2008 National Conference for Media Reform

I was there! – this year’s NCMR was just a block from where we live in downtown Minneapolis, the Conference was exciting and important. It was great: focused on the “mechanics” of regaining a Voice in American (political) life. I have a few areas of criticism, which I’ll get to as someone who thinks that ideas, history, visions for the future of democracy are critical to this discussion.

To begin: more than 3,000 people were there – from all over the country – who agreed that the media are in the hands of the rich, corporate, greedy: thus powerful. Worse, that the rich (Rupert Murdoch comes to mind) are acquiring more and more outlets for journalism as are the politicians who use their money to get more and more power: control most of television, radio, and the faltering newspaper “business.” The only outlets right now are Public Television, NPR, and a very few smaller outlets of public radio –(I do listen to Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” most days, as well as the evening daily presentations from the West Coast and weekly Counterspin…and the blogosphere).

Questions of the FCC (two of the Commissioners were present) being tempted to permit unlimited ownership of and in a nervous time, raised questions of journalism, truth, and the very possibility of whether other than the rich and powerful can have and maintain a voice in America and the world.

How to oppose the rich and powerful and their friends: by getting together this past weekend. Bill Moyers was at his brilliant best – exploring the realities of these complicated times – and urging us all to become even more active – each of us. There were also other fine speakers, and many smaller discussions. Bill and others explored the internet and its possibilities for gaining power and voice. Arianna Huffington told her story, and did many others (Amy Goodman, Naomi Klein, David Sirota, John Nichols of the Nation, Lawrence Lessig and many more who told their stories and how they worked and focused on changing or creating new outlets to get everyone’s story into the world: including the poor, ethnic, immigrants… any and all of us who oppose the rich and powerful, and who worry that this country and democracy are at great risk.

Here’s the full video of Moyers’ energizing keynote…

I’m excited, exhausted, feel very fortunate that we were able to hear all these people, gather their excitement and give them our support and best wishes.

My concerns have to do with the concentration (absolute necessary, but…) on the “mechanics” and how-to-do all this. The job has to get done, or else!

What’s not much up for discussion are the times we’re in and the history of how such times were displaced: the Gilded Age of the late 19th century which led to the Progressive Democracy, and the boom times of the 1920’s leading to the Great Depression and Roosevelt’s rethinking toward the New Deal. The current plutocracy and control of money and power is not a new story, and it’s useful to study how the others happened and how; and how they fell.

Also the question of ideas, of PR (public relations) which has gotten us to this moment needs to be studied: the power of TV (especially) and how it works for or against us, happened and got us here – but how it worked, where it might be going, how to re-frame and re-cast it – is a lot about ideas. We are not all innocent in adopting similar ways of thinking and doing – and it’s important to try to gain various perspectives on us, these times…

And last: I think it’s terribly important to think about these times: us, global, how to envision the future of democracy. The rich and powerful have been playing with ideas and visions at least since the early 1970s with think-tanks, and many other directives and ploys. We – who oppose – have been too occupied with opposing the peoples in power, less on questioning the nature of power into possible futures.