|English | Español||January 17, 2018 | Issue #29|
"Storming the New Seat of Power"
Remarks to the Mídia Tatica convention
Text of speech by Al Giordano
Adriana Veloso, the new Narco News
Before we continue this jailbreak, I want to offer a global appreciation to the revolutionary Carioca artist, Latuff. We’ve been email friends for years in many Zapatista solidarity efforts. In México, where I have spent most of the past seven years, Latuff is very widely loved for his work. Latuff helped me in my legal battles when I was sued by Citibank-Banamex, and I’ve tried to help him in his battles against other kinds of censors, but I only met him, face to face, here, at Mídia Tática.
Also, a big shout out to my Brazilian colleagues of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism who are here with us tonight: our scholarship recipients – now graduates – Ana Luiza Cernov from here in Sao Paulo and Karine Melissa Muller from Rio de Janeiro. Karine is reporting on tonight’s discussion for Narco News. If you want to make any comments or criticisms of my words here, see Karine after the talk, because at Narco News we want to make your voice heard, too. From Belo Horizonte, we have another graduate here, Adriana Veloso, the famous “Dri” of IndyMedia. Well, actually, she invited me here. That’s her, on stage here, translating my words to you. Some of you have heard – the secret is out on the street – that Veloso is the newest member of the Narco News Team, our international Director of Strategy. She’s been on the job for three weeks now, and I’m very happy with her collaborations. She’s an ace strategist and a bona fide revolutionary. All of us were together last month on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, with 26 students and 26 professors, bringing forth the Authentic Journalism renaissance, in what Kropotkin called Mutual Aid, and I don’t think we’ll ever be far apart.
Revolution is not about organizations. It is not about books or governments. It is not about dogma or karma. Revolution is about one thing only: Revolution is about people, human beings, seres humanos.
These half-dozen autênticos already know what I’m going to say. Any of them could probably say it better than me. I thought that if I mentioned May
I’m a reporter, a journalist, but I try 24 hours a day to be an Authentic Journalist, um Jornalista Autêntico. That means, among other things, going to the source, the eyewitnesses of a story, not simply believing what I read or merely repeating what other journalists and authors write. And although I may well have read everything that exists in English and Spanish about May 1968 and the Situationist International, including all the SI texts, I have only interviewed one person who was in fact there, present, in Paris in May 1968: my good friend from New York, Judith Malina, of the Living Theater.
As Félix Guattari told Charles V. Stivale in a 1985 interview:
“(There is) a potential America, an America of nomadism . . . I was thinking of Julian Beck, of Judith Molina… of the Living Theater. Just because they’ve been completely marginalized is no reason to ignore their existence. They still exist nonetheless.”
I can confirm that Judith Malina still exists. This is what the great revolutionary Judith Malina told me about May 1968.
She and Julian Beck, who is now deceased, but immortal, and the other members of the Living Theater were in Paris, in exile from the United States, during that 1968 French spring. Guattari called them part of the “America of nomadism,” a term to which I can relate. On the night of May 10th, barricades went up in many of the streets of Paris and other parts of France. Tensions on university campuses had exploded. And all these radical theater people, Judith, Julian and their friends, of course wanted to participate. “What do we do?” they said. “We’re actors, we’re dramaturges, if the revolution is here, then what is our role in the revolution?”
Did they go to City Hall? Did they storm the Bastille? Did the actors and actresses and dramaturges and set designers and costume makers and songwriters and playwrights go to a hall of government when it seemed that the revolution had come? No!
The actors marched on the prestigious Odéon Theater, home of the Comédie Française. In the storming of the Odéon, they put up banners on the balconies, they danced, they sang, they took over the stage, the seats, the lights, the curtains. They occupied the theater. All day and all night they held discussions – they called this act of theater a “people’s parliament” – and they talked there, in the liberated theater, with each other, about utopia, about daily life. Julian would later call his play about it “Paradise Now.”
In doing that, the theater director, of course, stopped being the director and became part of the play.
Later, when the boot came down, when the rebellion was over, that director was fired by the bosses at the Odéon.
That was just one small slice of what occurred in May 68 in France. Actors took over the national theater. Workers took over factories. Students took over universities. Then the boot came down.
