....LMB: "Jake at the RNC: Day Three"....

September 11, 2004

...wherein Jake looks for fellow bloggers, attends Still We Rise, and does not receive a phone call

August 30

I started this day off looking for The Tank. A number of the popular lefty bloggers had apparently set up shop there for the course of the RNC. I was a bit trepidacious. What was this place? A bar? A café? A private residence? The address for the place was close to where I was staying, so I decided I should at least check it out. And maybe I could make use of the space too, lacking much internet connectivity at my friend's apartment.

Turns out The Tank is some kind of small performance art space. A woman greeted me warmly at the door and asked how she could help me. I wasn't sure. It looked like a cross between a barren coffeehouse and a barren campaign headquarters. There was a card table for some sort of liberal democrat group to my left, and a counter with donuts and coffee to my right, and something I couldn't see yet around the corner to my left.

When talking to strangers, I generally work on the assumption that they have no idea what I'm talking about, and try to be as broad and simplistic as I can, until I get signs that my words aren't coming out like gibberish. I'm not sure why I do this, I guess part of a "better safe than sorry/assume the worst, hope for the best" sort of thing. So instead of saying "I'm a blogger and I was hoping I could join up with some of the other bloggers you've got here," I said something like "I heard that there are some people here reporting on the convention over the internet," in a tentative manner.

"Oh yeah, we've got a few," she said airly, waving around the corner. I peeked around, and there was a small area with some folding tables and plastic chairs. I think I recognized Kos from a photograph, sitting on a couch. No one else seemed to be around. I mentally shrugged and figured I'd seen all I needed to of The Tank.

In retrospect, I do regret coming to the convention as Axis of Justice reporter instead of Jake the blogger. As it was, I had to write somewhat dry and detached reports once a day for my paying job, and try to get those done, edited and uploaded with some... let's say "limitations", operating out of a friend's crowded apartment. If I'd come independently, I could've written comfortable, fun material in an environment suited for that, befriended some big name bloggers, and maybe been on Janeane Garafalo's radio show, which apparently broadcast from The Tank during the course of the convention.

Oh well. At least this way I didn't have to pay for my own airfare.

This day two marches were scheduled. One of them had a permit and the other didn't, and I got confused which was which. One of the two protests was the "March for Our Lives," organized largely by the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign. It's an organization run and organized by poor and homeless Americans who argue that poverty itself is a violation of human rights. And, since the United States has a responsibility to its people to guarantee those rights, the government should do something about these problems. The March was scheduled to meet at the United Nations building.

I went instead to the "Still We Rise" march, another protest focusing on issues important to the poor: poverty, housing, homelessness, education, immigration, health care, and AIDS. And, although it was not explicitly said very often, they were also fighting the underlying racism that often causes or magnifies those problems.

The sad part of this march was that it originally had the support of rap mogul Russell Simmons' Hip-Hop Summit Action Network organization. But at the last minute, HSAN pulled out, citing concerns about "security" and timing of "the MTV Video Music Awards in Miami". I believe when I first heard about this, my response was "Russell Simmons is a punk-ass bitch."

Took the subway down to Union Square, which ended up being the starting point for like half of the rallies for the entire convention. Being a Californian, subways are odd to me. Sure, I used them a lot when I lived in Philly, and LA has its own limited subway, but we Californians are so used to long, spread out cities and having to drive fair distances to get anywhere. During this visit to NYC, the main subway dynamic was this: the subway stations were stiflingly, oppressively hot, yet the subway cars themselves were air-conditioned. Every time you waited for a train, you had to wonder if you were going to last until the train arrived, with its life-giving refrigeration, or if you were you going to pass out and die before it got there.

My first view of the protest, before the march began, was a performance by Billionaires for Bush. They are an activist group who's members dress up in fancy clothes and pretend to be a members of a super-wealthy protest group, who want everything that the left does not: more tax cuts for the rich, huge cuts to social programs, and more war (for more profiteering). At this protest, the Billionaires were arguing that US businesses needed to cut more American jobs and send them overseas, so that the rich could make even larger profits.

