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nettime's digest on Sun, 6 Apr 2003 13:42:58 +0200 (CEST)


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Table of Contents:

   Bush for Peace                                                                  
     Jen Simmons <jen {AT} jensimmons.com>                                                

   newzak                                                                          
     "johnbarker" <harrier {AT} easynet.co.uk> (by way of richard barbrook)               

   the commoner update                                                             
     "Massimo De Angelis" <m.deangelis {AT} btinternet.com> (by way of richard barbrook)  



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Date: Fri, 4 Apr 2003 15:39:05 -0500
From: Jen Simmons <jen {AT} jensimmons.com>
Subject: Bush for Peace

see a real Presidential Moment of Truth, Bush declaring peace...
http://www.nepantla.org/bushforpeace

Please pass this link along, and feel free to post it.

Jen Simmons


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Date: Sun, 06 Apr 2003 01:57:12 +0100
From: "johnbarker" <harrier {AT} easynet.co.uk> (by way of richard barbrook)
Subject: newzak

NEWZAK

JOHN BARKER


	You're in the gym running on a treadmill, shopping in a
supermarket, or waiting -in the lobby if you're doing well, the
waiting-room if things are not so good- and there's a good chance you'll
cop some newzak in the process, coming at you off of TV screens of varying
quality. In the car, in traffic likely as not, there's a good chance it's
what you'll get out of the radio. Muzak that's always been handy for a
sneer, will soon be confined to the telephone waiting systems of
institutions like banks to absorb the flak, and restaurants which, however
expensive, just haven't got it right.

Living in a permanent present, newzak suits the power elites of the world.
Why things happen is swallowed up by how they are happening minute by
minute, or by the speculation of 'experts', 'well informed sources', or
'someone close to', as to what they mean. Often these people with their own
axe to grind are presented as neutral when this is not the case, as with
the respectful interviews with the war criminal Oliver North on BBC radio
after the September 11th attacks who promptly apportioned a fair share of
blame to ex-President Clinton. Its promise of the real, of one unfolding
drama or another, is dulled by pointless if not voyeuristic repetition.
Pornographic even, as has been said of the repeated image of the collapsing
twin towers of the World Trade Centre, the most prominent and long-running
of newzak events. At the same time it deceives in the way it takes all
kinds of 'diplomatic processes' and political rifts' seriously even when
they are patently not so, while it is a perfect medium for leaks and
'spin'. The patrician elements of the power elite bemoan the short
attention-spans of the populace while the phenomena is encouraged by their
colleagues, in what newzak might call with a straight face, the
media-ownership community.

	Newzak has developed with satellite technology and the fast
increase in privately owned broadcasting outlets, though it took some of
its tricks from an earlier newspaper genre where the reader was flattered
by being made to feel an insider with diagram sequences showing how it
really happened In television it was CNN who set the pace. Public
broadcasters like the BBC followed suit. Looked at in retrospect, its
biggest fillip came from the brave reporting of Peter Arnett for CNN from
Baghdad during the Gulf War of 1991 and especially his reporting of the
American bomb which killed hundreds of middle class Iraqis in a bomb
shelter at al-Amirah. It was immediately denied by the Pentagon and the
truth only grudgingly accepted (We're sorry butŠand then plenty of but). In
the meanwhile they busily smeared Peter Arnett himself. He was called a
traitor and it was trumpeted that his ex-brother-in-law had stayed in Hanoi
throughout the Vietnam War. It was however the making of the channel and
newzak by establishing its credibility as if for all time, since it has
done little since by way of contradicting official news since, as Ted
Turner its founder said, "Official news is news". In the world of newzak
unconfirmed news is also news and all kinds of hints and nudges can be
presented.

