“Free-ish” Speech

Free adj \ˈfrē/-  enjoying political independence or freedom from outside domination, enjoying personal freedom : not subject to the control or domination of another (Merriam Webster)


The definition of “free” seems pretty simple and straight forward, however, for years this concept of “free” has been incredibly difficult to be maintained and practiced in the United States. This is far from a new and emerging dilemma in American society, it has been around for years. Apparently the Bill of Rights wasn’t straight forward enough and apparently “free” is a tough word/concept to grasp- note the sarcasm.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse but this issue, although not new, is quickly coming back into the limelight. The online world is growing and the accessibility of it is growing as well- the more users–> the more content posted & published to the web–> the more content, the more opinions. More opinions should and is a good thing, however, as the past shows, the more opinions the bigger the issues & the greater the tension.

There are two big issues surrounding this struggle to achieve untainted free speech practices on the web: 1.) Censorship, 2.) Corporatization- both of these issues are intertwined in another.

The United States is a capitalistic society, causing almost everything to be profit driven. With the demand for the internet and the vast usage of its resources big business has jumped on the bandwagon. The internet is potential profit that is almost guaranteed- for many people the internet is a necessity (I mean look at me , without its glorious resources I couldn’t be doing what I am doing right now) and people will always pay for necessities and find ways to obtain them. The internet is not going away- it’s the perfect business plan.

We saw it with mainstream media. People want their news. Corporations want their money. And mainstream media outlets want to make money. So what happens: the chain of events begins, corporations & big business give the outlets money to promote their business, the outlets gain revenue from the advertising space, big business does some shady stuff, the outlets can’t report on it or they’ll lose income, if they lose income they go out of business, so bad news about the corporations never gets published & the vicious cycle perpetuates.

I fear the internet is heading in this direction. Big providers have the power to influence internet content just as big business influences the content of mainstream media. Google has the power to drop any website/domain name. Matthew Lee, a journalist who focused on watching the inner workings of the U.N was stripped off Google News because of his website’s content. A few complaints of some unhappy big political figures had enough power to influence Google to shut down the website & what is the most scary is that Google could do that & they did.

On the reverse, Google is corporation, they depend on revenue. The Chinese government- who issues an internet license to Google, had enough influence to sway Google’s acceptance of their censorship. Google agreed to avoid all linking to sites and content that were seen as any threat to national security or social stability- obviously this perception was based upon the Chinese government’s view. Is that the future of “free” speech in America?

These internet browsers & providers & companies have the ability to monitor and censor everything. The more money pumped into these profit-seekers the more likely that content that satisfies them reaches a mass audience and all the “other” stuff takes a backseat or is slowly done away with–sounds a little bit like Los Desaparecidos in Argentina. Then it becomes the issue of how free is our free speech? There are already the stipulations, as set out by the supreme court, that free speech is subject to time, place & manner. Who decides these three elements and their boundaries? The government. The government that too often has ties to dirty money. And also free speech is not protected if it is considered a “true threat”. A true threat is an incredibly loose term-a true threat to who? a true threat of what?

The examples are endless, so I’ll give one more that is pretty well known because of serious media coverage in the recent years. Wikileaks. It’s a site entirely devoted to posting leaked material that exposes corruption and/or unethical operations by government and big business. The New York Times covered an article on the judgment to shut wikileaks down. Although the internet in this case proved to have an abundance of loop holes against the injunction, that the site was able to maintain its content despite having its domain name taken down. However, the fact that an injunction was even seemed to be fitting in this situation is appalling. Merely because somebody “high-up” doesn’t like or approve or agree or want the information to be heard, doesn’t mean it should be taken down and erased from the view of the public.

Information and news does not always put somebody in the best light, not just because somebody has a vendetta against the person but because it is the truth. And not be cliche, but the truth hurts sometimes, people need to buck up and reap the consequences of their own actions- individuals need to be held accountable.

The French philosopher, Voltaire , once brilliantly said, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Voltaire got the concept of “free”, why can’t we?

Me, Myself & 1,000

The Power of the Audience

An inspirational speech, for sure, but I find the true power behind the speech in the emphasis on the power of the audience. That audience is the billions of internet users across the world, logged in on their desk tops & laptops, not only browsing the internet, but checking up daily, even hourly on the internet. Gilliam pinpoints the fact that fans, viewers and faithful followers have incredible power.

It’s a bit freaky, nonetheless exciting, that people from hundreds and hundreds of miles away can unit on the platform of the internet regardless of geographical barriers split them. 

