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Phil Donahue, Juan Gonzalez, and Naomi Klein - Oh my!

Reported by Chrish - May 14, 2005

Phil Donahue introduced the stellar panel (Naomi Klein, Juan Gonzalez and Norm Solomon), saying it was good to be among friends. In fact, he sadi, sure enough someone came up to him in the lobby and said"Hey, Merv!"

Juan Gonzalez told a fascinating story of C. Everett Parker, who was the head of the Communications Dept. at the United Church of Christ. He was offended by WLBT-TV in Jackson Mississippi. Their all-white management would cut off Nat King Cole, Thurgood Marshall and other black celebrities. Mr. Parker began to document this and when the station's license came up for renewal he presented evidence to the FCC to challenge the renewal. At that time the FCC said the public had no right to challenge! Parker persisted and ultimately the station's license was revoked. Gonzalez' made reference to other incidents in 1929 (NBC radio challenged by NAACP in Pittsburgh) and in 1828, saying there has been a long-time ongoing battle for democratic and representative media.

He says there are four pillars who need to work together to build the media reform movement: 1. The public who must hold the media accountable. 2. Media employees themselves (approx. .1% of the general population)need to help from within. I thought of teachers, who are initially energized and idealistic but as their careers progress so many of them become disheartened and disillusioned. Gonzalez said many in the media feel that way, and they need to organize. 3. Independent and non-commercial radical media and 4. Non-commercial non-monopoly media. He suggested that progressives should consider working with religious conservatives who want to reform broadcast media by reducing the amount of sexual and violent content affecting our children.

Comment: I need to mull that last bit over some. My gut says that the religious right wants to censor and mold everything to their narrow frame of what is "ok" and I can't support that. But I understand how parents feel about the sheer crap and damaging programming on television.

Next on the program was Naomi Klein who Donahue introduced admiringly as "a giant pain in the ass" to the conservative media. She was articulate, passionate, and intelligent, really inspirational.

She made the point that all liberal/progressive causes - environmentalism, reproductive rights, civil rights, anti-war sentiments, health care, increasing poverty, etc.- come up against the same wall, the mass media. Our concerns are not given coverage and debate, with the media gatekeepers deciding what is "important" to Americans and the world. Unfortunately they confirm and celebrate the very worst, they are credulous of power and contemptuous of powerless, they cheer bombs and jeer anti-war activists.

She said we don't need to reform the media, we need to revolutionize it!

The larger issue is AMPLIFICATION. If a message is delivered once, "covered", but then not amplified and carried throughout the media and society, it is impossible to generate the deserving outrage. The media decides for Americans when to scream andwhen to shrug. If Bill O'Reilly or Scarborough, emoting on cue, stir their viewers to outrage, the amplification feeds the outrage and the viewers feel righteous. If you're outraged alone, people just think you're crazy.

She spoke of "relief valves" and very controlled compassion. The government, through their media outlets, manipulates peoples pent-up fear and outrage by providing appropriate "targets" such as Terri Schiavo and "activist judges".

She suggests that we SHAME the media with their own frivolity by engaging parents of soldiers killed or injured in Iraq, disillusioned veterans and returning soldiers themselves, war widows, and war protesters, and have them share their moral outrage at the excessive coverage of Michael Jackson et al and the pathetic lack of honest coverage of the fighting in Iraq. She ended by sayine "We can't end a war that's invisible. Media, SHOW US THE WAR!"

There was so much more, but it's time to go to another session. Check back leter for more coverage!

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