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The Many Ironies of Media
Dana Williams
I got a call today from a reporter with the Akron Beacon-Journal today at work. The Beacon is “the” newspaper in Akron and a Knight-Ridder subsidiary. It is a part of the “mass media”, in every sense of the phrase.

The fact I got a phone call from a reporter is not really surprising. I've often spoken to and allowed myself to be interviewed by the mainstream press, for a variety of causes, events, and reasons. This time it was about a large national anti-war march/rally in DC next weekend. The ironic thing about the phone call was that I was wearing a t-shirt that says “Don't Trust the Corporate Media”, while I cheerfully answered the reporter's questions.

It seems like the world of “media” is wholly submerged in irony. I maintain a love-hate relationship with the media. Actually, more of a acceptance-rejection relationship. I can one minute be lambasting them for omissions, ignorance, lame arguments, and cowardice, and the next minute patiently answering their questions, hoping against hope that they quote me accurately. I both accept the necessity of working with the mass media and reject the restraint to only work through the mainstream media.

To me it seems foolish to cut off the nose to spite the face. It seems just as foolish to tie your own hands behind your back. Why not try to utilize the media, and exploit its power for my own ends? And why not create my own forms of media and expression to supplement, counteract, challenge, and subvert the mainstream media? If I've got the time, know-how, and means... why not?

As Michael Albert would pose the question, is it more effective to reform the New York Times, or to create a counterbalance to the Times, such as an on-par, daily Z Magazine? Both are reasonable approaches and both could accomplish the same ends. Thus, if I'm truly feeling radical, I should aim for both goals, since in the process of effectively obtaining both goals, they would theoretically arrive at a common ground between the two: a more open, critical Times and a more widely syndicated and accessible Z.

Sometimes it seems insane how much media we are inundated with. We consume it as if it's air. We read it on billboards, the side of buses, and in newspapers. We hear it on the radio, we see it on TV, in movies, and littered about everywhere.

I find myself working so much with media-- maybe because I see it as the way to communicate with more than one person at once. I used to DJ at a college radio station. I make fliers for radical events/demos. I create agitprop (agitation propaganda) for elicit posting with wheatpaste (one part flour, one part water). I spray walls with air-pressurized paint and Situationist-styled slogans. I make my own “political t-shirts”. I write on bathroom stalls-- especially when I read previously scribed homophobic and sexist shit. I make tons of webpages: for groups I'm involved in and for myself. I try to publish the silly things I write in the zines and web-forums of friends and other people who I figure ought to be “down”. I goto the public library at least once a week, checking out CDs, videos (Hollywood, indys, and documentaries), and the cookbooks and how-to books. I peruse the few new issues of mags I like that the library subscribes to. I'm subscribed to ten million email lists. I read most of all that crap. Then I read the crap on all the alternative media sites (and for good measure, a few of the “straight” ones, like CNN.com). I try to read the foreign press-- even the BBC is more radical that any mainstream US source. I help run a webpage called “AkronOhio.net”, where we collect stories written by local activists.

I help out with the Cleveland Independent Media Center. The IMC movement is by far one of the coolest things to hit the activist world in recent years. Here's a media source that actual embodies our values of decentralization, autonomy, local-control, solidarity, democracy, direct action, transparency, freedom, networking, anti-authoritarianism, and consensus decision making. Ya gotta love it.

Media is also that one thing where I feel like I'm doing something (outside of basic activism). Maybe this is because I know that others can share my ideas and thoughts freely. Or maybe because I'm “making a difference”. Or perhaps because I hope that it'll inspire others to express themselves more, too. Or maybe I just do it because I have a desire to produce creative things. Probably all the above. I become the media. I became the media. I will stay the media.

01/14/03