Topical music has always tended to have a strong connection to the dominant news medium of its time. In the mid-1960s Phil Ochs was called (and often referred to himself) as a journalist,("All the News That's Fit to Sing") using voice and guitar as newspaper reporters used their typewriters. In the late 80s Chuck D referred to rap as the CNN of the streets. Now, during what is arguably the first Net War, MP3 is becoming the vehicle of choice for musical protest. And Lisa Reins is emerging as its best-blog chronicler.
Phil [9:42 AM]
ClearChannel's heavy-handed and empty-headed domination of the commerical radio air-waves is well-known and has been oft-complained about. Its current over the top jingoism may be spurring one of the more interesting underground musical networks yet, MP3's against WAR, ClearChannel's and Bush's .
Phil [3:32 PM]
At his pretty frequent best Michael Wolff persuades that even in a post-po mo decentered world yes, virginia there is a zeitgeist, and shows why it matters. Here he does that again, and more, taking America's rising political pulse, dissecting the war media and (unlike anyone even remotely in corporate media) dissing PBS and the network/cable newsers for ignoring Jon Alpert's documentary video on Baghdad citizens.
Phil [2:49 PM]
In my ongoing search for really good comics/satirists who are also radical small d democratics and humanists, I've always liked Barry Crimmins, but wished he'd be a little less folksy and a lot more angry and edgy. Crimmins, though, has usually reminded me too much of Jim Hightower, someone I practically always agree with, but whose style doesn't cut sharply enough. Finally I have my wish, as witnessed by Crimmins' account of being muffled by NPR, or National Plutocrat Radio as he calls it (I'd say National Pretentious Radio), and its slick but politically very timid brand of self-imposed censorship in the name of "intellectual respectability".
Phil [2:47 PM]
More fun and interesting than war is Jesse Walker in a long, never unabsorbing talk with Howard Rheingold on the notion of Smart Mobs and the cultural and political implications of micro-media and comunications.
Phil [3:51 PM]
From the laptop bombardiers at the Weekly Standard.
Like a tiger playing with an injured mouse Tom Donnelly hopes Saddam doesn't die too soon, and ruin all the fun.
Terry Eastland gets down on his knees in erotic worship before his man of action president.
Stephen Hayes is intoxicated (vicariously, of course) by the sound of sirens, the smell of gas and the Night Terrors.
And Fred Barnes is just his smug old self.
Phil [3:30 PM]
Thanks to Liz, my wife Beth's walking mate, who works at the UN, for getting me a French/UN flag lapel.
Phil [1:00 PM]
Round-up of some anti-war moods as the obscene travesty of the junta ( er, administration's) war of conquest (excuse me, glorious democratic liberation) begins:
crotchety (and I think prophetic)
probably bombed (and unfortunately I don't mean drunk)
still officially a hawk but coming to his senses
Phil [2:32 PM]
From enfant terrible to semi-elder statesman, Tom Hayden's often made common sense (in the Tom Paine mode) over many decades. So he does again, in a nice speech from the LA anti-war rally last weekend, calling for a resistance politics of "creative disorder".
Phil [2:55 PM]
The 21st century's off to a bad start in too many ways. But Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall outline a mighty fine scenario for the replacement of the oil-industrial complex by a Hydrogen economy. As they tell it (and they tell it so well) Hydrogen may : Big Oil as the PC was/is to the big iron mainframe, or radical democracy: command and control.
Phil [12:05 PM]
Steven Johnson, who's becoming the contemporary pop philsopher of the concept of Emergence, profiles the work of Valdis Krebs on Social Networks Mapping software. May sound a bit arcane, but basically it's a tool for more accurately describing and following the intricate processes by which individuals, small ad hoc groups and sub-cultures connect, form, fuse, dissolve and reform again and again into communities.The real activity that underlies (and often goes on in spite of) the more rigid social structures like buraucracies, mass markets, mass audiences and even mass movements. Designed for studying the behavior of large organizations, espeically big corporations, the tools, Johnson nicely implies, can be potentially important in promoting the self-understanding and self-management of all kinds of non-hierarchical social networks.
Phil [11:38 AM]
As the glorious era of democratic liberation through bombing and preemptive conquest gets rolling the understandable temptation of many of us will be to get depressed and/or utterly pissed-off at, you name it- the Bush neo-con war coterie , the cheerleading American media and the public supposedly supporting (sic) invasion. Giving up or lashing out may be understandable temptations but they're bad tactics, as Justin Raimondo, an exemplary anti-war writer/organizer, reminds us. The challenge over the next several months (and proably years beyond) will be to show some serious discipline and stamina, eschewing grand-standing moralistic drama (e.g. trying to stop traffic during rush-hour) in favor of building on the widespread and deepening public unease about the reckless arrogance of Bush policy. Millions of Americans (roughly 25% of the population by many reckonings) are already deeply opposed to what they're up to. Beyond them (us) are tens of millions more (upwards of 50% more of the U.S. populace) who are skeptical to very skeptical about the its policies. Tactics and strategy need to be about connecting further with that skepticism rather than becoming insular and absorbed in theatrics that at best are ineffectual (the Ashcroft brigade doesn't give a shit about the 25% and would love the chance of cracking down on us) and alienate the larger public that would really give anti-war sentiment a vast majority in this country as it already has world-wide.