Guy Debord of the Situationist International, the SI, later said that the events of May 1968 in France were not a “mass strike,” as some had defined it, but, rather, a “wildcat strike.” And it is true that many important sectors of workers participated, beginning on May 14th, three days into the turmoil, when aviation workers became the first to go on strike and the mass action spread like wildfire throughout the working class. This was not a strike called by union leaders. It became, in many instances, a strike as much against union bureaucrats as it was against business owners, and against political party leaders, and against Church leaders, and against government bosses… against all the hierarchies and systems of domination.
Debord and the SI, according to many of the books and histories, were obsessed with one thing during those days, events for which their previous actions were largely responsible: How to convert that revolutionary moment to spark the creation of Workers’ Councils. By Workers Councils they meant decentralized, autonomous, councils of the workers in each workplace, to take control of the means of production, not through a State apparatus, not through a political party apparatus, not through a traditional union apparatus that bargains with the bosses, but, rather, directly, as a means of self-management. Their slogan was: “ALL POWER TO THE WORKERS COUNCILS!”
Raoul Vaneigem, the author of the aforementioned A arte de viver para as novas gerações, was a member of the SI. He was a brilliant writer and popularizer of Debord’s ideas against spectacular capitalism. He also had his own ideas to popularize. Vaneigem had – indeed, he still has, like Judith Malina he still exists! – a strong Reichian sense of the importance of the pleasure principle. In that sense, his seminal work was more compelling to the youth than the heavy Hegelian discourse of Debord, which, as we say in Mexico, could sometimes be pesado. When the revolt of May 68 exploded, Vaneigem went immediately to Nantes, the big French university center where the turmoil had started, specifically with the goal of getting the striking students – they had taken over their university – to support the workers, the masses, to help this push toward Workers’ Councils.
There are conflicting accounts of what did happen but in the end, here’s the bottom line: It didn’t happen. The revolution, I mean, did not come to France or to the developed world.
There was a revolutionary moment in May and June of 1968 in Paris and elsewhere. It serves as a lighthouse to help us navigate the seas. But there was, in the end, no revolution in France in 1968.
Too much of revolutionary history is about what did not happen.
The same thing did not happen with the student movements of the 1960s in the United States. I know more about those events than I do about Paris 1968 because I grew up in New York with that history all around me. I have been lucky to collaborate over the years with many of the key players involved from the Beats, to the Civil Rights movement, to Warhol’s Factory, to Stonewall, to the Yippies, to the SDS, to the Weathermen, to the Black Panthers, to the White Panthers, to the United Farm Workers, to the bomb-throwing splinter groups of the 1970s… There were – because I came of age not in the sixties, but, rather, in the seventies – other histories that I lived more directly: the punk explosion of 1975 in New York, and the anti-nuclear movement in my own country in the mid 1970s, when I became a participant, and not just a spectator, of social struggles, of “most radical gestures,” and of some precious revolutionary moments that serve, a quarter century later, as my lighthouses to navigate my way through this world.
Greil Marcus, in Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century, describes the impact of revolutionary moments on their veterans, when he speaks of the participants of the Dada movement’s Cabaret Voltaire:
“For the rest of their lives, they returned again and again to their few days in a Zurich bar. They tried to understand what happened to them. They never got over it.”
It’s always been kind of sad for me to see 1960s counterculture veterans so absorbed in what happened to them decades prior that, lost in the past, they could not be present ever again. But it is even sadder to see people my age and younger who seem nostalgic for eras in which we were not even present. “Nostalgia is another form of depression,” Abbie Hoffman told me when I was twenty. He said that his professor at Brandeis, Abe Maslow, had told him that when he was twenty. If any of you are twenty, let me repeat: “Nostalgia is another form of depression.” Lose it. The past belongs to someone else.
The only thing that belongs to us, right here, right now, is the Immediate Present.
