Sunday, June 8, 2008

National Conference for Media Reform Day 3

That's all, folks: Today marks the conclusion of the National Conference for Media Reform.

According to FreePress, Rupert Murdoch "sicced his favorite henchman" Bill O'Reilly on the conference in an effort to discredit them. Having spent the past three days with these people, I feel uniquely qualified to say they discredit themselves if you give them five minutes. None of the attendees I talked to could string together a coherent argument about anything. Hiding behind their "9-11 Was An Inside Job" T-shirts and "Impeach Bush" buttons, these "activists" are worse than the talking heads they love to hate—funny how the only ones mentioned this weekend were O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs, and Glenn Beck, no? The attendees I talked to or overheard have nothing but sound bites.

I walked into the Convention Center Friday morning with my ears open and my camera ready. I wanted to understand the mission of the Media Justice movement, as they call themselves. Three days later, that mission remains a mystery. My complimentary tote bag's slogan sums up their vague sentiment: "Reform Media. Transform Democracy."

36 hours into the conference, during Saturday's keynote, FreePress chairman (and Columbia U. law prof) Tim Wu finally offered a thesis statement: the problems, he said, are media consolidation and Internet freedom. The abuse of private power correlates into control of what can go on the Net or the airwaves. Just when I thought he might illustrate a point or offer a strategy, he stopped speaking to welcome "visual artist" Shá Cage onstage. Regarding Shá's act, I can say one thing: I respect her one smidgeon more than I do subsequent speaker Silvia Rivera of Chicago's Radio Arte, who led the audience in screaming "Si, se peude."

At this point in the evening Arianna Huffington was a welcome change. (That statement alone should give you all the perspective in the world.) Huffington enlightened the audience with three facts: (1) "The mainstream media are in love with John McCain." (2) "McCain is not fit to carry sharp scissors, much less be president." (3) "McCain is a Trojan horse." Huffington's less-than-logical rhetoric echoed every other speaker at the keynote, including FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, Sen. Byron Dorgon (D-ND), and Dan Rathers himself.

At this point my computer battery was dying along with my soul. I departed the Convention Center hoping to make sense of the day's events. So far no luck. But I'll keep you posted.

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