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Media Tips for the Next Recall
Now that Californias electorate has rewarded a dramatic recall effort, its a good bet that political operatives in many states will try to learn from this falls Golden State extravaganza.
Media strategists were key to the recall drive that ended in triumph for Arnold Schwarze- neggers corporate backers. As a public service, here are some tips for partisans who want a shot at recall history:
Capitalize on smoldering resentments; use citizen outrage as bait to attract the support of talk-show hosts, pundits, ambitious politicians, and well-heeled contributors
Spark plugs for the California recall were happy to vilify Gray Davis as a crafty charlatan and/or incompetent cold fish. The governor made such caricatures easy. He raked in lots of sizeable checks from vested interests and engaged in budgetary sleight of hand. But instead of confronting his deference to energy firms that functioned as rip-off artistsor denouncing his refusal to back tax hikes for large corporations and wealthy individualsthe recalls conservative boosters preferred to blame Davis for too much spending and not enough solicitude to big business.
- Try to throw a manipulative harness on sincere concerns among voters; keep the media messages simple and simplistic
In California, an anti-tax drumbeatwith lots of media reverb went a long way toward drowning out voices that called for a major shift to progressive taxation. Little news coverage and scant paid advertising explained that such a shift could mean higher taxes for the rich and large companies, but lower taxes for every- one else.
- If a luminary on the campaign team goes off message with a genuinely sensible observation, put a sock in it, pronto
Early in the short campaign, a much-ballyhooed economic adviser for Schwarzenegger, Warren Buffett, pointed out that Proposition 13, Californias venerable property-tax limitation law, doesnt make sense. The financier noted that he was paying $2,264 for a years worth of property taxes on a Southern California home valued at $4 million. But a press secretary for the actor- turned-politician rushed to proclaim, Mr. Buffett doesnt speak for Mr. Schwarzenegger and hastened to add that the candidate has supported Prop. 13 for 25 years.
- Generate a steady stream of media messages that obscure complexities of underlying power relations while providing plenty of buzz phrases and images that serve as triggers for pre-existing assumptions
Platitudes and Schwarze- neggers muscle-bound celebrity candidacy were well-suited to what passed for news on television, where even in depth stories were usually the word-length equivalent of a few paragraphs. While newspapers provided some serious reporting, for the most part the TV news was predictably agog with glitz and sizzle.
- Personalize so as to dodge basic issues
In California, for well over a century, oligopolies of land holdings have throttled the state. Yet when recall promoters claimed to be speaking truth about power, they zeroed in on the corporate front person in the governors office, rather than confront (or even acknowledge) the dominance of real estate interests: from urban concrete labyrinths and suburban developments to the vast tracts of rural acreage owned by multi- millionaires and agribusiness.
- Cloak a candidate eager to serve elites in the garb of a populist champion
Schwarzeneggers plain-speaking cliches supplied media window dressing for an economic mind-set amounting to a dream come true for upper-class combatants in the class wars.
- Whenever possible, conflate entertainment fantasies with social realities, even while claiming to always know the difference
After decades as a media creature of entertainment, Arnold Schwarzenegger easily made the transition to being a media creature of politics. His victory will encourage other mind-numbing celebrities to further blur the distinctions between arrogant stories and rational government policies.
Norman Solomon is co-author of Target Iraq: What the News Media Didnt Tell You.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.