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Sat Aug 04, 2007 3:50 pm
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Post subject: Why George Bush Wins and Pacifica Loses Reply with quote

Why George Bush Wins and Pacifica Loses

by Bob Neveritt

Jan.22, 2004

On Jan. 5, 2004, two events occurred that have a striking resonance.
One, Howard Dean was featured on the covers of both TIME and NEWSWEEK
for the second time. And Bernard White, program director for WBAI, the
New York flagship of the Pacifica Network, violated the by-laws
created for the then imminent Pacifica Elections. In the former
instance, the "angry" Dr. Dean was being questioned as a viable
presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. In the latter, Mr.
White, by illegally endorsing a candidate and libeling some of his
perceived political opponents, was confirming doubts that the Left
could justifiably continue to take the high ground as the generator of
a wiser, more sophisticated, and principled program for peace and
justice. And I am assuming both "media events", as macrocosm and
microcosm, should be seen in the context that the Right's agenda,
since the shocking events of September 11/01, has been successfully
promoted as a saner, more practical response to the media-generated
bellicose atmosphere that has enveloped the planet as its inhabitants
enter the post-millenial 21st Century.

Certainly the apparent hegemony of the Right in political opinion
organs has made the Left very angry in this election season. I have
heard some critics of the Bush administration urging their compatriots
to make it a "religious mission" to defeat the President in November.
But if this righteous indignation can be focussed on such an
"unscrupulous liar", why can such blatant arrogance be tolerated in
the local case of WBAI and its embattled management cowering around
Bernard White? Where is the moral acumen of Michael Moore, Noam
Chomsky, or Al Franken when it comes to their own politically
sympathetic media outlets typified by the Pacifica Network and The
Nation magazine. Why haven't they weighed in on an important
development in WBAI's history as it trembles on the brink of
bankruptcy? What about the New Left's guiding motto of "Think globally
and act locally"? And Howard Dean is vulnerable to the same accusation
of hypocrisy when he refuses to release documents pertaining to his
own years as Governor of Vermont. The Left seems rather to prefer
resting smugly in the security of "thinking globular and acting
loco"!! Such blinkered denial on the part of the Left can be pardoned
if one accepts the assumption that its war on the Right has no time to
consider such puny issues when it's very life is at stake. But it is
mistaken when one remembers how the mainstream, centrist media makes
or breaks candidates on the tiny, insignificant details. The "media"
thrive on magnifying the inconsequential. We all know that. However,
this may be a clue as to why the Left remains impotent in the face of
a colossal preference. But before I explain this important pattern,
let's first survey the mise-en-scene for our dilemma.

It might seem remarkable that a century, the 20th, that began with the
political empowerment of the common woman and man would end in their
despondent political impotence. This theme has been observed by many
commentators on the Left in recent years, but not many are confident
in explaining how this happened. And if they do pretend to know the
causes, they fail to get a consensual assent from the citizen of the
new century to mount a successful program to re-empower the "people".
Meanwhile, the Right maintains that the exact opposite has happened:
that the average citizen is richer, happier, and freer to exercise
choice than has ever been experienced in human history. With this fait
accompli, the Right is optimistic that the few kinks and headaches
still remaining can easily be assuaged, even on a global scale, if
they stay the course and successfully keep the "grossly deluded and
misguided" Left on the political and economic sidelines.

As I write the above, I can't help but be aware of the stereotypes
that the intelligent reader should recognize enclouding my opening
sentences. And I agree. There is more to be discerned around these
issues of political, economic, and social power than can be adequately
addressed in the conventional cliches of Right versus Left. And even
that insight is a cliche today. We've heard it stated many times
during the last thirty years. So, an entirely new approach has to be
taken to assess where we are living and working in the "naughty
Naughts": an approach that engages the Present empirically before it
seeks new, or reinvigorates old, principles.

The obvious, unforeseen, empirical condition that caught the common
worker of the twentieth century by surprise was the fact that, by the
later decades of that era, information and/or entertainment came to be
the dominant occupier of mundane time, both vocationally and
leisurely, and a source of unimaginable wealth on the collective scale
as well as in the private realm. Even traditional images of power were
affected by this situation to the extent that former President George
Bush, during the 1992 campaign, stated that Dan Rather and Sam
Donaldson had more power on a daily basis than he did. Though many
might have heard a smarmy and cynically self-effacing tone in that
remark, we would be better advised to note that Bush was referring to
more than a half-truth. Hence, the very real grievance underlying the
"joke". But Bush might as well be an "everyman" in that statement
since it is applicable to every person on the planet. Or so is the
conventional wisdom. The more relevant enquiry may really want to
seriously investigate what constitutes power today since the
information age is so dependent on polls, ratings, and focus groups
that one could just as easily say the public is the real "power", even
tyrant no less. The superaudience, like the superenterprise, works for
itself, "stupid"!!

