Showing posts with label community. Show all posts
Showing posts with label community. Show all posts

Monday, November 26, 2012

The web stream where your friends are

Oh, joy! My favorite locally owned, small-town, throwback-to-an-earlier-age, 500-watt AM radio station in the universe now is streaming 24/7 on the Internet.

If you want to hear "community radio" the way it was before Corporate America ate the radio dial, just tune in the morning show on KJAN in Atlantic, Iowa -- complete with "Hymn Time" and "What's New in Pink and Blue."

What it is, is local, small-town radio as it was when radio was . . . local. And radio.

FOR THOSE of a certain age who grew up in Baton Rouge, let me explain it this way. KJAN is a modern-day, small-town version of WJBO circa 1968, only punching above its weight class. If you're from Omaha, substitute WOW radio from that same year.

Also, "Radio Atlantic" has a wonderfully eclectic middle-of-the-roadish music format, placing emphasis on the "-ish." After all, it did just play some Joe South and "Renegade" by Styx on overnights a while ago.

Really, KJAN is a treasure -- and an endangered species. Give it a listen.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

All in all, it's just another brick from the wall

There's a thread tying together the events, large and small, that make for a narrative of the world I was born into almost 51 years ago. It can be expressed in a single word -- delegitimization.

The only world I know is one in which the center has not held. Our institutions are bankrupt. Our heroes have clay feet. Our legal, economic and political systems, we find, comprise a gigantic craps game, and the swells are shooting loaded dice.

We no longer can depend on jobs that will support our families. The family itself is less an societal cornerstone than a demographic moving target. Equal justice under the law is just another Ponzi scheme. Afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted have, in these times, become sure signs of a communist plot.

And judging by the corruption and decay surrounding -- indeed, engulfing -- us, you have to wonder whether singer-songwriter Don McLean was onto something in "American Pie" when he wrote,
"the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, they caught the last train for the coast."

As we sit here, more than a decade into the new millennium, let me ask you something. Whom do you trust? Really and truly.

Really and truly, what do you trust?

Are you sure about that?

WHAT institution in your life -- in our lives -- do you really trust? Would you trust it with your life?

Do you really trust your government? Do you really trust you'll get a fair shake under the law? Do you really trust you're not going to get screwed by your bank . . . by the free market . . . out of a job?

Do you really trust the church with your soul anymore? Do you trust the church with your kid? Would you let Junior go on a youth camping trip organized by Father Dan?

Would you let
your prep-star son go play football for Penn State? Would you let your junior-high kid go to a Penn State summer sports camp? Do you think that local group of do-gooders is there to help your at-risk child . . . or do you suspect some of those do-gooders are just helping themselves to your at-risk child?

If you can't trust Joe Paterno to call the cops when an ex-assistant is allegedly raping 10-year-old boys in the football shower room, whom the hell can you trust?

When you can't believe in college football -- and that was about the last thing we Americans did believe in -- what's left but the abyss?

Deviance, destruction, dysfunction and distrust are the four horsemen of legitimacy's apocalypse. And legitimacy's apocalypse will become our own soon enough. When every institution we used to trust --
in which we used to believe -- has been bulldozed by corruption, what fortress (or offensive lineman) will stand between us and the devil himself, once he rounds on us?

JUST SINCE 2001, Americans have found that they were manipulated into a pointless, devastating war in Iraq. That the one in Afghanistan has, by negligence and hubris, quickly become just as pointless. We have found that we learned nothing from the pointless Vietnam travesty, four decades earlier.

Likewise, you can't even depend upon entire swaths of the Catholic Church to evidence belief in a righteous God, much less fear Him. Or bet that many Protestants are any better in that respect.

You can't even trust conventional wisdom -- that if we let priests marry, they wouldn't be having sex with kids. Too many married clerical and non-clerical perverts have been getting on the molestation merry-go-round for that one to fly.

Also in the last decade, we have learned that you can't trust a sure thing . . . or your too-big-to-fail bank. Or Wall Street. Especially Wall Street. We've learned the hard way that if you keep your nose clean and play by the rules, all you're likely to get is poorer -- and, ultimately, the shaft.
Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again
So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
'Cause fire is the devil's only friend
And as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in hell
Could break that Satan's spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
ALL MY LIFE I have watched the pillars of society crumble. The lesson seems to be this: If you believe in something, if you put faith in a person or an institution, you will live to regret it. You ultimately will feel like a chump.