And now I have sounded incredibly cliche. But indy media and this emerging world on the web has such momentum and undeniable power. This platform has the ability to influence like the March on Washington but not just once in a lifetime but hundreds of times a day. The uniting of people happens so fast and so vastly. Not only does this power of the viewers & followers have the potential to mobilize change, reform or development but it has the power to pay. (& who doesn’t want money $$$)

The good ol’ green stuff seems to have a reoccurring theme in my recent posts..interesting. 

Cofounder, Gilliam (discussed above) of Brave New Films piloted this idea that his audience would be his funder, his sponsor-“People Powered Film”, he called it. The Washingon Post’s article on the issues shows just how effective this idea is. True, devoted followers and fans will contribute to the creation of project, because they want to see it, they need it for their benefit. They got $267,892 in 10 days. That’s crazy. Donors averaged just a mere donation of $62. The only way they asked for this funding was via the internet- no big ad campaigns, PR strategies or mailed pamphlets.

The Technium published a very cool article on the strategy and business model that aspiring artists should follow- the true fan method.  Pretty basically the business model is: get 1,000 true fans first, then when you’re sure they are true- ask for $$$, if they’re true they’ll pay & BAM your project is underway. A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. The articles definition of a true fan makes sense & if these are the fans an artist can obtain, it makes perfect sense that their project will take off & develop successfully. Again we see in this business method that the power lies in the hands of the viewers & the fans & the internet users. Online communities have incredible power. 

The reality of mobilization, change, development, advancement & success seems to be turning very quickly to the internet. Look at Justin Bieber his wildly successful singing career began from a homemade video posted on youtube. The internet makes nearly anything possible.Image

Show me the Money!!

 

well, maybe so me the money…..

Jerry Maguire isn’t the only one that wanted the green stuff. Money money money money money money….everybody loves it, everybody needs it. Indy media is becoming more and more successful as the world of blogging and niche sites are exploding across the internet. So many people are turning away from mainstream media and are now getting the main bulk of their news and information from independent media outlets. The success stories are abundant…Talking Points Memo, Huffington Post & so many more.

Even sites that are not the typical “news” related are skyrocketing to success. Businessweek wrote a story about the unbelievably successful blog…I Can Has Cheezburger. Newsy? nope. Successful? oh yes! This site started as a joke, just a guy posting a funny picture. Now the site rakes in about $5,600 a month- the creator of the site has quit his day job & is able to pursue & play with the site full time. This success story just shows the power of independent media, if you can find the right niche that reaches the right audience and fosters the right community there is a very strong possibility of a large check.

The success is great and the potential for profit makes the world of blogging probably much more appealing for some, so maybe more interesting and diverse people will start up new and fresh blogs. However, where there is money there is always danger. Its a typical trend, when just a little bit of green success is in someone’s hands they want more- greed consumes them. I fear that indy media may fall victim to the power of the dollar bills. You see it with some many things, when profitability becomes the only driver then quality of production and content flounders- look at mainstream media. Stories are published or are not published just to make sure advertisers are satisfied because without them there is no paycheck.

Look at Huffington Post, despite being still wildly successful, this was an independent site free of corporate ties & now they are owned by AOL- a giant corporation. Thus far, I personally have not seen any decline in workmanship or quality of the news outlet. But just being tied to corporate entities seems to taint the good name of indy media. The beauty of indy media is that it is free from the corruption that looms over corporations and puts the power of news and story telling into the hands of truly devoted and active citizens. Not to sound too cliche, but it is truly a almost pure exercise of democracy. Money & potentially high profits cloud that purity- potentially.

I am not trying to be a pessimist, but I fear the power of money. And this is not to say the potential for business online for bloggers is no where short of awesome. Money is necessary and incredibly appealing. I just hope that as indy media expands and becomes more successful and profitable that none fall prey to the corruption of corporate and the dangers of greed.

Hamburger’s Home on the the Web

Wanna know what’s new in the world of the hamburger?

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There is actually a place on the web that has all the latest dish on the traditional American grub.

A Hamburger Today is a blog completely devoted to updating viewers on what’s new with burgers. Giving content about new recipes, styles, burger gossip and anything burger-related. There is a section teaching the art of the burger and instructing you on mastering all styles of burgers…the pub burger, sliders and so much more.

I think this burger blog is so cool. It just shows the ability of independent media to take any topic, any niche, any interest, any idea and create a place were everything has a narrow focus. It is so devoted to a certain area, topic or thing and that is so cool. Indy media has the ability to not only provide “newsy news” to the public but it gives a place for anyone to capitalize on an interest and give fun, interesting and often forgotten information on anything and everything. 

