Sunday, February 29, 2004

Art, Music and Words: Unknown Public

(excerpt from the intro to the website)

Unknown Public is both a journal and a compilation CD, a creative music festival for the front room’ beautifully packaged in a hardback book format that incorporates essays, credits, annotations and biographical details. Established as a subscription-only service in the 1990s, it is mailed to subscribers in 50 countries. The UP concept draws upon the creativity of hundreds of musicians: the performers, composers and producers who contribute master tapes in the spirit that writers contribute manuscripts to a literary publication. The first twelve issues, designed by Tomato and a succession of distinguished guest graphic designers, were packed in a unique and eccentric plain brown box’ format.

Unknown Public

"Sanity's Claws: For Christ's Sake Mel!"

"For Christ's Sake Mel" by Underling
A My Town Column

Well the falling down and weeping and gnashing of teeth has begun in earnest. This will be a Lent to remember for a couple of weeks. Mel "Mad Max" Gibson has done it again. The cash is rolling in and a new cult fave rave is in full swing.

Talk about bloody passion! Some film critics are calling Mel's latest the equivalent of religious porn. The work of a sadist who wants to overdo the message and demolish the concept of peace, love and voluntary self-sacrifice in favour of the biggest self-flagellation in modern history.

Still these words are not intended to take anything away from those who go to movies to be shocked, stunned, moved, amazed, awed, and generally filled with emotion that they have a hard time finding in their own real lives. This whole strange brew does indeed count as the final sequel in the Lethal Weapon series. Mel's version of Christianity is to spirituality what a sledge hammer is to a blade of grass: lethal indeed.

Now way back in Mel's Mad Max days there was at least some coherent vision of the future, at least compared to this Passion of Mel's Christ. And yes it is Mel's Christ not The Christ but wow are the already terrified fundamentalist Christians soaking up the blood and gore and nails through the palms stuff.

And what will the people who take this as some sort of messianic, prophecy level piece of biblical litmus test do with their feelings and impulses once the first two or three viewings have been integrated into their consciousness. Will they seek revenge against those who did what Mel sees in the darkness of his money grubbery? Or will they take up the age old art of self-flagellation so they can share the pain of Mel's version of The One Who Came To Save Us All?

Whatever. But I can only imagine the pain some people will have to feel in order to be joined with Mel in this voyage of S&M for Christ's Sake. Amazing where the spiritually empty and/or bankrupt go these days for a fill up, with popcorn and a large soda.

So here's the rub. For some reputed centuries there was this prediction that the Son of God would come to earth and die for the sins of mankind. Well, okay, so there's a lot of people who believe that, which is okay as long as they don't use it to hurt others or oppress and enslave millions. No harm in stories, legends, myths, etc. But what's all the fuss about when what was predicted actually happens, etc.?

I mean what if the Jews (the bad ones not the good ones of course) and the Romans (the imperial ones) had been smoking up and come to some sort of peaceful conflict resolution... they'd have missed their key role in saving mankind. The crown of thorns would have sat gathering dust. The scourging would never have happened. No entertainment in the colliseum with the lions. No crusades. No vatican bankers hanging themselves. The whole thing could've taken a whole different course. John the Baptist's family might have been a bit confused but there's always a down side.

But back to Mel and the two hour bloodletting. I'm remembering the end of Braveheart where he went into great detail about William Wallace getting ripped apart down there in London. That was a pretty good precursor. Mel sure does love the physical depiction of gross agony, doesn't he. But what next, Mel? Do we get an HBO "making of"? I certainly hope so. I want to see the out-takes!!!

Anyway, it's good that the movie is at least a two day wonder for all the religiously impoverished in Mel's new homeland. Blood lust has always had an important role in religion. Good on you Mel for bringing back the S&M. There's been way too much of the flowers in your hair and accoustic guitars and swaying rhythmically from side to side and talk of forgiveness and love and understanding.

I hope the sequel is already forming up in Mel's Mad Max brain. Viewers who like this one will be wanting the real movie about the last 30 minutes of Joan of Arc. It'll be a real howler to watch that flesh burn. But I suspect it'll more likely be Mel Gibson in The Crusade. Now that he's done the Jews he'll be wanting to do some close up slow motion of the moors and muslims going down beneath the flashing swords of St. David and the whoever it was guys.

Lots more money to be made in this bloody passion stuff.

Column Link

"Who's A Terrorist" by John Feffer

"Who's A Terrorist?"
John Feffer is the author most recently of North Korea, South Korea: U.S. Policy at a Time of Crisis.
Tom Paine

People in the business of conflict resolution routinely intervene in bloody, horrific wars and, by talking to all sides involved, try to guide the actors toward a more peaceful conclusion. Sounds like noble work, right? Not always, according to the USA PATRIOT Act. It all depends on whether the peace professionals are talking with terrorists, and "terrorism" is very much in the eye of the (U.S.) beholder.

The PATRIOT Act—a sweeping assault on civil liberties approved just after September 11 by every U.S. Senator except Russ Feingold, D-Wis.—includes a provision that criminalizes "expert advice and assistance" provided to terrorist organizations. As a result, anyone who provides advice on how to exit violent conflict to any of the 36 organizations on the State Department’s terrorism list could be liable for criminal prosecution. So, for instance, the World Tamil Coordinating Committee of Jamaica, New York, is potentially breaking the law by trying to help negotiate a permanent peace agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the opposition Tamil Tigers.

The provision applies beyond conflict resolution. The Federation of Tamil Sangams of North American (FETNA) wants to develop Tamil-language school curricula in areas of Sri Lanka controlled by the Tamil Tigers. The Humanitarian Law Project in California has provided training in international human rights law for members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. Since the PKK and the Tamil Tigers have been on the State Department’s terrorism list since 1997, these efforts might well lead to a 15-year jail sentence.

The PATRIOT Act Takes A Hit

Rather than wait to be prosecuted, the above organizations brought suit against the Justice Department. On January 23, the California District Court partially upheld their challenge in Humanitarian Law Project v. John Ashcroft. By declaring the “expert advice and assistance” clause overly broad and infringing on First Amendment rights of free speech, the court struck the first successful legal blow against the PATRIOT Act. "We are harmed as a society when people refrain from exercising their First Amendment rights out of fear of being prosecuted and convicted under vague laws like the PATRIOT Act provision under challenge in the Humanitarian Law Project suit," says Nancy Chang, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who was co-counsel in the case. Jeanne Herrick-Stare, a senior analyst on civil liberties at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, points out that it is difficult to know how many groups have cut back on their activities for fear of prosecution.

Humanitarian organizations often don’t care what agency, on paper, they’re dealing with, she notes, because “humanitarian organizations care about the hungry, the people who need the aid.”

For the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), it’s legal déjà vu. The Center mounted a legal challenge to the PATRIOT Act’s precursor, the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. A Clinton administration law, it criminalized “material support” of terrorist organizations even if that support was for the peaceful activities of the organization. In this case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that while the U.S. government could sue those providing cash and humanitarian aid to the designated terrorist groups, the provision of “personnel” and “training” was protected by the First Amendment. According to the CCR’s useful summary of court rulings on terrorism and civil liberties, the material support provision has been used in three jury convictions and several cases decided in plea bargaining. But until 2001, conflict resolution professionals could go about their business without fear of reprisal. The PATRIOT Act, which amended the “material support” provision to include “expert advice and assistance,” appeared to re-criminalize the negotiating, legal and medical services that some U.S.-based organizations are offering “terrorist” organizations.

In The Eye Of The Beholder

The term “terrorist” is controversial, as is the list of terrorist organizations that the State Department updates regularly. The ANC in South Africa, Likud in Israel, Sinn Fein in Ireland: these groups have all grown out of movements that were and sometimes still are called terrorist. The U.S. government has in the past supported groups that could easily be labeled terrorist, from the Contras in Nicaragua to RENAMO in Mozambique. Today, the State Department’s terrorism list is highly politicized. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement is included, largely as a thank-you to China for its support in the war on terrorism. The Kosovo Liberation Army never made it on the list because it was fighting against Serbia. Despite attacks against civilians, the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan has not been considered terrorist in Washington because it was useful in the fight against the Taliban just as Osama bin Laden and the mujahedin had been in the fight against the Soviets.

The PATRIOT Act not only reinforces this politicized designation but also discourages efforts to bring such groups into the political realm. The State Department’s labeling of two Philippine rebel groups as terrorist, for example, has led to an impasse in peace talks in that country’s 35-year-old civil war. The Cheney faction in the Bush administration believes that “evil” must be defeated, not negotiated with. But negotiating with those you disagree with is otherwise known as diplomacy. And encouraging negotiations between implacable foes, regardless of the names they throw at each other, goes by the name of conflict resolution.

“We make a deliberate decision to work with both sides, regardless of whether they are called ‘terrorist’ or something else,” says Richard Rubenstein, professor of conflict resolution and public affairs at George Mason University. “If you’re not willing to work with ‘terrorists’ you’re not going to do conflict resolution.”

Conflict resolution professionals often act as neutral mediators, but sometimes they provide assistance and advice to groups to prepare them for negotiations. Ron Kraybill, who teaches in the conflict transformation program at Eastern Mennonite University, notes that “terrorists” don’t abruptly make a decision to engage in a negotiating framework: “they don’t walk in the door all by themselves; it’s a process.”

Portions of the PATRIOT Act are up for review by Congress, but the “expert advice and assistance” provision is not subject to the sunset clause. The Bush administration has meanwhile promised to veto legislation designed to scale back the worst excesses of the Act. So the courts, for better or worse, are where the action is. If the Justice Department successfully challenges the California District Court decision, conflict resolution as well as medical aid and legal advice may once again become treasonous. In the meantime, the January 23 ruling remains a slender victory not only for civil libertarians but for all those who hope to bring peace to war-torn regions.

Article Link

The Union Mall


The UNION MALL is designed to make it easy for progressive consumers to help empower workers around the world. We have gathered every retailer we could find that source exclusively from union shops or worker owned cooperatives. We know that the only way to change the global garment industry is to create successful alternatives to the sweatshops.
We hope you will support these young companies and spread the word. Friends don’t let friends buy from sweatshops.

Union Mall

The Roland Video Documentary Collection

This is an amazing site--100s of video documentaries on art, literature, and architecture all available online.

The Roland Collection

Home Project

Think about where you come from (physically, spiritually, emotionally, memories, imagination, etc...) and what it means to you...

