Category Archives: Postmodernism

Globe and Mail’s Irony: Calling The Yes Men Cynical

The Globe and Mail‘s editorial yesterday calling the Yes Men cynical is a classic example of psychological projection, calling another group cynical when corporate media today cannot likely be any more cynical.

The entire editorial is below, but here are ten comments about how deluded the editorial department at the Globe and Mail is.

  1. We live in a post-modern world, if not a post-post-modern world. Corporate media is modernist by design; its paradigm is authoritatively objective, one-way, profit-driven, broadcast and top-down. That sounds pretty jaded to me. The Yes Men can only be seen as jaded because they no longer recognize the primacy of modernist corporate media as being much of a useful force in society unless it is subverted and manipulated.
  2. Since the medium is the message, increasing proportions of the population are rejecting the message of corporate media’s medium.
  3. The Daily Show and Colbert Report are not anomalies today, but they do threaten corporate media’s monopoly over news/truth/opinion. In fact, just today someone’s again writing about how newspapers could even have a future!
  4. The Globe and Mail got quite badly punked by the Yes Men in Copenhagen in December, as did all other corporate media. In fact, much corporate media in Canada showed themselves with their pants down when they recently reported the death of Gordon Lightfoot while he listened to it all on the radio while in his dentist’s chair. Fact-check much?
  5. Suggesting the Yes Men are the actual threat to the believability of all forms of communication is laughable since corporate mainstream media are constantly guilty of suppressing critically important news while promoting their neoliberal politics and politicians while marketing sensationalism for maximizing their corporate profit.
  6. Suggesting that all forms of communication are threatened by the Yes Men is itself sensationalist, reactionary and further proof that the editorial staff doesn’t really get post-modernism in media…but then how could they, they are the established paradigm.
  7. The first half of the editorial describes the Yes Men antics, thereby demonstrating the potency of their brand of satire with free publicity.
  8. While the Globe editors are correct in describing satire as a “legitimate form of comment,” their demand that there be “sufficient warning for the public” indicates a few things. The Globe editors didn’t get the joke in Copenhagen and feel embarrassed. They think the public is too stupid to get ironic messages. Again, see The Daily Show and Colbert Report. Those in the public who are duped need to learn the lesson that we should question information authorities and verify sources, then compare stated messages with confirmed messages. Then we need to evaluate in our own minds what policies ought to be. This is the point of satire, which the Globe editors are clearly missing.
  9. Their example about no one ever showing up for real free concerts in Missoula is a small risk to society as a whole that is being constantly misinformed by corporate media neglecting its investigatory role.
  10. I refuse to allow the Globe editorial staff to be the ones to inspire me to ask the question of whether anyone believes a message. Corporate media is so compromised when it comes to truth, they have very little standing to even pose that question. That they end their editorial with it, with presumably a straight face, is laughable.
  11. A bonus comment: ultimately, I hope I am being duped by an editorial that is actually ironic in itself. That perhaps the Globe actually welcomes the antics of the Yes Men and their disciples and have written this editorial in an attempt to mock their own paradigm. If so, I will gladly tip my hat to them. But I’m not holding my breath.
May 23, 2010

Say no to the jaded world view of the Yes Men

From Monday’s Globe and Mail

Their ilk threatens the believability of all forms of communications.

Gresham’s Law holds that devalued money eventually drives out good money. The more inferior currency floating around, the harder it is for people to believe in the real thing. The same goes for the news.

Last week, a widely circulated news release claimed, “Shell halts Nigerian offshore drilling in visionary new remediation plan.” The document carried a Shell logo at the top and was distributed via a legitimate-looking website. At the bottom was a media-relations contact number (answered by a real person) and all the standard legal boilerplate. The message: After the Gulf of Mexico oil leak, Shell was halting all its drilling operations in the Niger River delta and embarking on an $8-billion environmental rehabilitation program.

It was, of course, entirely bogus.

A group calling itself the Nigerian Justice League later claimed credit for the ruse, saying they drew their inspiration from the Yes Men, a group of anti-corporate pranksters familiar to Canadians. In December, before the Copenhagen climate change summit, the Yes Men produced a realistic-looking press release purportedly from federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice, claiming Canada was adopting strict carbon-emissions targets and donating $13-billion to Africa. It was accompanied by a fake Wall Street Journal article, a fake endorsement from a Ugandan politician and, later, a fake retraction by Mr. Prentice. All this to draw attention to what the Yes Men considered Canada’s lack of commitment on climate change.

Both pranks got enough press coverage to be considered successes by the perpetrators. With the Yes Men now drawing eager imitators, we’ll likely be seeing much more of this sort of thing. And that’s bad news for everyone.

Satire is a legitimate form of comment. But it requires a deft hand; and sufficient warning for the public to get the joke. A recent prank in Missoula, Montana, falsely promoted a free thank-you concert being staged by Smurfit-Stone, a container company, and Macy’s department store, two firms that recently shut operations in the city. But to what greater purpose? It had no discernible impact on the corporations in question. And if Missoula ever hosts a free concert in the future, no one will show up.

