As the extent of the destruction in Haiti becomes clearer, so do the priorities on the ground. The majority of Haitians affected by the earthquake are now homeless, and the need for shelter is urgent. There are many ways to help for those who cannot afford to donate money, and innovation has become a major theme in many of the smaller grassroots efforts.
One example is a US-based initiative whose mission lies in the name, “One Thousand Tents for Haiti”. Created by Seattle activist Johnny Fernandes, the beauty of the project is that it is both simple and practical. Anyone can participate. The initial goal is to collect 1000 extra tents from around the US by the end of February to send to Haiti.
Following on from last week’s discussion about the tyranny of positive thinking here is Janice Peck, author of the excellent The Age of Oprah: The Making of a Cultural Icon for the Neoliberal Era speaks about the place of Oprah Winfrey’s media enterprise in the last quarter century of U.S. culture and politics. The first interview was conducted by Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report, the latter by Bob McChesney of Media Matters. (Update: The first mp3 appears to have vanished from the internet. I have reproduced a transcript of Dixon’s interview with Peck below).
Janice Peck Associate Professor at the University of Colorado, her research interests include critical theory, the relationship of media and society, the social meanings and political implications of mediated popular culture, communication history and theories of media and culture. She has also authored a book on the history and politics of religious television in the U.S.,The Gods of Televangelism: The Crisis of Meaning and the Appeal of Religious Television (1993). She has published articles and book chapters on the theoretical and intellectual history of cultural studies, issues in media theory, the family and television, TV talk shows, Oprah’s Book Club and issues of literacy, religion and advertising, and representations of race in media.
In the highest profile arrest of the recent wave of repression against West Bank popular struggle, Israeli soldiers arrested Mohammed Khatib today before dawn. Khatib is a member of Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlement in the West Bank village of Bil’in and the coordinator of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.
At a quarter to two AM tonight, Mohammed Khatib, his wife Lamia and their four young children were woken up by Israeli soldiers storming their home, which was surrounded by a large military force. Once inside the house, the soldiers arrested Khatib, conducted a quick search and left the house.
Roughly half an hour after leaving the house, five military jeeps surrounded the house again, and six soldiers forced their way into the house again, where Khatib’s children sat in terror, and conducted another, very thorough search of the premises, without showing a search warrant. During the search, Khatib’s phone and many documents were seized, including papers from Bil’in’s legal procedures in the Israel High Court.
Douglas Rushkoff was once an enthusiast of the revolutionary potential of cyberculture. During the ’90s the increasing conglomeration of the internet business led him to temper his enthusiasm. But I think his prophecies had more substance than he was given credit for. The internet truly came into its own with Web 2.0 technologies and from blogging to Twitter, its true democratizing potential is only now being recognized. It has already succeeded to a certain degree in holding MSM accountable, though it hasn’t quite levelled the playing field as some optimists like to imagine.
Like Neil Postman, however, an important aspect of Ruskhkoff’s work has been the effect of media and advertising on culture. Every other year I teach an undergraduate course in Globalization and Resistance in which I show students this excellent documentary which Rushkoff made for PBS’s Frontline. It illustrates the ersatz nature of alternative culture, the process of its manufacture, in a manner than leaves many of them flabbergasted. It also illustrates the feedback loop through which businesses steal from youth the fruits of their creativity, stamp it with their label, mass produce it, and then sell it to everyone else until it has lost its ‘cool’ — much as Thomas Frank argued in The Conquest of Cool. As the culture degenerates, the ideal female and male types are reduced to the ‘midriff’ and the ‘mook’. (According to the BBC, two-thirds of all teenage females in the UK aspire to be models). Youths, as Rushkoff shows in The Merchants of Cool, have become one of corporate America’s largest sources of revenue.
Some good news came out of Washington yesterday that went largely unnoticed. Ha’aretz reported 54 members of Congress sent a letter to president Barack Obama urging him to pressure Israel to end the siege on Gaza. Ha’aretz correspondent Natasha Mozgovaya writes:
The letter was the initiative of Representatives Jim McDermott from Washington and Keith Ellison from Minnesota, both of whom are Democrats. Ellison is the first American Muslim to ever win election to Congress. McDermott and Ellison wrote that they understand the threats facing Israel and the ongoing Hamas terror activities against Israeli citizens but that “this concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.” “We ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts,” they wrote, adding that the siege has hampered the ability of aid agencies to do their work in Gaza. The congressmen urged Obama to pressure Israel to ease the movement of people into and out of Gaza, especially students, the sick, aid workers, journalists and those with family concerns, and also to allow the import of building materials to rebuild houses. Israel has warned that such materials would be used to rebuild Hamas infrastructure and not civilian homes.
Fifty-four members of Congress urging the president to pressure Israel to treat Gazans like human beings is a positive development, albeit a VERY small one. Critics may content that the letter protects Israel’s image. I understand that. But I still think it’s encouraging.
A worthwhile view from the BBC’s Panorama programme, apart from the predictable technique of “balance” that results in giving airtime to b/s hasbara. It’s still lights years ahead of what would air in the US and presents far more of the reality of Palestinian dispossession and israeli apartheid. In ‘A Walk in the Park’, Jane Corbin walks through the occupied streets and parks of Jerusalem (thanks Dave).