mention of imminent emergence, and how we can view it from a contemporary perspective. Also, how the previous generation can be of use in creating new ways to put our current situation into a historical perspective, and many others. I can benefit greatly from continuing this discussion, but seeing as I’m one of those suckers who’s given up the promise of making some bucks to stay home and read Badiou and Marx, I must get up early to study a bit before the part-time job.

    Again, please take no offense. And thanks very much again for your invaluable thoughts. And humor!

  21. Thanks, Sixfoot. I apologize for my “spare me” provocation and blowhard rhetoric. When I said I haven’t thought about these things for 30 years, it’s pretty much true. I’ve also not had occasion to discuss them with anyone, young or old, so I don’t really know what sorts of antiwar stories the old guard are telling the youngsters around the hearth. After taking it to the streets I quit college, became a vagabond, wound up in Morocco traveling with some Canadian revolutionary headed to Eldridge Cleaver’s Algerian training camp when I submitted myself to a sort of Dostoevskian anarchic discipline of communal Christianity (Cleaver too went Jesus freak, curiously enough). One thing led to another, but until very recently none of it led back either to Christianity or to radical ideology. What sounds like pomposity or sarcasm on my part reflects more my innocence than my experience. So hopefully you’ll bear with me as I get myself caught up.

  22. “i don’t dispute that the ’60s protests had effects, just that they don’t work as well anymore in the U.S. ”

    I think one has to take into accounty the imme’nse amount of propaganda, accelerated since Seattle and the pre-Iraq invasion global protests, but steady for decades, which has been devoted to convincing us that protest of this sort “doesn’t work” and is a waste of time and is passé etc etc. Hardly a day goes by without this message being reiterated by the much-consolidated mass media, even while all over the world police and mercenaries and armies are firing on protestors because capital and the state find their actions genuinely threatening and inconvenient. It may be we only think we have a reason to think this “doesn’t work”.

    In 2002, a US backed coup in Latin America was reversed by a combination of elements of the army remaining loyal to the elected government and, crucially, millions of people in the streets. First time in history a US coup was reversed like that. It’s not for nothing we are told repeatedly that there’s no point to flooding the streets and banging pots, it’s silly, undignified, obsolete and doesn’t accomplish anything.

  23. traxus4420 Says:

    “I think one has to take into accounty the imme’nse amount of propaganda, accelerated since Seattle and the pre-Iraq invasion global protests, but steady for decades, which has been devoted to convincing us that protest of this sort “doesn’t work”

    i think so too, but — do you think this propaganda is the main reason why the iraq protests didn’t work? if the seattle protests were effective it was as a point of contact for left organizations and activists, it stimulated further activity. it brought awareness of dissent against global capital to a larger audience. as far as i know, the iraq protests were there, expressing what most people already felt, and then kind of faded away because no one who could do anything was listening. there was nothing to sustain them. that’s not how it worked over vietnam.

    if we are going to blame the lesser effectiveness of protests in the u.s. on the media, then doesn’t that have to be taken into account in our evaluation of the effectiveness of protests? can we expect anything different to happen if the same strategy is repeated?

    i’m not saying protests in the u.s. can’t do anything — jena 6 is an example of some effect from it, dealing with a local issue and very carefully ‘built’ to have national interest, was not spontaneous — but the situation today is different than in the ’60s and ’70s. why should protests escape the trajectory of other cultural forms that have grown increasingly commodified? maybe protests have to be reconsidered within a different kind of approach that doesn’t depend so much on TV. because it seems to me that in the u.s. protests about national or international issues do depend on it.

    did any of the protests of the venezuela coup (is that what you’re talking about?) occur inside the united states? were these the most important ones?

  24. “do you think this propaganda is the main reason why the iraq protests didn’t work?”

    you mean, why they didn’t stop the war? or why they didn’t continue? I don’t think one big day of protest could have been expected to prevent the war. I do think the long term effects of propaganda are among the reasons they did not continue and escalate.