Another factor in our present mediascape is the fragmentation and
diversity of this "superaudience" in which demographic profiles are
the given rule in marketing. Socially, this has led to the scrapping
of the old homogeneous social space - the "public". Note the
popularity of the book, Bowling Alone. At the same time, the audience
has been globalized to the extent that national identities are only
fodder for cartoons and Saturday Night Live sketches. As a matter of
intuition, the very word "globalization" is beginning to sound worn
and creaky. Why? Because the very medium I'm typing this on allows me
to take breaks and scan infinite threads of information and image-
stimulation faster and more efficiently than I would find at any
national or local library, or even in a nearby cinema. (Right now I'm
on Mars checking for updates on NASA problems. Boring. So I'm now
looking at a book review by Alexander Pope written almost 300 years
ago. O.K., on to China and the new SARS outbreak. All the while I'm
listening to K-Rock here in Manhattan. You get the point.) Which leads
to a second point, then, if I can remember what I was originally
discussing... Oh yes, Dean and White: what are the consequences for
politics when more and more millions of citizens in any country are on-
line (it ain't gonna stop) and attention-challenged? I reference
"politics" because, even though it may seem unfair to swallow the
diverse programming of the Pacifica Network under this category, one
has only to look at the recent coverage of WBAI's upcoming elections
in the New York Times to see how it's stereotyped as a Lefty political
operation. But macrocosmically, American politics is shown to be
marginalized not only by the fact such a small percentage of Americans
actually vote, but by noting how the President himself has to appear
to never stop campaigning during his term just so he can keep in these
multi-publics' splintered eye. Edmund Carpenter summed up the dilemma
for politicians in a very cogent paragraph:

"Electronic media have eroded traditional individualism, weakened
representative government and led to a general loss of those freedoms
and protections enjoyed under literacy. The ballot box simply can't
create images for the electronic world. Freedom has shifted from
government to art [media - ed.]. Today's varied media, each a unique
codification of reality, offer range and depth for human expression
and fulfillment perhaps equal to those abandoned." - THEY BECAME WHAT
THEY BEHELD, 1970, p.47.

And this was aptly and presciently noted over thirty years ago.
Carpenter was getting to the bottom of a situation that explained why
the Left, traditionally opposed to a capitalist government's
infringement on freedoms of economic and social expression, began to
appear anemic in its aims and accomplishments in the Seventies. The
mediascape had obsolesced the Left's mandate. But Carpenter's
perception, so relevant to a simpler time, mediawise, is not quite
relevant to today's hypermedia environment. The Internet has inverted
the situation where now "individualism" is empowered locally,
nationally, globally, even cosmically. So much so, that Tom Ridge's
Homeland Security Department is at a loss to define actually who the
"enemy" is, let alone get the American public(s) to unanimously take
his goals seriously. National Security has been ghettoized, along with
its ardent critics on the Left: Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Michael
Moore, Al Franken, Michael Parenti, Cornell West, and Angela Davis.
Having a bestseller (the tiny figure of 40,000) is not a furlough from
the book publishing ghetto. At best, in an election year, one can
count on the "CIA" buying up books by Moore and Franken in order to
give them a higher profile for "liberal-bashing" when the electioneers
play hardball in the fall of 2004. It's called "creating the disease,
and offering the cure." It happened at the Chicago Democratic
Convention in August, 1968, when the centrist media could be more
easily manipulated. Now it can still be done but not in the public
space of the "street". Instead, the cultural products of the
opposition are massaged for abuse value. And it's only one of many
options for the political spin jammers in a 24-7 news cycle.

It's not that the Right has the wits to understand and be relevant to
the real problems of our time. Not in the least. It's just that the
Right knows it's in a specialty market and accepts its affluent
ghettoization. Yes, national politics is a ghetto. The majority of
Americans don't live there anymore. They have agonies and ecstasies in
many other more pressing areas (for example, the biggest killer of
Americans is the medical establishment - three-quarters of a million
people per year). Fox TV is not interested in them. It will shrewdly
stick to its tiny demographics. And this is perhaps why the Left is
seen more and more as headquartered in Hollywood since the old
centripetal TV, radio (see Michael Wolff's June 10/02 column in New
York magazine (
medialife/6099), and movie empires are being ghettoized and shipped
overseas, too. In no small part due to their being pushed aside by the
biggest entertainment industry ever, video games.

Now, the Right has known for over twenty years that the small
percentage of Americans, who still believe there is "power" in
national politics and take their voting rights seriously, are always
going to think in "patriotic" and "conservative" terms. So they run
their candidates in those iconic contexts. This was the secret to
President Reagan's charisma. The political Left doesn't know that the
role of representing populist and "progressive" issues has been in the
hands of scriptwriters for TV and cinema during the last several
decades. Ironically, for those who consider themselves "concerned and
informed" citizens, a movie often serves, in no small degree, to be a
cathartic experience for clearing the conscience. The old media
capital of the world, New York City, had to be "liberal", and still
must be. It's a job and somebody's got to do it. But that doesn't stop
it from being marginalized, perhaps even ghettoized, too, in a time
when outsourcing of the white-collar services sector is threatening
America's deepest privileges.