Amid the wreckage of institutions and society, our "Do Not Trust" list has expanded to encompass God and country. Amid the general carnage of the last decade, and amid the particular carnage within the Catholic Church, I battle despair to agree -- still -- that McLean's lyric, "the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, they caught the last train for the coast," remains among the most cynical words written in the king's English.

Yonder lies nihilism, after all. The ongoing collapse -- the onward march of institutional decay -- catechizes us in unbelief and alienation. Such is the nature, and the toll, of delegitimization.

The end result of corruption is also the mechanism of corruption -- a feedback loop of alienation and atomized commonweal . . . a disordered sense of radical self-interest.

When an athletic department like Penn State's can receive allegations that prepubescent children had been anally raped on university property by a former coach and -- allegedly -- decide that suppressing a scandal was a greater priority than stopping a predator, you have just witnessed the death of the common good. You have just witnessed the return of tribalism.

The ethic holds that outsiders -- for example, little at-risk children -- are of no concern relative to defending the PSU Athletic Department tribe's status quo . . . and financial bottom line. Ditto the robber barons of Wall Street. Ditto the sort of clericalism that hushed up sex abuse in the Catholic Church at the expense of the faithful's children.

It sucks not to be One of Us. There's no "I" in "team," but there's no "you" in it, either. The center will not hold, and any expansive sense of society cannot long endure.

This was supposed to be a post about the sex-abuse scandal engulfing not only Penn State football, but the university itself. But this latest horror show is just an old story told in a new context. It's just one more institution brought low by the individual and collective wretchedness of this (and every) age.

Scandal-ridden Penn State is just another brick knocked out of the wall. The real story is that, lacking many bricks, the wall slumps precariously.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Napoleon Obama rallies the troops

Overheard on Obama Farm: "All speech is free. Some speech is freer than other speech."

IN ITS TUESDAY EDITIONS, the Chicago Tribune tells a tale that could have been written by George Orwell . . . or Saul Alinsky in full "We'll really f*** 'em tomorrow!" mode:
Chicago radio station WGN-AM is again coming under attack from the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama for offering airtime to a controversial author. It is the second time in recent weeks the station has been the target of an "Obama Action Wire" alert to supporters of the Illinois Democrat.

Monday night's target was David Freddoso, who the campaign said was scheduled to be on the station from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Chicago time.

"The author of the latest anti-Barack hit book is appearing on WGN Radio in the Chicagoland market tonight, and your help is urgently needed to make sure his baseless lies don't gain credibility," an e-mail sent Monday evening to Obama supporters reads.

"David Freddoso has made a career off dishonest, extreme hate mongering," the message said. "And WGN apparently thinks this card-carrying member of the right-wing smear machine needs a bigger platform for his lies and smears about Barack Obama -- on the public airwaves."
THIS READS like a page out of the Industrial Areas Foundation playbook.

It's the kind of grassroots strong-arm tactic a "community organizer" uses against the city council or a school board . . . or an abusive employer in the community. But to use such tactics as not-so-vague intimidation against a media outlet in the name of stifling free-and-open debate?

And not only that, but to use such tactics not against The Man, but in service of a Washington pol who seeks to become

Would Saul Alinsky cheer on a disciple who grabbed the reins of power? Or would he be horrified that his methods had been subverted by the institutional power base in service of Obama's personal ambition?

And the status quo.

Maybe some hints lie
in an old Playboy interview with the Old Radical himself, conducted by Eric Norden in 1972:

PLAYBOY: The assumption behind the Administration's Silent Majority thesis is that most of the middle class is inherently conservative. How can even the most skillful organizational tactics unite them in support of your radical goals?

ALINSKY: Conservative? That's a crock of crap. Right now they're nowhere. But they can and will go either of two ways in the coming years -- to a native American fascism or toward radical social change. Right now they're frozen, festering in apathy, leading what Thoreau called "lives of quiet desperation:" They're oppressed by taxation and inflation, poisoned by pollution, terrorized by urban crime, frightened by the new youth culture, baffled by the computerized world around them. They've worked all their lives to get their own little house in the suburbs, their color TV, their two cars, and now the good life seems to have turned to ashes in their mouths. Their personal lives are generally unfulfilling, their jobs unsatisfying, they've succumbed to tranquilizers and pep pills, they drown their anxieties in alcohol, they feel trapped in longterm endurance marriages or escape into guilt-ridden divorces. They're losing their kids and they're losing their dreams. They're alienated, depersonalized, without any feeling of participation in the political process, and they feel rejected and hopeless. Their utopia of status and security has become a tacky-tacky suburb, their split-levels have sprouted prison bars and their disillusionment is becoming terminal.

