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Archive for the ‘Media Tools’ Category

Seven Habits of Civically Engaged Human Beings


by: Thad Williamson on March 15th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

After graduating college, many students lose sight of civic engagement as they focus on moneymaking.

Many college students today feel themselves to be under immense pressure to secure their own professional futures – to be able to repay loans and to avoid falling on the wrong side of the deepening economic divide. Others want to acquire money and comfort, or power, because this is how a successful life has generally been portrayed to them. But many also have a concern with community and social problems and have experience doing various kinds of volunteer work; others are interested in politics and public service.

However, the ideas that getting serious about social change requires more than just volunteer work, and that democratic action is not simply about campaigns, elections, and the deeds of politicians, remain relatively novel to college students. As a college teacher, it is easy to get frustrated when confronted with students who are clueless, disengaged, or unwilling to see beyond the moneymaking definition of success. But in my experience many students are in fact eager for an alternative definition of a good life, and eager to learn more about social movements and social change. This is true whatever the self-described political leanings (if any) of students.


Dear U.S. Media, Your Gun-Inspired Word Plays in NRA Story Titles Are Not Cute


by: on December 25th, 2012 | 3 Comments »

In the wake of Sandy Hook, U.S. media outlets have brought to press a flurry of critical stories on the NRA, rightfully placing the pro-gun behemoth in the spotlight. However, far too many news organizations have attempted to advertise such stories by using gun imagery in the titles.

Such titles, while intended to be witty and sharp, in truth have worked to undermine the very stories and columns being promoted.

These titles are not cute. They are not witty. They are not the product of a responsible journalistic ethic which treats the titles — the promotions — as an important part of a story’s trajectory.


Blaming the Jews: Old Wine in a New Bottle


by: Jay Sterling Silver on September 20th, 2012 | 9 Comments »

Admittedly, I’m a bit touchy about false reports that Jews are involved in sinister activities, like the Wall Street Journal and Associated Press reports that a Jewish real-estate developer in California, having raised five million dollars from “more than 100 Jewish donors,” created the anti-Islam video that touched off riots throughout the Arab world and became the pretense for killing American diplomats in Libya. A cursory knowledge of history, conspiracy theories, and stereotyping — from international banking conspiracies to the Holocaust and its denial to present-day hate groups — can make you feel that way. But normally responsible sources like the Journal and the AP needn’t play into the hands of reactionaries, as they did in the initial reports that Jews were at the bottom of the worldwide furor.

The error was not insignificant. In a day when hateful misinformation can produce instantaneous tragedy in any corner of an overwrought world, as it so clearly has in this case, laying responsibility at the feet of an “Israeli Jew” and his affluent Jewish friends can incite more violence against Jews and anyone else in the path of those moved to murder, in the name of God, over a perceived religious affront.

The error was entirely preventable, as well. As a cursory attempt to check the facts would have revealed, no Sam Bacile — the alleged creator of the video screed — ever walked the earth. It’s equally clear from viewing the 14-minute, YouTube post that it didn’t cost five million dollars, or even five thousand, to produce. And would it stand to reason that the imaginary Bacile, as an Israeli, would attempt to “help his native land” by provoking its neighbors with a vile depiction of Muhammad? Or that the individual at the other end of the phone — who’d be blamed for the deaths of innocent Americans and the spread of rioting across a continent, and who’d become the target of extremists himself — would provide his real name?


Learning to Live with Danger and Death


by: on April 4th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

Thanks to the media, we can share in a tragedy and empathize with the suffering of others. Almost instantly, we can follow events anywhere in the world: if the media are there to cover them. And the closer to home, the greater the impact of these events. My wife and I find ourselves in tears as we watch the TV news of a coach-load of Belgian children shattered in a road-tunnel accident on their journey home after a skiing holiday in Switzerland. A wave of solidarity sweeps over a deeply divided country (Belgium), quieting divisive quarrels. On our Swiss TV, we have a once-weekly little film at the end of the TV news, where a filmmaker looks at the events of the week. Last Friday’s film was on this tragic accident, and made the point that silence seems to be the best way of marking such tragedies: no words, just silence.


The Empire Supports John Yoo


by: on March 9th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

Photo Courtesy of Brendan Cohen

This last weekend, John Yoo was attending a conference at Stanford University sponsored by the Stanford Federalist Society. John Yoo, as you may remember, is the former Bush-era lawyer who wrote the memorandum justifying the use of torture.

As some students with Stanford Says No to War and I were wondering what we might do to speak out against the acceptance of Mr. Yoo into civilized society and academic circles, we were mindful that Stanford has begun to prohibit protests and have signs posted saying, “Protests Prohibited.” So it occurred to us that perhaps we should have a “Support John Yoo” event rather than a protest. Consequently, Darth Vader agreed to make an appearance in support of Mr. Yoo. What he didn’t expect was the enthusiastic welcome he would receive as dozens of people lined up to have their picture taken with him. Mr. Vader delivered the following message on behalf of Mr. Yoo:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

These are dire times when our nation, The Empire, is under threat from many enemies both foreign and domestic. Our economy has been weakened by social parasites; international terrorists are attempting to attack us and weaken our mastery of land, sea, air and space; the Occupiers are attempting to take over important public and private space and buildings. We must remain ever vigilant and that is why we urge you to support John Yoo. Make no mistake, the critics of John Yoo are nothing less than enemies of The Empire.