And why is it – I must ask you – that people are so especially nostalgic for defeats? The 1960s was a defeat. I repeat: The rebel movements of the 1960s in the so-called First World were all crushed! My country – just look at today’s headlines – didn’t learn the so-called “lessons of Vietnam.” If you think Washington is repeating those mistakes in Iraq, just wait until Plan Colombia gets moving, where the jungle terrain is a lot more like that of Southeast Asia. From the United States to France in the 1960s, in the so-called developed world, students who had an historic chance to ally with workers proved to be too self-absorbed even in the most radical moments. They thought – and the media and the universities encouraged this error – that the historic moment was about them. College educated people tend to do that. They are programmed to do that. They don’t know how to stop sucking on that baby formula bottle. That’s the role of the University system: to keep you all infantilized, in a permanent state of immaturity and dependency. The University is a Middleman, a mediator; it is a brainwash factory. That’s its job. That’s why the capitalists give so much money to university endowments in the First World. That’s why the IMF and the Free Trade Area of the Americas want to privatize your public universities; The capitalist university is part of the control of society. It is very profitable for all of them to keep the educated docile and stupid.
The famous rebel students of the 1960s didn’t get it, which is why many of them went on to be yuppies and stock brokers: No revolution succeeds without the masses. The masses don’t go to college. The masses, with some exceptions, never get the chance to go to college. Students, in college, are taught that it is they, the “educated,” who teach the masses. What total fucking bullshit! The masses are the teachers of the world! Who makes history when history is made? The masses! A revolutionary is a student of the masses, or he and she are not revolutionaries at all.
Who are the masses? Here’s a big hint: The masses are not studied in books. Simply put, the masses are the poor and the workers. It needs no further explanation than that. You don’t have to read Karl Marx to understand this point (although it might help) and neither do the masses. In a world where the haves are a minority and the have-nots are the majority “the masses” are the have-nots.
I place special emphasis on the word “majority.” It makes those who speak of Democracy follow their own stated rules. They really hate it when we make them do that.
What does this have to do with Mídia Tática? I think many of you already know. You probably know better than me. But let me tell you my thoughts, so you can teach me better.
I spoke last night to a very smart guy, Hernani Dimantas, from Metafora Project, a very nice guy, too, and after trying to communicate in Português and English, we settled on Spanish. He told me of great plans to bring computers and Internet technology to the masses. I argued that the emphasis was backward. More important than bringing technology to the masses – which to me smacks of charity that can lead dangerously to condescension and colonial thinking and action – is my view that the masses must take back control of technology. I don’t want to bring technology to the masses. I want to follow the masses to remake technology. That may sound like a small semantic point but I think it makes all the difference on earth.
I am a very unlikely Luddite; an international poster-boy for press freedom on the Internet who hates the Internet! I work on the Internet. I distrust the Internet. The Internet is a world of total surveillance. I am the publisher of a tri-lingual Internet newspaper that receives two million hits a month: narconews.com (it is a dot-com, even though it is not commercial, and not a dot-org as it says on your programs; Narco News is not an “organization,” we operate more under the Deleuzoguattarian concept of “the war machine outside the State”).
I invite you to look up Narconews.com on the Internet – we now publish in Português, too, in addition to English and Spanish – and to participate in this war machine; to participate in this war, because we are at war, a kind of international Civil War, an armed conflict – armed with computers, cameras, pen and paper, and similar weapons – to take back journalism from the economic tyrants who stole and destroyed journalism in our lifetimes; some people call that revolution. Narco News is not a techno-toy or a plaything. It is not a scheme to make money. We are at war.
Our central premise for the immediate revolutionary of right here, right now, is this:
Media has become the State.
I repeat: the State can no longer be badly explained or misunderstood as simply being the government. The New State is much bigger than any government, much mightier than all governments put together. The State, in 2003, is a global interlocking machine of reproductive capitalist enterprises. This New State has a police force, an army, that does the dirty work of colonizing of hearts and minds of the people: That cop is the Media.
Media has supplanted the old systems of control to form a new tyranny over us all.
Therefore, I believe, revolution is necessary to overthrow this new State: A revolution against the Media. It is not enough to “be the Media,” as Jello Biafra says. It is not enough to “seize the Media,” although that is one step in the path ahead. We must break the Media. We must destroy the Media. We must overwhelm and collapse its illusory power. We must burst the Media’s power of illusion and make it impossible for the New State to ever again concentrate Media’s power in so few hands.
