MEDIA MASH: The Battle of Seattle on Film
** Two Special Announcements from the Masher ***
First -- AlterNet's "New Media" Heroes award has ended. Thousands of votes were cast and counted, and the winners will be announced in a lead article on AlterNet on February 21. Thank you to all who voted!
Second -- The Masher will be taking a break from writing his regular column to help create the new AlterNet portal site, likely to launch around the middle of April. The portal will include a special media issues topic site, where a revamped Media Mash will be part of the mix. Stay tuned.
This Is What Democracy Looks Like!
The provocative documentary film about the WTO protests in Seattle, "This is What Democracy Looks Like," produced by the Independent Media Center and Big Noise films, could use some exposure. Like many progressive efforts, this one is passing through the listservs and screenings of the committed (e.g., clips were shown during rallies for the Nader presidential run) but its not being seen by many people for whom it would be an real eye opener.
The colorful, hip and radical film, with Rage Against the Machine and Michael Franti in the background, sharply addresses the conflicts within the labor movement during the siege of Seattle. Some union members supported the brave and effective direct action, while others union leaders quite obviously distanced themselves from the action. Seattle union leader Ron Judd is a featured talking head on this topic.
The film debunks the notion that people of color were not prominent in Seattle, as leader after leader of color are featured in the film. Another segments shows how support outside the Seattle jail helped to keep those who were arrested in solidarity with each other. Surprisingly, the film is missing some of the more powerful footage of police violence that the Masher has seen -- footage that was shot by local TV stations and perhaps unavailable to the IMC.
To order copies of the film, go to http://www.thisisdemocracy.org. Have house parties, send the URL to your friends and support local screenings to make this a truly successful underground film.
Speaking of the IMCs, the Independent Media Center recently launched its 44th site in the past 15 months. Excitement over the site runs high, given that it is located in one of the Western Hemisphere's most explosive regions -- Chiapas, Mexico, specifically in the city of San Cristobal de las Casas. The "Chiapas Independent Media Center" (http://www.chiapas.indymedia.org) will have its hands full covering the complicated politics of the region, especially as Mexico's new President, Vincente Fox, is making some major conciliatory moves toward the Zapatistas and indigenous groups in the area.
Meanwhile, the Chiapas IMC will also cover the February 26 World Economic Forum meetings and demonstrations in nearby Cancun. Look for more fireworks in the long line of globalization protests around the world.
Ivins on the Scene
One of the few good things about the Bush presidency is that we have Molly Ivins to psychoanalyze Georgie's every move. As a long time observer of Bush's "politics lite" in Austin, she brings invaluable wit and wisdom to the fray.
Ivins's column of January 6 on Bushthink was a classic. In it, she underscored the brazenness of the Bush White house to keep on saying dumb things in the hope every one will get dumb. Will a huge tax cut to the wealthy help prevent a recession? Well, no ... it was the same tax cut Bush was pushing during the campaign because the economy was so good. Drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge -- will that help solve the California energy debacle? No, since less than 1 percent of California's energy comes from oil.
But, as Ivins pointed out, the Republicans have no shame about staying on dumb messages until they sink in. Dick Cheney may be the champion of Bushthink when he talks forcefully about the "Republican mandate." What mandate? The one delivered in an election the Republicans lost, and where a large majority of voters were against virtually every position Bush advocated? The only mandate Bush won was the personality contest against Gore, and that win wasn't very difficult.
Sex and Nader Reign Supreme
This week the AlterNet syndication service announced its best selling stories of 2000 -- the most popular stories with editors of alternative newsweeklies. Since most AlterNet articles are also posted on the public site for a week, in essence the larger public also votes for their favorite stories with their modems when they decide which stories to read and which to ignore. Kinda like the Webbies "People's Choice" awards.
Alas, there was very little consistency between public traffic to articles and those that sold well ... except that the theme of sex and Ralph Nader were top factors in each list. The number one most trafficked article, "Clone Jesus," by Robert Masterson of the Hartford Advocate -- which must have got on some religious listservs -- overwhelmed the competition. In fact, it got 250 percent more traffic than the number two story, "Sex and Scandal in Pro Wrestling" by Irvin Muchnick of ThePosition.com. "The Boy Scouts and Mormon Cash," by Patrick Boyle of Youth Today came in third, and an AlterNet original called "Why Nader Is NOT to Blame," by radical writer Tim Wise came in fourth.
The number five story capitalized on the buzz that sprang up when Pacifica's Amy Goodman and Gonzalo Aburto got Bill Clinton on the phone on election day. AlterNet executive editor Don Hazen packaged some commentary with the transcript and readers flocked to it. Many also followed a link to hear the interview on Real Audio.
The other articles in the top ten were, in descending order: "The Wold's Weirdest Sex Machines" by Mel Gordon, again from ThePosition.com; "Swallowing Our Culture Differences," about the rampant proliferation of "ethnic-lite" restaurants, by Jerry Herron of the Detroit Metro Times; "Maximizing Ralph," also by Hazen, which provided information about strategic Nader voting; "Pot Shrinks Tumors; Government Knew in '74," by AlterNet's Raymond Cushing (which, inside sources tell us, made it into the upcoming Project Censored Top 25 list) and "Stupid George W. Quotes," by Ben Ehrenreich of the LA Weekly. Last but not least was the only story that made the top ten in both public traffic and as a best seller was Norman Solomon and Jeff Cohen's annual roundup of corporate media malfeasance, "The P.U.-Litzer Prizes for 2000."
Despite the fact that most AlterNet weekly lineups carry a pretty even split of male and female writers, the web site traffic overwhelming read stories written by men (the sex content factor may be in play here, or perhaps higher numbers of men on line -- a topic for the sociologists to figure out). The first article written by a woman is number fifteen, and wouldn't you know it, it was Jen Loy's piece, "Pushing the Perfect Pussy," from the online 'zine Fabula. Three other women in the top 25 were J. Lee Polnachek with "What Did Nader Bashing Say About Feminism," Vanessa Daniels from Colorlines with "Ralph Nader's Racial Blindspot," and, bringing up the rear, "Fun in the Anal Zone" by Josey Vogels from Toronto's NOW Magazine.