The jaded world view of the Yes Men and copycat pranksters threatens the believability of all forms of communications. It could eventually undermine the very kinds of positive achievements the activists claim to demand.

Consider the historic truce last week between environmental groups and the Canadian forestry industry on logging practices. It seems such a surprising and radical departure from both sides’ normal behaviour, after years of animosity, that it might easily be considered a prank. In fact it is very good news. But will anyone believe it?

Diaspora: #Facebook’s Open Source Nemesis

Here. Read this. If you don’t speak “social media sociology”, what it’s saying is that Facebook sucks and they’re going to build an open source, distributed, non-corporate, free, privacy-rich replacement.

Now give them money to fund their junk food summer. It’ll be the best investment you’ll ever make in a liberating social media interweb.

Thanks, Matt, for the evangelism!

What is the project about?

We believe that privacy and connectedness do not have to be mutually exclusive. With Diaspora, we are reclaiming our data, securing our social connections, and making it easy to share on your own terms. We think we can replace today’s centralized social web with a more secure and convenient decentralized network. Diaspora will be easy to use, and it will be centered on you instead of a faceless hub.

via Decentralize the web with Diaspora — Kickstarter.

What Distributed Social Media Looks Like

Having already written about reasons why I’m leaving Facebook, I’d like to explore how new, open source, non-proprietary, non-profit, non-corporate, decentralized, distributed social media could work.

Let’s start by talking about BuddyPress. It started as a WordPress plugin designed to add social media elements [like Facebook features and Twitter] to people’s WordPress sites. Then BuddyPress grew into its own WordPress paradigm.

If I were Nokia or Boston University running a WordPress platform, I could install BuddyPress to manage social media elements for my thousands of “members” just like Facebook.

When I knew almost nothing about BuddyPress, I had high hopes for what it could be. But now that I get it more [assuming I actually do], BuddyPress seems to still be a ghettoized environment. I could create a social media installation on my site, but people would have to login and use it just like Facebook. That means way too many logins for people on too many different sites.

UnionBook is a great social media website for trade unionists, but with less than 4,000 users right now, it’s hasn’t hit its hundredth monkey yet.

So here’s what I wished BuddyPress were…and it [or something similar] still can be that.

  1. It should have all the social media elements it currently has plus the new cool ones when they are invented.
  2. It should be open source.
  3. It should be non-proprietary, just like the culture of the internet in the early days, or even the 1980s, despite DARPA’s involvement, which was hands-off by then anyway.
  4. It should be non-profit [notice 2, 3, and 4 in here are already the opposite of Facebook].
  5. It should be non-corporate.
  6. It should be decentralized, like the paradigm of the internet itself, so it can promote democracy, transparency and commitment.
  7. Most importantly, it should be distributed. This means, for me right now anyway, that if BuddyPress were what I think of now as a solid alternative to the corporate Facebook, every site on the net running either the BuddyPress suite of WordPress plugins or the BuddyPress paradigm would be integrated, interactive and networked…like a web. People could flit among them almost as if Facebook were a jigsaw puzzle or an iceflow that is broken up and we just float around on pieces carrying our social media with us. Sickeningly, that’s what Facebook is doing now. We just take our Facebook with us around the web and share things with others through Facebook, thereby spreading the Facebook corporate cancer to everything we touch.

OpenID is a model I had in mind. I like that I could login to various sites with an ID that travels with me, not like logging into Facebook and doing my community there, in its corporate ghetto/prison. But now that I see who is part of the OpenID foundation, I don’t want to have anything to do with that. But the model is still good.

So maybe some day BuddyPress will evolve into the kind of distributed structure I’m looking for. Maybe it won’t and something else will. Or maybe nothing will, but I doubt that. It’s too good an idea not to happen, and not because I thought of it, but because the internet was built on that model and it works well. It worked really well until the corporations took over. But we can get that sense of distributed community back.

Open source, distributed social media can be a catalyst for that. And if you doubt that, check out Firefox’s market share. :)

OK, now onto removing my self from Facebook!

Quitting Facebook: Privacy Shouldn’t Be the Price of Community

Facebook is Celebration, Florida, the surreal Disney-owned community so effectively critiqued by Naomi Klein in her stimulating book, No Logo. It is a similacrum in the disturbing Dick/Baudrillard sense of the word. It is also a surrogate for more authentic and rich human connections.

So I’ll be extracting myself from Facebook over the next few days. Community and social media are supposed to contribute to humanity with new means of connecting, but when the price of that contact is sacrificing my privacy and autonomy as a citizen, we get a paradox.

Facebook has us hooked like the crack dealer who gets new clients by giving away product to create an addiction. 400 million have now become dependent to various degrees on Facebook as a core means of social communication. Getting off the drug is hard. Our community interactions are now being held hostage. We must pay with compromises to our privacy.

