Words are political: not just by degree of how effectively they can be manipulated, but also by the kind of phrases they are put into by the writers. By the latter I mean, expressions are prerogatives of writers: some need to vent out, some strive to agitate and some find words in reminiscences.
Gil Scott Heron was thinking of the powerful visuals of television and their impacts on audience when he was growing definitively skeptical. But he had still not thought that television with its pluralistic marketplace of ideas still had more coming. And soon, we discovered that McLuhan’s “hot” medium no more can match up with the hardline messages of some commentators, who are out to convince viewers that facts as portrayed by them are more engrossing than fictions.
Enough has been said of “The O’Reilly Factor” — the most-watched program on cable news. In fact “Outfoxed” has grossed millions only by its critic on Bill O’Reilly. As if Fox was not already known to be catering to the conservatives, derived from Pew Researches on audience constitution, we have a frenzy in the nation to prove if O’Reilly is a liberal or a liberal-basher. To end controversies, one just needs to watch Talking Points, any episode, to get it straight from mouth of the horse, as I did last week…
My blogs, then become one of the outlets for both my frustrations and anger, because I need not take things for granted any longer and I want to connect with those who are on the similar path. For, I am not alone in this world where freedom is granted in installments by the ruling class. I am with the groups of people who seek freedom for all, or freedom for none—who believe that the limited freedom, that better than thou freedom in effect, should be reserved for none.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, drafted by James Madison:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The Washington Post quotes Federal Election Commissioner David M. Mason:
“We are almost certainly going to move from an environment in which the Internet was per se not regulated to where it is going to be regulated in some part. That shift has huge significance because it means that people who are conducting political activity on the Internet are suddenly going to have to worry about or at least be conscious of certain legal distinctions and lines they didn’t used to have to worry about.”
While contrasting Madison and Mason, let’s worry:
We got Presidents famously known to end speeches with “God Bless America”; we got enforcement agencies tapping phones and monitoring chat conversations; and we got an individualistic society committed not to assemble for common good– but grow insanely self-centered to survive battles of job insecurities.
When it has come to ownership of media, FCC has let go of regulations—indeed purged existing regulations, so that only the big fishes remain (after gobbling the smaller ones, of course). So that, monopolies emerge in the garb of competition. When it has come to mergers and acquisitions of media business, there is no such regulations. Indeed the team spirit exhibited by top companies in their quest to end public initiatives in community media, alternative media, radical media, and/or free media, is matchless. And there is no regulation sought for, even as more than three-fourths of community radio stations remain forced-closed. When it comes to prevailing power of the established conglomerates to eliminate all the lesser press, there has been no regulations.
Merely three decades ago, when there were offensives against the underground press and sabotaging staged against the dissident press, no regulations ever were in place to monitor CIA, FBI and the Army. When Ramparts was investigated into for having planned an expose on CIA’s funding of the US National Student Association, there were no call for regulations on the agency’s high-handedness in dealing with press freedom. When FBI persuaded Columbia Records to stop advertising in the underground press such as Berkeley Barb and Free Press, there was no regulations to judge the qualification of a domestic investigation agency to influence press advertisements. The six-paper Kaleidoscope chain, student papers South End, State News, or publications such as Rearguard, Independent Eye, Queen City Express, The Sea Turtle and the Shark and dozens more were all targeted by the establishment, there was no talk of such regulations. And we are not even talking about radical press here, not even about Alternative Press Syndicate news service. Not making a profile of Independent Eye, Off Our Backs, the boycotted publisher Bill Schanen, the White Panthers or the Black Panthers.
In many ways, the historical contexts differed, although social injustices are as rampant as ever and there is an acute need of a vigilant press as mass media aimed to educate the peoples and not end up becoming a fourth estate, an indispensable wing of the White House to publish the voices of the administration.
But in some more fundamentally different ways, Mason’s statements call for alarm. Unlike publications and publishers, the companies who fund and those who do not, this time around, the laws will focus on regulations on individuals like you and I who are reading and blogging our active voices!
I have always been an ardent supporter of regulating media, to begin with. Unless there are regulations on part of the state to monitor free competition, only a handful of people will survive and flourish in any business. This will be to the detriment of majority others since, the monopoly will ensure a profit sphere, not a pubic sphere for media discourse. Historically the grip, as we know, has been let loose and the monopolies, as we know, have been the outcome of the ‘deregularization”. Lack of regulations have only led to media monopoly. Hence the emergence of online media expression, not in form of subsidiary sister concerns of big press but as outrageously challenging individual bloggers running free words on free space. I call this the fifth space.
That is new about Mason—He talks of regularization this time, of the bloggers. Not of the political economy. But of the individual voices. Of the freewheeling thought provokers. Of the alternative thinkers translating thoughts to words that get published without a publisher to be scrutinized.