Today marks the publication of the Português translation of my 1997 work, The Medium Is the Middleman: For a Revolution Against Media, with the new footnotes I authored last year after the historic events in Venezuela caused me to return to the dream of that text. There are copies here in the hall, which is “a gift, not an exchange,” as Vaneigem said… the text is free because if you’re a media worker, if you are any kind of worker, you’ve paid enough already.
I admit this book was more popular in Spanish than it was in English. In North America it was a hated text. Words have consequences. This little book destroyed my journalistic career, caused editors that used to publish me to cross the street when they saw me coming, to stop taking my calls… and thank the heavens that happened because otherwise I never would have ended up crossing the border into the América with an accent as I did seven years ago.
We who are revolutionaries have to think very hard right now about the situation that confronts us. Why? So we can make revolution.
The State used to be defined as the part of society known as government. But in my lifetime, a bigger power has formed over the State, over all governments. Some people call this process “globalization.” But I think that is too simple a word for what I am trying to describe here, and at the same time it is not simple enough. There is a clearer word for this tyrant, one that is commonly understood by the masses in every country: the word I use is Media.
The State has always, throughout human history, been a tyrant, a bully. Tyranny is in the genetic coding of all governments. Governments exist to have power over people, even though they all claim to exist to give people power over them. I am an anarchist, which means I don’t want or accept a State over me. I am an anarcho-syndicalist, which is a fancy way of saying that I am an anarchist that believes in Workers’ Councils, that anarchism is only possible when we workers control our means of production from the bottom up. Anarchism, for me, is not about punk rock, tattoos and nose-rings, although I like all those things. Anarchism, for me, is not about what I like. It certainly is not about fashion, or art, or aesthetics.
Anarchism is about what I do not like. Anarchism is, for me, one thing: a negation. What I don’t like is anyone or thing having power over me that I don’t give or that I can’t take away.
But let me be very clear here, because even many anarchists misunderstand this concept, they become fundamentalists, and averse to the very “war machine outside the State” that Deleuze and Guattari identified, that Marcos and the Zapatistas reinvented, and that, as I am about to explain, at least one government in our hemisphere has begun to redefine!
As an anarchist, I don’t always mind you having power over me. My collaborators here are going to laugh right now because one of the most common things I say to them every day when they ask me questions about “what are we going to do, Al?” And I reply, “Just lead, please. Lead me!” The question is: do I give you that power over me freely of my own will? Or do you take it from me?
For example, I give my students at the School of Authentic Journalism more power over me than I take from them. I don’t mind giving that away: I learn more that way. I get to be the student. But nobody’s god and nobody’s devil will ever be able to help the asshole that tries to take power over me – or my students, or my professor colleagues – by force or manipulation. Go ahead. Try it. My students will kick your ass before I even get the chance. They are trained already in that martial art.
Government, of course, is still a bothersome creature. What? Nobody has any maconha to share with me on this stage tonight? See? Government sucks. What? Tobacco is prohibited in this fine hall? Ah, that just makes it taste better! Do you mind if I smoke? Do you care what I do? If so, the non-smoking section is outside on Avenida Paulista!
At Narco News we favor the legalization of drugs. Our journalism has a stated purpose: to expose the hypocrisy and harm of the so-called War on Drugs that is imposed by Washington and Wall Street on the rest of the hemisphere and the world. This task, reporting on the drug war from Latin America, quickly brought us onto another beat: reporting on the drug war and democracy from Latin America. And this rapidly forced us to pick up yet another beat: reporting on the drug war, the media, and democracy from our América. Drugs, Media, Democracy… you can’t pull these concepts apart. For Media is the most powerful drug of all, and the most addictive on the planet.
Narco News pulled on a loose thread called drug prohibition and quickly found the fabric of coups d’etat, counter-coups, false and simulated “democracy,” and Commercial Media control, coming apart. We’re still pulling on that string. I invite you to pull with us.
In the year 2000, the National Bank of Mexico sued Narco News, the Mexican Authentic Journalist Mario Menendez, and me in my hometown of New York City. We fought them tooth and nail, it was a very hard fight – it was a war! – and we won. We beat the billionaire narco-bankers. By December 2001, the New York Supreme Court had ordered the narco-bankers to go away, to leave us alone, and had established two new precedents in United States law: That big economic powers could no longer sue journalists from other countries so easily the United States, and that Internet journalists now have the same press freedom protections under the United States Constitution as the corrupt New York Times or any other commercial media. This decision broke the back of the monopoly by the paid press over free speech.