The increasing restrictions on my ability to determine what I share with others, combined with expanding defaults of openness that subject the millions of Facebook users to abuse. Certainly the majority of users, I believe, are not being as vigilant as they should be at protecting their identities from unobserved, and not so secret data mining.

Try this game.

Click on one of your Facebook friends. Then click on one of their friends who you don’t know. Click on their profile picture. Does it open into their whole folder of profile pictures? If so, they probably haven’t navigated the ever changing maze of Facebook privacy settings, or they don’t care who sees what, which is their prerogative. Then repeat this game 10 times going from profile to profile, seeing how many people likely neglect vigilance.

What are the threats? Two high profile ones are the Facebook data mining corporation itself and the app designers who get monstrously wide access to your identity data and activities in social media.

Years ago, people flocked out of AOL onto the internet in part because they didn’t want one corporation being aware of all their online activities.

It’s like Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, in which he argued that it is not Orwell’s 1984 that we should fear but Huxley’s Brave New World because its model is totalitarianism by friendly hugs and not Orwellian jackboots.

Facebook is a system of subservience that we actually embrace. It has time-wasting games, ways of keeping up with friends’ Friday nights out, but within the context of disturbing increasingly anti-autonomy privacy policies. Explore these critiques of the latest imposition of Facebook into my autonomy, like this one. And despite some wonky logic in parts of this one, there are many thoughtful ideas that challenge the Kool-Aid we’ve been drinking.

At least in Twitter what we say we say, what we don’t say we don’t say. That’s it. Spammers are entering, but the anarchic community blocks them out quickly.

That’s also why the prominence of open source communication models like WordPress is growing because we don’t want “The Man” to be tracking our data/identity/existence.

So what am I going to do?

I’m going to stop compromising my autonomy and privacy for the sake of a communication/community platform.

There are new open source social media sites going live sporadically. We should be exploring these, supporting them and promoting them. In time we can get an open source, anarchic social media platform that functions better than the buggy Facebook and doesn’t compromise our freedom as a rule, something of that the freedom/anarchy of the original internet culture.

In the end, I just can’t handle the paradox that in order to partake of the access to connections in Facebook we have to give up core values of community: independence, equality, citizenship, interdependent responsibility. Developing community in the Facebook model is more than slightly like The Truman Show, where there is no benign master providing us the platform.

So my plan is to eradicate my personal profile from Facebook over the next few days. Politics, Re-Spun will still have a presence on Facebook, but primarily to drive human interaction to my website where what I post is not entirely owned by Facebook by virtue of it merely being there.

In the end, there is no real community in Facebook if the price of admission is accepting their claim of ownership over all community activities and where they set the rules for how we interact.

Are Humans Really Too Stupid to Prevent Climate Change?

Yes.

Yes?

No.

Maybe?

I’m honestly afraid to say yes, but I fear it is so. Below are some sobering conclusions from the Gaian theorist, 90-year-old James Lovelock, on our species’ prognosis. I agree with him profoundly. And if you want to be inspired about the road through this swamp, read a bit about political psychology at the end here.

Let’s begin.

“I don’t think we’re yet evolved to the point where we’re clever enough to handle a[s] complex a situation as climate change.”

“The inertia of humans is so huge that you can’t really do anything meaningful.”

He thinks only a catastrophic event would now persuade humanity to take the threat of climate change seriously enough, such as the collapse of a giant glacier in Antarctica, such as the Pine Island glacier, which would immediately push up sea level.

via James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change | Environment | The Guardian.

Here, Lovelock is talking about our collective ignorance of systems theory. We don’t understand that we belong to something large and complicated and interconnected. We are deluded, thinking we’re individuals who can separate ourselves from our environment, particularly when it turns sour.

Freakish bubble bee population declines concern some people because the price of honey may go up. In reality, they are somewhat critical in all of us…eating food. Even community newspapers are recognizing the fact of the hive crisis, but they can’t go more than one level of analysis to the point of exploring the implications of the immediate consequences.

If you don’t get it, or somewhat get it and want to spend 45 seconds reflecting more on systems theory as a systemic approach to re-visioning your life and interrelationships, read about it here.

Now do something about it with some understanding of political psychology, but first read about pianos falling upon your head. My favourite comment about the Lovelock article:

I was wondering if it’s worth trying to develop a falling piano metaphor here (I like falling piano metaphors).

How about:

1. You’re walking down the street and you see a falling piano. Right underneath it is a person who is totally oblivious to the situation. You shout a warning but they refuse to believe in the piano. Are you justified in pushing them out of the way?

2. How about if they’re holding onto their kids and still refuse to move?

3. How about if they’re holding onto _your_ kids and still refuse to move?

4. What if they say they’re going to wait a bit to see what happens? How long do you wait?

How long do you wait? How long does society wait, or the prime minister or premier or 5 million random Canadians?

Why do we wait? Why do we write our term paper the night before it is due? What is the human motivation and political psychology behind our dysfunctional dynamics? Joe Brewer explores this.

Insight No. 1

Emotions bias our rationality and entrench our irrationality. What falling piano?