Now visit this site and read what people around the world have to say and add your contribution:

Home Project

Race and Collective Memory Bibliography

(courtesy Jacob Aaron Wagner)

Books and Book Chapters

Blight, David. 2001. Race and Reunion: the Civil War in American memory. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Bodnar, John. 1992. Remaking America: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Connerton, Paul. 1989. How societies remember. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Dabakis, Melissa. 1999. Visualizing Labor in American Sculpture: Monuments, Manliness and the Work Ethic, 1880-1935. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.

Gillis, John R. 1994. Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Gundaker, Grey, editor. 1998. Keep your head to the sky: interpreting African-American home ground. University Press of Virginia.

Halbwachs, Maurice. 1980. [1950] The Collective Memory. Translated by Francis J. Ditter, Jr. and Vida Yazdi Ditter. New York: Harper and Row.

Handler, Richard. 1991. Who Owns the Past? History, Cultural Property, and the Logic of Possessive Individualism. In The Politics of Culture. Brett Williams, e. Washington: The Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. 63-74.

Harvey, David. 1989. Monument and Myth: The Building of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, pp. 200-228. In The Urban Experience. Baltimore:John Hopkins University Press.

Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger, eds. 1983. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kammen, Michael. 1991. Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Popular Culture. New York: Knopf.

Levinson, Sanford. 1998. Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies. Durham: Duke University Press.

Lipsitz, George. 1990. Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Lowenthal, David. 1985. The Past is a Foreign Country. Cambridge.

Nora, Pierre. 1996-1998. Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, 3 vols. (New York).

Norkunas, Martha K. 1993. The Politics of Public Memory: Tourist Culture, History, and Ethnicity in Monterey, California. Albany: SUNY Press.

Savage, Kirk. 1997. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth –Century America. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Schwartz, Barry. 2000. Abraham Lincoln and the Forge of National Memory. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Verrey, R. and L. Henley. 1991. Creation Myths and Zoning Boards: Local Uses of Historic Preservation. In The Politics of Culture, Brett Williams, ed. Washington: The Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. 75-107.

Journal Articles

Carney, Court. 2001. The Contested Image of Nathan Bedford Forrest. The Journal of Southern History v. LXVII, n.3, August: 601-630.

Kropp, Phoebe S. 2001. Citizens of the Past? Olvera Street and the Construction of Race and Memory in 1930s Los Angeles. Radical History Review. Issue 81: 35-60.

Page, Max. 2001. Radical Public History in the City. Radical History Review, 79, Winter: 114-116.

Rothberg, Michael. 2001. W.E.B. DuBois in Warsaw: Holocaust Memory and the Color Line, 1949-1952. The Yale Journal of Criticism. Spring, v14 i1 p169(21)

Alderman, David. 2000. A Street Fit for a King: Naming Places and Commemoration in the American South. Professional Geographer. v 52, n4:672-684.

Armstrong, Karen. 2000. Ambiguity and remembrance: individual and collective memory in Finland. American Ethnologist 27(3): 591-608.

Dwyer, Owen. 2000a. New Memorial Landscapes in the American South: An Introduction. Professional Geographer. v 52 n4:658-660.

Dwyer, Owen. 2000b. Interpreting the Civil Rights Movement: Place, Memory, and Conflict. Professional Geographer. v 52, n4:658-660.

Gable, Eric and Richard Handler. 2000. Public History, Private Memory: Notes from the Ethnography of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, USA. Ethnos, Vol. 65(2): 237-252.

Bogart, Michelle. 1999. Public Space and Public Memory in New York's City Hall Park, Journal of Urban History 25(2): 226-257.

Hodder, R. 1999. Redefining A Southern City's Heritage: Historic preservation Planning, Public Art, and race in Richmond, Virginia. Journal of Urban Affairs. 21(4): 437-453.

Kenny, Michael G. 1999. A place for memory: the interface between individual and collective history. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 41(3) 420-438.

Jorgensen-Earp, Cheryl R. and Lori A. Lanzilotti. 1998. Public memory and private grief: the construction of shrines at the sites of public tragedy. The Quarterly Journal of Speech, May 84(2): 150.

Mitchell, Jon P. 1998. The Nostalgic Construction of Community: Memory and Social Identity in Urban Malta. Ethnos, v. 63 n.1:81-101

Olick, Jeffrey K. and Joyce Robbins. 1998. Social Memory Studies: From "Collective Memory" to the Historical Sociology of Mnemonic Practices. Annual Review of Sociology, 1998, 24, 105-140.

Kunz, Diane B. 1997. Remembering the unexplainable: the Holocaust, memory, and public policy. World Policy Journal, Winter 14(4) 45.

Alderman, David. 1996. Creating a New Geography of Memory in the South: (Re)Naming of Streets in Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Southeastern Geographer 36:51-69.

Glassberg, David. 1996. Public History and the Study of Memory. The Public Historian. 18:7-24.

Ugresic, Dubravka. 1996. The confiscation of memory. New Left Review, July-August, 218: 26-40.

Johnson, N. 1995. Cast in Stone: monuments, geography, and nationalism. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 15:51-65.

Kohn, Richard H. 1995. History and the Culture Wars: The Case of the Smithsonian Institution's "Enola Gay Exhibition." The Journal of American History. December: 1036-1063.

Linenthal, Edward T. 1995. Struggling with History and Memory. The Journal of American History. December: 1094-1101.

Thelen, David. 1995. History after the Enola Gay Controversy: An Introduction. The Journal of American History. December: 1028-1035.

Charlesworth, Andrew. 1994. Contesting Places of Memory: the Case of Auschwitz. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 12(5): 513-634.

Gulley, H. 1993. Women and the Lost Cause: preserving a Confederate identity in the American Deep South. Journal of Historical Geography 19(2): 125-141.

Sandage, S. 1993. A Marble House Divided: The Lincoln Memorial, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Politics of Memory, 1939-1963. The Journal of American History. June: 135-167.

Radford, J. 1992. Identity and tradition in the post-Civil War South. Journal of Historical Geography. 18(1): 91-103.

Blight, David. 1989. For Something beyond the Battlefield: Frederick Douglass and the Struggle for the Memory of the Civil War. The Journal of American History March: 1156-1177.

Nora, P. 1989. Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Memoire. Representations Spring 26:7-25.

Thelen, David. Memory and American History. The Journal of American History. March 1989 75(4): 1117-1129.

Book Review Essays

Biel. Steven 1995. The Left and public memory. Reviews in American History, December 23(4): 704-710.

Tai, Hue-Tam Ho. 2001. Remembered Realms: Pierre Nora and French National Memory. American Historical Review. v.106 n.3: 906-922.

Linden, Diana L. 2001. Monumental Acts: American Public Sculpture and the Representation of Race, Gender, and Class. Radical History Review. Issue 81:162-169.


Celebrating the "Seussentennial"
By John Fea
History News Service

Yet another generation of moviegoers and read-to children have been introduced to "The Cat in the Hat." I wonder whether these millions of new fans and their parents know that Theodor S. Geisel was born one hundred years ago this month.


While most of us have probably never heard of Theodor Geisel, we know his work well. Writing under the name "Dr. Seuss" (Seuss was his middle name), Geisel unveiled to millions of children the values that have defined the human experience. Random House, the publisher of most of his books, has proclaimed 2004 the "Seussentennial," a year-long commemoration of Geisel's work.

Geisel's books have expanded our imagination, encouraged our sense of self-worth and challenged us to make the world and our local communities better places. They've also reminded us that the ideals of freedom, individualism and liberty have always existed in tension with community, restraint and personal sacrifice.

Born in Springfield, Mass., Geisel spent most of his life living and writing from his home in a remodeled naval observation tower in La Jolla, Calif. He and his first wife, Helen, did not have children (Geisel once said that he did not particularly enjoy being around children), but his books, filled with bold colors, exotic characters and wacky story lines, made him the 20th century's most popular children's author.

Geisel claimed that he rarely wrote with a particular social or political agenda in mind, and anyone familiar with the whimsical silliness of his works would agree. In fact, 27 publishers rejected his first book, "And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street," because it didn't contain a moral message.

But even as he tried to avoid writing morality tales, much of Geisel's work reflected his commitment to human values. During World War II, well before Dr. Seuss became a national icon, Geisel was producing editorial cartoons for the pages of the New York tabloid PM that criticized American isolationism as well as racial discrimination in the hiring of defense workers.

Until his death in 1991, Geisel wrote children's fiction that reflected such views. For example, "Yertle the Turtle," the story of a turtle name Mack who stages the overthrow of an expansionist king named Yertle, reminds us of similar revolutions in the past that have toppled tyranny. "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" reads like a sermon on self-improvement and mobility -- two defining characteristics of modern life. He provides a lesson against racial discrimination in "The Sneetches," while "The Cat in the Hat," the book that won Geisel international fame, challenges the conformist tendencies of middle-class suburbia.

Seuss was also willing to be more straightforward in his social commentary. "The Butter Battle Book" is a stinging criticism of the nuclear arms race, and "The Lorax" alerts us to the environmental consequences of capitalism.

Like many of the rest of us today, Geisel struggled to balance a common sense faith in personal rights with a commitment to the public good. He seemed to realize that individualism, while essential to any democratic society, was often not sufficient to sustain the kind of community needed for a republic to survive.

The ever-popular "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" tells the story of the sinister creature who believes he can steal happiness from the "Whos down in Whoville" by depriving them of their Christmas presents. While the Whos certainly have a right as citizens and individuals to fulfill their holiday wants and desires with consumer products, in the end they teach the Grinch (and us) that true happiness comes from being part of something larger than one's self.

And who can forget the adventures of Horton, the kindly elephant who counters the greed, selfishness and laziness of the world around him by displaying trustworthiness, loyalty and patience amid difficult trials? Even as Horton persistently informs us in "Horton Hears a Who" that "a person's a person no matter how small," he also reminds us that the individual rights of personhood are often secured by the sacrifice of others.

A belief in personal self-betterment, as celebrated in "Oh, the Places You'll Go!," can easily degenerate into crass self-indulgence. Such is the case with the Once-ler, the greedy capitalist of "The Lorax" who, in his quest to leave home for better pastures, ends up destroying the environment through his pursuit of industrial wealth. Similarly, when we're "off to great places . . . off and away . . ." we're often going there at the expense of the local communities we leave behind. When self-improvement and pursuits of happiness are defined entirely by social and geographic mobility, Dr. Seuss reminds us, we can never truly care for natural and human places, as the Lorax or the Whos challenge us to do.