Unfortunately, "progressive" politics must have a public space to
engage in. And since the arrival of the World Wide Web, there ain't no
such thing. What has replaced it is the postmodern, postliterate
individual's "virtual" public space, not any the less real than the
former literate, industrial space. In fact, it's more real because
it's interactive and two-way... no, actually, three-... four-way. Not
one-way as in the old broadcast media days. It's so real, involving,
and participatory that there had to be a poor man's Internet: talk-
radio. And we all know what that did to national politics - ghettoized
it further, of course. Talk-radio meets a felt need generated by the
newer Net.

Forty years ago, Marshall McLuhan's description of William Burroughs'
Naked Lunch, in retrospect, hits the bulls-eye when applied to our
interactive-media world:

"... Burroughs, whose world is a paradigm of a future in which there
can be no spectators but only participants. All men are totally
involved in the insides of all men. There is no privacy and no private
parts. In a world in which we are all ingesting and digesting one
another, there can be no obscenity or pornography or decency. Such is
the law of electric media which stretch the nerves to form a global
membrane of enclosure." -- The Nation, December, 1964, pp.517-19.

My larger point is that this "total involvement" is not limited to
politics. There are millions of chat groups and forums for every
conceivable social fetish and obsession. Just think of the role of
email in your life, not to mention misspelled "spam". Where's it
coming from? And it doesn't mean American college kids are dumb when
they can't remember a recent President's name or role in history. They
don't live in the United States. They live overseas, above the seas,
and under the seas. No wonder we don't stress the importance of the
"ABC's" anymore. I recently heard Henry Gates, Jr., bemoaning the fate
of the "African-American country" (35 million whereas Canada has only
27 million) inside the borders of the United States. He says the only
way to save Black culture is to get the urban ghetto schools on the
Internet. Even though he fails to see that the Internet is a culture
that will swallow Black culture, he knows that African-Americans have
no choice but to prepare themselves for the globalized (I prefer the
term "solarized") economy and should stop thinking economically in
national contexts.

The other persistent theme on the Left has been that the Republican
Party ignores issues of race, gender, and class. Again, what Chomsky
et al. miss is that such categories of social grievance don't apply to
the new multi-media spaces that Americans live in. Such
classifications refer to the relations among actual physical bodies.
But what has occurred over the last fifteen years is the digital
shrinking of formerly huge media environments to non-obtrusive
prosthetic devices, such as the lap top and the Palm Pilot, wherein a
seven-year-old can treat them with the familiarity of a household pet.
They have effectively become new physical appendages with all the joys
and demands of our genital organs. The older, original organs have
been marginalized to make room for sensory experiences provided in the
no-less-real "virtual" climates. This explains the present lack of
appeal to younger Americans of long-validated struggles over
injustices incurred in the realm of the "flesh" body. It explains the
rapidity with which beachheads have been won in the battles for
recognition of gay and lesbian rights. These would not have occurred
if the chemical body (my preferred term) wasn't ghettoized. The same
applies to the Right's obsession with abortion and the rights of the
fetus. All the more intense because it's a ghetto, too, in the sense
that our newer bodies (the TV-screen and chip bodies) have no
precedent for social recognition and therefore are ignored as causal
factors in social tensions.

So these are some of the most important aspects that make up the
background for looking at the Dean/White parallels. First, Dean
appeals to college students by using the medium where they live, the
Internet. College students have a superiority complex natural to their
years and circumstances of privileged access to knowledge - a
knowledge that is largely book-based. A literate sensibility is not
going to be impressed with a postliterate sensibility represented by
President Bush. Dr. Dean is portrayed as a "lefty" because he presents
the image of someone determined to "take our country back". He is, in
fact, harkening back to the pre-Internet image of America that he
encountered as a country doctor. That is an image that contained the
possibility of a homogeneous public space. President Bush rode to
power on that image, too - an image cultivated by the upstart FOX TV,
that "vast right-wing conspiracy". Ironically, Dean uses the Internet
to coalesce his campaign around an image that is pre-Internet. Hence,
the appeal of his nostalgic angry demeanor. But Bush now has an image
that is post-Internet, one that refuses to communicate meaningfully to
the older one-way media, thus appealing to the general hatred for the
journalists of one-way "mainstream media". An image that carefully
cultivates the "patriotic" image for the tiny audience of politics.

