....LMB: "Oscar Goes to War"....

March 23, 2003

Some local anti-war groups called for a protest outside the Academy Awards in Hollywood tonight. Knowing how severely the police lock down events like this, I thought it was pretty much a lame idea, but I went anyway. Figured I'd go see what the post-war peace movement was looking like.

Had to get off the subway one stop early because the stop right near the Kodak Theater was closed down (for security reasons, of course). Began the trek west, keeping an eye out for protesters, cops, and barricades. It's funny how it's become commonplace around here to see people walking down the street holding placards denouncing war, the president, the media, and multinational corporations.

As I walked, the numbers of cars on the street dwindled and the number of people on the sidewalks increased. More cops, more traffic cones, more limos. Haven't seen this large a police presence since the Democratic National Convention in 2000, when the city was an abosolute warzone, no joke.

About three blocks from the Oscar ceremony home, the street was obstructed, so I had to walk down some side streets to get closer to the alleged protest location (one block past the theater). Ended up turning down Highland, and got a good view of some of the Oscar night absurdity.

From the corner of Highland and Hollywood to the corner of Highland and Santa Monica (about four large city blocks), the street was filled with nothing but limousines, taking their passengers to the Oscars.

Apparently dealing with these limos was one protest strategy. A number of demonstrators were on the sidewalks along the street, imploring the cars' inhabitants to speak out about the war. "You have a platform to speak to millions," they cried. If begging celebrities to mention your particular issue on television is your best hope of success, you're in trouble. Or maybe you're just not very imaginative. As most of the limos kept the tinted windows rolled up, it was hard to tell if these activists were having any luck.

The air above was teeming with motorized life: police helicopters, news helicopters, a Saturn blimp, and two airplanes dragging banners for Commiwood.com (which I presume would bash away at lefty actors, those Red bastards. But I can't get that url to work, maybe I'm intentionally remembering it wrong).

After much zigging and zagging, I came to the protest site. I honestly found it pretty sad. There was a flatbed truck serving as a stage, giant balloons which read "no war" (or something like that), and lots of booths selling anti-war t-shirts. And as I arrived, the speaker on the stage was imploring us to give donations to "keep the protests alive." Excuse me, but you know what you need for a protest to happen? People need to show up. That costs about $zero. Yeah yeah, to rent flatbeds and sound systems and file for permits you need money. But really, do any of those things factor in much to changing government policy? Hell, does any rally-style protest where people stand around and listen to speakers reflect that audience's own views and then tell them that they need to embrace socialism, or become a vegetarian or free Mumia to succeed?

Sorry, the seeming consumerist, monetary bent of the protest irked me.

I now walked past the protest and began circling back on Sunset, towards the limousine gauntlet. After walking several blocks, I was crossing a small side street when a small riot gear-clad policeman stepped into my way. He pulled his baton out of its holster (holster? Sheath? Scabbard?), held it in front of him like a barrier and said "you can't go this way."

I was very taken aback. It's not like it's common knowledge which streets they're going to arbitrarily close around the Oscar theater, it wasn't marked or anything. He would've just had to politely tell me to turn around, yet here he was in full defensive mode. Well, I suppose he was polite, except that he was obviously ready to shove me backwards with the broad side of his billy club. I backed away a step, hands in the "I'm unarmed" position, saying "sorry, didn't know!"

As I turned around, I saw another cop immediately to my left who was re-sheathing his own club. Was this for real? Were two cops seriously preparing to beat my ass with clubs because I didn't know that I wasn't allowed to cross the usually anonymous North Mansfield Avenue? I didn't even look threatening, no signs, no slogans on my t-shirt, no punk rock mohawk, nothing. Just a nerdy looking dude with glasses in a brown shirt and jeans. These dudes were fucking twitchy.

I'd seen about as much as I could, so I retraced my steps. When I got near Sunset and Highland, I saw a burst of movement. A large crowd of protesters was on the southwest corner of the intersection, by the McDonald's, when a swarm of riot cops sprinted over to the mob. I tried to see what was going on, but couldn't get close enough. Then the sirens came. About six cop cars, a phlanax of bicycle cops, and no fewer than twenty motorcycle cops appeared on the scene. Cops en masse freak me out. From several eyewitness reports on the LA IndyMedia site, it would appear that the cops beat a bunch of people there. I can't verify any of the claims made there, of course. But cops beating protesters is a lot more common than most people think.

Also more common than most people think are mass, unjustified arrests at protests. Ever since the WTO protests in Seattle, cops seem to think it's okay to surround a bunch of people, accuse them of failing to disperse (sometimes they tell them to disperse and won't let them out, sometimes they don't even bother doing that) and mass arrest them. When I saw this battallion of cops, that's what popped into my head.

Since I couldn't get any closer to the source of the trouble, and I wasn't in the mood to be arrested, I decided to head on home. On the long walk back, I saw a building with a line of well-dressed folks stretching around the block. I beleive these people were "seat-fillers." You see, during an awards show, the people in the audience might have to go to the bathroom or do a line of coke or something, and it would be so unseemly if there was an empty seat in the auditorium that the TV audience could see. So many "seat-fillers" are hired to make that nasty emptiness go away. The people in this line were wearing fine suits, fancy dresses with wraps, a few tuxes. Sadly, no one was around to hear my witty remark: "Look, it's the prom!"

Upon arriving home, I heard about Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine movie won for best documentary. As expected, Moore gave a speech which bashed the war and the president. Apparently his win was applauded and his speech was booed. I just hope that some of the hundreds of millions of foreigners who watched the show will see that as proof positive that not all Americans support this president or his policies, and will prevent them from carrying out suicide bombings upon our populace.

Posted by Jake at 09:23 PM | TrackBack (0)

You mention that you found it sad that the protestors seem to harp on their need for money, calling them consumerist. I believe it's only fair to say that the consumerist globally corporate culture has spend billions and billions through the years on propaganda, and the right wing takeover of our politics has done the same, and this bully in the whitehouse has been able to do the same. I'd like to think people can see through propaganda, but this is polyanna. Seeing reality, seeing what is really there is hard won, and even just pointing at what's real takes more than just showing up at a demonstration. But the demonstrations are a small and necessary component of social change. I had a business call, show biz, from a right wing associate, and even a mild protest on my part as to the legality of this war, and my strong mistrust of the military discoveries as to "weapons of mass destruction" etc. provoked the most shameful display of narrow minded contempt and shibboleth, that we almost parted ways immediately. As long as I say nothing, he's okay, but any small protest and he begins to get crazy. The media is the same.

So, the sadness of the protests for me is not just that they ask for money, but that there seems to be no other way to begin to change minds.

George Van Noy

Posted by: George Van Noy at March 24, 2003 12:09 AM

good thing you didn't get beat up...

Posted by: at March 24, 2003 01:57 AM

They had thier little "beat the public sticks" out. And you were just walking. thats fucked up. grr.

Posted by: Spookycourt at March 24, 2003 05:00 PM

Thanks for the report. I have never been a fan of "Oscar Night", but I was happy to hear there was some protest taking place nearby, as lame as it might have been. Moore did what I knew he would. I'm glad you didn't get your ass kicked.

I've been at many anti-war protests in NYC, DC and Philly during the past year. Most of the cops I see at these places look like they are ready to kick some ass. I haven't seen it happen yet. There were even a few National Guaardsmen with M16s near Washigton Square last Saturday.

I try to avoid the protest participants that are willing to fight with these guys. I am too old for that shit.

Posted by: jim at March 24, 2003 06:32 PM
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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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