“People who are conducting political activity on the Internet are suddenly going to have to worry about.” Mason is right. So far, people never conducted political activities except on the day of the poll. These days people blog their journeys and comments on a daily basis. The voice is louder. The hyperlinks have become major organizing tools. Suddenly the “Person” has become political, as against the corporate houses which were political agents forever shielded by political powers.
The personal voice has become significant and a force to reckon with. Community organizations were dreaded so far. Now on, the fear of a virtual community. For a community is not per se. A community needs to be organized. Just when bloggers communicated with each other, expressed their commonalities basing on political frustrations, we knew a community was being formed. When Dailykos, claiming to be progressive amassed maximum hits in face of corporate angst, eyebrows were raised. But a community was being formed nevertheless.
Now on, beware! Read the board. A law is underway. Assemble against it, as the right one can exercise, or be silenced as the unsung martyrs of an era – where freedom could be expressed without resorting to the watchful fourth estate. Indeed it could be felt because it posed a challenge to the fourth estate. For once, lets see whose side is the estate taking. Of freedom of expression or fiefdom of suppression.
Does freedom mean different things to different people. I would say yes. And which is why, blog freedom is still not worth a dekko for most people at this point.
But if we look before we leap to this conclusion, it will be indeed foolish.
There are at least two resulting conclusions:
One, freedom is necessary
Two, It is not.
I think both ends of the freedom spectrum have some values. How much freedom is “necessary”? I would say, minimum freedom is necessary. Just like the minimum sources of sustenance.
Lets start from the minimum: With basic freedom of speech and expression and of all things necessary, the world can live a happy life. There are oppressed people and suppressed voices world over who need to be heard. Folks burdened with the task of teaching the untamed quite a few lessons need to find a stage and platform. For, the unheard are not voiceless. The unheard are just plenty of noises yet to find a channel. The united voices will emerge sooner or later.
And when the majority will speak, the voice will no more be suffocated under any obligations, will not be marred by moral prospects, will not stay quite for sake of civility. The outcry for freedom from colonialists and imperialists have found its ways of expressions in the past and it will in the future. Difficult is the process, for the majority indeed are the marginalized in the world today.
But the time is not far ahead. I am sure its going to take place during my lifetime. During this lifetime. Institutional norms will be challenged. Classics will be revisited. Values long kept holy will be tarnished with specks of multiple truths only to reject them. Traditional discriminations will meet with radical equalities.
Individuals will have found a society where the freedom will be experienced vis-à-vis the way we all would be connecting, not constantly squabbling over disconnects.
Now, that’s minimum freedom. Enough to generate a life and sufficient to live it with dignity. Unfortunately most are deprived of it since long.
Now the analogy I intend to draw is with the material acquisitions. To what extent can one possess things to be called one’s own. When even one’s life betrays, can the material goods or private property provide the lasting comforts to last as much as one would wish one had. Aren’t accidents caused in luxurious cars and business class flights? In other words, there is never enough of material comforts to grant one a content life. What is needed indeed is, a basic minimum standard of living. For All. So that we don’t fight over each other’s “acquisitions”. That’s community building with a social concern. How to do that is another question, we will attempt at answering in next few writings. But what it is, is this: We need just the basic means. Everything else is superfluous.
Stretch the material acquisitions for a moment to imply that the more one has, the more happy one is, if not content. True. But what gathers momentum is the fact that the gap existing between the haves of the “comforts” and the have-nots of the “comforts” get indeed widened beyond repair unless some drastic and often radical measures are taken to bring economy to homeostasis.
Include freedom: How much freedom is enough was discussed. But what was left out, apart from the mechanism of freedom (like the political economy), the apprehension if the amount of freedom has any normative value.
Here it is: when freedom is unbridled in an unequal society, the class of people who owns the most will also end up owning the most freedom. In other words, the grand narrative will again be repeated by the owners of the freedom in the dominant tongue.
Freedom is a thing one is born with, not something to be granted. Perhaps so. But the fact remains, that freedom is often enough trampled and en masse bought by the ruling class who subsequently grants some of it to us in installments. As long as we do not notice this, we will be turning our back at the most fundamental need.
What do we need to do?
We need to ensure basic freedom to all. This will mean the same “drastic and often radical measures” to take away some extra freedom from some and distribute among all. I am not sure yet if freedom needs to be taken care of before “owned” properties or vice versa, but the only plausible solution at the moment points towards this.
In my opinion, there are excesses of Freedom as there are excesses of Private properties. The prerogative lies with the privileged to not acknowledge this. And with the vast majority of the world’s populace without access either to properties or freedom, unmatched both by degree and type, its time to acknowledge this.
Some of us shall have to sacrifice parts of us we called our own, this part which we thought we could use in any manner possible. At least this was true in case of those who have the power to exercise this excess of freedom. In order to exonerate the power, we have to redefine what constitutes freedom and how much exactly we need.
For if not done, those who own freedom granting authorities will keep on wielding more of the freedom to restrict some of it when it comes to us, and justify the entire gamut of unfair play in the name of “We the people”.