However, there are some other nuances that have to be considered so we
can see why the Left gets lost in this multi-media complexity.
Governor Schwarzenegger provides the clues. He recently gave a careful
policy speech which evoked responses from a Hoover Institute expert
that is revealing. The pundit noted how Schwarzenegger presented a
tough budget-cutting face to the business sector, a "green" face to
the environmentalist in the Hollywood sector, and several other faces
to other constituencies. The perceptive observer will note that the
real strategy is not to have one's image limited to one point-of-view
when addressing an actual physical audience in person. However, this
won't work in the soundbite-ruled TV-scape. The Governor keeps it
simple on TV. This is the key to "power" today - the ability to use
the different media and their audiences' biases. Many journalists are
saying that Dean has this ability. I would say this is merely a
sentimental judgment of the necessary strategy for any politician in a
centrifugal, discontinuous mediascape.

But can one sculpt an image around one point-of-view if one is limited
to access to only one medium, like radio, as in Bernard White's
particular case? Yes, if one is in an environment where radio is the
dominant medium as happened in the Thirties - a long time ago. But no
such opportunity is afforded the Pacifica Network and, in addition to
that, it's on the Internet. Surely one would be stumped if asked to
define what is the purpose today of such an ancient medium if it is
looked at as merely "radio". The mandate for Pacifica is no longer
limited to the traditional realm of radio. This is what White fails to
see. So he continues to have and represent one point of view - a
futile strategy in the Twenty-First Century.

So, case closed? Not necessarily. Here is the rebuttal:
What is the common pattern in the following stages of Western cultural

1. the fifth-century Greeks of ancient Athens converted the Homeric
oral tradition into an art form under the impact of the new phonetic
writing technology (e.g., Plato's works) which would eventually drive
Alexander the Great beyond the Greek precincts and contradict the
decentralized city-state structure of his homeland;

2. three hundred years later the Romans looked to the previous Greek
culture for their spiritual values (the Eleusinian mystery religion
and democracy) while papyrus enabled them to construct a centralized
empire of previously unknown proportions only to stagnate in constant
crisis-management mode until the Egyptians mercifully cut off their
papyrus supplies;

3. the Dark Ages witnessed an attempt to revive and establish the Holy
Roman Empire (Charlemagne) as the stirrup created a whole new feudal
system of social organization;

4. the Renaissance looked to the decentralized Middle Ages for
cultural nourishment (Shakespeare's dramas) while the printing press
flung Europeans to the ends of the earth to inaugurate colonial and
imperial ambitions;

5. the Nineteenth Century valued the lessons of the Renaissance
(literate education in the new sciences as a birth right) while the
steam engines and railroads dehumanized villages and cities;

6. the Twentieth Century accepted the norms of mechanization as the
model for collective values (recall any World's Fair) while electric
and electronic media created the "superhumanized" Entertainment

The pattern seems to be one of finding cultural and spiritual values
in the previous environment while the actual present environment,
curiously, is not a source of cultural nutrition. The new is, for
many, ugly, alienating, or threatening. We seem to walk backwards into
the future. This tendency should not necessarily be faulted as a
cultural failing or a case of collective denial. It's a natural human
characteristic that any New Yorker, in the "world capital of the art
world", can't but appreciate, thanks to New York's plethora of museums
creating no less than a kind of secular version of the Akashic Records
described in Theosophical theology. But there is a deeper pattern here
that can be summed up with the observation that it would appear that
the technological communication devices, fostering new environments as
they become widely used, have effects the laws of which are not
noticed. McLuhan explained this blindspot, or "narcissus narcosis", as
due to the sensory fact that any new environment numbs the human
senses it extends. McLuhan described the process this way:

"During the process of digestion of the old environment, man finds it
expedient to anesthetize himself as much as possible. He pays as
little attention to the action of the environment as the patient heeds
the surgeon's scalpel. The gulping or swallowing of Nature by the
machine was attended by a complete change of the ground rules of both
the sensory ratios of the individual nervous system and the patterns
of the social order as well. Today, when the environment has become
the extension of the entire mesh of the nervous system, anesthesia
numbs our bodies into hydraulic jacks." --The Nation, December, 1964,

Once we understand this pattern it becomes obvious that Lewis Hill's
designs for the Pacifica radio stations could not avoid the pressures
from later developments in media evolution on such an older model of
community participation based on the older literate and private values
of expression. But I'm not suggesting that WBAI became obsolete in the
late Eighties. One of McLuhan's insights was that older media find new
uses when they are bypassed. That has been one of the chief features
of art forms throughout Western history. For example, when Western
manuscript culture became an environment, the older pagan rituals were
reassigned new roles and transformed into Greek theater. When
television obsolesced the radio environment, radio allowed the entry
of new styles of music created by very young performers, which
subsequently invented the "teenager". It was a renaissance of cultural
and artistic democracy. And new unexpected sources of wealth were
tapped. Radio also became an important service in expediting
automobile traffic on the new post-war superhighways. Similarly, the
"countercultural" radio of the Sixties and early Seventies, a later
adjustment in roles thanks to the computer and satellite era of global
theater (think of the Yippie! slogan "The whole world is watching!"),
was forced to find new uses in the new digital environment. This
created the need for a counterbalance to the social and economic
anarchy that came from the "individualistic autonomy effect" of
digital technology. So WBAI retrieved its Sixties' anarcho-syndicalist
themes and applied them to the new mood of identity politics, or
"ethnic group mind". WBAI reached out to offer air time for
marginalized voices or "sub-cultures" within the so-called
marginalized communities that were themselves demanding representation
and respect in the knee-jerk mainstream media. WBAI was actually
turning the "political correctness" trend into an art form. The
solution was in the problem. Good for Pacifica. But that was then,
over fifteen years ago.
What happens when the speed-up of communicational improvements follow
Moore's Law which points to an inevitable knowledge revolution every
eighteen months? It means you need to upgrade your accessories,
digital or cosmetic, at the same pace, whether you want to or not.
What happens to the media law which reveals the process of how the
past forms of knowledge become an art form? A tough question for the
practicing postmodern stock broker, let alone your Pomo art critic or
WBAI programmer.