It's precisely because of these long-standing tensions between individualism and community that the writings of Theodor Geisel have had enduring appeal. For more than 60 years children and their parents have been reminded what it means to be a good person, citizen and friend. Dr. Seuss remains a window into the deepest convictions and paradoxes of human life. We can only hope that his books will continue to help children of all ages make sense of themselves and their obligations to society.


John Fea teaches history at Messiah College in Grantham, Penna., and is a writer for the History News Service.

Article Link

Saturday, February 28, 2004

50 Book Challenge: #5 Critical Teaching and Everyday Life--Ira Shor

So I was be-bopping around the web tonight and I visited Oso's blog and he was referencing/commenting on a post by Woojay who was lamenting wasted time blogging that keeps him from reading and completing any books. Inspired, I decided to finish number 5 of the year ...


The challenge, read 50 books in one year. I am a notoriously distracted reader, jumping from one to another and not always returning to those I start. So this is my attempt to make sure I finish some of them.

5) Critical Thinking and Everyday Life—Ira Shor (South End Press, 1980)
4) Curriculum Development in the Postmodern Era—Patrick Slattery (Garland Publishing, 1995)
3) Times Square Red, Times Square Blue—Samuel R. Delany (New York University Press, 1999)
2) Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past—Eviatar Zerubavel (University of Chicago Press, 2003)
1) A Friend of the Earth—T.C. Boyle (Penguin, 2001)

Friday, February 27, 2004

Bush's Environmental Record

The folks at Moving Ideas have compiled fairly thorough documentation of Bush's environmental record. Read it and pass it on:

Bush's Environmental Record

Clamor Music Festival: Celebrating Independent Media In a City Near You

There isn't a show anywhere near me (thankfully there is the Left Festival this week--see posting before this one), but I thought I would reproduce the announcement for those that are in regions that support independent media and music.


On February 28, Clamor Magazine and its friends will be celebrating independent media with a nationwide music festival. The Clamor Music Festival will promote awareness of independent media and raise some much needed funds for local organizations. The festival is based on some basic principles that we believe all media should follow: accessability, communtiy control, and mutual aid. But most of all, the shows are gonna rock: 32 cities, 53 partners, 142 bands, 1 party. Click on each city for details on performers, venue, partners, and how to get tickets. You can also help promote your neighborhood show by downloading a flyer and adding in the details.

Keep checking this page all the way up to February 28 or sign up for the Clamor e-list. New shows and details are added every day!

Ann Arbor, MI
Athens, OH
Austin, TX
Brooklyn, NY
Denver, CO
Easthampton, MA
Gainesville, FL
Grand Rapids, MI
Greensboro, NC
Houston, TX
Inland Empire, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Madison, WI
Milwaukee, WI
Minneapolis, MN
Nashville, TN
New Orleans, LA
New York, NY
Oakland, CA
Olympia, WA
Pittsburgh, PA
Portland, OR
Richmond, VA
San Francisco, CA
Seattle, WA
St. Louis, MO
Syracuse, NY
Toledo, OH
Tucson, AZ
Urbana, IL
Van Wert, OH
Winona, MN
Worcester, MA

This event is supported by a loan from the Independent Press Association.


(courtesy of the funkiest patriot I know, Joseph Thomas)

Beloved American patriot Jerry Falwell recently announced that he will devote the remainder of his Godly life to advocating a Constitutional amendment banning marriage between people of the same gender. The United States Department of Faith supports Mr. Falwell's desire to impose Biblical edicts on Americans of all faiths by converting the Constitution from a document that restricts the power of government into one that limits the so-called freedoms of individuals. Nevertheless, the Department of Faith also recognizes that the Bible is replete with verses restricting marriage in many ways, not merely as relates to Mr. Falwell's infatuation with men licking each other. As such, the USDOF has delivered to the President and each member of the U.S. Congress the following proposal to incorporate Biblical restrictions on marriage into our Christian nation's otherwise embarrassingly flawed and secular Constitution:

Get the Full List of Biblical Restrictions on Marriage

"Passion Show" by John Powers

"Passion Show"
By John Powers, LA Weekly and republished at Alternet
February 26, 2004

I don't know about you, but I was sick of Mel Gibson's Jesus movie about six months ago. By that point, New York Times columnist Frank Rich had already smacked The Passion of the Christ – sight unseen – for potential anti-Semitism, and L.A. Times media critic Tim Rutten (who also hadn't seen it) compared producer-director Gibson to an "unwholesomely willful child playing with matches." In retaliation, Fox's Bill O'Reilly attacked the baleful "secularism" of those who would criticize the film – Mr. No Spin has a business deal with Gibson's production company, incidentally – while in The New Yorker, the devout Mel was placidly turning the other cheek, saying of Rich, "I want his intestines on a stick." You can take the movie star out of Braveheart . . .

Naturally, that was just the beginning. It's a Bush Culture trademark that the media stagger from one seizure to the next – Janet Jackson's bare knocker, Howard Dean's yeaargh, Dubya's dodgy military record. Lately we've been deluged with stories piggybacking on Gibson's movie. CNN broadcast Who Was Jesus? Newsweek's cover asked, "Who Really Killed Jesus?" And Dateline sent Stone Phillips to Jerusalem to investigate the real story of Jesus' final days. (I kept waiting for a CSI team to turn up and do DNA work on the nails.) Gibson was working the cultural refs as energetically as Bobby Knight. Even as his face popped up on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, wearing a thorny crown made of celluloid, the man himself was turning in a spooky performance on ABC's Primetime. Jumpy, jokey and possessed by The Truth, he seemed like the wacked-out hero of Conspiracy Theory impersonating . . . Mel Gibson.

It's easy to make fun of this conga-line of idiocy, yet there's a reason why Gibson's movie and the hoopla surrounding it have claimed so much attention. More and more, Americans address huge social issues not on news shows, op-ed pages or the campaign trail, but through popular culture. We use Michael Jackson and Eminem to explore racial identity, Martha Stewart and Buffy to examine changing ideas of womanhood. With The Passion of the Christ, our modern secular culture has bumped against a homegrown explosion of fundamentalist belief. Where the Singaporeans and French confront such an issue by banning Muslim head scarves in public schools, Americans do it by talking about a motion picture.

Of course, were it not for Gibson's celebrity, the movie would have struggled to get any publicity. Although the Christ myth dominates Western civilization, our mainstream media pay shockingly little attention to Christian life (aside from those modish pedophile priests) and even less to Christian art. The "Left Behind" series sells books by the Rapturous millions, but these novels get far less media coverage than the thrillers of that Oliver North wannabe Tom Clancy. Even a well-reviewed film like the recent Gospel of John got virtually no ink except in its connection to The Passion of the Christ.

To be fair, you can understand the media's fascination with Gibson's fascination with the Passion. It's unheard of for a movie star to ante up $30 million of his own money to make any film, let alone an earnest, literal-minded version of Jesus' final 12 hours. Such ambition alone would make Gibson's project newsworthy, but his story offers the added frisson of two clashing patrimonies. On one side is Gibson's 85-year-old father, Hutton, who is (to put it charitably) a crackpot: A traditionalist Catholic, Gibson père is an anti-Semite who denies the Holocaust and says Jews want to establish "one world religion and one world government" – he vocally insists that they're conspiring with the Vatican and U.S. Federal Reserve. On the other side, Gibson is a child of a Hollywood film industry famously invented by Jews (in Neal Gabler's phrase) as "an empire of their own." While that empire has faded, it is the Jewish community that feels most threatened by the visceral feelings that could be unleashed by this cinematic Passion Play, which, in Gibson's conception, finds the essence of Christianity not in Jesus' teachings but in his blood sacrifice. Over centuries, Jews have suffered from the passions unleashed by the Passion.

From the beginning, the tug-of-war between Hutton and Hollywood has shaped our perception of The Passion of the Christ. No one doubts Gibson's sincerity or religious fervor – his movie's about "the Christ," after all, not just any Christ. Donning the mantle of the holy fool, he's done the supposedly uncommercial thing of aspiring to biblical "truth" and "realism," laying on endless scenes of excruciating goriness – Gibson's work has always shown a taste for ultraviolence and martyrdom – and making his characters speak in Aramaic and Latin, meaning the film must be subtitled. Yet even as he's vaunted himself for keeping his story "pure," he's been up to classic movie industry tricks, from casting handsome Jim Caviezel as Christ – you won't find Paul Giamatti playing the Redeemer in Mel's picture – to employing a marketing strategy so cynical Harvey Weinstein could only genuflect in admiration.

Gibson and his people got oodles of free publicity by pointedly excluding Jewish viewers from early screenings – playing Rich for a patsy in the process. Later, they claimed to have gotten an Ebert-style "thumbs-up" from Pope John Paul II, the very man Gibson and his father actually disdain as a false pontiff, a betrayer of the true faith. Gibson may genuinely want to spread the gospel, but he's not exactly heroic about it. For centuries, missionaries bravely ventured into foreign lands where merely expressing their beliefs could get them killed. Ever the Hollywood control freak, Mel didn't want to show his movie to anyone who might not be with the program. It's not for nothing that his company's called Icon Productions.

The PR strategy obviously worked. Not only has the movie sold millions of dollars' worth of advance tickets – Variety predicts it will turn a tidy profit – but it's gobbled up acres of free publicity. Much of the mainstream media seems to have been mau-maued into treating the film as a Serious Event. Tuesday's L.A. Times took the depressingly unprecedented step of running its (negative) review on the front page, as if the film were a big news story – "Extry, Extry, read all about it: Messiah nailed to cross. Jews under arrest." The movie also received schizophrenic reviews from mainstream critics like Time's Richard Corliss, who, after beginning with obligatory praise for Gibson's integrity and craftsmanship and blah-blah-blah, makes it clear that he dislikes the film and detests its unrelentingly sadistic delight in Christ's torture. "He takes a flaying and keeps on praying," writes Corliss, who credits The Passion of the Christ with inventing a new genre – "the religious splatter-art film."

