Section A of... The Medium is The Middleman For a Revolution Against Media First Published January 1, 1997 With June 2002 Updated Author's Notes by Al Giordano
For the purposes of discussion and action, an 1 immedia project presents a central premise which, if accurate, carries urgent implications:
Media now controls a new
economic order: one that has
supplanted governments, churches and
productive industry to impose a mediating
tyranny over people and our Daily Lives.
Therefore, something akin to
Revolution is necessary. 2
First, we define our foe - an enemy which attains advantage over its adversaries by defining them. The law of Mediated Nature is "define or be defined," therefore it is helpful to define "Media."
We define "Media" to encompass all 3 Mediation; that is, the process by which Middlemen stand between people and our pursuit of happiness.
Members of the Media and their machines are the most pervasive Middlemen in people's Daily Lives. The News Media are Middlemen who place themselves between people and information. The Entertainment Media, likewise, place themselves between people and information, and between people and human events of global or community significance. The Entertainment Media, likewise, place themselves between people and our pleasure. Media "terminals," such as the TV screen, the computer monitor or the automobile windshield, come between people's daily communication. The act (or inact) of sitting before a screen increasingly turns the consumer into a kind of terminal, into an object, who reacts only to the stimulus on the screen. We, the mediated, fuel the Screen's power through our attention, our consumption of its products and, increasingly, our mediated creativity and labor. Media turns its producers and consumers into mere cogs in its machinery, making us less than human in the process.
Some Media aren't as obvious: the landlord 4 who stands between us and the space we need to enjoy life; the job at alienated labor that stands between us and the time to enjoy it.
We don't take our argument to the extreme of identifying every injustice or repression or problem on earth as a by-product of Media. There are other violences, from domestic battery to police brutality to abuse of children, that have their own additional roots in the "dominator culture" 5 that preceded and guided Media's invasion. We assert, however, that the rise of Media, Mediation and Middlemen in modern times has fortified many of the injustices that preceded it, even as it supplanted others (while offering the illusion of having vanquished them). The economic and Daily Life pressures imposed by the Mediated Society have weakened our ability, as individuals and as communities, to address and solve the urgent problems that plague people, even those traumas that Media did not create. And so we aim our immedia analysis and practice, ambitiously, toward a revolt that ends domination's long reign through the act of toppling domination's final warden: Media.
Because all of us are forced to be Middlemen or Mediators of varying degrees to participate in the economy and in political life, and because Middlemen come from all classes and include inanimate technological objects, the use of the term "revolution" should not imply that this well be a class-based effort 6. Rather, this revolt seeks to unite all classes and subcultures.7
We do not deny the existence of a class-hierarchy in Mediated Culture, nor do we ignore its present and inherent unfairness. Rather, we acknowledge that the traditional divisions between owner and renter, "bourgeoisie and proletarian," debtor and creditor, have become so muddled in the Media Age that most people findthemselves inflicted by roles -- oppressor and oppressed -- in the course of Daily Life.
Media, with its reliance on "market niches," compounds the problem of self-identification. Consumers over-identify with products and brand names, but also with their roles in the ceaseless cycle of reproduction. "Jobs" and other roles have, themselves, become objects of identification.Careerism ensures that its devotees offer many unpaid hours of labor each day through near-constant obsession on work, career and money. The panicked treadmills associated with schools and workplaces now occupy the "leisure hours" as well.
Consumers choose not only from a menu of commodities but also from a menu of roles to be played in order to participate in economic and social life. We can choose some roles, others are forced upon us, but we so far can't choose not to have roles encase around us. Roles, in the Media Age, become so numerous that they tend to collide: one can be a manager at work, a debtor at home, a tyrant over children, a bully at the check-out counter, a servant in kitchen, a dominant or submissive in bed, an executive caught in a traffic jam, a salesperson on the telephone, the holder of the remote-control in the living room, or the opposite, adopting an ever-changing menu of positions, mediating and mediated, often varying with the time of day.
The net result for most people is an overall slavery of body and mind, made bearable by brief illusions that one has mediating power over others, or over consumer products and services. This constant shift and flux of power roles -- and the chain-reaction of illusions and humiliations that accompany them -- creates vast difficulty for old-style "revolutionary" efforts that rely on whole classes of people to self-identify as "workers" or "consumers"; themselves roles with inherently narrow, and deadening, connotations. 8
Somewhere beyond this endless desert of roles and divisions remains an oasis where our direct lives experiences -- our unmediated adventures in pleasure and mutual empathy -- still exist: this is the terrain we are reasserting.
Any anti-Media, or Immedia, revolt, first and foremost, requires a self-revolution by individuals.
In other words, the enemies of our desires -- Media, Mediation and Middlemen -- exist outside of us and within us, as individuals, simultaneously. Our strategy to destroy and replace them must likewise address, at once, tactics of liberty that reclaim Daily Life's private and public terrain from Media in all its forms.
But the moment one seeks to free himself and herself from the techno-trance of the Media, a new need fast develops as a natural consequence: that of new tactics and strategies to join with others toward two goals: a.) to end the process by which our Daily Lives have become over-mediated, and, b.) to make possible a world in which we are not called upon to over-mediate others.
Posted, Friday Evening, J7... Three Immediate Questions: A. How do people develop a language of opposition
against Media when the Media controls all language?