    “did any of the protests of the venezuela coup (is that what you’re talking about?) occur inside the united states? ”

    no but let’s say something of the sort had occurred when the supreme court decided to stop the vote counting in florida. Would this have mattered? Surely. What does one expect from street protests alone? I think a lot of the attitude about this or that tactic of opposition to government policies not working anymore is partly rationalisation and partly the effects of decades of propaganda. And the propaganda has been successful because a population only needs to be a little slow to lose a lot of ground, as we see. The Bush regime had no “911” panic excitement when it appointed itself to the white house in 2000; the climate was very different; massive public rejection of a fraudulent election might have mattered a great deal. But we’ve been taught to think that would be overreacting and naive too, because the line was, what’s the difference, Bush or Gore, one party with two right wings, instead of what’s the difference, the minimal restraints of constitutional legality or outrageous brazen lawlessness. We’d only know if protests “worked” if they were happening; that they are not happening is not proof they don’t work anymore, just that they’re not happening. On the few occasions when they do happen, the record of effects is pretty good actually. It didn’t end in the seventies – protests and other tactics had positive effects on the US’ south africa policy and nicaragua policy (not miraculous, but neither were the protests of the sixties and seventies) in the eighties. I don’t think everything changed in the past twenty years so that mass mobilsation became pointless. The US is unusual, surely, but not unique. It is very repressive now, people are afraid and for good reason, nobody wants to be tased and tortured, the judiciary is no longer independent to the usual standards, the white house is entirely lawless and the constitution is effectively suspended, but this is very recent.

  25. sixfootsubwoofer Says:

    “no but let’s say something of the sort [street protests] had occurred when the supreme court decided to stop the vote counting in florida. Would this have mattered? Surely.”

    I wouldn’t be so hasty in making that statement….there were small protests, and lawyers held out at the courthouse for days in protest. While it’s true that american citizens exhibited their present flaccidity in responding, it was mostly because of disbelief! We were so naive we thought our electoral system was beyond manipulation, which speaks to a level of “comfort” that american citizens enjoy that keeps them safely ensconced in their happy little lives, relying on lawyers annd legislators to do their jobs.

    The Venezuelan protests were a completely different type of protest, one that I believe is nearly impossible here in the states. If you remember, their protests were violent, dramatic ones which contained multiple narratives of violence and revolt. And, this is KEY, they were broadcast in their ENTIRETY on television there. Cameras followed with excruciating detail, using the pulse-pounding plane of immanence of real time footage, particular gun battles and hold-outs. Here we get maybe an aerial shot, never focusing on faces or individuals, and inane diversionary voice-over. The media coverage of our anti-war protests might as well have been filmed by the Hubble Telescope, they were contextually placed so far away from the average american that most who caught them on CNN just shook their heads and chuckled (I witnessed this), even those against the war.

    I don’t really think that there is an argument of whether or not mass street protests WORK; of course they can. The question is, to what ENDS would they work? Here, the asinine television coverage of protests actually served to consolidate the right against the anti-war protesters, not to rally more to take to the streets. Fixated on the perpetual “new”, americans were more excited by the prospect of “freedom’s march”, by the deployment of all our toys, than they were by any sort of revolution or change. The opposition was deemed childlike and reactionary instead of heroic or even rational. That was not the case in Venezuela and rarely is the case in France. There they are presented as the spectacles that they are, here they are presented as anti-spectacles that only serve to undermine the efficacy of protest itself. Americans smirk as they watch on television what they perceive to be half-hearted nostalgic throwbacks. Our current protests are almost the opposite of “happenings” or “be-ins”; they amount, in the perception of most americans, to a bunch of people standing around and shouting tired slogans and being generally self-congratulatory. I hate to say that they’re mostly right, but they are. There are hard-core protesters who will show up for any cause, their real reason for protest lying not in a desire for political change, but in some kind of libidinal expenditure that has very little to do with the state or its actions. These people mean well, but they are really damaging to the efficacy of protest, as their rather beautiful sentiments of faith and naivete are used against them.

    Some here say that it would take something like the reinstatement of the compulsory draft, or the removal of abortion rights, or some other radical conservative takeover of liberties, for americans to “take to the streets” in a grand style. A Democratic senator actually attempted to reinstate the draft several times as both a rhetorical protest against the war and to rally americans, and of course he failed. Sadly, the war was too far away, too abstract, and, worst of all, too fascinating of a prospect to be sufficiently incendiary for mass protest.

    It takes the much more particular transgression of racism’s spectre to get people going. Conspiracy theorists could easily say Jena was planned as a diversionary tactic. Who wants to bet there will be more protests against “racism” as the elections approach?

  26. traxus4420 Says:

    “you mean, why they didn’t stop the war? or why they didn’t continue?”

    i meant continue, build momentum, empower organization, etc. though technically they did continue, they just haven’t accomplished a whole lot except stopping traffic and that sort of thing.