Insight No. 2

Our tendency to categorize elements of our worlds into compartments, inherently undermines our ability to see the systems we swim in. Your politics keeps you ignorant of the falling piano…let go of my kids!

Insight No. 3

Our subjectivities mean we actually live in different worlds. The post-modern notion of reality being aggregate inter-subjectivities may be relevant but it doesn’t stop people from honestly not seeing the piano’s shadow enlarging around them.

But then Brewer’s Strategy for Political Change really challenges us to move well past demonizing our “ignorant” opponents and enemies. How many of us can actually engage our enemies? It’s like Jesus saying we should love our enemies.

Brewer: Look for key differences in group understandings and seek common ground through shared aspects of culture. Build trust by earnestly seeking to know the other. And aspire toward new coalitions based on core concerns that unite culturally distinct communities across the nation around the fundamental human condition we all share.

Let me put it this way.

Is averting the climate crisis a sufficient motivator to reach across the aisle?

Yes.

Yes?

No.

Maybe?

The BC Government and Social Media: #FAIL!

The BC government, being anti-social with its massive cuts to social and human services, is having a hard time using social media. No surprise.

The provincial government wants to be your friend/follower. In November 2009, its public affairs bureau quietly launched a new social media/online communications unit. The unit – which was formed using existing resources – has eight staffers including a director, a manager, two visual communications officers and four social media/online communications officers.

via Getting friendly – Public Eye Online.

Here is one sad example of the output of the 8-person operation. “It’s about YOU. It’s about US. It’s about B.C.” is about as empty as the BC Liberals’ humanitarian streak.

This Facebook page started with posts for the last few days of March and has a total of one post for April.

It’s visual motif is distinct from both the BC government websites and the BC Liberal party, indicating an attempt to distance the content on that page from the ruling party, at the very least.

The page has only 195 “fans”. That’s crazy low, and it includes a bunch who are ardent fighters of this government, likely using the page to track the government’s spin.

And the page is all about BC boosterism and spin. It’s a transparent, uni-directional, broadcast marketing vehicle to paint a rosy picture. That in itself disrespects the nature of social media: member participation.

I expect more people will become fans, but I don’t expect the page will do anything more than the press releases that become news at corporate media sites.

In the end, this government won’t likely do well in social media essentially because its egalitarian nature is incompatible with the BC Liberals’ draconian agenda.

The Olympics: A Failure of Legitimacy

Samsung Olympic ad on TD building

There are many levels of debate about the value of Olympics: social, economic, cultural, political, etc. But one level seems to undergird them all: moral legitimacy, in which the Olympics is bankrupt.

For me it began crystallizing in late September, 1988. Ben Johnson won Olympic gold in the 100m, then lost it just days later because of the drug thing. After years of national angst over the cost overruns of the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, and enduring boycotts in 1980 and 1984, it seemed impossible to have pure sport.

Fast forward to this young year when Mark McGwire quite easily announced he was lying when he said he was drug-free when chasing the home run record years ago. Whatever. Cynicism seems too natural.

While I value competition and, more so, seeking personal bests, I honour athletes who compete. Sadly the context of the Olympics and its corporate and political masters have spoiled the entire concept. Similarly, I have great respect for Canadian troops wherever they are in the world, but supporting the troops does not mean I have to support the politics behind any given mission they are sent on.

What has happened to erode the legitimacy of the Olympics? Simply, neoliberal commodification.

  • corporate endorsements for players to fund their training as government reduce funding
  • the participation of professional athletes to enrich marketing potential
  • exclusive corporate sponsors who have quite effectively lobbied the welcoming IOC for extensive protections
  • exclusive media sponsors impeding information flows outside of their media
  • the IOC as an untouchable international organization that can suborn nations to abandon elements of their constitution as we can’t/won’t stop the IOC from discriminating against female ski jumpers
  • litigious domestic Olympic committees protecting brands of what are already some of the most powerful corporations in the world
  • The Canada Line transit route promoted to encourage an Olympic bid at the expense of the Evergreen line for the northeast suburbs already in the queue, with significant climate implications
  • Lies: the marketing of a tunnel under Cambie Street for the Canada Line that turned into the cheaper cut-and-cover; only $176m pitched for security when previous Olympics security budgets were over $1b

The games are now about corporate marketing.

A core goal of VANOC was to literally monopolize all outdoor advertising during the games to resell to exclusive corporate sponsors. The global recession softened sales. Now the BC government is spending more of our tax dollars to buy up leftover ad space to advertise that BC is a great place. No longer “The Best Place in the World”[tm], mind you.

Here are some other examples of decayed moral legitimacy.

During the last Olympic games, RBC ran ads bragging about how awesome they were in 1948 as they paid for the Canadian men’s hockey team to attend and win Olympic gold. How long before corporations start fielding their own teams instead of nations? A corporation is running for Congress in the USA and in BC, the premier announced last fall that the government is studying allowing non-human corporations to vote in municipal elections.