Last election the organization was called Billionaires for Bush or Gore, which highlighted the corporate-friendly nature of our two-party system, but this new incarnation lacks that critique. I like what they do, but I think they would be a lot funnier if they surrounded themselves with actors pretending to be servants of all kinds. In fact, I think that their shtick almost doesn't work without servants. I mean, what billionaire is going to hold up their own sign? What billionaire is going to hang their own banner?

I also think that the billionaires should have fake journalists on leashes, while the journalists scamper around like monkeys.


I snapped a picture of these guys, who I saw working in small groups throughout the convention:

I looked it up. TARU is Technical Assistance Response Unit. They "provide investigative technical equipment and tactical support to all bureaus within the department." Which seemed to mean "spy on, take pictures of, and film activists". I didn’t like em.

I was glad that many young people seemed to have played major parts in organizing their own contingents for this march, and that the organizers had made an effort to get rid of some old, overused activist chants. Let's face it, the "What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!" and "Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Blah blah blah has got to go!" style chants really blow. At least some activists realize that the popular cadences and styles of hip-hop and punk have more appeal to the crowds.

Here're some photos:

An unnamed group of anarchist drummers and dancers in pink and black, who would sporadically pepper their performance with the chant "No Kerry, No Bush, Give Us a Choice, Give Us a Choice!"

Yes, this is the anarchist threat that the police and NY Daily News warned us about. And you can't blame them. If one of those flags or drumsticks had gotten out of control, someone could have been poked in the eye.

After marching some blocks, we were stopped and held by cops. I was never close enough to the front to know what happened, but it seemed like we were there for a real long time. Just as I started to worry about mass arrests and whatnot, the march began to move again. Here was what had been holding us up:

I ran into my friend Garrick, who some of you may remember as the fellow who was posting reports from Palestine to the LMB site a year or two ago. He now works for the LA Coalition to End Hunger & Homelessness, focusing on Section 8 programs for affordable housing, I think. We chatted a bit about the protests and the mood in the streets. We laughingly decided that if there was one message that the protesters wanted to get out to the Republicans, it was "We hate you! We fucking hate you!" And while we meant that as a joke, there's some truth to it. People are fucking angry at being screwed over, patronized, condescended and lied to by the conservatives in power. It seems that there is simply no point to trying to talk to or work with these elites, because they have no interest in your or in compromise. All you can do with these people is fight them.

All this time I was waiting for a phone call. My bosses had been given three hours of airtime on KROCK radio, where they would be playing political music and talking politics. Michael Moore would be joining them, and they said they'd call me for a live report from the protests.

That never ended up happening. I was a little irritated about that.

The march led to a rally very close to Madison Square Garden, the site of the convention itself.

A number of speakers talked about the march's issues, but I noticed that the crowd steadily dwindled in size as time went on. I think this is a sign that political activists like to do something rather than listen to someone talk at them.

Saw a couple of familiar right-wing crazy signs.

Saw two very similar signs at an anti-war protest in LA back in the spring:

It really is odd. These nuts come around to many public events, including protests, and seem to focus on the message that you should stop all attempts to better the world, or have a good time, or anything. Just worship Jesus and go to heaven and shut up.

My highlight of the rally was the surprise appearance of the mighty Chuck D. He talked about how so many people want props for doing the right thing. "You never deserve props for doing the right thing. That's just what you're supposed to be doing!" So no one at the protest should feel like they should be congratulated. And he also referred to the old Public Enemy song, "Don't Believe the Hype," saying "this time around, if you don't watch the hype, the hype's gonna kick your ass."

I stayed at the protest a lot longer than I'd intended, waiting for that phone call. When their radio show ended, I walked back home (at least the show had a decent playlist).

Grabbed some quick dinner at a restaurant at Port Authority bus terminal that night, and saw six soldiers in military fatigues. With machine guns. M-16s, I think. Nothing says safety like firepower.

And ended the night by seeing the new movie "Hero." Couldn't help but notice the irony: the movie's about a man trying to take down an empire, yet the trailers before the movie included biopics about plutocrat Howard Hughes and conqueror Alexander the Great.


For more photos, click here.

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Lying Media Bastards is both a radio show and website. The show airs Mondays 2-4pm PST on KillRadio.org, and couples excellent music with angry news commentary. And the website, well, you're looking at it.

Both projects focus on our media-marinated world, political lies, corporate tyranny, and the folks fighting the good fight against these monsters.