They're the first to live in a total mass-media-oriented world, and every night when they turn on the TV and the news comes on, they see the almost unbelievable hypocrisy and deceit and even outright idiocy of our national leaders and the corruption and disintegration of all our institutions, from the police and courts to the White House itself. Their society appears to be crumbling and they see themselves as no more than small failures within the larger failure. All their old values seem to have deserted them, leaving them rudderless in a sea of social chaos. Believe me, this is good organizational material.

The despair is there; now it's up to us to go in and rub raw the sores of discontent, galvanize them for radical social change. We'll give them a way to participate in the democratic process, a way to exercise their rights as citizens and strike back at the establishment that oppresses them, instead of giving in to apathy. We'll start with specific issues -- taxes, jobs, consumer problems, pollution -- and from there move on to the larger issues: pollution in the Pentagon and the Congress and the board rooms of the megacorporations. Once you organize people, they'll keep advancing from issue to issue toward the ultimate objective: people power. We'll not only give them a cause, we'll make life goddamn exciting for them again -- life instead of existence. We'll turn them on.

PLAYBOY: You don't expect them to beware of radicals bearing gifts?

ALINSKY: Sure, they'll be suspicious, even hostile at first. That's been my experience with every community I've ever moved into. My critics are right when they call me an outside agitator. When a community, any kind of community, is hopeless and helpless, it requires somebody from outside to come in and stir things up. That's my job -- to unsettle them, to make them start asking questions, to teach them to stop talking and start acting, because the fat cats in charge never hear with their ears, only through their rears. I'm not saying it's going to be easy; thermopolitically, the middle classes are rooted in inertia, conditioned to look for the safe and easy way, afraid to rock the boat. But they're beginning to realize that boat is sinking and unless they start bailing fast, they're going to go under with it. The middle class today is really schizoid, torn between its indoctrination and its objective situation. The instinct of middle-class people is to support and celebrate the status quo, but the realities of their daily lives drill it home that the status quo has exploited and betrayed them.

THE OLD RABBLE-ROUSER really had suburbia's number, didn't he?

Certainly Obama, the erstwhile community organizer, still is adept at Alinskyesque sloganeering and at cutting and pasting from the IAF playbook. But in what way does he propose to rally the middle class against that status quo, which "has exploited and betrayed them"?

Especially when he's running on a platform that's merely a Democratic Party version of the status quo in an attempt to become the duly elected Quo of Quos.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Digital rebels without a clue

Talk like National Public Radio's Dick Meyer and you might be a dangerous man.

"The 1960s was a symbolic turning point," Meyer said, citing the decade as a time when personal choice became more important than following tradition.

"It became much more important to make all these choices as a witting, conscious consumer of life," Meyer said of formerly tradition-bound elements like religion, where people live, whether they decide to get married.

"And deeper than that, there was a sense that if you did follow a traditional route," Meyer said, "you were an existential weakling."
MEYER IS AUTHOR of Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium, and he can't stand incompetence, indifference, rudeness and normative bad behavior. Or, at least, what used to be bad behavior before it became normative. His comments were from a piece accompanying audio from an interview on NPR's Morning Edition.

Meyer, NPR's new digital-media editorial director, also has a certain fondness for traditional community . . . and tradition, period. He thinks it wasn't bad to have identities other than the one you manufacture for yourself out of whole cloth -- a religious identity, an ethnic identity, a community identity.

He thinks those things can add real meaning to life.

IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN BETTER for Meyer, at least among some decidedly postmodernist combox warriors, had he advocated flying jetliners into skyscrapers. At least, with that scenario, those now hurling invective at poor Dick Meyer might instead be wringing their collective hand and wondering
"Why does he hate us? Have we done something to offend."

That, however, is not how Postmodern Man -- which is kind of like Socialist Man, only whiny and self-centered -- rolls when it comes to those guilty of thought crimes. Here's something taken from the comments on a Meyer thread at The BPP Diner:

This is either a joke or just pure provocation. The man is angry because the only place where he could be sure that the guy making his sandwich wouldn't forget the tomato has closed. The man is a self-hating trailing-edge boomer (see his bio) who yearns for the good old days of "community" where everybody knew your name. Well, they knew your name, but they were probably much more fond of calling you "hey nigger", "hey faggot", "hey dyke", "hey kike", "hey slut"...

