Current trends in media programming reveal an alarming, if not enraging, amount of attention to sur-reality television, HD neuroticism and a penchant for shallow and sensationally soft news. The circus that is Fox “news” (even comedians are slamming Fox on Comedy Central as I type!), and so many others that fall into the world of showmanship, is a sound smack in the face to the intellect and the human need for organic information that is functional in a world with real political, spiritual, physical and environmental challenges. In addition, the HD veneer is no more than a cover-up for bad content. Since when did we need to see “Animal Cops: Miami” or “America’s Next Top Model” in sizzling, gorgeous, sensuous high-definition? And what of the great socio-political value of shows like “My Antonio”, “Rock of Love” or even “Ice Road Truckers”? (I give some restricted props to “Whale Wars” for hopefully obvious reasons)
The tremendous waste of time and high refinement of intellectual and social distraction that these trends represent notwithstanding, there exist some amazing sources of information, news, learning and entertainment (yes, I said entertainment!) that still seem to stay out of the spotlight of mainstream consciousness. These media outlets, mostly television oriented, are constantly presenting up-to-date, innovative, fresh and powerful programming that would make the mainstream “news” proprietors’ (or should I have said perpetrators?) purveyances pale in comparison.
Alternative Radio: Audio Energy for Democracy
In my now meditative commute to an from Franklin Pierce, I was excited to come across a radio broadcast about the dynamics of water issues. As important as that is, it was remarkable in its uniqueness on the air or anywhere else (check my last/first blog entry for why that might be) . At the end of the broadcast, they mentioned the opportunity to purchase the show online or on the phone. Excited even further, I logged on to Alternative Radio’s website upon my return to the homestead and found an amazing repository of audio interviews and presentations by some of the most preeminent thinkers, academics, speakers, authors and activists known to humankind.
Naomi Klein – literally – headed their list of most popular speakers. Author of “The Shock Doctrine” and “No Logo”, her best-selling book on globalization, Klein represents a powerful and progressive look into the capitalist system that we so often seem to take for granted. She challenges us with titles such as “Economic Warfare: From Argentina to Iraq”. The write-up for which suggests that battlefields are not the only place that warfare takes place. AR goes on to describe the hour-long recording:
“There’s another kind that is waged in corporate boardrooms and in the suites of the IMF and World Bank. Its lethality and casualties are different from conventional warfare. Workers lose their jobs or are forced to work for lower wages. Public services are rolled back and cut. Hard won benefits are eliminated. From Argentina to Iraq a handful of very rich warriors stand atop most of the world’s population”
This is a take on international capitalism that goes unsaid, unnoticed and uncritiqued in most circles in this country, let alone in popular campus discourse. HD radio broadcasts of the Red Sox might garner more attention than frank and honest attention to capitalist globalization on New England college campuses (anyone care to prove me wrong?).
Alternative Radio also features presentations by Howard Zinn, Tariq Ali (“War and the Media”), David Suzuki (“Betraying Nature”), Noam Chomsky, Maude Barlow (“Peak Water”), Bill Moyers and Angela Davis (“The Meaning of Freedom”, “Racism: Then and Now”). If you look closely, none of these names regularly show up on any of the mainstream (which I like to call the real and subordinate alternative) news or talk shows. It might be hard to book them as I feel strongly that most of the show hosts and anchors aren’t smart enough to hold a cogent conversation with any of them. Big ups to Bill Moyers as he’s probably talked to them all in his quiet, yet illustrious media career.
All of AR’s shows are available as mp3 downloads, CDs or transcripts, a powerful academic, social and media resource to say the least.
Current TV, surprisingly not offered on the FPU-TV cable menu, is a fresh, fast-moving presentation of topical, sometimes pop-ical, but useful stories and information that provides a diversity that just doesn’t exist within many media outlets. One of their main stories is about ACORN and their loss of federal funding due to a reportedly singular, conservative filmmaker’s production that painted the social-services organization in a particularly bad light (go on, even though you’re a university student – google “ACORN” and see what comes up). Current reports on the website’s ACORN report page:
“This is serious stuff here. This is not a game of gotcha, of cheap political points, of practical jokes — not when this is money that helps in many real ways in impoverished communities around our country.”