 

KONY who?- Facebook will let ya know

I know I am not the only one that had their facebook newsfeed bombarded with posts and links to KONY 2012. It’s half hour video run by the Invisible Children organization exposing Joseph Kony the violent leader of the LRA that for years has been violently raging through African nations for about 2 decades now. His regime pillages villages killing, raping and abducting hundreds of thousands of people, he is notorious for forcing young children to serve as soldiers in his army and then forcing them to kill their own families, brutally mutilate village members and force young women and girls into prostitution. It is undeniable that the violence by the LRA is  appalling and should be stopped- Invisible Children is running this campaign to make Kony “famous.” It’s all aimed to get enough people aware of his brutality in order to stop him.

My point about this video is that within minutes this video went viral across the internet. Social media facilitated massive and rapid dissemination of this piece. I think it is a prime example of how new internet tools are creating a revolution of rapid exchange of ideas. A video posted in north Africa within minutes is being watched by a student at their desk in Ithaca, NY. It is incredible. Obviously this emerging ability has great potential to facilitate change, expansion of knowledge and exchange of ideas. 

But  I think there are dangers of this ability to rapidly disseminate news. Is the assured credibility? Is there fact checking? Is it real? How will you ever know who started it? How can you affirm validity? A video can go viral so much faster than it can be fact checked. The day after the KONY2012 video went viral Huffington Post posted an article about the criticisms surrounding the video…the day after. That video already reached an audience way greater than this article will reach, because the video creators used Facebook. Millions of people use facebook everyday, the makers of the video were incredibly smart. 

Is facebook the new news source? I’m not sure, but it is incredible the power of the internet and social media, that is for sure.

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Can’t Be Silenced

I had never before thought about whether or not “bearing witness” could have faults. I have always just been accepting of “eyewitness” accounts as the most truthful and real- they were there weren’t they? I wasn’t, I couldn’t feel the terror or pure joy of an event and couldn’t possibly understand the emotions of an up-close personal experience, but Ariana Huffington gives an excellent point about bearing witness in her article. Sometimes people see what they want to see not what the actually see, she referenced Malcom Muggeridge’s concept of “the eye witness fallacy” to show this point. It makes perfect sense though, your so caught up in a situation that you don’t see it for what it is but rather you see it how you want to see it.

New technologies are giving us incredible and fast ways to give hundreds of more eyewitness accounts. Quick tweets or uploads from an iphone give us events in real time from people there, so despite the possibility of the eyewitness fallacy your not getting just one account, your getting them by the hundreds. And that increase in eyewitness accounts make it so much easier for people miles away from the event to feel the immediacy, the emotion and the importance of the occurring event. 

I think one the  best examples of the power recently of these new mediums and the ability to get hundreds of thousands of eyewitness accounts uploaded and embedded on the internet was during the uproar of protests against the Egyptian government. Youtube and twitter allowed viewers from across the globe to feel the live emotions of the event without the filtration that big media outlets tend to do. Without citizens having the tools to capture video, many of the events during the turmoil in Egypt would have never been seen.

This video went viral on the internet, minutes after it occurred, of a woman getting brutally beaten by Egyptian police in the streets.

The ability of citizens to step in as the role of journalists to a certain extent, is allowing the world to no longer being ignorant or unaware of occurrences across the globe. These new tools carry the potential to mobilize reform. Now nothing can go unseen or unheard.

Spread the Love

Democracy Now covered Storycorps“All There is” on Valentine’s day this year. Storycorps is the largest oral history project. Anybody can walk into their booth and interview a loved one, to preserve their voice for ever. They say people use the interview to act as if they only had a short time left with a loved one and they had to tell them how much they love them. What a perfect valentine’s day theme, love.

Love is something everyone knows. Whether you have fallen in love with your significant other, or its the love of a parent or child or even the love for something, not someone. Love is universal. This segment of Democracy Now captured the universality of love, that not matter the story, anybody can relate because everyone knows what love feels like. It’s not a difficult concept to understand, it doesn’t take training or studying to know how it feels, and both the joy and the heartache that come along with it can be understood by anyone.

Founder of Storycorps, Dave Isay, played his favorite interview – Danny and Annie. The most amazing thing about these stories, is there is no face to these voices, so yes they are individuals and their story is unique, but without a face it becomes much easier to relate. To be able to put any face to the voice allows the stories to transcend to just Danny and Annie. The story of Danny and Annie is both tragic and touching, it gives shows that no matter the circumstances love can prevail and love can give some of the most strength to anybody.

Democracy Now is a news outlet, so they have to give the news. I think what is so important about the stories they tell is that it gives a voice to the silenced. They give an incredibly human feel to the news, which is important, because it makes things much more real. This Valentine’s Day story was perfection.