Friday, January 6, 2012

Media - The myth of objective and balanced

It is hard to pinpoint when it happened. Where it went completely off the rails. But following that period in the seventies with Watergate and the Vietnam War and Nuclear Power. The last time when journalism and the news was still telling people stories that had meaning. Until the eighties when superficiality was taking over every thing.
The fight between reality television over the news was the plot of the 1978 film Network, the "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" movie. The idea was presented fully formed in the movie Broadcast News in 1987. In that film, the devil is an empty headed pretty boy who can only read news and look good.
It confirmed what I had suspected. By the time I got to journalism school in 1985 at the University of Western Ontario, the graduate program was filled with people who wanted to be on television. The difference between wanting to be a journalist and wanting to be on television is night and day. People didn't want to be writers they wanted to be readers. They wanted to be on TV. It was worrisome then and at that time the only one who said "print is dead" was Egon Spengler.
Now this spawn of empty headed Barbies and Kens have taken over the airwaves. The Barbies rule on the news networks with the most right wing, conservative viewpoints. Canada's Sun News Network has taken the playbook from Fox News and is gambling that people like to hear diatribe from pretty faces, preferably blonde. Is this news for the master race?
One thing that Fox News has put up front is that they are representing a viewpoint and it is one against the vast liberal media conspiracy. That is how they are fair and balanced as the other side of the scale. How the most watched news network in the United States can still claim to be outside the mainstream media is beyond me, beyond me. Note to Fox News from reality, you have all the top watched news programs in the country, YOU ARE THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011- The Good - People Power

The movement is growing. Direct action is starting to return. The role that social media and technology can serve the movement and direct action has been proven. The Arab Spring was remarkable to witness. I marched with the Occupy movement in Winnipeg. I joined in with thousands of others to share the story of Attawapiskat. There is something happening.

The Arab Spring saw the people rise up against oppressive murderous regimes. At the lose of thousands of lives, the people continued to march and protest. They wanted freedom.

The Occupy movement wanted people to understand one simple message. We are the 99%. Those that control the majority of the wealth and resources are the 1%. Beyond that idea there was no other direction, no other demands. When the weather starts to get into the minus category and into the minus teens overnight, it's pretty tough to sleep outside. The Winnipeg Occupy movement began to break up as did others across the continent. To those that were paying attention, the message had been delivered.

Attawapiskat was the story that would not go away as much as the Canadian government wished it would. The story stayed alive and stayed in the public eye thanks in no little part to the constant attention and activity the story provided on social media.

2011 was a year in which we saw people around the world making sacrifices, making a stand, speaking up in a way which was unprecedented. The people are expressing their power against oppressive governments around the world, corporate greed and the wedding of both against the people.

It's 2012, now what? In some Arab countries, the victory for some has not translated to all. In some countries, the bloodshed continues unabated.

The Occupy Movement had little impact on the spread of corporate greed, but that battle has only just begun.

The unifying action to bring housing and infrastructure to Attawapiskat Cree Nation was a success; but there are many more communities in the same or worse condition.

Admire your success, learn and move forward. This is just the beginning.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Newsmaker of the year - Chief Theresa Spence

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is the newsmaker of the year in Canada. She brought the third world reality of many remote First Nations to an international audience. Something that Native people have been living with for many years is now known to the world. It is thanks to Chief Theresa Spence who raised the issue to all our attention by declaring a state of emergency on the Attawapiskat Cree Nation. What many people don't know is that this was the third year in a row that a state of emergency had been declared. This was the first time anyone listened.

It was not quite the Arab Spring, but it was a story shared and influenced by new media, facebook, twitter and of course, youtube. It was the shaky cam video images that showed the shocking truth. The deplorable living conditions. And winter rolling in on the coast of the James Bay. The story couldn't be swept under the rug again. Not this time.

Chief Spence represented her community well as the heat was turned up. "Where did the $90 million go?" "It is mismanagement by the Chief." The federal government accused the community of creating the crisis under the leadership of Chief Spence. The comments pages of news site, the blogosphere and twitterverse were aflame with hatred and accusations. "Where is all our money going?" Such a wide swath of racism from all corners. Such anger.

Some of the commentary and editorialists were revelling in the same mud. "Why do they have Big Screen TVs?" Who asks this kind of question, why did I hear it more than once. It began to smell like a smear campain. "The Chief and Finance person are lovers. Hmm. Hmmm. Wink, wink. Nudge, Nudge. Know what I mean." What the hell was that? How could that come out during the coverage of this story. If you didn't get the sour whiff of a clumsy smear campaign at that point, you weren't paying attention. Attawapiskat was eventually linked to fricken' Moammar Ghadaffi for christ sakes. Ghadaffi and Attwapiskat, google that and see how many stories come up.

Chief Spence maintained her position, steadfast under the glare of the media, both welcome and unwelcome. When the Minister of Indian Affairs announced that Chief Spence had accepted third party management, Chief Spence called the minister on the lie and railed against the failure of third party management. The Minister of Indian Affairs, John Duncan couldn't stand the glare. He began to pause and stumble, wilting under the heat and the pressure. He had to be dragged away from the microphone on a number of occasions like a drunken uncle at a wedding.

It is no easy thing to speak out against powers that control every aspect of your life. It is not easy to bite that hand that feeds you. But when the other hand is beating you, it's no longer enough to bark. It is hard for anyone to understand how much communities are ruled with an iron fist. I recently spoke to a non-Aboriginal professional who has worked in remote First Nations for over a decade, he says, "if a community complains about woeful and inadequate funding the department of Indian Affairs threatens to put them in third party management."

Indian Affairs manages from a distance and with a whip. It is no easy thing to go up against. There may likely be ramifications for Chief Spence and Attawapiskat when the media eye has turned away.

Nevertheless, this year the little gal won. Chief Theresa Spence won a great victory. Chief Theresa Spence brought the issues of her community to the attention of the world. Chief Theresa Spence stood up to a heavy handed abusive federal government and won. Houses are being delivered.

Chief Theresa Spence, Attawapiskat Cree Nation, 2011 Newsmaker of the Year