Well, fine. Rights can be good things if, and only if, we use them. We soon had a test in April 2002.
I remember sitting at my computer screen on the afternoon of April 11, 2002, somewhere in a country called América. Why do I always say that? Simón Bolívar, the Great Liberator of Venezuela, of Colombia, of other lands from the Spanish conquest, said, “Nuestra Patria se llama América!” The Name of Our Country is América! It really pisses me off when my gringo paisanos call themselves Americans, as if to imply that the Mexicano, the Venezolano, the Boliviano, the Colombiano, the Brasileiro, the Americano e Americana is somehow not, or somehow less of, an American. But, you see, I come from a country of crazy and selfish people who don’t know any better. Their government, and especially their media, tells them they are the Americans. Even the Canadians get pissed off at this, the Europeans laugh at the United States over this, and rightly so.
On that evening of April 11, 2002, a news story came shooting across the Internet about the elected president of Venezuela Hugo Chávez Frías. It said, “Chávez Resigns.”
This did not make any sense at all. I did not believe it for a New York minute, nor for a Sao Paulo second. Chávez had won six elections in just four years. He was and still might be – with all due respect to Lula – the most popular president of any country in América. In any case, at his lowest moment Chávez was more authentically popular and beloved than George Bush at his highest. And Chávez, unlike Bush, didn’t have to steal the election through Florida style fraud, either. So on April 11, 2002, what then did the professional simulators of the Commercial Media mean when they said that that “Chávez resigned”? That’s what Associated Press said. That’s what Reuters said. That’s what Dow Jones – the news service of the Wall Street Journal – said. Dow Jones reported 11 times that night that Chávez was fleeing his own country in an airplane! It was total fiction. The Comercial Media, all of them, lied! “Chávez resigned.” That is what CNN said. A Folha do Sao Paulo said “Chávez renunciou!” Even my friends at the Brasil Indymedia fell for it: “Chávez renunciou!” They all said this same thing, “Chávez Resigned,” but not one of them showed a statement by Chávez, a speech, a letter of resignation, nothing!
Commercial journalists today are pack journalists. If one person tells a big lie that serves the powerful, everybody else earns his paycheck by repeating it. And the lies spread around the world before the truth can put its pants on.
Well, thanks to non-commercial journalists on the Internet, you now know, the world knows: Chávez did not resign on April 11, 2002. He was kidnapped at gunpoint in a coup d’etat that almost turned the clock back thirty years in our América. If you remember the 1973 coup d’etat in Chile when the elected president Salvador Allende was murdered and General Agusto Pinochet took power through a military junta, then you know what a horrible bloody impact that event had on the rest of América, including Brazil. More civilians were killed on that September 11th in a stadium in Santiago than on the later massacre in the year 2001 in New York. The coup in Chile brought forward a long, dark, night of colonial control through military dictatorships all over América. And this was the plan by the powerful for Venezuela last year.
The plot was foiled, though. Within three days Chávez returned to the post that the people had elected him to do. And while Internet journalists and Narco News played a small role in this, it would be foolish of us to take credit for it. We didn’t make the news. We simply reported it truthfully against all the lies being told in those hours and days of April 2002. Let me tell you who did make the news: The masses!
People like Blanca Eekhout, our colleague at the School of Authentic Journalism, together with tens of thousands – really, millions – of working and poor people made history on those days in April 2002. Blanca, who was with us last month in Mexico, works with Catia TV, a community TV station in Caracas, Venezuela. Catia TV has been on the air for 25 years. It started as a pirate TV station, much like your Free Radio “Catch Me” that is broadcasting live from this convention this weekend or Rádio Muda from Campinas that has been broadcasting for the last 12 years. When the coup happened in Venezuela last year, the soldiers of the coup d’etat ransacked Catia TV and many other Community Radio and TV stations throughout Venezuela. Blanca and her colleagues had to hide the transmitter. Their elected president, Chávez, was being held prisoner. The new dictator Pedro Carmona abolished Congress, the Supreme Court, the Bolivarian Constitution of 1999, and sent his thugs house to house to hunt down, beat, torture, assassinate and imprison leaders that did not agree with his dictatorship. Blanca, who is 32 years old, was one of the people on the run.