B. Since Media excels at co-opting popular movements, both
political and cultural, how can a popular resistance be
designed to successfully overturn the co-optation process
that has turned other important causes into commodities?
C. In history, revolts have been conducted against
governments, leaders and classes. But how can a
revolt be formulated against a technology such as Media?
Coming Next... Twelve Immediate Inquiries:
I. Unnecessary Labor & the Broken Promises of Technology
II. Technological Imprinting
III. The Political Illusion
IV. Refusing to be Mediated
V. The Cyber-Dilemma
VI. Free Speech and Free Speakership
VIII. Property, Airwaves and Cable: "Steal This Radio"
X. Immedia in Print
XI. Developing an Immedia Language
XII. An Immedia Salon
Updated Author's Notes in June 2002
- This five-year-old document has never before appeared on the Internet. Indeed, it is not intended as easy reading for the hypersensitive Internet enthusiast. The original English-language printing in 1997 was 5,000 copies. Later, 5,000 copies were published in Spanish (we will be posting this translation, Los Medios Son El Intermediario, translated in September 1997 by the playwright Francisco Álvarez Quiñones of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, shortly). They were distributed gratis under the banner of "Free! You've Paid Enough Already!" to artists in all fields, and to rebels in many lands, who have been generous in comment, critique, and participation in ways that have led to the evolution of the document as updated in the footnotes below.
- This new publication of "The Medium is the Middleman" is dedicated to the memory of Jeff Buckley (1966-1997), who based his song, "The Sky is a Landfill," in part, on this document, and who passed from this world on May 29, 1997 in the middle of the first phase of the project that, three years later, gave birth to Narco News.
- A new introductory essay to this document, authored in June 2000, is highly recommended reading to place this document in its current context: "The Masses vs. The Media: A Revolution for a Narcotized Society."
- The behavior of the commercial media during the April 2002 attempted coup d'etat in Venezuela has unmasked the media's actual role as enforcer of untruth and enemy of authentic democracy. What has been spoken in whispers for the past five years must now be shouted: The biggest obstacle to repealing drug prohibition, to human rights, to ending senseless military interventions, to authentic democracy and to every other legitimate demand by the majority of the world's people is not merely caused by the bad behavior of governments, or even by industry in general, but by the spectacular police role now held by a particular industry -- the Media -- that has, with very few exceptions, betrayed the very sacred rights that We, The People, established for it.
Footnotes, Corrections, Evolutions of the Text, Five Years Later:
1. The title of "an immedia project" will probably be changed, to make it more, well, immediate to the post-coup landscape that has provided its context. Send your suggestions to email@example.com (This email address is exclusively for correspondence directly responsive to the inquiry outlined in these documents. The junk mail filter is set to high and the "blocking" mechanism will be on hair-trigger. Any email address that sends anything other than one-on-one person-to-person correspondence directly related to our inquiry on the problem of Media will be immediately blocked from sending any future message! No mailing lists, press releases, bulk mails or spams, please: this address is for correspondence from human beings, thank you very much.)
2. The phrase "Therefore, something akin to Revolution is necessary" is too vague. Let's not beat around the bush. Today, I would change it to, "Therefore, Revolution is necessary." (We are leaving the original 1997 document intact, with errors and all, in part to show the progression of our thoughts and actions over the past five years, and to emphasize: This should be considered a Working Document, that evolves through actual experience of the participants.)
3. Defining Media as "all mediation" is still eventually where this fight is heading, but at this stage our first actions will focus on the commercial media as it is commonly understood: TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, the music industry, Hollywood, the book publishing industry and related "grids of expression."
4. This 1997 document was largely defined by the city in which the project had begun: New York, New York, where the high price of rent dominates all discourse, and eventually prevented the realization of the next step of the project outlined in Chapter XII and titled "an immedia salon." Keep reading, kind reader: El Salón Chingón has found a Bigger Apple than Manhattan as its base camp. The resurrected project will not suffer the economic obstacles that New York provided to stall our plans. It was an error to attempt to launch this project in the high rent City of New York. We learned that lesson the hard way.
5. The term "dominator culture" rightly must be credited to my friend Riane Eisler.
6. I renounce this statement: "The use of the term 'revolution' should not imply that this well be a class-based effort." What was I thinking? I was trying too hard to recruit the already existing members of the Media into the project. Venezuela has proved this original premise to be wrong: I now believe that only a class struggle can beat the Media. This is the most vital change in strategy and thinking since 1997. And it changes much about the project as it begins anew in the Summer of 2002.
7. In the tradition of Simón Bolívar, we do believe there is a role to play for conscientious members of the educated classes who accept and understand: the only "vanguards" of this project are the Masses and Civil Society. Our role, as creative movers of the "grids of expression" is auxilary, to participate in the development of a language to oppose the tyrant's mediating power, and to creatively inflict our message upon all the grids of expression. The language here about how the Media harms even its educated consumers and workers remains accurate, and a call to those conscientious creative agents of all classes to realize their own self-interest to assist in the class-struggle against Media.
8. For now, we realize we must define ourselves as something, and so we adopt the terms "the Masses" and "Civil Society" as definitions we can live with, and the same goes for the term "Human Beings."
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"Therefore, Revolution is Necessary"