This past weekend I attended a talk by Jen Angel – media activist, writer, and cofounder of Clamor magazine – whose energy and dedication to radical media activism never cease to amaze me. Jen recently published a pamphlet called Becoming the Media: A critical history of Clamor magazine (PM Press), a review of which will be running in the upcoming Loud issue of Bitch.
Jen also recently wrote a piece for In the Middle of a Whirlwind called Media and Activism: Creating and maintaining effective movement media. She read excerpts from both of these pieces at this weekend's event, and included a really powerful quote from a talk given by Sut Jhally, professor of communication and director of the Media Education Foundation, explaining how progressive media is severely underfunded...
"Unfortunately there is little such commitment to media issues either institutionally or individually on the Left. For example, take a look at foundation funding and philanthropic funding. The endowments of Liberal foundations (I've got a very broad term of Liberal) such as the Ford Foundation far outweigh the resources of conservative foundations. Those resources are literally in the billions of dollars. But their funding of independent media is pitiful, partly because of the fetishism of wanting measurable short-term results. In fact, some Liberal foundations explicitly say that they will not fund media projects. When I see those words written, I say… How can we possibly think about social change if we in fact refuse to struggle around one of the central aspects where power is manifested which is in the symbolic realm. And before you agree with me too readily – this is the part that people are not going to like—let's examine our individual media consumption as well. Independent media have been severely under-funded relative to how much individuals give to the corporate media. If you have cable, and I include myself in this when I think about where I spend my money, my media money, if you have cable or satellite TV or a connection to the internet, you are directly funding corporate media. People think nothing of spending $100 or more a month on cable and the internet. And yet independent media has to beg to get a few scraps. I just did the math on this. It's sometimes really good to fantasize—fantasy is always a prerequisite for social change—Let's presume you could get a million people on the Left to take media issues seriously. That's actually, given that MoveOn has three and a half million members and a lot of other sites have membership in the millions, that is not an unreasonable thing. Let's say you could get a million people to rethink their media consumption and their media expenditures. Let's say you could get a million people to spend $100 a month on independent media. If you don't have a calculator, I'll do the math for you. That is 1.2 billion dollars. If we act together and if we make the media something that is central to how we think about politics, think of what that would make possible, and how we would aid progressive forces in this country. Why don't we do that? Because media issues are still seen as secondary."
Of course, if you want to give all of your money to independent media projects, well that'd be even lovelier.
Thanks to Jen for visiting Portland and sharing her independent publishing wisdom with us. Keep up your tireless work!