This brings us back to Hill's mission to present an alternative in
radio fare to the mainstream American cultural cliches. Since Art's
mission, at least that of the greatest Western artists (Giotto, Da
Vinci, Mozart, Picasso, Henry Moore et al.), was to provide a
correction in perception, an anti-environment to the habits of dulled
perception in a culture, in order that its public could see, hear, or
feel the sensory world afresh, then "counterculture" has actually been
an honored tradition for hundreds of years. But once the satellite
environment made everyone a participant rather than a spectator ("all
crew and no passengers on Spaceship Earth"), the fulcrum from which to
create a counter-environment became more unsteady and mercurial.

By the middle Nineties the national board of the Pacifica Foundation
seemed to intuit that times were changing again and the tribal
"political correctness" taboo was weakening its hold on the American
sensibility. The pressing need for a new mandate and role for its
stations in the threatening digital soup seemed to be knocking on the
back door. Many micro-programmers were removed and the pressure to
attract new listeners by trawling the fishing nets in bigger lakes
seemed to have a new urgency. But this strategy apparently did not
work. The identity crisis in Pacifica's audience induced by this
seeming move to go "commercial" was too intense for the Board to
deflect. The reason may lurk in the fact that this occurred exactly
when Americans were surfing even further inside their nerves with the
new Netscape browser which finally brought the Internet into the laps
of Middle America and flung them into the bottomless seas of the World
Wide Web. The fact that soon any ten year-old could have the massive
corporate media environments of the last150 years, from the telegraph
to the satellite, not only miniaturized but available for editing and
redesigning, really ended the reign of one-way broadcasting no matter
how decentralized and niche-marketed it had previously designed its
programs. The autonomous Web surfer/spammer could spit in the face of
mainstream icons so regularly that the millennium ended with even the
poor off-line American miming the interactive Web: thanks to TV
programs like the Jerry Springer Show. The image of the floating
astronaut circling the Earth and its media environments in the Sixties
was now an experience offered to anyone and everyone by the
Information Highway, the poor woman's own private NASA. Yet we wonder
why UFO abductions became a national craze.

McLuhan had a little known aphorism for this effect - "the user is the
content". Sounds tome like a pithy description of many a WBAI
programmer over the decades. This is not to denigrate a rich kind of
radio, a style pioneered by WBAI's Bob Fass. But remember, now the
Burroughs paradigm was being mass-marketed (or McWebbed) during the
"" boom of the late Nineties and early Naughts. Where could you
go on the WBAI programming schedule to find a counterculture to the
virtual-reality matrix that was just begging for someone to translate
into that ancient medium, the movie - the All-American archetype? Of
course, I'm talking about the wildly successful movie "The
Matrix" (1999). Again, the insight that every new medium is an
epiphany to the extent it reveals the characteristics of the previous
environment helps us to see what this movie is telling us. It turns
out that the user of the digital landscape is not just the solitary
human being. The other user is the complement to the human being - her
community as a hologram.

The "political correctness" movement was really the right to turn the
tribal community into an environment that includes the universe. Each
tribal history must have the right to be translated into the art form
of virtual reality, the collective hologram. "The Matrix", remember,
is a movie, the mechanical precursor of the hologram. And it's set in
New York City. Is New York City a hologram? Can you say Times Square =
Disneyland? If millions of New Yorkers spend hours on the Web every
day and night, when are they actually in New York? Are its unique
institutions and museums inevitably Disneyfied? Can WBAI resist the
environmental pressures to be a hologram, the contemporary art form?
Are its supporters sending in checks to prop up a hologram of the
counterculture? With Moore's Law applied to the changes in the
counterculture, how does one keep the counterculture from fragmenting
into many sub-cultures? Which decade were you counter? If a decade
lasts only 12 months (compared to previous slower centuries) due to a
sped-up social life, then that speed-up flips into an apparent "slow-
down", a conserving tendency. Then time as duration becomes a running
on-the-spot and resonating omni-directionally. A grab bag of holograms
offers you the art form of your choice. And the hologram of the hyper-
race for the Presidency must have a "conservative" agenda, not a
"change agent's" agenda. This is what caused the outrage at the First
Lady's proposed health-reform legislation in 1993.