AND HERE'S another measured response to the Meyer piece on NPR's Morning Edition:

"But I have no sympathy for "poor Dick Meyer". Appreciating civility and values is one thing. But there's a difference between that and wishing for things to be like the past. You know what, things aren't like they were 50 years ago. Get Over It.

"Seriously, you want a guy who thinks community is having the people in the lunch place know your name running digital media where in the present we are trying to build new types of communities?"

YES. Yes, I do.

If people don't care to know your name in the "real world," they sure as hell won't care to know it in the "new media" world, either. And if someone doesn't care that his sandwich was made indifferently and not-to-order by a couple of lazy morons at the chain eatery, he also just might not care whether your Internet content is created indifferently by a department full of morons.

And if folks think that a prerequisite for building "new communities" based on digital media is the neglect or outright destruction of real-world communities, wait until the power goes out. Or a bad storm hits. Or your house burns down.

Or, perhaps, wait till some future day when oil is no longer affordable (at all) and the economy runs out of gas in an energy-starved country. Can a "digital community" save us if our computers have no juice? Or if we no longer can afford to buy a computer?

Even considering all the potential online social media have, will computers or some "digital community" be there to help raise your kids, or have your back when life hits the fan . . . or make sure you eat when you're old and enfeebled, then wipe your ass when you no longer can?

NO, I GUESS things aren't as they were when I was born in 1961. In some ways, that's a really good thing -- being that I was born in the Jim Crow South, experienced segregated schools first hand and saw quite enough ugly before I turned 10.

In other ways, it's a terrible thing that things aren't as they were in 1961. The commodification of everything in society -- including people -- wasn't nearly so advanced as it is now. Folks had manners, for the most part, and while the barbarians might have been at the gate, they generally weren't running the culture.


Tradition is a funny thing. Religion, too. When they're functioning in a meaningful way, they can seem stifling to some people. We feel like we're unable to "create our own identity."

And sometimes, tradition for tradition's sake can grow incredibly stale and pointless. You can't ever lose sight of the "why" in tradition . . . or in anything else.

Thus, it's quite true that some traditions outlive their usefulness, if ever they had any. I don't know that many civilized people would argue for female circumcision, serfdom, intractable class structures or women being regarded as property.

On the other hand, when you start flailing away at the whole of "tradition" and the "old ways" with a broadax, you're going to find quite quickly -- as we now are realizing -- that we've just chopped down whole institutions and forces of habit that provided refuge from what sought to devour us. The unfettered freedom to "create our own identity" likewise gives a disordered and dysfunctional society the unfettered license to define us as mere pieces of meat.

What does a virtual community based on digital media do about that?

Really, isn't the craving for "new kinds of community" online just a case of humans -- operating on sheer instinct -- desperately seeking what they've just spent the last 50 years dismantling?

And some combox Nietzsches see poor Dick Meyer as being unfit to do his digital duty just because he, on some level, recognizes that?

Good God.

Oh . . . sorry about that invocation of a primitive belief structure. It's difficult being a troglodyte, you know.

Ask Dick Meyer.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

'The station where your friends are'

Radio Atlantic

I'M HOPING, from time to time, to post some pictures dealing with . . . whatever.

I was playing with the scanner the other day, and I took the opportunity to scan in some old negatives that never saw the light of . . . being turned into actual prints.

These pics are from a 1998 feature story I wrote about KJAN, 1220 AM, in Atlantic, Iowa. KJAN is one of a dying breed of radio stations -- intensely local, full-service (meaning airing music AND news) and run by humans instead of computers.
That a station such as KJAN -- "The station where your friends are" -- exists at all anymore is notable in an age of corporate ownership and "efficiencies." This, after all, represents radio the way it was in 1967 . . . or 1947 . . . or 1937, for that matter.

But KJAN's existence as a fully staffed, "full service" radio station in little Atlantic, Iowa, is amazing. And it's still that way in 2007.

Evening DJ (and music director) John Scheffler, shown here, is still at KJAN. He first got the "radio bug" when his Cub Scout troop toured the station in the late 1950s, and that's where he is today. (Note that he's still, in 1998, playing 45s . . . seven-inch vinyl to those under 35. Cool, eh?)

RADIO IS ABOUT PEOPLE. Radio is about public service. Radio is about community.

Or at least it used to be, in an age long ago and far away -- before the advent of Clear Channel, the "efficiency" of one staff running five stations and "Hold your wee for a Wii" contests.

It's good to know that at least one little 500-watt AM station in the middle of Iowa still is about those things.