Although the discussion leading up to the film's release focused on whether it might spark violence against Jews, an even larger story may be the ongoing clash between fundamentalism (in this case, Gibson's dangerously blinkered, old-school Catholicism) and the whole of our mass media, which is itself a kind of modern church. Because it's rooted in secularism, pluralism and materialism, this media culture prefers to deal with religion as lifestyle accessory (Buddhism is cool), social philosophy (anti-war priests), comforting spiritualism (Joan of Arcadia) or time-honored metaphor (Willem Dafoe as a Christ-figure in Platoon). Faced with hardcore faith in sacred mysteries, most mediacrats don't quite know what to do. This was obvious in Gibson's Primetime interview with Diane Sawyer, who acted as if she'd never before met a true believer. At one point she solemnly asked, "Do you believe that God wrote this film?" The question struck me as utterly clueless – but Mel paused to think about it.

And so, I suspect, would millions of other Americans. One reason the coverage of Gibson's movie has been so hysterical is that the high-powered editors and producers on the two coasts have finally begun to grasp just how thoroughly contemporary America has become steeped in religion. After all, it's one thing to know abstractly that 60 percent of Americans believe in the mumbo-jumbo of Creationism, quite another to have a born-again president address the issue of evolution by saying, "Religion has been around a lot longer than Darwin." It's one thing for that faceless 60 percent to think that the Bible is accurate history, quite another for a world-famous movie star to insist that the gospels are literally true. (By the way, do you think that 60 percent of modern Greeks believe that Zeus and Hera actually lived on Mount Olympus?)

For those of us who are devout nonbelievers, the international resurgence of "traditional" religion is dreadful news, whether it's murderous Islamist militants with an eye on celestial virgins, expansionist Israeli settlers who believe their God gave Jews the land, Hindu fundamentalists who burn Muslims to death in Indian religious riots or literal-minded Christians who believe their purchase on the truth overrides the Constitution (think of Judge Roy Moore and his 10 Commandments statue) or any concern about the polarizing anger their beliefs might engender. As one faithful to secular, tolerant democracy, I happily defend Gibson's right to make The Passion of the Christ and to show it wherever he can – he's entitled to his religious beliefs. But as one who thinks that Christianity is only one myth among many – "Christianism," my old colleague Michael Ventura liked to call it – I wonder whether Mel would do the same for me.

Article Link

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Left Festival

Yes, Lexington is developing an artistic/music scene! Tuesday there was the 1st annual Fat Tuesday costume parade and club parties. This weekend there is the Left Festival:

Sponsored by WRFL 88.1 FM and the Lexington Action Arts Collective
@ Artsplace 161 N. Mill St.
Lexington, KY
Sunday, February 29th Leap Day.
4pm sharp!-10pm
Left Festival Website

The Left Festivalexxxington is an event put together by WRFL 88.1FM to
showcase the best Lexington (and a few other areas) has to offer in
experimental music. This festival will definitely be a treat for those not
afraid to dig into the flourishing regional underground scene encompassing
noise, drone, psychedelic, free rock/jazz, performance art, and countless
other styles. A gathering for the musically open-minded.

Performances by:
AUK THEATER (Lexington- Entomologist Irene Moon's sampledelic noise theater
BURNING STAR CORE (Cincinatti, OH- Solo harvesting violin drones and
guttural vocal acrobatics)
WALTER CARSON (Lexington- guitar feedback drones)
EYES AND ARMS OF SMOKE (Lexington- Psychedelic folk waves of sound from
members of Hair Police)
IOVAE (Cincinatti, OH- Oscillator and shortwave radio third ear wall of
JACKIE-O MOTHERFUCKER (Portland, OR/Hudson, NY- Improvised rock/jazz/psych
LESLIE KEFFER (Athens, OH- subtle droning radio manipulations)
OWLCONER (Lexington- Folk theater/performance art)
PEZHEAD (Lexington- experimental live wire dub performance from Club Dub
PORCUPINE (Lexington- arty, noisy post-punk clatter)
PRC (Lexington- Free sound improv from Lexington Action Arts Collective main
man Ross Compton)
LESLIE Q. (Philadelphia, PA- outsider free folk from Temple of Bon Matin
N-TRON (Bowling Green, OH- homemade electronic sound experiments)
SWORD HEAVEN (Columbus, OH- brutal heavy metal/early industrial cavemen)
TAIWAN DETH (Nashville, TN- Free psychedelic electronic folk)
TEMPLE OF BON MATIN (Philadelphia, PA- Heavy Psychedelic free jazz rock)
THREE LEGGED RACE (Lexington- vibrating electronic drones)
TWO HEADED SNAKE (Nicholasville, KY- two piece doom metal, ex- Cadaver In
VIRGIN EYE BLOOD BROTHERS (Louisville, KY- heavy electronic soundscapes)
VON HEMMLING (Lexington- twangy, oddball pop/rock)

4:00PM- Porcupine
4:15PM- Two Headed Snake
4:30PM- Leslie Q
4:45PM- Walter Carson
5:00PM- PRC
5:15PM- Temple of Bon Matin
5:45PM- Leslie Keffer
6:00PM- Von Hemmling
6:15PM- Three Legged Race
6:30PM- N-Tron
6:45PM- Eyes and Arms of Smoke
7:00PM- Taiwan Deth
7:15PM- Iovae
7:30PM- Sword Heaven
7:45PM- Virgin Eye Blood Bros
8:00PM- Auk Theater
8:15PM- Burning Star Core
8:50PM- Jackie-O Motherfucker

*Pezhead and Owlconer will be performing multiple short sets between acts

The Left Festival

"The Cultural Logic of Ambient" by Neil Mulholland

So while listening to the CD mentioned in the post below I decided to browse a bit and catch up on musical culture and I came across this interesting essay at MetaMute Magazine

"The concept of ambient has come a long way since Brian Eno’s Music for Airports in 1978. With its successful seepage into the world of art and advertising, its ubiquity has resulted in it becoming a fully-grown cultural logic in its own right. As advertisements now appear everywhere, from bus tickets through to toilet viewrinals, Neil Mulholland takes us on a tour of the latest developments in ambient brandalism, ambicommerce and jambient forms of culture jamming"

Cultural Logic of Ambient

"Re:Constructions--Reflections on Humanity and Media After Tragedy

The events of 9/11/01 will be rehearsed, revised and re-written in the coming election year. Here is a great snapshot of that time and what people were feeling, thinking and writing in the aftermath of that tragic event:



David Gewirtzman and Jacqueline Murekatete tell stories about genocide to high-school students in New York, says Corey Kilgannon in the N.Y. Times (1/14/04). Gewirtzman, 75, survived the Holocaust by spending almost two years burrowed with eight family members under a pigsty on a Polish farm. Murekatete, 20, escaped being hacked to death by a rival tribe in Rwanda in 1994 when she was nine; her parents and six siblings did not. Now they travel together telling their stories. "We both went through a traumatic experience," Gewirtzman says, "but instead of remaining bitter and angry and seeking revenge, we both resolved to spend the anger in a positive manner, to prevent this from ever happening again."

Link to Article

"Thanks, George W!"

From: "Paul Schmelzer"
Subject: Thanks, George W!

Here's a great hack! The reelect-Bush camp has developed a rather sophisticated online tool the Faithful can use to send letters to the editor en masse. Just type in your zip code, click on which papers in your community you'd like it to go to (here in Minneapolis, there's a broad range, from the dailies and altweeklies, to the Jewish press, the African American paper and suburban weeklies), and send. Not a bad way to send progressive-themed emails to every paper in town, all on the Republicans' dime.

Read about it here: Letter Rip

Use the tool here:
Writing Tool

"Cultures of Technology" Virtual Conference, March 5th--Online and Free

Check it out:

Cultures of Technology

"Wedding Church and State" by Susan Jacoby

"Wedding Church And State" by Susan Jacoby's forthcoming Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism will be published in April by Metropolitan Books. The author is also director of the Center for Inquiry-Metro New York.
(published by Tom Paine)

In 1773, the Rev. Isaac Backus, the most prominent Baptist minister in New England, observed that when "church and state are separate, the effects are happy, and they do not at all interfere with each other: but where they have been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued."

If only that reverend manqué, President George W. Bush, had consulted the Reverend Backus' "An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty" before endorsing the mischief implicit in a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman and "prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever."

One of the most ironic aspects of the current assault on separation of church and state is that the apostles of religious correctness have managed to obscure the broad and tolerant origins of the godless Constitution, which was written and ratified by a coalition of Enlightenment rationalists and evangelical Christians equally fearful of entanglements between religion and government.

Like former President Jimmy Carter, a spiritual descendant of the dissenting 18th-century Baptists, the men of faith who helped frame the Constitution were confident enough of the strength of their religion that they did not feel obliged to enlist the aid of government to promote their personal beliefs. Carter, in a recent denunciation of a fundamentalist-inspired proposal to ban the word "evolution" from Georgia high school biology texts (why not add that to the federal Constitution too?), pointedly observed that "there is no need to teach that stars can fall out of the sky and land on a flat Earth in order to defend our religious faith."

What Bush and the Christian right want to do with the Federal Marriage Amendment is to defend their particular brand of religious faith. The amendment should not be considered merely an election-year "wedge issue," as Sen. John Kerry put it, or even primarily an attack on gay rights. The larger and more fundamental issue is that the amendment represents an all-out assault on separation of church and state.

In a perceptive letter to Congress, Americans United for Separation of Church and State pointed out that the change would violate the First Amendment's establishment clause by giving the government's "greatest imprimatur" to religions that prohibit gay marriage—while relegating to second-class status those religions that recognize same-sex marriage.

Fear of precisely that kind of religion discrimination is what impelled dissident 18th-century evangelicals to support a secular constitution. Backus would no doubt have expelled a same-sex couple from his congregation—or worse—but he would not have enlisted the government to help him with what he saw as his religious duty.

Fortunately, American history provides hope that cooler heads will prevail over Bush's election-year mischief. In the 1960s, a drive for a constitutional amendment to overrule the Supreme Court and authorize school prayer lost steam after religious conservatives reacted with initial fury to the 1962 Engel v. Vitale decision. A similar fate awaited amendments to outlaw abortion in the 1970s.

During the Civil War, a group of prominent Protestant ministers proposed a constitutional amendment that would have completely undermined the republic's secular foundations by replacing "We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union... " with a preamble stating, "Recognizing Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, and acknowledging the Lord Jesus Christ as the Governor among the nations, His revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government... "

Abraham Lincoln, observing that "the work of amending the Constitution should never be done hastily," promised to "take such actions upon it as my responsibility to my Maker and our country demands." One of the canniest politicians ever to occupy the White House, Lincoln was in no mood to divide the country along religious lines during a war that had already pitted brother against brother. His action, and that of Congress, was to take no action at all.