So, I enjoy WBAI and listen throughout the week. I also enjoy the
disputes on the Pacifica WBAI Message Board. I've got a few opinions,
too. But I have to remember that WBAI is a radio station; in the end
it's only radio. I get to experience the unique qualities the radio
medium, especially WBAI, provides. But I also listen to many other
radio stations in the New York area. So this makes me pause when I
hear explanations from the programmers of the different stations on
why they are a great station and why we listen to them. I always
think, regardless of their various boastings, that they're not the
reasons why I listen to their shows. I listen to spy, soak up a mood,
or to learn some details about something I knew nothing about. Any
station provides that for me, not just theirs.

I also wonder how to translate the radio experience into political
action. Which then makes me question what political platforms I'm for.
I might think I'm for universal health care. Sounds fair. But since I
listen to different stations I eventually see the subject is more
complicated. But I decide to remain focussed and ignore counter-
arguments to my opinion. I can rely on WBAI or NPR to reinforce my
opinion. NPR is slicker and more professional in pushing for this view
and certainly reaches more people so NPR is where legislative reform
will be instigated, if at all. But if I want to hear sub-cultural
reasons supporting universal health care I tune into WBAI. It's
interesting to hear the anarchist, Marxist or libertarian position on
the issue while I wait to vote every four years. Just think of the
amount and variety of information we can hear on the radio about this
topic over four years while waiting to pull the lever. Once the time
comes, I'm forced to ignore the nuances of the debate and push on
through to vote for a basic beachhead to establish new legislation. I
am always reduced to a knee-jerk response in the democratic republic.

WBAI, in particular, claims that it provides alternative information
to the mainstream. This certainly was true before the middle Nineties,
but the Web trumps WBAI on that front. So why do I listen to WBAI?
Usually to hear the quaint, eccentric programming. The programmers are
sincere but in practical terms what they offer can't be applied
collectively. The postmodern thinkers call it the death of "public
space". This is essentially true, but a more precise way to explain it
is that we now have the birth of many new media spaces each creating
their own publics.

The old public space of strictly literate citizens has taken a back
seat or gotten lost in the shuffle. The "chickenhawks" around
President Bush have taken advantage of this fact by appealing to the
oral, semi-literate consumer of radio and TV. Meanwhile, WBAI as radio
gives the New York area local color in our media diet. But it is only
radio, and management has to keep the programming going 24 hours a day
non-stop. Presently, it claims to be re-evaluating all programs. In
the name of what? The only way it can improve is provide more variety
of subcultural views. The best way to do that is limit programmers to
8-week stints and allow more people to have programs. I recall a
persistent caller named "Monroe" advocating this. Perhaps he's right.
But if this proposal is impractical, then let's admit what the
situation really is: WBAI is the "Hyde Park" of local radio, hijacked
by a necessarily limited number of programmers, and that's all it can
be. This is entertaining enough, but please don't make any dramatic
"narratives" out of the facts. Overall, any radio station offers
discontinuous ear candy. It depends on the temperament and taste of
the listener to decide when the sugar is transformed into real
nutrition. It's hyper-subjectivity all around.

I would hazard the guess that the common denominator of the WBAI
listener is a desire for peace. The perceptive among us know the
question is how to achieve it. When a million diverse voices instantly
respond to this issue when it's raised in the mainstream media
whirlpool, might we consider that social peace is aggravated by
instant, simultaneous access to information? I suggest this is the
cause for the death of a public space that the "Left", for most of the
first two-thirds of the twentieth century, was quite adept in shaping.
However, we don't live there anymore. So is WBAI condemned to the role
of being a reminder of what the old issues and revolutions were? Just
to be a kind of nostalgic hologram. What would happen if its
management stated this as a social fact on the air at least once a
week? It would certainly evoke a passionate debate among the

If WBAI wants to attract new listeners, then it must broaden its
appeal. It would have to include "politically incorrect" programming
to really accomplish this. Am I wrong to conclude this is not likely?
If so, then we are back to square one. WBAI cannot adapt to the new
realities. It must remain true to what it represented in the past. But
the past doesn't offer a challenge to perception and awareness. Only
the uncategorizable "new" does. And that will always be provided only
by new communication devices and their ensuing environments. So WBAI
can only be a Noah's Ark for countercultural and subcultural effects
from previous media. And this is perhaps enough for most WBAI
listeners. "Past times become pastimes" wrote James Joyce in Finnegans

However, there now are new, idealistic "youths" arriving on the social
activist stage every day. What are we to say to them? "Honor our
efforts. Pay your respects." This is not enough when their sense of
urgency is so intense, especially in these apocalyptic and dangerous
times. I've noticed that these more innocent enthusiasts don't have
national, racial, or sexual differences clouding their visions. They
are instinctively denizens of a tiny planet. Why even speak to them in
the categories of any verbal, literate language, let alone English?
They live a simulation of ESP. One just has to check out the Matrix
movies to feel the pulse. So, a slow, verbal medium like WBAI looks to
them like a sick old turtle. Now, over the next couple of years, as
they confront older technological environments that are too unwieldy
to be removed or bypassed, they will be forced to check their techno-
ESP for older forms like speech. At that point WBAI may appear
relevant - a kind of lithium, to buffer their "shock of the old". THEN
we can recruit them in the campaign for universal health care. And
then this museum just might become a successful "political" force.