But did Blanca Eekhout run away? No, she and many people like her joined together and began to take their City of Caracas back block by block and building by building. A group of them went to the Public TV Station, Channel 8, which had been shut down by the Carmona dictatorship while all the Commercial TV stations repeated the lie that “Chávez resigned.” And through the sheer power of masses of people overwhelming the police and army, they took back the State TV station and started broadcasting the truth: “No, your president has not resigned!”
They used mobile transmitters to spread the word. They used cell phones. They used the Internet. They used every weapon of communication available to them to get the truth out. This caused a chain reaction, bringing more people out into the streets. The masses surrounded the biggest military base in Caracas. The crowd grew to a size big enough to overpower even the military! Within the military, the rank and file soldiers – who, as in other nations, come from the poor – and some courageous brass (oficiais do exército) out in the provinces began to rebel from the military coup. The nation’s largest military airbase – where the F-16 fighter planes are hangared; weapons capable of laying waste to the oil fields that are the source of Venezuela’s vast wealth – then turned against the coup. They demanded that their kidnapped president be set free. The masses began to take back government buildings, but that could only happen after the people – people like Blanca; people like YOU - took back the State TV station and the means to broadcast the truth.
And I ask you to make an historical reflection, my friends at this convention on Tactical Media: The Commercial Media still talks about the so-called “Fall of the Berlin Wall.” But the Fall of the Wall was an aftershock to the earthquake that had already happened. What happened to make the Soviet fall? The people in the Soviet Bloc countries took back the State TV stations first. That – and not the halls of government – was the seat of Power. There were amazing scenes from those days in which masses of people invaded the TV stations and began to stand in front of the camera as working people, students, housewives, poor people, people who never went to college and who had never been inside a TV station. And they began to tell their stories of life under those regimes on camera, live, on the air, to their nations.
That moment – when the State TV stations fell to the masses – was the moment when the Soviet Bloc fell. Only later was the Berlin Wall destroyed.
There was some karma here for the Soviet. After all, it was Trotsky who, during the Russian Revolution, said it was more important to take the railroads and lines of communication than it was to take the government palaces. The regime’s soldiers went to defend the halls of government and the masses took the railroads. An anarchist in the Ukraine named Nestor Makhno – like Che, he was one of the great guerrilla military strategists of the last century – developed tactical media not only to seize the trains, but to turn trains into weapons. For almost 18 months the Ukraine was an anarchist federation. Well, you all know what happened: The Soviet revolution turned against Trotsky. It turned against Makhno. Both died in exile, Makhno in Paris of tuberculosis; Trotsky in Mexico City of assassination. And those treasons at the beginning of Soviet Rule came back to haunt the Soviet decades later, when the masses applied the tactical media of Trotsky and Makhno to the means of communication of the late 20th century.
By the 1990s, the locus of power was not located in the railroads, but, rather, in the airwaves: It was now the TV station, and not the train station, that held the key to communication between peoples and between regions. The masses didn’t need to be taught or schooled in this knowledge. The masses already knew!
Just as the masses in Venezuela already knew where the seat of power was located: They took back the national TV station and they surrounded the Commercial TV stations and corrupt daily newspaper offices. On that day, April 13, 2002, the Commercial TV stations stopped broadcasting news. The Commercial newspapers shut down, they did not publish. Of course, they have never reported authentic news or journalism, for them the job has always been one of simulated journalism at the service of the wealthy and not authentic journalism at the service of the majority. But on April 13, after Blanca and many others had taken back the State TV station and used smaller weapons like Community TV and Radio stations, like cell phones, like the Internet, to correct the lie – that “Chávez resigned” – with the truth – that a coup d’etat had stolen their democracy – the Commercial TV stations were reduced to non-stop broadcasting of cartoons and soap operas, with no news at all.