From shows like “SuperNews”, infoMania”, to “Vanguard Journalism” in which youngish journalists “armed with digital cameras and a common mission to make sense of our rapidly changing world”, Current brings a new and youthful approach to the information that seems to matter most to its youngish audience – along with information that should matter more deeply to that audience. Decidedly more poppy than it’s past iterations, now complete with Axe hair product support, Current TV is an engaging and smart concoction of news, views and comment pages that sound like people are actually engaging their own grey matter receptacles and their red-matter pumps than just their most reactionary muscles. Current’s online presentation even has a “green” page, complete with a link to take you to it of the same name….how can that be bad? (don’t look at the story entitled, “Organic Pleasures”…..I said, “DON’T!”)
Link TV, not only viewer-supported, but this-writer-supported, is a startlingly newish-looking collection of independent and otherwise independently-thought-out production. I say newish-looking because, as far as I know, nothing in the world like Link TV exists anywhere to be seen or heard. Seemingly unafraid to admit that “we” live in a world that is larger than our own preconceptions, Link TV regularly astounds and surprises and informs AND entertains with series like “Global Spirit”, “European Journal”, “Global Pulse”, “Earth Focus” and “Mosaic News” (which recently distinguished itself by NOT making fun of Muammar Gaddafi at the United Nations…funny that that’s how it goes, huh?).
Link TV also features important documentary work like “The Future of Food”, which puts deep perspective on the issues of industrial capitalist agricultural practice, the crisis in farming and the problems inherent in genetically engineered “foods”. Presented by Morgan Spurlark (please tell me you know who that is!), this program features interviews by Michael Pollan and Dr. Michael Hansen, one of the top climate change scientists. If you buy the DVD, which I did within five minutes of watching the program, you’ll be treated to and challenged by a “Take Action Toolkit” that includes recipes from brownies to asparagus and files that teach about healthy school meals, the dangers of Round-Up Ready Monsanto products and the “Seven Deadly Myths of Industrial Agriculture”. Another documentary production that focused on the connection between the Vatican and the seemingly rampant sexual/violent crimes of Roman Catholic priests, details the life of a secret document called the Crimen Sollicitationis, that critics say was “used to evade prosecution for sex crimes” (http://www.linktv.org/programs/spot_sexvatican). This production, not currently scheduled to air again, provided more clarity on the issue than all of the frenetic, back-peddling, apologetic local news put together. The channel, only available largely on DISH and Direct TV, also provides many documentaries free of charge on its website.
These powerful media outlets – powerful due to their highly defined, reality-based and news-worthy content, not necessarily their viewership numbers (but that’s OUR fault) – are bringing us ideas and perspectives that we would hardly see anywhere else, at least on screen or radio dial. Even National Public Radio is beginning to lose its bite. One other important source is an online and on satellite offering called Free Speech TV (http://www.freespeech.org/), “powered by our viewers”, one of the few sources that provides a regular look at “Democracy Now” with Amy Goodman (as does Link TV). These media sources are key to a democratic and informed society. They are also key to young, progressive producers and writers as they provide opportunities to say something important and useful in the world that doesn’t exist in the mainstream corporate conglomerate media industry. But beware, young media turks (oh, by the way, check out www.theyoungturks.com….also on youtube), go prepared with intelligence, innovation, creativity, initiative and a progressive outlook to these outlets if you propose to be behind the camera, microphone or editing desk.
These outlets, what should be fully conventions in alternative media – or better yet, just the convention and NOT the alternative – are some of our best hopes for clarity in a media world gone way-too-soft for cold-hard cash in spite of truth, justice and the humanitarian way. I dare you to listen, to watch, to learn from these fantastic media resources.
Let me know what you think.