Last week, after criticism VANOC took down one of its website videos celebrating the torch run across the country. They chose to use Nazi footage from the 1936 games. They felt it might be controversial, so they blurred out the straight arm Nazi salute that is so visually repulsive. Both were horrible decisions. Both reflect a mindset that is so out of touch with standards of moral legitimacy. But I can’t be surprised by all this considering the overall mindset of the Olympics.

The Bay department store ripped off the Cowichan sweater design from the First Nations who “own” it, so it could contract out sweater production.

In Vancouver this week, venues and key sites are under military lock down with layers of concrete barricades and fencing. Military helicopters and jets buzz the skies. Military and private security forces live on cruise ships in East Vancouver. VANOC cars cruise the city, flagrantly violating civic anti-idling by-laws. And in a ecologically symbiotic nod to this illegitimate event, El Nino has produced spring-like temperatures making the Olympic mittens gimmick useless.

Polls in the last few months show around only 9% of Canadians are very excited about the games and recently only half of British Columbians think the Olympics will be good for BC, despite the common sense view that as we get closer people will be more excited.

Another common sense goes like this, the Olympics is a fish bowl of groupthink. Nazi footage in a promotional film? Stealing First Nations craft designs? Erecting ugly prison security around venues? A $10m Canada pavilion that looks like a strong wind could blow it over, when the log structure in Turin in 2006 cost only $6m [and has since become an albatross, itself a telling irony].

Then there is a story in the Globe and Mail the other day about how VANOC has banned athletes from being in advertisements during the games because it compromises the purity of competition. Oh, unless the ads are for the sanctioned corporate sponsors. Or, if in VANOC’s subjective judgement the ad campaign has been around long enough. Tim Horton’s has recently run some ads with Sidney Crosby, but in the article we read they are voluntarily pulling the ads during the Olympics in case VANOC decides to come after them. The chill factor extends to even Tim Hortons!

The best irony of that article, however, exemplifies this whole debacle. The writer characterizes Tim Hortons’ Sidney Crosby campaign as one about patriotism. Tim Hortons is now owned by an American company. Marketing is global now.

Later this morning we will see the beginning of actions leading to a massive convergence of dissent later this week to coincide with the opening of the games. This culture of critique is pervasive.

When the Canucks are in the playoffs, there is a palpable sense of energy around Vancouver. People buy flags to attach to their car windows. There is honking in the streets when Canucks score goals. Even people not too bothered with hockey get excited. This vibe is absent right now.

In the surreal world of neoliberalism, unaccountable international organizations like the IOC, corporate welfare programs and rational and moral contradictions, there is no irony left.

Oh, and a Chicago company got the contract to build the Canada pavilion in Vancouver.

So when we see the pablum, sanitized feel-good corporate media fluff pieces on Vancouver, think about how much packaging has already gone into the big show and how motivated the corporate media sponsors will be to paint this a smiles-only event.

Then we need to think about the athletes afraid to use Twitter, what lack of snow will do to some of them, and let’s think about the social costs of cleaning up the mess of this party.

As it is, no one has done the body count yet. As billions of dollars have been diverted from social programs, health, education, etc., how many people have suffered or died early because money that could have gone into hip replacement surgery or mental health treatment was diverted to a luge track. It’s a ghoulish research project, so it’s one that no one wants to talk about.

All I know is that the police state that is emerging this week will change Vancouver and Whistler and BC and Canada forever. The hands are pretty much dealt now. All that is left is in the playing.

And in a few weeks, we’ll know what kind of symbol the Olympic torch really is.

Seeing Social Movement Theory in Christmas Movies

I’m hyper-attuned to building a social movement. In fact, I’m seeing it all over the place, from tight clusters of birds whipping around in their collective unconscious to Christmas movies.

Watching Polar Express tonight reminded me of my favourite part of the film near the end. Everyone’s waiting for Santa to come out and play. All the elves are standing around mumbling. Then there’s this converging anarchy of voices leading to an “ooooooOOOOOOhhhhhHHHHH yyyyyyYYYYYooooooOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU…” that coalesces into “Oh, you better watch out,” etc. of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Many disparate voices joining together.

So I’m thinking about the abject failure of the Copenhagen summit for climate change a few weeks ago. Not surprising, really, when I think about it because the other day I was cutting some french toast in half [well 2/3 and 1/3] to see if my daughter would pick the bigger half. Game theory: the person who cuts is not the one who picks which half. I figured that was related to the realpolitik BS that killed Copenhagen.

So then I started reading up on the The One Degree War and how Evo Morales is convening a climate summit for social movements on Earth Day next year. The first begins a dialogue on solving a global crisis in an open-source, non-proprietary way; it feels quite cooperative. The second recognizes that a way past the 17th century political culture that killed Copenhagen is to convene a movement of movements.

I was thinking of that when I started Canada22.org on Earth Day in 2006, but I didn’t have the mobilization juice to scale it up to a provincial or federal level. But it’s nice to see now that organizations like TckTckTck.org have been able to hack together 15 million people to mobilize in advance of Copenhagen and we now have 11 months to mobilize before COP16 in Mexico next winter.