To return to our macro resonance, this is exactly what Dr. Dean was
doing. But unlike White, he wasn't running for the position of program
director. He is not a "politician" in media as is White, but a
politician via media. Even though Dean is hardly a leftist, in the
post-Internet era, if a politician puts on an overly critical mask in
the race to become President, he or she will appear to be insulting
the tribal hologram to which the national political stage is reduced
and marginalized. This is why the Democratic candidates who are
"Washington insiders" like Kerry, Gephardt, Lieberman, and Gore (in
2000) are forced to be bland. However, the Democrats are strapped to a
legacy of one-dimensional, Fordist, pre-Internet tribalism whereas the
Republicans have the upper hand because their tribalism is suffused
with the image of post-Internet individual accountability, privatized
or not. The iconic image of the President will always be "Republican"
no matter what political party wins the election. That is a law
mandated by digital life. That was the real "Reagan revolution". So,
the role of a critical counterculture has a new task in confronting
its adversary, somnambulism - an adversary in a far subtler milieu.

I often hear Gary Null on his Natural Living program marvel at
listeners who have newly-discovered health problems, like cancer, even
though they've been listening to his program for ten or more years and
should have understood and applied his preventive regimens. This
example should encapsulate what radio is really all about. That it's a
massage rather than a careful exchange of remembered point-by-point
information. (This is why music is the real source of power today.)
Perhaps most media end up in that role. And today, with so many media
available for tactile exchanges, I could understandably be amazed WBAI
is still here. But I'm not, because the wealth of our time means
there's nothing old under the sun. Although this, in practical
economic terms, means every environmental artifact (hologram) has its
hand out.

I'm reminded of another quotation from Carpenter:

"Dreams, myths, rituals are all forms of total involvement. The
dreamer divests himself ofprivate identity and unites with the
corporate image of his group... Tribal man requires less night-
dreaming because he achieves this corporate identification through
daytime rituals, myths, art, language. We're reentering the tribal
world but this time we're going through the tribal dance and drama
wide awake." - THEY BECAME WHAT THEY BEHELD, 1970, p.97

The American composer Frank Zappa seemed to have an inkling of this
dilemma. He once said in an interview in 1988 that when he considered
the question of whether the world would end in fire, ice, paper, or
nostalgia, he picked nostalgia. He had observed that musical fads were
recently succumbing to new trends every six months which led to
revivals of the older fads within a year or two. If this process kept
accelerating, he reasoned, then we would reach the point when we would
be so nostalgic for the previous moment we would not be able to move.
This was how the world would end.

In retrospect Zappa predicted the fate of WBAI. Because after the
intramural warfare of the past 3 years at 120 Wall Street, it is
apparent its management is heading back to the Eighties as the only
previous moment it recognizes. Granted it seems the world in general
has made the same move since the events of 09/11/01, and WBAI is
following in lockstep fashion back to its own hologram. But what is
the present technology that is becoming a new hidden environment and
turns which past into an art form when all times are being theme-
parked inside us? There is an answer to this seemingly impossible
question. It points to where all technologies come from - our bodies.
If we project to the inevitable outcome of the miniaturization of new
environments, then we will understand that we will meet ourselves, the
origin of our long technological evolution. Perhaps we will meet our
clone as we make the final turn on the last lap of the human race. But
what this means is that we never really knew what we were made of and
we are now still excavating the body we inhabit. No culture's
anthropomorphic images predicted the addition of the cathode ray
screen (the TV body) and then the fiber optic cables (the Chip body)
to our bodies' constituents. And just maybe they were always there. We
just had to keep unpeeling the revelatory layers. Either way we are
becoming cognizant that we are inside a Mystery body whose mapping is
nowhere near completion. The Mystery body is the only counterculture
to the technological extensions that are coming with all their
ecstasies and tribulations. We might think the evolution of art forms
would appear, in the long view presented in this essay, to be rather
mechanical and predetermined. But this response forgets that each
technological phase numbed its occupants so much that they would
easily feel they were experiencing in their day the "last word" in
human novelty. Even collective somnambulism has its good points. But
the last word for our time is that we must live with the knowledge of
this determinism if we refuse to take advantage of its epiphany. And
this is the key for WBAI's survival. We can turn the process around
and make the present unperceived environment an art form, in order to
begin to perceive the lineaments of the Mystery body. The Mystery body
becomes the irresistible political force bypassing the immovable
object of the known body, regardless of culture. Our health becomes
the unifying agent and rallying cry of political solidarity. This is
the ground on which we can take our stand and hijack all known forms
of expression to serve in pointing to the invisible environment of
physical well-being, innovating a technically holistic response to