Phil [3:00 PM]
Todd Gitlin, whose book THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING memorably analyzed the news media's role in "framing" national perception of The New Left from the mid-60s to the early 70s, traces the two phases (so far) of coverage of the anti-Iraq war movement. In phase 1 (from last Fall through late January) major newspapers, network and cable news outlets generally ignored altogether or dismissed the growing dissent against Bush regime policy as a trivial curiosity (basically a 60s hippie nostalgia act). As the magnitude of the global Feb. 15 demonstrations against Anglo-American invasion pushed public opinion onto the stage of realpolitick calculations and thus could no longer be ignored, upscale "centrist" media has tried to quickly play catch-up. Tentatively anti-war movements have been introduced as an amorphous X-Factor, a potentially significant wild card. Some coverage has emphasized the demographic range of the protests and "surprisingly" mainstream nature of many of its participants. Some has noted its innovative uses of technology. One of the best examples of the trend is George Packer's intelligent profile of Eli Pariser, one of the developers of MoveOn.org. Appropriating (without attribution) Howard Rheingold's notion of Smart Mobs, Packer explores how Parisher and MoveOn (along with many others he doesn't mention) are evolving a new style and methodology of protest and organizing, using computer networking to quickly draw together heretofore disparate political sub-cultures in ad-hoc collaborative alliances. In the manner of slick mag profiles the piece gives short-shrift to the wider history of this approach in the anti-WTO and other movements, concentrating on Parisher as a star personality. Nonetheless it's instructive. Wonder what phase 3 coverage will morph into once the invasion/conquest/occupation is underway.
Phil [5:26 AM]
Barry Crimmins tracks the comic devolution and (coincidental or not?) rightward turn of Dennis Miller, whom he used to write for. A little unfair to Miller, I think, but insightful. What Crimmins doesn't address is why a drift from anti-establishment iconoclasm to cantankerous conservatism (often disguished as anti-elitism) is so common among topical comics, and why there are so few good political, left-liberal comics. Is it just that, at least on TV and radio,unabashedly radical viewpoints are considered un-cool or too cerebral. Or something more. Certainly Crimmins, though I like (agree) with him most of the time in his dogged progressivism is more often smart and politically astute than funny. Would that Bill Hicks, who was both, were still around. In the meantime there's Bill Maher's RealTime, which so far is quite good, better than the network show was. And Jon Stewart. Though, apparently, it's possible that politically left-leaning American comics like jazz musicians, are more popular overseas.
Phil [8:16 AM]
Let Hitchens and the other pseudo-Orwellians have their nostalgic neo-con caricature of St. George. In the meantime read Joseph Stromberg's dissection of the language of Shock and Awe and its main author Harlan K. Ullmann, "A Dr. Strangelove for the new millenium", which Orwell likely would have appreciated.
Phil [7:37 AM]
In doing the post above I came across some good recent writing about Goodman I hadn't seen before. An appreciation of his work from a libertarian, putting him in the company of Nock and Rothbard. Plus this.
Phil [8:22 AM]
Emergence is emerging as the intellectual buzz word of the early part of the decade. From Ito on Emergent Democracy to Mayfield on Emergent Pluralism. Haven't got a problem with that at all. Especially as the blog-intelligentsia, as opposed to the blogo-logues, make long unfashionable legacies of radical social thought newly relevant.
Phil [7:40 AM]
Very groovy when an academic literary critic of stucturalist-post-modernist ilk gets to the point-and really nails it. As with Terry Eagleton in the Guardian on the linguistics and politics of fundamentalist literalism, "theirs" and ours. (thanks to Wood s lot)
Phil [2:56 PM]
The best review I've seen of Chalmers Johnson's book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire and its implications for a post-Iraqi war world , runs in Intervention Magazine, a publication put out by Vietnam war vets in Brooklyn,NY.
Phil [3:13 PM]
Can't go too far wrong (or even if you do it's worth it) with a writer who writes about technology, markets and culture,the way Lester Bangs did about Rock, Bukowski about bars and race tracks, Hunter Thompson about politics and newspapers.
Phil [3:51 PM]