If we are ever going to get from zero-sum politics to positive-sum gains, we have to change the rules and deligitimize the old politics. And the people have to take control. And we have to see through the corporate greenwashing of Hopenhagen and realize their vibe contributed to the pablum document in Copenhagen and destroyed real movements for climate justice.

Social movements are a dire threat to political parties that still operate in the 17th century and maybe even the 20th century paradigm. Paradigm mechanics like TckTckTck.org and Evo Morales and George Monbiot are most able to pivot us into a new era. We have to get on board or our leaders will sell us down the tar sands river, starting with the Canadian prime minister.

Now I just have to figure out if Bert and Ernie [the cop and cab driver..which is which? and does it matter?] in It’s A Wonderful Life are really the inspiration for the Sesame Street characters and if there’s a nascent social movement brewing there. Then I’ll really have something.

Vista Video Arrives!

Politics, Re-Spun is intricately connected to the dgiVista.org nexus of expression. As much as my audio podcasts have been terribly fulfilling and well received [with hundreds of hits/month since mid-2006], it’s time to move into video.

My audio podcasts have been audio versions of my editorials as well as interesting chats with people I know being/doing/thinking/feeling interesting things.

And now that bandwidth restrictions are virtually passe, video podcasts are just so simple now. All my audio and video podcast conversations have extensive indexes of topics. See below for the first two video podcast chats to watch.

You can review past audio podcasts through searching here: http://politicsrespun.org/?s=podcast

You can also access past and current audio and video podcasts at the following sites. Even though iTunes isn’t terribly oppressive, I’m prefering Miro lately, as it’s open source:

iTunes

Pick it up straight in your iTunes at itpc://dgivista.org/pod/Vista_Podcasts.xml.

Miro

Click subscribe below to keep up in Miro, the new wave of open source bliss:

Miro Video Player

The first video podcast chat is with Colin Mills and Ameena Mayer, followed by Rachel Marcuse.

June 2008 conversation with Colin Mills and Ameena Mayer, topics:

Introductions: Colin Mills, Ameena Mayer, Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Colin on…

- the process on his photography
- perfect versus meaningful art and paralysis
- accepting failure
- learning curves
- the problem with money in art
- 1 of 1 versus mass “production” and paralysis
- Stephen on the new Karsh self-portrait stamp
- truth is bullshit
- Princess Sophie as a beautiful person or a focus of security guards, and what is true
- painters’ freedom versus photographers’
- photography is not about truth
- impressionist photography
- Flickr mode
- Stephen on the Classical Joint in Gastown 20 years ago and watching/listening to jazz without glasses on and seeing a different colour aura over each musician’s musical contribution…and how it’s like Colin’s impressionist photography
- truth as crispy and blurry
- deciding how to photograph concerts in the moments and anonymity
- on Utah Phillips dying at 180

A critique of the absolute lack of community in North American culture by Ameena…

- GM popcorn sucks, organic popcorn is good
- disconnecting social networks
- let’s blame capitalism, the internet and our lack of valuing relationships [excepting romantic ones]
- and it’s not just her, it’s endemic
- addictions, social alienation undermining our tribal nature
- the growth of capitalism and globalization, the isolation of the individual consumer, workaholism, hyper-individualism, less selflessness
- Colin suggests we may be creating capitalism because we want to live this way: greedy; with some manipulation from Madison Avenue
- Colin on the 1972 40-ish hour documentary “The World at War”: fewer material possessions with depression followed by war
- friendship as less reciprocal
- younger adults are more workaholic than in earlier times
- we are busy because we have a hole in our lives
- Colin asks whether economic anxiety may be a social reality, not a choice
- technology and the internet are replacing more “traditional” human interaction, like the phone or having coffee with something
- we don’t make the luxury of time by choosing to forego distraction
- a tangent is vetoed
- it returns
- Colin on the self-consciousness of believing he grew up under a microscope
- difficult figuring out how to reconcile my relationship with the rest of the world versus self-obsession
- college students live in a fishbowl too, or is it just our trained narcism?
- the iPod generation is symbolic: I, I, I
- why don’t we have a sociologist in the room tying all this together

- beer break

Lack of community, continued…

- self-absorbtion is against our intrinsic human nature
- the nuclear family is bad
- we need ways of seeing the world beyond our solipsism
- our elders are also noticing less mutual human consideration
- Colin on CHiPs, Disney and Hymn Sing: how choice contributes to narcism and narrowing of awareness
- Stephen on why my.yahoo.com is bad, ultimately the celebrated entrenchment of ignorance
- freedom = ignorance
- hyper-specialization of interests leads to social dislocation
- wearing headphones in public
- how we actually talk to our neighbours on snow days
- socially, we are now less interdependent
- romantic relationships might be economic arrangements
- or is it avoiding alone-ness
- our absence of extended family cripples us as a spouse can’t fill all the needs that an extended family could
- yard sales as community building
- intentionally spending time with friends
- [drifting into the next topic, the Follies of Technology]
- female body mutilation, extreme makeovers, etc.
- all the flavours of feminism [many of which are mutually exclusive]
- What Not to Wear: fashion and sincere self-concept counselling, but is it feminist or anti-feminism?
- the Lululemon world
- how women’s poor clothing choices sadly can hamper their career success
- recognizing we can’t control other people’s impressions of us
- Ameena asks the boys how much sexual attraction motivates the desire to have a relationship