In short, the Left must recognize the environment Americans actually
live in and with, and find a way to coherently address its effects on
our social, physical, political, economic, and psychological lives.
The constituents of that environment are:

1. the Western chemical body excavated by I. G. Farben and its

2. the astral body excavated by psychic, religious, and spiritual

3. the TV body excavated by pollstergheists;

4. and the Chip body excavated by the Department of Homeland Security.
If the Left fails to bravely and perceptively meet our present
situation, then it will continue to be humiliated by the exposure of
its self-created hypocrisies such as were displayed on Jan. 5, 2004.

Meanwhile, as we've seen for the last forty years, most Americans are
forced to improvise responses to this new hyper-communicative crucible
without any guidance except those found in the transient adoption of
fashions in all genres. The travel agent has only traded on a third of
the tourisms Americans engage in, both inner and outer. These new,
persistent, and demanding voyages have proved so exhausting to
Americans that we have failed to see them as the real cause of the
political and cultural impotence afflicting the not-so-common man and
woman of the new Century.

Note: Since this article was written in January 2004, events have
rapidly borne out the factors I said will ultimately lead to Bush's
second term. The White House is an image for the TV environment. The
Internet at present only affects the primaries to make them exciting.
But the election is geared to the museum of TV so the Democratic
candidate has to become dull. Dean happily passed the reins to the
appropriate image, John Kerry. Meanwhile, those addicted to the
excitement of the primaries must have an outlet. Air America Radio
will fill the bill but will become irrelevant in the Fall "hardball"
campaign as even President Bush will be forced to limit his image to
the museum meme.

You see, it is not understood that President Bush is the first
President of the last one hundred years to be relatively indifferent
to his image in the media. He is surfing on the effect of the chip-
body environment which makes its users feel independent of the one-way
broadcasting media. The fact that Bush can circulate outside the mass
media creates an image that appeals to the daily consumer of
information overload. His halting speech, incomplete sentences, and
garbled syntax actually make him appear more appealing because most
Americans would be in the same position if asked to lead a nation in a
post-national world. But the image of the White House must remain the
refuge and security blanket to alleviate the new social anxieties
created in the "chaosmos" of the chip body. In short, the World Wide
Web has transformed the function of the Executive Office from change-
agent to a necessary ballast for the ship of State. The autumn
Presidential race will see both candidates striving to show they are
more rooted in the past than the other.

At best, Air America Radio, as it becomes shrill and hysterical about
its fate, will push voters towards Bush because its content will
remind them about what the office of the President is not about. After
the election, the illusions will have melted away and WBAI may want to
realistically assess its future in light of what had happened to Air
America Radio.

Last edited by monsquaz on Wed Aug 15, 2007 3:17 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Mon Aug 06, 2007 12:24 am
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Post subject: Re: Why George Bush Wins and Pacifica Loses Reply with quote

monsquaz wrote:
Why George Bush Wins and Pacifica Loses
by Bob Neveritt
Jan.22, 2004

BOB: Nice find, monsquaz.

I wrote that for Gary Null's site. He took it down after a few days because he (or his advisors) said nobody could understand it. So I lost track of it.

I use the name "Bob Neveritt" when I don't want my associates plagued with my past. My "plausible deniability" is embedded in the name - NEVER IT!!

Where'd ya locate it?

Bob Dobbs
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Mon Aug 06, 2007 12:30 am
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Post subject: Reply with quote
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Mon Aug 06, 2007 12:49 am
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Post subject: Reply with quote

monsquaz wrote:

BOB: Amazing! Where it ended up, that is.

Would you put a space between "... 21st Century." and "Certainly the apparent" at the top (first and second paragraphs).

It would look and read better.


Bob Dobbs
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Tue Aug 07, 2007 2:18 am
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Post subject: Weiner's Barbeque Reply with quote

Printed from COOKS.COM

1 large package smokies or weiners
1 cup heintz ketchup
1 cup open pit bbq sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cranberry sauce or jelly of choice

Put together in crock pot and cook. I find them better if cooked for a long period, or cooked, cooled and warmed again later.
combing my pube 'fro
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Wed Aug 08, 2007 2:31 am
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Post subject: Re: Weiner's Barbeque Reply with quote

^* wrote:
Printed from COOKS.COM

1 large package smokies or weiners
1 cup heintz ketchup
1 cup open pit bbq sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cranberry sauce or jelly of choice

Put together in crock pot and cook. I find them better if cooked for a long period, or cooked, cooled and warmed again later.
combing my pube 'fro
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