Kill the Bill: The “Stop Online Piracy Act” and Why It Matters


by: Max Coleman on January 18th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

I’m fairly certain that, as you read this sentence, you match a certain demographic. In fact, I can say with 100 percent confidence that you do. You are an Internet user and, by virtue of this fact, should be filled with tremendous outrage at the legislation that is set to pass in Congress.

The “Stop Online Piracy Act” (HR 3261), introduced in October, empowers copyright holders to seek punitive action when their material is reproduced online. Fair enough. But like much of the cleverly-worded legislation presented to Congress, this bill’s title is hardly reflective of its likely pernicious effect. (Remember Bush’s “Clean Air Act”?) What SOPA really amounts to is a destabilization of the Internet by corporate entities.


From Many, One Nation: The Affirming Message of “All American Muslim”


by: Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Reverend Dr. James A. Kowalski, Professor Marshall Breger, and Suhail A. Khan on December 30th, 2011 | 8 Comments »

A mosque in Dearborn, MI attended by members of the reality TV show, "All American Muslim." / Photo Courtesy of TLC

We are community leaders from the three Abrahamic faiths who don’t normally look to reality TV to teach lessons of faith and religious freedom. But TLC’s new show, All American Muslim, is doing just that. It’s also come under recent attack from Islamophobic extremists who seem to have forgotten the values on which this country was founded. Rather than tune out in protest, as Americans, it’s time to tune in.


Murmuration & Occupation – Why We Shut Down the Ports


by: on December 15th, 2011 | Comments Off

On Monday morning I awoke before dawn and somehow managed to crawl out of bed, fumble my jeans and boots on, and sling my drum and backpack – the one that has become the indefinite home for my first aid kit, a patchwork bag of herbal tinctures, a squirt bottle half-full of milk of magnesia, a bottle of bubbles, and some lavender essential oil – over my shoulder.

As I checked my back pocket one more time for my ID and locked the back door, the clock on the microwave read 5:08 AM. By 5:39 AM, I was snaking through the dark streets of West Oakland in what seemed to me to be a much-too-small crowd, mostly quiet except the occasional heartbeat of a lone drum or the sleepy but hopeful cheer that rose up as we passed under the overpass of Mandela Parkway. It was somehow comforting to hear our own voices echoing off the walls – it helped us remember our power.

You better believe I was asking myself the same questions that CNN, the Huffington Post, the BBC, and Mayor Quan had that morning: Why on earth are we doing this? Are you absolutely out of your gourd, trying to shut down all of the major ports on the West Coast?


“The Promise”: Considering Israel and Its Myth of Origins


by: on November 21st, 2011 | 2 Comments »

The “Other Israel Film Festival” in Manhattan chose films that related the stories of minorities in Israel. These perspectives and backgrounds rarely receive attention in the popular media. “The Promise,” or at least the first part of a four-part series, is a dramatic historical-fiction that introduces Israel/Palestine and the conflict to foreigners of the land.

When the characters speak in Hebrew or Arabic there are no subtitles; just as there are no shortcuts to understanding the complex dynamics of Israel/Palestine. The audience is limited by their individual understandings of the local cultures, the histories, and yes, even the languages.


Mic Check: How the Occupy Movement Creates Empathy Through Communication


by: on October 18th, 2011 | Comments Off

by Matthew Remski

Of the countless intersubjective graces unfolding in Zuccotti Park and around the Occupy world, the “human microphone” is recapturing something as old as human learning. This is something sacred: a repurposing of voice, ear, and content that may serve no less than the remembering of a more coherent human consciousness.

Watch Slavoj Zizek to see how it works. Every Occupy Wall Street orator, prohibited by permit laws from amplification (and lights when night falls), stands on a box and delivers his sentences one at a time, each followed by a pause, during which the surrounding ring of listeners, perhaps 20 deep, repeats the sentence verbatim. The repeaters, unburdened by the anxiety of creation, actually improve the clarity of the orator’s rhythm and intonation as they fall into a shared pulse. Orators learn quickly that the sentences with the highest torque are simple and well-metered – from the heartbeat of Zizek’s “They tell you we are dreamers” to the rolling of “The marriage between democracy and Capitalism is over.” Michael Moore had to quickly drop his just-a-regular-guy banter, which in human-microphone-land makes him weak and self-deprecating. And Cornel West pulled the oration of Southern Baptism out of another decade and firmly jammed it into the hipster ears. Everyone speaks of spirit, and love. These are no longer ideas through this media but thrusts of embodiment that ripple through the group neurology.

Some orators attract so many listeners that multiple relay rings form spontaneously. This can slow down the oration up to fourfold, as each orbit of 20-deep repeats the sentence, and each ring forms a distinct choir: more men in this one, more women in that, a clear tenor back there, and a rowdier group who always wants to clap and cheer more than the rest. The centrifuge of sentiment and meaning extends to the horizon of the physical gathering, and then meets the threshold of the digisphere, where the Twitter birds listen and then fly. In Zuccotti Park, meaning starts with a heartbeat, and then it accelerates as it flies outward. But its plodding beginning forms a natural control upon the ego-inflation so easily amplified by electricity and then distorted beyond all embodied measure.