	In the recent case of the attempted coup against President Chavez
of Venezuela, the private TV stations there became newzak as propaganda
channels, actively encouraging actions against his government. This is a
dramatic case, a dramatically political case. To get more of a flavour of
what it is on a daily basis, a non-political story is more helpful. A
disaster for example. In recent years there has been a series of nasty
train crashes in England. One took place when two trains collided coming
into Paddington station. Coverage as they say in broadcasting, was blanket,
back and forth to the scene of the event with slowly decreasing regularity.
Naturally enough there was in the future to be an inquiry into what had
happened but this didn't stop the standard second-guessing that is a
speciality of newzak in this situation; there were mid-shots of broken
trains and cranes moving towards them; up-and-down casualty  figures; and
the regular harassing of emergency workers by guys with microphones in
their hands. All of it completely useless unless to cultural studies
historians as a precursor of the 'reality TV' that not long after came to
dominate TV schedules. Useless because there was nothing any viewer could
do to improve things, it was not a situation where a community of people
could come in and pull at rocks with bare hands as we have seen in faraway
earthquakes where our viewing would be equally useless. No, it was a
situation for professionals with complex mechanical equipment.

	Was newzak then trying to create a sense of community, one which
would by means of 'being there' make the pain and suffering of those who
died and were maimed, them their family and friends real to us? The
'unfolding of the event' was in fact nothing more than repitition of the
same which can only blunt ones feelings and by its use of speculation as to
what had happened, flatter the viewer into somehow having inside
information while finally making them want to give up because there were so
many possible explanations.

	The distortions of reality created by newzak's need for unfolding
events, a clear narrative, was shown very clearly in the aftermath of the
British General Election of 2001. There was a second massive victory for
the Labour Party on a low turn-out which showed a lack of belief in the
set-up of the political system. Within days of the election a contest for
leadership of the Tory Party began, a party that had been revealed to be
irrelevant for the immediate future. It was never far away from the
broadcasts of newzak. Discredited politicians and pompous analysts got two
months worth of punditry out of it and gave it an importance it simply did
not have. The significance of the low-electoral turn-out and what New
Labour's election promises really meant barely got a look in.

	Newzak has played other roles. In the USA especially the stock
market speculation of the 90s and its crescendo in the dotcom bubble was
fed not just by investment banks and entrepeneurs with an interest in
feeding it but by a broadcast media for whom it was a wonderful
event-dominated narrative, but one which played within the rules of that
narrative. It is well described by Robert J. Shiller in his book Irrational
Exuberance (that bogusly gnomic phrase of the fetishized Alan Greenspan):

	"The interviewers and investment professionals sometimes seem to
play a sort of rhetorical game on television that plays out pretty
predictably to be supportive of the market. The interviewer asks dark
questions about whether the market might concievably do badly, blunt
questions posed as if to get an answer with plain, unvarnished truth. The
interviewee answers in an assuring, confident profession al manner about
the greater longer-run outlook for the marketŠThe interviewer establishes
his or her news-media credibility as pressing for the truth, but given the
typical choice of interviewee, the interview closes on a suitably upbeat
note."

	Not a bad description of almost all newzak interviews, the routine
grilling of  those of the power-elite or its courtiers. A variation
perfected during the war against Bosnia pitted the anchor-person in  the
studio against anyone reporting honestly from that country. These anchor
people are the real stars of newzak as we know from their salaries,
transfer value and so on. They are almost invariably former head boy or
girl of their schools and if not, the schools in question had made a
mistake. In the case of Bosnia an honest reporter would be gloomy most of
the time, describing more atrocities and perhaps hinting at the Pontius
Pilate approach of the UN and other members of the great and good in
Sarajevo and elsewhere. But it could not be left at that, the anchor person
would be pushing at the hopes raised by yet another unreal plan emanating
from the vanity of Lord Owen or some other great and good person, and would
go on pushing until the reporter had no choice but to say that something,
he/she supposed, might come of it.