And no news was good news. The masses already knew the news, because the masses made the news, and made history on that day. Later, the corrupt owners of the Commercial TV stations in Venezuela claimed that they had to go dark on their news coverage because their so-called “journalists” – a word that, in the commercial press, means “professional liars” – were afraid for their lives! Were they? Really? I am an Authentic Journalist and if it is true that the false journalists feared for their lives I say to them and to you: “well, good!” War criminals should fear for their lives! The mercenaries who have helped the owning class to steal the public airwaves and put them to the service of a wealthy minority against the poor and working majority are war criminals. I spit in their faces. They have stolen my airwaves and your airwaves, and kidnapped our democracies.
I am very happy to be in Brazil. And I am very happy to be with all of you who seek to democratize the Media. Brazil seems, to me, to be a very optimistic country these days. I can feel the energy, especially from the young people, the hope that is so lacking in my own United States, and in the depressed and newly colonized nation of Mexico, and in other lands. You have the optimism today that the Venezuelan people had beginning in 1998 when they took back their country by electoral means.
I wish you, and your new president, Lula da Silva, the best of luck. But I must tell you to be careful. You must study what happened in Venezuela. Because there are powerful economic forces in my country and on this planet who even as they smile and shake Lula’s hand in Davos would like to reverse your democracy’s decision of October 27, 2002. The only reason why they, today, have to pretend to support you and your elected president is because they got caught trying to overthrow Venezuela’s democracy in April 2002. But they keep trying to remove Chávez, as we saw with the failed “strike” that was not a strike of December 2002 in Venezuela. The Commercial Media told you there was a “general strike” in Venezuela last December. But it was not general and it was not a strike. It was a lockout by the wealthy against the workers. Only the workers can make a strike. And only the masses can make history.
Lula and Brazilian democracy survive only because Chávez and Venezuelan democracy are taking the blows of the empire right now. If Washington and Wall Street succeed in toppling the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, where do you think they will go next? They will march right through Venezuela and into Brazil. These powers, if they had their way, would bring back your military dictatorship in order to control the ninth largest economy on earth. So be careful in your optimism of today. Be vigilant.
And if the day does come that Power tries to reverse your democratic process here, remember two things.
The first thing is that the seat of true power no longer lies in the halls of government. It is located in the large television transmitters and the other means of communication. We are seated here on Paulista Avenue, the high broad way of this giant of a city called Sao Paulo. With Mexico City and New York City it is one of the three most important communications nerve centers in our América. When you step out on the street tonight, look up at the skyscrapers that line Paulista Avenue and what you will see are the TV towers. That is where the seat of power is located. On the nights of October 6th and October 27th last year, just like on the nights of Carnaval, this street, this Avenue, was filled with hundreds of thousands of people, working people, poor people, the masses. At those moments, there is not an army or police force on earth that can stop the masses: not even the narco in Rio de Janeiro could stop Carnaval! If the day comes that your democracy is endangered, the masses already know what to do: First we take the TV stations.
The second thing I ask you to think about, because so many of you, like me, consider yourselves to be anarchists, is this: The authentic anarchist needs to develop an evolved analysis of the question “What Is the State?” The State is now larger than governments. The State has become privatized and globalized. Where is the seat of power for that State? It is not City Hall. It is not a building in Brasilia or Washington or Brussels. Power no longer comes from the barrel of a gun. Power is located in the means of communication: the TV station, the electric power plant that provides the juice to run that TV station, the phone lines and frequencies without which the Internet and the communications by that TV station would cease to exist, the Cable TV wires, the radio transmitters, the printing presses: Those are the weapons and military bases of global capitalism today.
I fear that Power has learned many lessons from its defeat last year in Caracas. The next time, Power may attempt to defend the TV stations with armies. Power may shut off the cell phone and Internet lines. Or it may shut them off selectively, leaving them only for those people in the minority who own credit cards. Beware and be careful.
If you are a media worker, if you are a technology worker, if you are a journalist, be an authentic worker. The Authentic Worker has class solidarity. The Authentic Media Worker is at the service of the masses. The Authentic Journalist is not a mercenary seeking wealth, fame, or career success. The Authentic Teacher is a student of the people who make history: the masses, the only people who have ever made history and the only people who ever will.
Which brings us back to Paris in May of 1968, to that lighthouse that illuminates all revolutionary efforts in the so-called developed world. Because I look at your great city of Sao Paulo and I see a society as developed or more than that of my hometown of New York. It brings us back to the story of Judith Malina and Julian Beck of the Living Theater. When the revolutionary moment came, where did the actors and playwrights go? They went and took the theater.