One can only hope that today's lawmakers will heed the example of their political predecessors, both believers and secularists, who understood that religious interference with government is as pernicious as government interference with religion.

Editor's Note: This article is adapted from Susan Jacoby's forthcoming book, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism to be published in April by Metropolitan Books.

Article Link

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

"State stance on evolution a devolution into stupidity"

"State stance on evolution a devolution into stupidity"
An Atlantic Journal Constitution Editorial

Ever try to listen to someone talk at a party but find yourself unable to focus because they have spinach stuck in their teeth?

After describing evolution as a "controversial buzzword" and striking the term from Georgia's proposed curriculum, state School Superintendent Kathy Cox has spinach caught in her teeth. And nobody is going to hear another word she has to say about the new k-12 curriculum until she cleans it up. To do so, Cox has to stop acting like a politician and start acting like an educator.

The state was hanging its hopes for academic improvement on its long-awaited overhaul of the current curriculum that's been condemned as "a mile wide and an inch deep." Cox hired nationally renowned education experts, including Diane Ravitch and James Rutherford, and assembled a panel of teachers.

Now, by eliminating any mention of evolution from the resulting product, Cox has cast the integrity and the intelligence of the process in doubt and raised questions about her ability to provide the education leadership necessary to prepare Georgia students for an information economy.

As a former teacher in a high-performing district, Cox would never have permitted politics to compromise her McIntosh High School social studies class. Had she tried, the parents of Fayette County would have confiscated her chalk and sent her packing.

Fayette parents, like parents everywhere, want their children to be well educated. They want them enrolled in Advanced-Placement Biology, which, according to the College Board's Web site, requires students to devote 25 percent of their time to "heredity and evolution." They want them to get into Georgia Tech and Duke, and they want them to win jobs at the high-tech firms that the governor says are critical to Georgia's economic future.

Well, those high-tech firms are now looking toward North Carolina after Cox confirmed every stereotype about Southern ignorance with her explanation of why Georgia ought to teach evolutionary science without using the e-word itself. Instead, Cox advocates replacing "evolution" with "biological changes over time."

"The unfortunate truth is that evolution has become a controversial buzzword that could prevent some from reading the proposed biology curriculum comprehensive document with multiple scientific models woven throughout," says Cox.

Cox's irrational position is a sop to a handful of religious hard-liners who believe that schools should teach creationism, a belief born of faith rather than science. If faith replaces science as the standard in Georgia's classrooms, can we expect the banishment of globes from geography classes to placate the flat-Earth folks? Would alchemy be given equal time with chemistry? That seems to be the direction we're headed: backward.

Article Link

"W's Reality Gap" by Mark Green

"W's Reality Gap"
By Mark Green, AlterNet
February 20, 2004

George W. Bush is different, very different. Other presidents have misled, deceived, even lied. When Ike was asked his worst mistake, he candidly said, "The lie we told [about the U-2]." LBJ and the Gulf of Tonkin were examples of both deception and self-deception. The problem today is not simply that "Bush is a liar." While only he knows whether he's intentionally saying untrue things, it is a provable fact that he says untrue things, again and again, on issues large and small, day in and day out. The problem is not "16 words" in last year's State of the Union but 160,000 words on stem cells, global warming, the "death tax," the Iraq-9/11 connection and the Saddam-al Qaeda connection, the rise of deficits, cuts to Americorps, the air in downtown Manhattan after 9/11. On and on. It is beyond controversy that W "has such a high regard for the truth," as Lincoln said of a rival, "that he uses it sparingly."

Why this penchant for falsehoods?

First, George W. Bush begins any policy consideration with three fundamental questions: What does the religious right want? What does big business want? What do the neo-conservatives want? If he has stood up to any of these core supporters in the past three years, examples don't come readily to mind. Convinced by political advisor Karl Rove that the way to a second term is to "activate the base," his policy process is more catechismic than empiric – instead of facts leading to conclusions, conclusions lead to "facts."

Second, he is openly uninterested in learning and reading – the Bushes "aren't serious, studious readers" he has said, also admitting that he now reads headlines, not articles. The point is not that he's stupid, only that he knew less about policy and the world as a presidential candidate than the average graduate student in government. Lacking Eisenhower's worldliness or JFK's intellect, however, Bush is prone to grab onto a politically useful intellectual framework like a life preserver and then not let go – whether it's Myron Magnet's sour interpretation of the 60s in "The Dream and the Nightmare" or Paul Wolfowitz's Pollyannaish analysis of the likely consequences of an American invasion of Iraq.

The result: the most radical, messianic and misleading presidency of modern times. Frankly, no one else comes close. It has gotten to the point that President Bush appears to believe that he can do almost anything if he says the opposite: hence "no child left behind," "clean skies law," "healthy forests," and "love the poor" are mantras repeated in the hope that he can bend reality to his will. Arthur Miller calls it "the power of audacity."

Bush himself in the past has aptly called the first Tuesday in November "Reality Day" because talk ends when there's a real result. So what happens on presidential "reality days" when the results are the opposite of his wishful assertions – when we find neither WMD nor cheering crowds in Iraq, when a surplus of $5 trillion becomes a deficit of $4 trillion, when there are so few stem cell lines for scientific research that scientists leave for London, when the ice caps melt due to global warming, when a Supreme Court of largely Republican appointees rules that affirmative action is not "quotas" but desirable – and when the populations of even our allies regard us as a "bungling bully" (in the phrase of the Financial Times).

When Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. were shown how their pie-in-the-sky economics were producing ruinous deficits, they enacted tax hikes to begin to correct the economy. Not "W". Hearing only applause as he shuttles between his financial base to military bases – W retreats into messianic incompetence. "We don't second guess out of the White House," he announces, confusing stubbornness for strength; and he tells the G-8 leaders in 2001, "Look, I know what I believe and what I believe is right."

Whenever President Bush is now confronted with an unacceptable reality, he either changes the subject – is steroid use really more important than the environment? – or expresses confidence in his certainty. "I'm absolutely confident that..." he'll say, as if the issue is his determination rather than his conclusion. One is reminded of Igor in Young Frankenstein, who when asked about the foot-high hump on his back blithely answers, "What hump?"

This is not just a credibility gap but a reality gap. An empirically challenged and uninformed leader in denial and governing on a (right) wing and a prayer, however, is a big problem. What if Bush were president during the missiles of October – would he have been able to avoid a nuclear war? That he squandered a quarter trillion dollars and 4,000 American casualties attacking Iraq because al Qaeda in Afghanistan attacked us is not encouraging.

Just when they're needed, the usual mechanisms to bring a president to his senses are badly malfunctioning. A Congress of the same party now almost never holds adversarial hearings or holds him accountable, unlike how the Republican Congress treated Clinton. And with noteworthy exceptions, most of the media essentially gave him a pass on his eyebrow-raising military and business histories. The early and continuing storyline was that he was a charming guy who made up funny names for reporters and was no pompous prevaricator like his 2000 opponent. It was strange that, until the Niger-uranium fabrication, the media wrote far more about the spectacular deceptions of Jayson Blair than the more consequential deceptions of George W. Bush.

Of course, adding to his immunity is the understandable impulse to rally around a president during a crisis – a crisis the president regularly stokes as in his recent "State of Baghdad address" to the Congress. Or as commentator E.J. Dionne put it, W's slogan might as well be "the only thing we have to fear is the loss of fear itself."

So it comes down to November 2. If the public rewards W with a second term – and with no re-election contest to impose any possible moderating influence – then W's far-right impulses will be vindicated and corroborated. On that "reality day," which will prevail – Bush's certainty or our reality?

Mark Green, president of the New Democracy Project, is the author, with Eric Alterman, of The Book On Bush: How George W. (Mis)leads America (Viking 2004).

Article Link

Writing About the Representation of Place in Film

I would appreciate some suggestions of good films/directors, particular genres, books/essays, websites, or new themes to add to the list. I'm preparing this for teaching in the fall:

Writing About the Representation of Place in Films
ENG 101—Fall 2004
Instructor: Michael Benton

A) In his essay, “Manufacturing the Ghetto: Anti-urbanism and the Spatialization of Race,” Michael Bennett argues that anti-urban ideology ”has underwritten the resegregation of the United States” and that this
ideology “is evident in popular culture” (172). Essentially, Bennett believes that the way inner city environments are portrayed and described in popular culture effects how people view both the place and the people who inhabit that place. For this option, you may choose to analyze a film of your choice to explore Bennett’s statement. You might want to study a movie like the recently released Training Day. Study your film carefully-what images are you given of inner cities? Who is portrayed as living there? How are these individuals described? Think about whether or not you agree with Bennett. Then, make an argument about the way inner cities are portrayed in your chosen film, making sure to use specific examples of scenes and dialogue from the film to back up what you say. Perhaps you might want to further explore Mike Davis’ ideas in his chapter “Fortress, Los Angeles” about the militarization of urban space and his statement that ”democratic space is virtually extinct” (292). You might also find this in
movies like Gangs of New York, Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Boyz in the Hood, Colors, King of New York, Slam ...

B) On the other hand you might want to explore the cinematic depictions of rural life (positive or negative). Older movies like Gone With the Wind, East of Eden, and The Grapes of Wrath are powerful portrayals of the importance of home, family, and place (farm/land). Likewise newer movies such as A River Runs Through It, Legends of the Fall, The Deer Humter, Sweet Home Alabama, Field of Dreams, Deliverance, and so on, are also good examples.

C) Horror movies are always playing with the sense of place and the horror of its safety being invaded by foreign entities. Think of the movie Jaws where the monstrous shark invades the serene beaches of vacationing tourists. Or the Alientrilogy in which the monster always threatens the safety of a sealed environment (Ships, Prisons, etc...), the Predator series is also a good example of this trend. How about the various haunted house movies in which the sanctity and safety of the home is threatened by a monstrous force. There is also a whole tradition of horror movies in which humans are pitted against nature (there is a low-budget movie Trees about killer redwood trees).

D) You could explore cinematic depictions of genderized spaces ... the ways in which women and men use space differently. Right now two older movies come to mind: Rock Hudson’s Pillow Talk which depicts the ‘playboy’ pad as a manufactured environment of seduction and Breakfast at Tifanny’s which depicts the environment of a young, single girl. Or the struggles to break down strict place-based gender roles, a good recent example would be Bend It Like Beckham or But I’m a Cheerleader. There are many newer movies that also depict the restrictions, taboos and rules of genderized places.