	Peace plans and peace processes are especially good material for
newzak to work with. In most cases one side, the most powerful, are seen to
be the good guys in that it is they who are 'giving something away', even
when that something is the most unjust kind of supremacism. It is this side
which has the most to gain by peace processes like that of Oslo dragging on
while facts on the ground are created. The shuttle diplomacy involving
envoys flying round and round a circle of the capitals of the region to
change nothing, were reported seriously day by day, sometimes hour by hour,
even when it was clear that nothing serious was going to happen. Newzak
will also dwell on the minutae of differences between political parties or
personalities which (until the recent Israeli elections) have more or less
identical policies as with the Labour and Likud Parties both bastions of
what Ilan Pappe has called 'traditional Zionism' which has accommodated the
'neo-Zionism' of the settlers. It does something similar with what is in
effect realpolitik theatre as was the case with threats from Israel to
attack Iraq in 1990-1. It was a theatre which had real consequences in that
Israel gained in a variety of ways from doing nothing when the attack on
its own territory did come and Saddam's gestural Scud missiles were dealt
with by US Patriot missiles. The situation was reported on a daily basis
for weeks. In this case it was not so much making sure we did not see the
wood for the trees as providing realism to a wood which did not exist. In
reality, Israel, which has done nothing against the wishes of the USA since
1956, perfomed the part of the guy in the non-brawl shouting, Hold me back
or I'll kill him.

	So it is that the present 'phoney war' period in which the US-UK
axis would appear to be determined to attack Iraq come what may, is perfect
material for newzak. On the evidence of the Gulf War in which a similar
'phoney' period lasted over three months, more suitable than the war
itself. The minutae of deals, intrigue, last minute agreements is event
full, with a narrative that has plenty of twists and turns while despite
the coyness of newzak anchor people as they move between 'possible' and
'inevitable' to describe the war option, they make no reference to the Gulf
War.

This is characteristic of newzak, living as it does in a permanent
presence: that was then, this is now, could be its motto. In this instance
as in many others, it is very much in the interest of the power elite. That
it was more or less the same US administration personnel who ran a war in
which it was nearly all Iraqi conscripts who died; who encouraged an Iraqi
uprising against Saddam, then smeared it as fundamentalist or separatist,
and betrayed it; who allowed the runaway absolute Kuwaiti rulers to return
to wreak vengeance on those who had not escaped, the migrant workers who
had kept the place going, were obviously not welcome facts. Instead in
real-time apart from the diplomacy dramas there are interviews with serious
young white soldiers in the desert all saying in sober tones that 'they
have a job to do'. Meanwhile defence experts chip in with
how-the-war-will-be speculation ready for the time there will be diagrams
and counters to be shifted around on a televisual board and then, cool as
you like, telling us about the waning and waxing of the moon. As viewers we
are expected to be flattered by being so much in the know, while it also
clear that the forces at work are just way beyond us. What has been so
heart-warming of late is how so many people are tired of feeling powerless
in the face of all this.

	So it is, that in recent days newzak has had to intersperse the war
narrative with more light-hearted dramas, or rather, more narrative driven
light hearted stories, like Snowy-the name bestowed by newzak itself-a dog
stuck on a breakaway ice-flow and rescued after long televisual sequences
with helicopters, zoom shots and the rest, until it was rescued.




------------------------------

Date: Sun, 06 Apr 2003 01:57:07 +0100
From: "Massimo De Angelis" <m.deangelis {AT} btinternet.com> (by way of richard barbrook)
Subject: the commoner update

New from The Commoner please circulate                       
(no) war section with links and resources

1. Background on Iraq  2. Seeking to explain the current conflict  3.
Opposition to the war 4. <http://www.commoner.org.uk/war.htm#4>The military
dimension  5. Uprisings in Iraq  6. Exploring further

Also new  Werner Bonefeld. Against the War and the Preconditions of War
 
Werner Bonefeld. <http://www.commoner.org.uk/aboutSmith.htm>A Note on Cyril
Smith. One of the editor of What is to be done? Leninism, Anti-Leninist
Marxism and the question of revolution today replies to one reviewer.  


Cyril Smith on`Anti-Leninism is not enough'. A  review of What is to be
done? Leninism, Anti-Leninist        Marxism and the question of revolution
today. Edited by Werner Bonefeld and Sergio Tischler. Ashgate, 2002.



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