    “What does one expect from street protests alone?”

    this is a tough question, isn’t it? again i have to suggest that the propaganda machine’s effects need to be taken into account in planning protests. like the way unions plan strikes, maybe, recognizing that a protest’s effectiveness depends on a number of extraneous factors that need to be understood, and that protests can in some instances be counterproductive.

    like sixfoot’s comment: ‘to what ENDS do they work?’

    “We’d only know if protests “worked” if they were happening; that they are not happening is not proof they don’t work anymore, just that they’re not happening.”

    they do happen though, here and there — it just seems like they don’t expand big enough or sustain long enough, or aren’t well enough organized. i mean both of the big tasing incidents sparked campus protests, hundreds of people showed up, they lasted a few months, there were specific demands made (regulate or restrict taser use on campus) and nothing was done. jena 6 had effects, but again it seems to have been very well organized and had time to build momentum — set in motion the ‘self-sustaining process’ bean refers to — before it became a mass media event.

    so maybe we can revise my comment that protests ‘aren’t as effective anymore’ to ‘have to be more careful/strategic.’

    but sixfoot, i would be careful with the generalizations about ‘all u.s. protesters’ this or that — i think chabert is right that the depressing picture you paint is the msm’s spin even if true in some respects, we have to take the spin and its effects into account BOTH in planning AND the discussion that goes on about it.

  27. traxus4420 Says:

    i’m not suggesting ’60s and ’70s protests just emerged out of pot circles or something, totally organic and spontaneous, just that maybe the strategy needs to be revised.

  28. “And, this is KEY, they were broadcast in their ENTIRETY on television there. Cameras followed with excruciating detail,”

    sixfoot subwoofer as usual what you write is completely and utterly preposterous and false. The protests which overturned the coup were completely blacked out of media, and indy media workers were among the sixty victims of the two day killing spree. Here’s al giordano:

    During the two-day regime of dictator Pedro Carmona last April, at the same time that his troops were beating and torturing Nicolás Rivera of Radio Perola and his family, Carmona’s police forces also kicked down doors and raided Radio Catia Libre and Catia TV in another popular barrio of Caracas. At TV Caricuao the troops shut down the station and placed its staff, illegally, under arrest. At the Catholic Church’s popular broadcaster, Radio Fe y Alegria (“Radio Faith and Happiness”), the troops ordered the staff to play only music and to not report any news of the events that were shaking the country, or they would be shut down, too.

    Carmona’s troops also invaded and shut down the national public TV station – Channel 8.

    Meanwhile, the commercial media, as has been widely reported and documented, ordered a complete news blackout, including at the Cisneros family’s Venevisión network – the largest TV company in the nation – owned by a close friend of George H.W. Bush, Sr., who had visited Cisneros in Venezuela last year, purportedly for a fishing trip.The Human Rights group PROVEA (the Venezuelan Education-Action Program on Human Rights), on April 13th, reported that, “A journalist who asked not to be identified, the Production Chief of one of the principal TV channels in the country, denounced that the directors of the company impeded the journalists from transmitting information about the current events.”

    In place of news during the most newsworthy events in the nation’s history, the big TV chains played “Tom and Jerry” cartoons, movies and re-runs.

    The role of Internet journalists in breaking the information blockade outside of Venezuela was the subject of our April 18th report. But within Venezuela, only the Community Media journalists stood between democracy and dictatorship, and they saved the day.

    During those days of crisis last April, the journalists of the Community Media in Venezuela got to work reporting the true facts – that masses of people from the popular barrios were coming down from the hills and taking back the Capital and other cities, street by street, building by building, and media by media. And it was only because of the Community Broadcasters at independent media like Catia TV and Radio Catia Libre that the public had any idea that the counter-coup underway in their own neighborhoods was happening, simultaneously, like a lightning bolt of democracy, throughout the city and the nation. The minority of Venezuelan homes that had cable TV got some, albeit distorted, news from CNN and international news agencies that there was resistance to the coup, but those reports were slow and left in the dust by the rapid-fire factual reporting of the Community Media in Venezuela and the international independent Online Press.


  29. ( by the way, sixfootsubwoofer, if you are not actually a paid shill, you really have the appearance of one. This kind of absolute outrageous mendacious rubbish about private Venezuelan tv’s performance during the coup is especially pernicious and horrible for you to disseminate, especially now, and i think i don’t have to tell you why.)