E) Think of the depictions of the ‘politics of place’ in the work environment. Maid in Manhattan, Office Space, Nine to Five, Bread and Roses, The Good Girl, Clockwatchers, M.A.S.H. ...

F) Or fantastic, futurist or utopian/dystopian places. Examples Matrix, Fight Club, What Dreams May Come, Little Mermaid, Pochahontas, Lord of the Rings, Existenz, Videodrome, Vanilla Sky, Metropolis, Contact, Jacob’s Ladder ... You may have to be a little more creative with your
interpretation of place in this grouping ...

G) Or you could explore institutional place ... movies about prisons American Me, The Shawshank Redemption, Cool Hand Luke, Papillon ... about schools Breakfast Club, Higher Learning, School Daze, I87, The Substitute, The Principal... about hospitals/asylums One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest,
Girl Interrupted, But I’m a Cheerleader ... military boot camps Full Metal Jacket ... if you choose this theme talk to me about Michel Foucault’s theory of the “Panopticon” (briefly mentioned in both Mike Davis’ and Susan Willis’ essays).

H) Military Invasion/Control of Place: Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, The Mission, In The Fields of the Lord, Bridge on the River Kwai, U-571, and various other movies about imperial expansion and colonial occupation,

I) Foreign Places and the Alien Other: Casablanca, The Piano, The Ghost and the Darkness

J) Class/Labor and Place: Bread and Roses, Matewan, Clockwatchers … many more films.

K) Places that are occupied/appropriated by the outcasts of society. Requiem for a Dream, My Own Private Idaho, many more possibilities (including a some of the films already listed above) ...

L) Suburbia?Over the Edge, American Beauty, Ghost World

M) Family and the Home: Royal Tennenbaums, Soul Food, etc…

Southern Roots: Autobiography and Heritage

The Junkyard Theory

To Own the Bad Blood

Huge Collection of Student Writings on Rhetoric of Place

Film and the Impact of “Place” on Social Class and Personal Identity

The Politics of Family Photography

Jeff Malkin's Favorite New Shirt

My friend Jeff sent this to me, I guess no one told him that for Lent you are supposed to make a sacrifice that is difficult for you...

The Shirt

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

"The Organization Kid" by David Brooks

(published by The Atlantic)

A few months ago I went to Princeton University to see what the young people who are going to be running our country in a few decades are like. Faculty members gave me the names of a few dozen articulate students, and I sent them e-mails, inviting them out to lunch or dinner in small groups. I would go to sleep in my hotel room at around midnight each night, and when I awoke, my mailbox would be full of replies—sent at 1:15 a.m., 2:59 a.m., 3:23 a.m.

In our conversations I would ask the students when they got around to sleeping. One senior told me that she went to bed around two and woke up each morning at seven; she could afford that much rest because she had learned to supplement her full day of work by studying in her sleep. As she was falling asleep she would recite a math problem or a paper topic to herself; she would then sometimes dream about it, and when she woke up, the problem might be solved. I asked several students to describe their daily schedules, and their replies sounded like a session of Future Workaholics of America: crew practice at dawn, classes in the morning, resident-adviser duty, lunch, study groups, classes in the afternoon, tutoring disadvantaged kids in Trenton, a cappella practice, dinner, study, science lab, prayer session, hit the StairMaster, study a few hours more. One young man told me that he had to schedule appointment times for chatting with his friends. I mentioned this to other groups, and usually one or two people would volunteer that they did the same thing. "I just had an appointment with my best friend at seven this morning," one woman said. "Or else you lose touch."


The Next Ruling Class?
What makes today's students tick? And how did they get this way? Join David Brooks for a special forum on this article, in Post & Riposte. There are a lot of things these future leaders no longer have time for. I was on campus at the height of the election season, and I saw not even one Bush or Gore poster. I asked around about this and was told that most students have no time to read newspapers, follow national politics, or get involved in crusades. One senior told me she had subscribed to The New York Times once, but the papers had just piled up unread in her dorm room. "It's a basic question of hours in the day," a student journalist told me. "People are too busy to get involved in larger issues. When I think of all that I have to keep up with, I'm relieved there are no bigger compelling causes." Even the biological necessities get squeezed out. I was amazed to learn how little dating goes on. Students go out in groups, and there is certainly a fair bit of partying on campus, but as one told me, "People don't have time or energy to put into real relationships." Sometimes they'll have close friendships and "friendships with privileges" (meaning with sex), but often they don't get serious until they are a few years out of college and meet again at a reunion—after their careers are on track and they can begin to spare the time.

I went to lunch with one young man in a student dining room that by 1:10 had emptied out, as students hustled back to the library and their classes. I mentioned that when I went to college, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, we often spent two or three hours around the table, shooting the breeze and arguing about things. He admitted that there was little discussion about intellectual matters outside class. "Most students don't like that that's the case," he told me, "but it is the case." So he and a bunch of his friends had formed a discussion group called Paidea, which meets regularly with a faculty guest to talk about such topics as millennialism, postmodernism, and Byzantine music. If discussion can be scheduled, it can be done.

The students were lively conversationalists on just about any topic—except moral argument and character-building, about which more below. But when I asked a group of them if they ever felt like workaholics, their faces lit up and they all started talking at once. One, a student-government officer, said, "Sometimes we feel like we're just tools for processing information. That's what we call ourselves—power tools. And we call these our tool bags." He held up his satchel. The other students laughed, and one exclaimed, "You're giving away all our secrets."

Rest of the Essay

Young Americans At High Risk of STDs: Emphasis on Abstinence Policy One of the Problems

(Posted at Yahoo)

"Half of Young Americans to Get Sex Disease"
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Half of all young Americans will get a sexually transmitted disease by the age of 25, perhaps because they are ignorant about protection or embarrassed to ask for it, according to several reports issued on Tuesday. The reports, publicized by two nonprofit sexual and youth health groups, said there were 9 million new cases of STD among teens and young adults aged 15 to 24 in 2000.

They said the U.S. government's policy of preferring abstinence-only education would only increase those rates. "For the 27 million young Americans under the age of 25 who have had sex, the stakes are simply too high to talk only about abstinence," James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, said in a statement.

"Given the prevalence of STDs, young people need all the facts -- including medically accurate information on condoms." The reports, released jointly by Advocates for Youth -- a nonprofit group advocating for sex education, and the sexual health-oriented Alan Guttmacher Institute, pull together information from several different publications.

They include a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in the latest issue of the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, and a University of North Carolina report based on interviews with teens and young adults. "Approximately 18.9 million new cases of STD occurred in 2000, of which 9.1 million (48 percent) were among persons aged 15 to 24," the CDC report reads.

It said three diseases -- human papillomavirus or genital wart virus, a parasitic infection called trichomoniasis and chlamydia -- accounted for 88 percent of all new cases of STDs in 15- to 24-year-olds. Wart virus is the major cause of cervical cancer while chlamydia can cause infertility.


The CDC report did not comment on potential causes, but the Guttmacher Institute did.

"It is not surprising that teens and young adults contract a disproportionate number of infections," said Guttmacher's Sharon Camp. "Most young people are sexually active, and many are ill equipped to prevent STDs or seek testing and treatment." She said sex education that includes information on condoms is vital to preventing STDs.

"Although abstaining from sexual activity is guaranteed to prevent STDs, some adolescents and virtually all young adults will eventually choose to have sex," Camp said. "Before they do, they need realistic sex education that teaches them how to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies. It is essential to have medically accurate information about condoms and other contraceptive methods, and guidance on how to access appropriate prevention, testing and treatment services."

Teens 15 and older who have had sex have the highest STD rates of any age group in the country, and the United States has the highest STD rate of any industrialized country, according to CDC and World Health Organization figures.

The University of North Carolina report attacked federal policies that encourage abstinence-only education. "Abstinence is, of course, the only 100 percent effective prevention strategy," Shawn Carney, a 17-year-old member of the UNC youth panel, said in a statement. "But with 70 percent of young people having sex by the age of 18, we need to hear about more than abstinence. We need to know how to prevent STDs when we do have sex later in life."

Article Link

University of North Carolina Report

Guttmacher Report

Estimated Medical Costs of STDs

Information on Protection Against STDs

"The Solitude of Self" by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton


When Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) resigned as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association on January 18, 1892, she presented "The Solitude of Self," a speech she considered "the best thing I have ever written." According to her diary, she also presented the speech to the United States House Committee on the Judiciary on January 18 and to the United States Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage on January 20. Reaction to the speech was highly favorable, both within and outside the woman suffrage movement. By order of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 10,000 copies were reprinted from the Congressional Record for distribution throughout the country.

Although Stanton later gave occasional speeches, "The Solitude of Self" was her crowning achievement. Rhetorical critic Karlyn Kohrs Campbell writes that the speech "stands as a rhetorical masterpiece because it explores the values underlying natural rights philosophy, because it responds creatively to the problems faced by social movements as their arguments become familiar to audiences, and because it still has the capacity to speak to contemporary audiences" (19). Campbell adds that "The Solitude of Self" is also "the most finished statement of the humanistic ideology underlying feminism."

By all accounts, Stanton's "The Solitude of Self" was solely the work of her own mind and pen. Anthony called the speech "the strongest and most unanswerable argument and appeal ever made . . . for the full freedom and franchise of women." The Woman's Journal published the speech on January 23, 1892, and is the source for the text below.

Sources: Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, compiler, Man Cannot Speak for Her: Key Texts of the Early Feminists, Vol. II (New York: Praeger, 1989); Elisabeth Griffith, In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984); Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eighty Years and More (1815-1897): Reminiscences of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1898): Theodore Stanton and Harriet Stanton Blatch, eds. Elizabeth Cady Stanton as Revealed in Her Letters, Diary and Reminiscences, 2 vols. (New York: Harper and Bros., 1922).