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Media News

December 01, 2004

Media Mambo

The Great Indecency Hoax- last week, we wrote about how the "massive outcry" to the FCC about a racy Fox TV segment amounted to letters from 20 people. This week, we look at the newest media scandal, the infamous "naked back" commercial. On Monday Night Football, last week, ABC aired an ad for it's popular "Desperate Housewives" TV show, in which one of the actresses from the show attempted to seduce a football player by removing the towel she was wearing to bare her body to him. All the audience saw, however, was her back. No tits, no ass, no crotch, just her back.

No one complained.

The next Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh told his shocked viewers how the woman had appeard in the commercial "buck naked".

Then, the FCC received 50,000 complaints. How many of them actually saw this commercial is anyone's guess.

The article also shows the amazing statistics that although the Right is pretending that the "22% of Americans voted based on 'moral values'" statistic shows the return of the Moral Majority, this is actually a huge drop from the 35% who said that in the 2000 election or the 40% who said that in 1996 (when alleged pervert Bill Clinton was re-elected). This fact is so important I'm going to mention it over in the main news section too.

Brian Williams may surprise America- Tom Brokaw's replacement anchor, Brian Williams, dismissed the impact of blogs by saying that bloggers are "on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem." Which is really funny, coming out of the mouth of a dude who's idea of journalism is to read words out loud off a teleprompter. Seriously, if parrots were literate, Brian Williams would be reporting live from the line outside the soup kitchen.

In related news, Tom Brokaw has quit NBC Nightly News, and it appears that unlike his predecessor, the new guy can speak without slurring words like a drunk.

PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror- in February of 2002, Donald Rumsfeld announced the creation of the Office of Strategic Influence, a new department that would fight the war on terror through misinformation, especially by lying to journalists. Journalists were so up in arms about this that the Pentagon agreed to scrap the program.

Don't you think that an agency designed to lie to the public might lie about being shut down, too?

This article gives some examples about the US military lying to the press for propaganda and disinformation purposes.

Tavis Smiley leaving NPR in December- African-American talk show host Tavis Smiley is opting to not renew his daily talk show on National Public Radio. He criticized his former employers for failing to: "meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply don’t know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future." He's 100% correct. NPR is white. Polar bear eating a marshmallow at the mayonaise factory white. And the reason it's so white is that it is trying to maintain an affluent listener base (premoniantly older white folks) who will donate money to their stations. This is a great paradox of American public broadcasting, that they have a mandate to express neglected viewpoints and serve marginalized communities, but those folks can't donate money in the amounts that the stations would like to see.

U.S. Muslim Cable TV Channel Aims to Build Bridges- it sounds more positive than it is "Bridges TV" seems to simultaneously be a cable channel pursuing an affluent American Muslim demographic, and a way of building understanding and tolerance among American non-Muslims who might happen to watch the channel's programming. I was hoping it would be aimed more at Muslim's worldwide, but it ain't. Still, I'd be interested in seeing how their news programs cover the issues.

Every Damned Weblog Post Ever- it's funny cuz it's true.

Wikipedia Creators Move Into News- Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created collectively by thousands of contributors. It's one of those non-profit, decentralized, collective, public projects that show how good the internet can be. Now, the Wikipedia founders are working on a similar project to create a collaborative news portal, with original content. Honestly, it's quite similar to IndyMedia sites (which reminds me, happy 5th birthday, IndyMedia!). I'll admit, I'm a bit skeptical about the Wikinews project, though. IndyMedia sites work because they're local, focused on certain lefty issues, and they're run by activists invested in their beliefs. I'm not sure what would drive Wikinews or how it would hang together.

CBS, NBC ban church ad inviting gays- the United Church of Christ created a TV ad which touts the church's inclusion, even implying that they accept homosexuals into their congregation. Both CBS and NBC are refusing to air the ad. This is not too surprising, as many Americans are uncomfortable about homosexuality, and because TV networks are utter cowards. But CBS' explanation for the ban was odd:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast."

Whoa, what? First of all, the ad does not mention marriage at all. Second, since when do positions opposite of the Executive Branch constitute "unacceptable"? This doesn't sound like "we're not airing this because it's controversial", this sounds like "we're afraid of what the President might say."

Posted by Jake at 10:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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