Ameena ties it all together: feminism, social isolation, community, marriage, different values, loneliness…

- the challenges to meaningful relationships create a desperation to be noticed [Letty agreed]
- communities of ideas have replaced communities of propinquity
- why arranged marriages can work, unlike how much we need to try so hard
- LavaLife: the solution to arranged marriages?
- folk versus popular cultures and how they affect us as individuals
- reflections on cyberpaths: socio/psychopaths stalking women in dating websites
- why Colin argues that we should be focussing blame more on individualism than societal features
- the cats show up: aren’t they precious

Technology, Facebook and video podcasting

- Ameena argues that video podcasting is kinda pathetic
- Colin argues that we don’t lament the absence of writers in our rooms when we read
- then we try to define what video podcasting IS in our culture, and what it is supposed to be
- we get a bit judgemental, I’m afraid
- what do Facebook “friends” mean to human connections?
- Facebook friends versus networking usefulness

December 2008 conversation with Rachel Marcuse, topics:

Rachel Marcuse, December 28, 2008, Foundation restaurant on Main Street at 7th Avenue in Vancouver.

- Coalition of Progressive Electors, a Vancouver municipal party

- youth engagement and facilitation

- grassroots community and political organization and development

- the whole Obama thing: top down versus people-centred; concern about overblown expectations and lack of populist follow-through; being a blank slate of “change”; participatory democracy and accountability; packaging over substance;

- reforming the political process in Vancouver, BC and Canada: ideas instead of personalities; re-framing citizens’ views of what politics is; apathy versus irrelevant effort; apathy versus electoral disengagement and indifference; apathy in middle aged people as opposed to the youth; why proroguing is not well understood

- break: the arrival of chocolate fondue

- beat boxers are so talented, Thundering Word Heard, Montmartre Cafe, Cafe Deux Soleils, the poetry slam, George Bowering versus T.Paul Ste. Marie

- democracy’s arrival in Canada with the end of majority governments: how this isn’t a constitutional crisis but a constitutional flowering, Stephen Harper’s lies about how the parliamentary system works in order to scare citizens enough so he can keep his job, anti-Quebec racism in western Canada, the Bloc Quebecois helps Quebec flourish as a culture without needing to focus on separation, the ease of stereotypes

- political populism, hope and progressive growth in Canada, Vision Vancouver, COPE, BC NDP, Venezuela: people deciding to lead; Jack Layton’s outside chance of becoming prime minister last month; Dion and Ignatieff; the Liberal ruling birthright/arrogance; electoral reform in Vancouver [ward system] and BC [proportional representation, BC-STV]; decentralizing politics to communities; electoral reform needing to happen at the right time; Social Credit in BC; Obama at the 2004 Democratic Convention and timing

- social change through speaking to people’s self-interest in improving society: livable communities; improving society can’t happen with sound bites but by engaging people and introducing a new paradigm; Gordon Campbell pulling a Shock Doctrine response to the meltdown as if he used Naomi Klein’s formula; shopping to save the economy is unsustainable; re-education people out of blind obedience to Milton Friedman

- how do we mobilize and catalyze people to becoming more socially engaged: building relationships and visions; mobilizing youth and adults; Disney sweatshops; working with young people as a way to confront cynicism; youth who care about social change and resent previous generations’ mistakes they must live with; Craig Kielburger; how young people are disempowered, doubly so when they work for social change; losing builds resilience; David Chudnovsky; social change requires celebration to keep us going; work-life balance in activism and saying no; hope, common sense, pacing and self-knowledge; Greenpeace, protests, martyrdom; CCPA and Check Your Head and mentorship; Fraser Institute indoctrination programs

- the future: indulging imagining a functioning utopia and what we want our communities to look like; capitalism is not eternal, particularly because of finite resources; spanning communities to synchronize work for social, political and economic change; focussing on change that really matters right now while keeping a long-term plan; the value of being interdisciplinary; there is no real failure when groups engage with each other; the Open Space workshop model, its advantages and frustrations; Open Space as a metaphor for empowering citizens’ involvement in politics; Don Davies, Jack Layton and a community meeting at Collingwood Community Centre on politics and the economy;

- how the Foundation restaurant’s expansion is a good sign for culture and community on Main Street in Vancouver.

Logical Absurdities: Only Anti-Government Sentiments Are Political

So, US Iraqi war veterans who oppose the political mission, though presumably they support the troops [themselves, their comrades and friends], aren’t allowed to march in a Veterans Day Parade in Long Beach.