The Solitude of Self

"Literacy, Culture and Power" by Jonothan Neeland

"To be fully literate means to be able to choose and use a wide variety of dialects and registers, effectively and appropriately, according to the functions and purposes of the private and public contexts that we find ourselves in." (adapted from Gordon Wells)

In this definition ... I understand dialect to refer to the ‘way that we speak’, which is often determined by our position in the social structure. In other words, we expect dialect to be linked to class, ethnicity or other sub-cultural variables. Register I understand to be determined by function and audience —we say things in different ways according to our purpose and the nature of the social activity we are engaged in. The emphasis on choosing and using is a reminder that the more dialects and registers that we have access to, the more literate and therefore the more powerful we can be in the world. Effectively and appropriately reminds us that our choices are often constrained by cultural rules and codes that determine which registers and dialects are appropriate in different modes of communication and cultural locations. Private and public is an affirmation of the importance of preparing our students to be powerful in public arenas as well as in their intimate moments of loving and sharing within families and local communities. And contexts, of course, reminds us that language is always situational and can in my opinion only be acquired and developed situationally.

Rest of the Speech

"Seeing Ear Theatre"

The Sci Fi Channel hosts a superb collection of audio productions of the leading science fiction and fantasy authors. Why hasn't anyone told me about this?

The site includes productions of:

Neil Gaiman's "Snow Glass Apples" (starring Bebe Neuwirth)
Octavia Butler's "Kindred" (starring Alfre Woodard, Lyn Whitfield and Ruby Dee)
J. Michael Straczynski's "City of Dreams" (starring Steve Buscemi)
Tales From the Crypt's "By the Fright of the Silvery Moon" (starring John Ritter)

Other productions include the works of H.G. Wells, Robert Olen Butler, Robert Bloch, Lucius Shepard, Connie Willis, James Morrow, Terry Bisson, Lewis Carroll, Franz Kafka, Charles Dickens, Harlan Ellison, Edgar Allan Poe and many more.

Seeing Ear Theatre

Original Playhouse

Tales From the Crypt

City of Dreams

The Mutual Fund Scandal

"The Mutual Fund Scandal: A Gauntlet of Fraud"
Report prepared by Randall Dodd, et al., for FINANCIAL POLICY FORUM/ DERIVATIVES STUDY CENTER
Linked at: Moving Ideas

This updated Special Policy Brief offers an estimate of the cost of mutual fund fraud to the average American working family. It also identifies eight types of fraud or wrong-doing that contributed to losses to mutual fund investors. The brief also provides an updated list, although not complete, of the many financial institutions that have been identified with the scandal. Lastly, it lists the governing statutes in U.S. law and briefly describes two of the most important legislative measures designed to address the biggest scandal to hit mutual funds.

Mutual Fund Scandal Reports

A Living, Breathing Hoax: An Interview with Peter Carey

"A Living, Breathing Hoax: An Interview with Peter Carey" by Jessica Murphy
Published by The Atlantic

Peter Carey has likened his new novel, My Life as a Fake, to "a jazz improvisation that starts with a known melody and fucks with it." The known melody is Australia's infamous Ern Malley literary hoax. In 1944, two anti-modernist poets duped the editor of Angry Penguins, an avant-garde literary magazine, into publishing the work of a poet who did not exist. They named this poet Ern Malley, riddled his poetry with lines stolen from Shakespeare, from a dictionary of quotations, and from a report on mosquitos, among other sources, killed him off with Grave's disease, and had his "sister" discover and submit his work posthumously. The editor fell for it. He published the poems and lauded Malley's genius.

As if the scandal did not bring enough ridicule to the editor, he was also later charged and brought to trial for publishing lines "suggestive of indecency." The prosecutor's farcical and much-misguided interrogation regarding the line "part of me remains, wench, Boult-upright" is one of the only pieces of the true story that remains in My Life as a Fake.

This is where Peter Carey's improvisation begins, as he draws us into the wild, fantastical tale of an Ern Malley—here named Bob McCorkle—who may actually have come to life. An impossible scenario, yet one that Carey's story calls on the reader to consider.

The date is 1972. The setting, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Sarah Wode-Douglass, the editor of a British literary magazine and a reluctant tourist, notices an old man with ulcers on his legs, reading Rilke in a bike shop. Intrigued, she gives him a copy of her magazine, which opens the door for him to come to her day after day in his tattered suit, to tell her his story.

His name is Christopher Chubb. He is an Australian poet, yet the only memorable poetry he wrote was as his creation Bob McCorkle. Like Dr. Frankenstein, Chubb has become wildly, obsessively controlled and haunted by what he has made—the monster even kidnaps his child—and Chubb is constantly coming up against "the blasphemous possibility that he had, with his own pen, created blood and bone and a beating heart." Like Sarah, the reader must continually decide who and what to believe.

As My Life as a Fake attests, Peter Carey is an author who is not afraid to take risks in his storytelling, nor does he shy away from some of the disturbing aspects of Australia's colonial past. Most recently, in his Booker prize-winning True History of the Kelly Gang—a book that some critics have compared to an American Western—Carey chronicled the life and adventures of Ned Kelly, Australia's Robin Hood, in his ultimately doomed crusade against unscrupulous colonial authorities and landowners. In Jack Maggs, we follow the protagonist home to England after years of banishment as a convict in Australia. And in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, Carey sets the story in an imaginary colony dominated by an overbearing world power. If his recent fiction is any indication of what's to come, one can't help but imagine Carey heading back to the library—back to the Australian history books—in order that he might continue to discover stories and then delve into their "unwritten dark."

Peter Carey is the author of seven previous novels and a collection of short stories. He won the Booker Prize for Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang. His other honors include the Commonwealth Prize and the Miles Franklin Award. He was born in Australia and now lives in New York City.

Peter Carey Interview

"Media Trance" by Taylor Stoehr

(courtesy of Chris Horan, originally published at Adbusters)

To a large degree society has already reached this point. The general attitude towards work and leisure reflects the same habit of mind: life is divided into the dull routines of jobs and the pleasures of time off, comforts, and entertainments that make up for the dreary eight-hour day. Whatever the actual experience, this is the commonplace about it, and the split also appears within each realm, so that people bring their entertainment to work and engage in drudgery at home, using the devices of divided attention we have been examining.

Work that feels directly meaningful and worthwhile is hard to come by. At the same time, people are threatened by gigantic social tides -- wars, depressions and unemployment, political and cultural upheavals of surprising suddenness and vehemence. Meanwhile the side effects and backwash of the organized system never let up. People must get used to noise, noxious fumes, garbage, and other random violations of their living space. Petty demands, minor breakdowns, and endless negotiations characterize our dealings with the monstrous institutions that have taken the place of mutual aid and local association.

In such an environment of frustration and overload, lacking most of the traditional, stabilizing virtues such as patience, frugality, temperance, prudence, loyalty, and also without communally confirmed structures of aspiration and belief, the media provide a semblance of continuity and significance. They drown out much of the static of urban life, and integrate the rest into a picture of reality that is safely understood and managed by competent authorities. But since these expedients have little or no practical resonance in our lives, it is hard to really believe in them. An underlying sense of exposure and powerlessness persists, keeping us anxious for more reassurance and soothing distractions. We fear our own private thoughts, which lead either to feelings of guilt and irresponsibility or to cynicism and despair. It is less disturbing to give over these brooding daydreams to socially sanctioned fantasies of violent anger, competitive victory, sexual power, and instant gratification.

The awareness that a whole population is indulging the same fantasies, in millions of private spaces, disguises loneliness. One joins in vicariously, while protected from actual contact with threatening strangers or frightening demands. Enjoy yourself! You deserve it! as the billboards now tell us over and over.

Viewed from this perspective, as a method of coping with powerlessness, boredom, and a meaningless existence, the media function very like drugs and alcohol, whether or not one thinks of them as addictive. As with substance abuse, the kicks and highs are there, but only intermittently and precariously; for the most part it is all "tuning out," pushing the problems of life into the background, and directing attention somewhere else, in "as if" experiences that temporarily seem like the real thing. The current fuss over virtual reality represents a move of the media towards such a condition of physical transformation, without the drugs or alcohol.

Read the Entire Article

Nu-Topia: Welcome Citizen-Consumer

Welcome to the The Order Info-tech site.

The Order's motto is 'Let Them Sleep Safely in Their Beds', its mission statement is 'The
Preservation of NuTopia'. This is our sole duty. We strive to maintain a framework within
which Government, Commerce, and Citizenry (that's you) can continue to thrive.

We maintain the Barriers, guard against the possibility of Incursion from the Without, and
seek to guide Government, Commerce, and Citizenry to ensure that decisions, products,
or actions do not imperil the safety of our world. We have done this for five centuries,
through a combination of vigilance, proactive intervention, post event rectification, mass
observation and mass education.

And that, Citizen Consumer, is all you need to know. Your children are safe in our hands... so
sleep tight!

Nutopian Society

Monday, February 23, 2004

"Minorities vs. Majorities" by Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays
(Third revised edition, New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1917)
Reprinted at The Emma Goldman Papers website.


IF I WERE to give a summary of the tendency of our times, I would say, Quantity. The multitude, the mass spirit, dominates everywhere, destroying quality. Our entire life--production, politics, and education--rests on quantity, on numbers. The worker who once took pride in the thoroughness and quality of his work, has been replaced by brainless, incompetent automatons, who turn out enormous quantities of things, valueless to themselves, and generally injurious to the rest of mankind. Thus quantity, instead of adding to life's comforts and peace, has merely increased man's burden.

In politics, naught but quantity counts. In proportion to its increase, however, principles, ideals, justice, and uprightness are completely swamped by the array of numbers. In the struggle for supremacy the various political parties outdo each other in trickery, deceit, cunning, and shady machinations, confident that the one who succeeds is sure to be hailed by the majority as the victor. That is the only god,--Success. As to what expense, what terrible cost to character, is of no moment. We have not far to go in search of proof to verify this sad fact.

Never before did the corruption, the complete rottenness of our government stand so thoroughly exposed; never before were the American people brought face to face with the Judas nature of that political body, which has claimed for years to be absolutely beyond reproach, as the mainstay of our institutions, the true protector of the rights and liberties of the people.

Yet when the crimes of that party became so brazen that even the blind could see them, it needed but to muster up its minions, and its supremacy was assured. Thus the very victims, duped, betrayed, outraged a hundred times, decided, not against, but in favor of the victor. Bewildered, the few asked how could the majority betray the traditions of American liberty? Where was its judgment, its reasoning capacity? That is just it, the majority cannot reason; it has no judgment. Lacking utterly in originality and moral courage, the majority has always placed its destiny in the hands of others. Incapable of standing responsibilities, it has followed its leaders even unto destruction. Dr. Stockman was right: "The most dangerous enemies of truth and justice in our midst are the compact majorities, the damned compact majority." Without ambition or initiative, the compact mass hates nothing so much as innovation. It has always opposed, condemned, and hounded the innovator, the pioneer of a new truth.