  30. sixfootsubwoofer Says:

    Chabert, I must concede. I spoke too soon. I was going on third-hand information there, as well as hazy memories of that documentary about the coup, and now I remember all the controversies surrounding that:


    However, my point was one I’m sure you agree with: the US media’s coverage of domestic protests are egregiously telescopic. This does not seem to be the case elsewhere. Either that, or protests in France and Latin America are much more vigorous exercises of democracy, so much so that they can’t be spun as easily as ours.

    Oh, but wait! Regarding the efficacy of protests in general, and the possibility of their backfiring, let’s look at a bit of ephemera from France’s protests from a few years back:


    [“It is giving them too much credit to ascribe an ideology to them. These are just hoodlums, who come to break and pillage. I’m not sure there is an ideology behind all this,” said Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.]

    …and then they elect this guy to the highest office in the land.

    In any case Chabert, it was Venezuelan citizens’ RELIANCE on indy media that “saved the day”. Here in the states the indy media most often takes the position of an elitist supplement, not a primary site for information. This is MSM spin the truth of which should not be ignored. I’m not parroting it, but rather bemoaning it.

    On that note, Traxus, it seems we’re in perfect agreement. I make no generalizations about “all US protesters”, only about the way they are viewed by the rest of the US through the MSM lens. You say that “maybe the strategy needs to be revised”, and of course I agree. But perhaps with a much more radical gesture! I submit that we should hold all “public protests” in utter secrecy. Instead of standing in the streets, we should rent out banquet halls and other private venues, hiding the preceedings of our meetings from the prying eyes of MSM distortion. They should not be able to easily find out what we’re up to, and it would expend a lot of their energy in ferreting out the truth of our pursuits of truths. What say you to that? Would that not replicate what we’re doing here, but in a real space?

  31. sixfootsubwoofer Says:

    And WTF are these accusations of being a “paid shill”? I’m young and I live in NYC, so of course I’ve absorbed probably too much publicity-speak, and I’m not so sure I wish to purge it all just yet. It might come in handy. I’ve been accused as such before, and it smacks of McCarthyism. Not all of us have had our minds erased and reformatted within the noble confines of grad school.

    Chabert, a quick look at your site shows that yer quite quick to scream SHILL! But don’t think for a moment that you yourself are not a shill for your own particular BRAND of ideology, paid or not. If I’m a shill, it’s for an ideology that is in the midst of being formulated, not for a published, trademarked one. If you think I’m being a shill, imagine I’m speaking in old grand-style french, which I’m sure would legitimize the content of my speech for you.

    If anyone knows how to actually GET paid to do this, please let me know. I would LOVE to be able to afford opera tickets.

  32. Sixfootsubwoofer you are spewing grotesque White House propaganda and disinformation about Venezuela. What you write is simply LIES. Bizarre lies that are so extreme you could not even have picked them up from the NYTimes. I really don’t think this compares to any, however passionate or unreasonable you may judge it, defence of a political position. You don’t see things as I do fine; what happened with venezuelan mass media during the coup and reversal is not a matter of opinion. This is not like arguing over the interpretation of a movie. There is an historical record.

    As for how to get paid to do what you do, this is not complicated. JWalter Thompson even publishes their copywriter’s test and solicits mass applications.

  33. traxus4420 Says:

    sixfoot, it’s become clear to me after this latest zizek thing that there is a very fine line between general, provisional conclusions drawn from an analysis of information and empty moralizing rationalizations.

    it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes when in the sweaty throes of blogging (or commenting) but, as we are in some small way the indy media it might be best for us to try to restrain ourselves when the difference is especially unclear to ‘the reader,’ a poor sap already half-brainwashed by real, non-parodic MSM propaganda.

    slipping into certain subject-verb combinations like ‘we should’ is a handy warning sign.

    making grand sweeping rhetorical gestures is another.

    “Fixated on the perpetual “new”, americans were more excited by the prospect of “freedom’s march”, by the deployment of all our toys, than they were by any sort of revolution or change.”

    this sentence is not an observation of fact. it’s what i was referring to when i politely accused you of over-generalizing. it’s not the only one in that paragraph.

    again, maybe it’s true, but why are you saying it?

    i understand better why you made the cheap shots at academia and having money. better than i understand the weirdly self-undermining digression about liveblogging sit-ins or whatever it was. that seemed to be missing the amount of shame needed to make sense given the context. i kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.

  34. You wrote:
    “confusing, debilitatingly so”

    I saw:
    “confusing, deliberately so”

    for capitalism, like the open-source warfare of terrorism, the best defense is its very diffuseness.

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