Posts Tagged ‘language and politics’

Speaker Pelosi Quotes Of América in Bailout Speech

September 30, 2008

Stocks plummeted on Wall Street after Nancy Pelosi delivered the historic US failed bailout plan.

Another in the growing number of examples proving a simple fact: blogging matters. During her soon-to-be-infamous bailout speech yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deployed this variation on the “Main Street” metaphor to describe the communities being impacted by the economic crisis:

“And we must insulate Main Street from Wall Street. And as Congresswoman Waters said, Martin Luther King Drive, in my district, Martin Luther King Drive and Cesar Chavez Road and all of the manifestations of community and small businesses in our community.”

She attributes these statements to Congresswoman Waters, but seems to forget that this metaphor was used during recent episode of the Brave New Film’s Meet the Bloggers show on which she and yours truly were guests. You can see for your self by watching that episode either in its entirety of by clicking to minute 22 of the 1/2 hour show and then going to the 11:30 point in the Pelosi speech. Seems she and Waters are also playing the game of many a blogger who don’t attribute either.

Besides the dull but perpetual need to massage our Latin male ego, this example points to two, more interesting observations. The first is , as mentioned above, the way it illustrates how the web and the blogosphere, in particular, manage to bypass the traditional and institutional gatekeepers by helping we marginal voices insert our memes and other matters into the political discourse. Secondly and more importantly, I think this example should also serve to remind us how important it is to push on an issue Pelosi, her Democrats and even Barack Obama have studiously avoided (Republican exclusion goes without saying): including those of of us who don’t live on “Main Street” in the world historic discussion of the economic debacle; The “Main Street metaphor leaves out the people who live along “Martin Luther King Drive” and “Cesar Chavez road”: renters, the poor, homeless people and lots of other whites and non-whites.

So, there you have it. Though the writer in me still has some reservations about the literary and journalistic value of blogs and other new media, their utility and effectiveness can hardly be questioned. The secret, it seems, is to mix the power of the medium with the Spirit of the Word.

Recreate 68, the DNC and the Urgent Need to Reinvent Our Political Language

July 7, 2008

Tie-dye used as stage decor, Snoqualmie Moondance festival (1992)1968 protest

This article in the L.A. Times (LAT) about the protests and other activities planned for next month’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) make me want to throw on a tie dye, smoke some sin semilla and blare the the song, Times They Are NOT a-Changin’.

My point is that, rather than frame the protests as a response to the unique confluence of issues that constitute our crisis – war, declining empire, worldwide starvation, the death of the American Dream and the rapid decimation of the planet itself, to name a few- the writers and editors at major media outlets simply cut story lines and even images(!) from the 60’s protests and paste them onto the present. But most problematic is not so much the reporting as the fact that DNC protest organizers themselves provided the frame. They did so from the moment they chose the unhappy name for the coordinated protest effort in Denver: Recreate 68.

Sources in Denver told me last year of plans to call the event Recreate 68 and my initial reaction was, “Have they no political imagination?” Asked how they came to this decision, my sources, who didn’t want to be identified because of their need to coordinate with the protest organizers, told me that a most deadly combination was largely responsible for coming up the Recreate 68 tag: aging white leftists and young people anxious for history and change. Those who say that the language matters less than the real life issues being discussed have zero sense of how language and framing can completely block and deaden your main message.

While the motivations of both the young people and the aging white leftists are understandable, their political logic is not. By framing things in this way, they are basically denying the uniqueness of the political moment, the specificity of specific struggles. Also, local activists and their activities, their language will be beamed out to a country and a planet unable to distinguish the Colorado political accent from that of the rest of us who do not wax as nostalgic for 1968.

Some will argue that the mainstream media will inevitably spin against protesters anyway. Maybe, but we don’t need to do the work for them and, more importantly, we ourselves, especially young people, must forge a political identity and create language unique to current challenges, something made exponentially more difficult by the deadening nostalgic mediocrity of the Recreate 68 frame.

Keeping a line of political tradition constitutes a necessary part of any good movement-building-but not at the expense of eliding the burning issues or our time. I can already hear the deployment in Denver of political language so dead and compromised that even Presidential candidates are using it: “Yes we can”, “Si Se Puede”, etc. Denver points to the urgent need to reinvent and reinvigorate our language and political framing.

More than ever, we need to focus national and global attention on the unique and daunting problems we face. “Recreate 68” sounds more like something more appropriate for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young reunion concert than for a movement of our troubled times.