The oft repeated slogan of our time is, among all politicians, the Socialists included, that ours is an era of individualism, of the minority. Only those who do not probe beneath the surface might be led to entertain this view. Have not the few accumulated the wealth of the world? Are they not the masters, the absolute kings of the situation? Their success, however, is due not to individualism, but to the inertia, the cravenness, the utter submission of the mass. The latter wants but to be dominated, to be led, to be coerced. As to individualism, at no time in human history did it have less chance of expression, less opportunity to assert itself in a normal, healthy manner.

The individual educator imbued with honesty of purpose, the artist or writer of original ideas, the independent scientist or explorer, the non-compromising pioneers of social changes are daily pushed to the wall by men whose learning and creative ability have become decrepit with age.

Educators of Ferrer's type are nowhere tolerated, while the dietitians of predigested food, la Professors Eliot and Butler, are the successful perpetuators of an age of nonentities, of automatons. In the literary and dramatic world, the Humphrey Wards and Clyde Fitches are the idols of the mass, while but few know or appreciate the beauty and genius of an Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman; an Ibsen, a Hauptmann, a Butler Yeats, or a Stephen Phillips. They are like solitary stars, far beyond the horizon of the multitude.

Publishers, theatrical managers, and critics ask not for the quality inherent in creative art, but will it meet with a good sale, will it suit the palate of the people? Alas, this palate is like a dumping ground; it relishes anything that needs no mental mastication. As a result, the mediocre, the ordinary, the commonplace represents the chief literary output.

Need I say that in art we are confronted with the same sad facts? One has but to inspect our parks and thoroughfares to realize the hideousness and vulgarity of the art manufacture. Certainly, none but a majority taste would tolerate such an outrage on art. False in conception and barbarous in execution, the statuary that infests American cities has as much relation to true art, as a totem to a Michael Angelo. Yet that is the only art that succeeds. The true artistic genius, who will not cater to accepted notions, who exercises originality, and strives to be true to life, leads an obscure and wretched existence. His work may some day become the fad of the mob, but not until his heart's blood had been exhausted; not until the pathfinder has ceased to be, and a throng of an idealles and visionless mob has done to death the heritage of the master.

It is said that the artist of today cannot create because Prometheuslike he is bound to the rock of economic necessity. This, however, is true of art in all ages. Michael Angelo was dependent on his patron saint, no less than the sculptor or painter of today, except that the art connoisseurs of those days were far away from the madding crowd. They felt honored to be permitted to worship at the shrine of the master.

The art protector of our time knows but one criterion, one value,--the dollar. He is not concerned about the quality of any great work, but in the quantity of dollars his purchase implies. Thus the financier in Mirbeau's Les Affaires sont les Affaires points to some blurred arrangement in colors, saying: "See how great it is; it cost 50,000 francs." Just like our own parvenus. The fabulous figures paid for their great art discoveries must make up for the poverty of their taste.

The most unpardonable sin in society is independence of thought. That this should be so terribly apparent in a country whose symbol is democracy, is very significant of the tremendous power of the majority.

Wendell Phillips said fifty years ago: "In our country of absolute, democratic equality, public opinion is not only omnipotent, it is omnipresent. There is no refuge from its tyranny, there is no hiding from its reach, and the result is that if you take the old Greek lantern and go about to seek among a hundred, you will not find a single American who has not, or who does not fancy at least he has, something to gain or lose in his ambition, his social life, or business, from the good opinion and the votes of those around him. And the consequence is that instead of being a mass of individuals, each one fearlessly blurting out his own conviction, as a nation compared to other nations we are a mass of cowards. More than any other people we are afraid of each other." Evidently we have not advanced very far from the condition that confronted Wendell Phillips.

Today, as then, public opinion is the omnipresent tyrant; today, as then, the majority represents a mass of cowards, willing to accept him who mirrors its own soul and mind poverty. That accounts for the unprecedented rise of a man like Roosevelt. He embodies the very worst element of mob psychology. A politician, he knows that the majority cares little for ideals or integrity. What it craves is display. It matters not whether that be a dog show, a prize fight, the lynching of a "nigger," the rounding up of some petty offender, the marriage exposition of an heiress, or the acrobatic stunts of an ex-president. The more hideous the mental contortions, the greater the delight and bravos of the mass. Thus, poor in ideals and vulgar of soul, Roosevelt continues to be the man of the hour.

On the other hand, men towering high above such political pygmies, men of refinement, of culture, of ability, are jeered into silence as mollycoddles. It is absurd to claim that ours is the era of individualism. Ours is merely a more poignant repetition of the phenomenon of all history: every effort for progress, for enlightenment, for science, for religious, political, and economic liberty, emanates from the minority, and not from the mass. Today, as ever, the few are misunderstood, hounded, imprisoned, tortured, and killed.

The principle of brotherhood expounded by the agitator of Nazareth preserved the germ of life, of truth and justice, so long as it was the beacon light of the few. The moment the majority seized upon it, that great principle became a shibboleth and harbinger of blood and fire, spreading suffering and disaster. The attack on the omnipotence of Rome, led by the colossal figures of Huss, Calvin, and Luther, was like a sunrise amid the darkness of the night. But so soon as Luther and Calvin turned politicians and began catering to the small potentates, the nobility, and the mob spirit, they jeopardized the great possibilities of the Reformation. They won success and the majority, but that majority proved no less cruel and bloodthirsty in the persecution of thought and reason than was the Catholic monster. Woe to the heretics, to the minority, who would not bow to its dicta. After infinite zeal, endurance, and sacrifice, the human mind is at last free from the religious phantom; the minority has gone on in pursuit of new conquests, and the majority is lagging behind, handicapped by truth grown false with age.

Politically the human race would still be in the most absolute slavery, were it not for the John Balls, the Wat Tylers, the Tells, the innumerable individual giants who fought inch by inch against the power of kings and tyrants. But for individual pioneers the world would have never been shaken to its very roots by that tremendous wave, the French Revolution. Great events are usually preceded by apparently small things. Thus the eloquence and fire of Camille Desmoulins was like the trumpet before Jericho, razing to the ground that emblem of torture, of abuse, of horror, the Bastille.

Always, at every period, the few were the banner bearers of a great idea, of liberating effort. Not so the mass, the leaden weight of which does not let it move. The truth of this is borne out in Russia with greater force than elsewhere. Thousands of lives have already been consumed by that bloody r gime, yet the monster on the throne is not appeased. How is such a thing possible when ideas, culture, literature, when the deepest and finest emotions groan under the iron yoke? The majority, that compact, immobile, drowsy mass, the Russian peasant, after a century of struggle, of sacrifice, of untold misery, still believes that the rope which strangles "the man with the white hands" * brings luck.

In the American struggle for liberty, the majority was no less of a stumbling block. Until this very day the ideas of Jefferson, of Patrick Henry, of Thomas Paine, are denied and sold by their posterity. The mass wants none of them. The greatness and courage worshipped in Lincoln have been forgotten in the men who created the background for the panorama of that time. The true patron saints of the black men were represented in that handful of fighters in Boston, Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Theodore Parker, whose great courage and sturdiness culminated in that somber giant John Brown. Their untiring zeal, their eloquence and perseverance undermined the stronghold of the Southern lords. Lincoln and his minions followed only when abolition had become a practical issue, recognized as such by all.

About fifty years ago, a meteorlike idea made its appearance on the social horizon of the world, an idea so far-reaching, so revolutionary, so all-embracing as to spread terror in the hearts of tyrants everywhere. On the other hand, that idea was a harbinger of joy, of cheer, of hope to the millions. The pioneers knew the difficulties in their way, they knew the opposition, the persecution, the hardships that would meet them, but proud and unafraid they started on their march onward, ever onward. Now that idea has become a popular slogan. Almost everyone is a Socialist today: the rich man, as well as his poor victim; the upholders of law and authority, as well as their unfortunate culprits; the freethinker, as well as the perpetuator of religious falsehoods; the fashionable lady, as well as the shirtwaist girl. Why not? Now that the truth of fifty years ago has become a lie, now that it has been clipped of all its youthful imagination, and been robbed of its vigor, its strength, its revolutionary ideal--why not? Now that it is no longer a beautiful vision, but a "practical, workable scheme," resting on the will of the majority, why not? Political cunning ever sings the praise of the mass: the poor majority, the outraged, the abused, the giant majority, if only it would follow us.

Who has not heard this litany before? Who does not know this never-varying refrain of all politicians? That the mass bleeds, that it is being robbed and exploited, I know as well as our vote-baiters. But I insist that not the handful of parasites, but the mass itself is responsible for this horrible state of affairs. It clings to its masters, loves the whip, and is the first to cry Crucify! the moment a protesting voice is raised against the sacredness of capitalistic authority or any other decayed institution. Yet how long would authority and private property exist, if not for the willingness of the mass to become soldiers, policemen, jailers, and hangmen. The Socialist demagogues know that as well as I, but they maintain the myth of the virtues of the majority, because their very scheme of life means the perpetuation of power. And how could the latter be acquired without numbers? Yes, authority, coercion, and dependence rest on the mass, but never freedom or the free unfoldment of the individual, never the birth of a free society.

Not because I do not feel with the oppressed, the disinherited of the earth; not because I do not know the shame, the horror, the indignity of the lives the people lead, do I repudiate the majority as a creative force for good. Oh, no, no! But because I know so well that as a compact mass it has never stood for justice or equality. It has suppressed the human voice, subdued the human spirit, chained the human body. As a mass its aim has always been to make life uniform, gray, and monotonous as the desert. As a mass it will always be the annihilator of individuality, of free initiative, of originality. I therefore believe with Emerson that "the masses are crude, lame, pernicious in their demands and influence, and need not to be flattered, but to be schooled. I wish not to concede anything to them, but to drill, divide, and break them up, and draw individuals out of them. Masses! The calamity are the masses. I do not wish any mass at all, but honest men only, lovely, sweet, accomplished women only."

In other words, the living, vital truth of social and economic well-being will become a reality only through the zeal, courage, the non-compromising determination of intelligent minorities, and not through the mass.

* The intellectuals.

Copyright © 2002, University of California Regents

Link to Essay