“They do not fit the spirit of the parade,” she said. “The spirit being one of gratitude for what the veterans have done. We do not want groups of a political nature, advocating the troops’ withdrawal from Iraq.” Parade coordinators work hard to keep the event free from politics.

This is the absurd double standard that plagues people cursed with an inability to understand paradoxes.

I remember the early 1990s and how hard it was to make it through the relativist paradox of elements of post-modernism. As an early post-modern zealot, I rejected absolute truths because I rejected any truth as being able to be absolute. I was trying to embrace that concept while rejecting the arguments that have supported the human misery that resulted from absolute truths: white supremacy, genocide in the Americas, heterosexism, two millennia of imperial Christianity.

But at the same time, there is the relativist paradox that rejecting absolutes is itself an absolute.

This inability to contend with the modernist-postmodernist tension shows up in the “support our troops” nonsense, whereby anyone who rejects Canada’s presence in Afghanistan doesn’t support the troops, even though the troops didn’t make the politician send them there.

It also shows up in the more single-minded culture in the USA. If you oppose the government, you are being political. Yet it is not a political act to support it. So a Veterans Day parade is for apolitical people.

It also shows up in this surreal Flickr group, America, America!

It is hard to fathom:

About AMERICA, AMERICA! 1200+ members & growing! **** WE ARE NOW A GROUP OF 1200+ MEMBERS! AWESOME! YAY! WOW!
GOD BLESS AMERICA, AMERICA! THANKS TO ALL OF OUR MEMBERS, OUR FAMILY!
****************************************************************************************
OUR PERMANENT THREAD IS FLAG DAY, PLEASE ALL MEMBERS POST ALL PHOTOS OF OLD GLORY IN THE “FLAG DAY” THREAD! We are building the biggest best collection of American Flag photos on Flickr!! Let’s do it together!!
****************************************************************************************
THESE THREADS ARE CURRENTLY OPEN FOR POSTING:
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL,
MY HOMETOWN;
SPORTS STORIES;
SPACE, THE FINAL FRONTIER!
PLANES, TRAINS AND MOTOR VEHICLES
FLAG DAY (PERMANENT THREAD)
Anyone who posts in any thread receives a special award and will be eligible for front page exposure!

GROUP RULES: NEW RULE, POSTING LIMIT IN POOL 1O PER DAY! Any pictures, photoart, digital art that depicts the good and positive things about America or any place that loves freedom! Photos and photoart that depict patriotism, the spirit of America, family life, and that which shows the ways God has Blessed America and the world. Please *NO POLITICS OF ANY KIND*, *NO CAMPAIGN PHOTOS FOR ANY PARTY*! NO AMERICA BASHING, NO rude or BAD LANGUAGE, and NO nudes. This is a wholesome family oriented group about America and the people who make her the greatest nation in the world.
If you have a gripe about something, write a letter to the editor at your local newspaper -THIS is NOT a forum for anger. Thanks and enjoy! Fantartsy AKA JJ

IMPORTANT NOTICE: ANYONE who blocks administrators will be banned from the group and all their photos WILL BE REMOVED!JJ/ administrator

GROUP MOTTO: FOR THOSE WHO LIVE IN OR LOVE THE IDEALS OF FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE FOR WHICH AMERICA STANDS. Thanks to each and every member for making this a great AMERICAN group! JJ and all the administrators and helpers!

Beyond the planes, trains and motor vehicles fossil fuel worshiping, the philosophy of the group is similarly blind to the reality that they themselves are expressing a political view of supporting the government, an act they ban by definition. I remember in the 1980s Bruce Springsteen said blind faith in your leaders or in anything will get you killed.

The good and positive things about America or any place that loves freedom, however that is defined by the group leaders. Patriotism, the spirit of America, family life [defined again I suspect by the group leaders], how God has blessed America and the world [again, defined by the group leaders]. No politics of any kind shows they have no sense that their whole group is a political expression of rigid, uncritical conformity with the government line.

And yes, America is the greatest nation in the world. I’m always wondering what criteria people use to say that. Constant overt and covert invasions and subversion of other countries for over two centuries? Largest military expenditure? Only country to use nuclear weapons on civilians? Economic imperialist supporting multi-national corporations creating global feudalism with half the world’s 6.6 billion people in the world dying on less than $2/day?

Anger and “gripe” belong in newspapers. And while they have the right to have Flickr group that shows blind support of America’s junta, saying they brook nothing political is just silly.

They also say this for a current event:

fantartsy (a group admin) says:
04 Nov 07 – YAY!!1000+ members!!** .VETERANS’ DAY THREAD, open for 2 weeks only! Post a photo of the veteran you want to honor> ANYONE FROM ANY COUNTRY may post in this “special” thread!OPEN NOW! JJ/admns

I suspect that if Iraq Veterans Against the War members try to post pictures of events that are critical of the policy in Iraq, those pictures will be removed.