When the revolutionary moment comes, where will we, the Authentic Media Workers and the Authentic Journalists go? We will go to our theater: the fortresses of the Mass Media.
If you think the masses are stupid and are not already heading there, then you are not paying attention any more than those who could never imagine the masses in the Soviet Bloc taking the state TV stations or the masses in Venezuela taking back theirs and surrounding the commercial Media bunkers. The history of the end of the 20th Century, the history of the beginning of the 21st Century, was written by the masses and it was spoken and shown on the liberated airwaves. The events of Caracas on April 13, 2002 were more significant to the history of our species than those in New York on September 11, 2001. We still don’t know the true history of September 11th, 2001, and the reason we don’t know is because we live in a Media Dictatorship. But we do know the true history of April 13th. Because that was the day that the spine of the Media Dictatorship was snapped in two by the power of the people, by the mass of the masses; the poor people, the working people, the Authentic Journalists and Authentic Media Workers like Blanca Eekhout, who have given us all a new way to fight and win.
Maybe I am wrong. I’m a bitter and angry Gringo who knows that my own country’s democracy is a lie. I’m a defector from Commercial Journalism in my country who knows that “Freedom of the Press” is a myth, another lie perpetrated by an unfree press of simulation at the service of the wealthy and powerful. The single greatest threat to press freedom, to freedom of expression, in my country, and in this world, is not government. It is the owning class: the ones who own the TV towers, the phone lines, the electric power plants, the petroleum, the ones who have stolen the airwaves, our airwaves, from us in order to colonize our very human consciousness and turn us into good globalized consumers and slaves to technology and commerce.
Okay. I am done talking. That is all I have to say for now. I have shared with you a few of my thoughts merely as a means to get you to talk to me. I’m not here to tell you what to do. I am here as an Authentic Journalist, to listen to you. I have come to Brazil because your enthusiasm at this moment is inspiring to me. I want to learn from you how to bring your optimism to my own lands, places that have lost all but an imposed false optimism in the market and in a God called technology – because sometimes when I share these ideas with Tactical Media Workers the look on your faces seems like that on the faces of religious people when I tell them there is no God.
The Internet, TV, Radio, the printing press, the cell phone… they are not God! They are just means for the true Higher Power to hear our prayers. That higher power is not in any heaven or in the airwaves, it is here on earth. That higher power has a name: The Masses. That higher power is not made of wires and pixels! That higher power has two eyes, two ears, two hands, two feet and one heart. Quick: Look in the mirror. Are you part of this power or not?
If you are part of this higher power already, and don’t consider yourself apart from the Masses, then you are me, and I am you, and I want to meet you and collaborate with you. You know, and I know, who we are. We can recognize each other just as my friend Latuff and I can recognize each other from across the equator. I can recognize you in the writings of Ricardo Rosas and Marcos Salgado of Rizoma.net. I can recognize it in the battle fought here at Mídia Tática on Friday, when Tatiana Wells kicked the commercial TV crew from Globo out of the conference! I knew, when I heard about that, that I had come home, that this is my house too.
We can join forces just as Adriana Veloso, Ana Luiza Cernov, and Karine Muller of Brazil can join forces with Blanca Eekhout of Venezuela, with don Mario Menendez, the father of the Authentic Journalism renaissance from Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, with Luis Gomez, the Mexican in La Paz, Bolivia, the Andean Bureau Chief of Narco News, with Sunny Angulo of IndyMedia, San Francisco, with our senior professor, don Andres Vasquez de Santiago, 93, the elder of Mexico’s Indigenous National Congress, with Authentic Journalist Alex Contreras of Bolivia, with others from Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Mexico and other lands, and even some bitter and angry gringos who still dream of making Power live up to its rhetoric of democracy and freedom and who will fight and die, if need be, to destroy the false power of the New State.
The fight is not over yet; it has begun anew…
Fellow and Sister Media Workers and Authentic Journalists:
All Power to the Workers Councils!
All Media to the Masses!
And Right Now!
Find coverage of the Mídia Tática Convention at Brazil Indymedia
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism