Final Plenary: Jane Fonda and Van Jones
Josh Silver, Free Press
All media other than printed page will soon be delivered by Internet connection. We must ensure access to all. It’s about information for the public, putting media in the public’s hands, in our hands. Let’s win the fight to guarantee that every community can own and operate full-power FM stations. The FCC will issue full-power licenses to community nonprofits.
SaveTheInternet.com, we need you to sign up ten organizations to sign this. We need the biggest coalition ever to win a free and accessible Internet. We have to be creative, bold, aggressive, and the fight is happening right now.
There are hundreds of local and national organizations doing this work. We’re trying to create an effective method for you to go home, get online, and see what actions they are taking and how you can help. We’re creating freepress.net/squad, and you can post your organization’s actions, and as an activist you can find out what these actions are.
We have to flood the FCC with these Stop Big Media postcards. We need thousands and thousands. It really does push them to do the right thing.
Kim Gandy, president of NOW
Introduces Jane Fonda
For women, 9 to 5 was a political movie, which funded an all-women’s radio network and media center.
Jane Fonda (full transcript at http://www.womensmediacenter.com/ex/011607.html )
How many of you know the name Abeer Kasim Al Jaabi? A 14 year old girl living 50 miles south of Baghdad, killed on March 12, 2006. Soldiers dressed in black burst into her home and took turns raping her before shooting her. In the next room, her parents and five-y-o sister were executed, and they drenched the bodies in kerosene.
It’s almost as great a tragedy when her story and all the other stories are buried in the back of news pages, quickly shuttled off, or never told at all. We need a media that strengthens democracy, not one that strengthens the government. We need a media that enriches public discourse, not corporations. We’re really talking about creating a media that is powerful, not one that serves the interests of the powerful. One that can speak for the powerless, that can bear witness. That can stop a war, not start one.
Bill Moyers said at this conference last year, the quality of journalism and the quality of democracy are deeply entwined. Our shared goal of creating a progressive democratic media, vital, investigative, and truth-telling, is unattainable if we do not address the inequalities of media, even of the alternative and independent press.
Existence of independent media has been severely threatened. We’ve seen a new concentration of media ownership. I’ve been married to it; I saw it happening in my very own bed. The erosion of alternative viewpoints has weakened us morally and spiritually. Only 13% of newspapers employ people of color in the same percentage as their readerships. And a media that leaves women out is fundamentally crucially flawed. Because you can’t tell the whole story when you leave out half the population. Health care, education, war and peace…affect women differently. All issues are women’s issues, and yet the absence of women in media is glaring, from the reporter’s desk to the executive suite. Journalists were more than twice as likely to turn to a male source during the ’04 elections. When you switch on the political talk shows on Sunday morning, only one in nine guests is a woman—and women are more likely to be relegated to the back half of shows, when fewer people are watching.
Women’s viewpoints are regarded as supplemental, and if there’s one woman op-ed writer, or one person of color reporting on minority issues, then the quota is filled. Women news directors account for fewer than 10% of board members. Women only hold 4% of ‘clout’ titles, with decisions over budgets.
I’ve come to see how deeply our lives and politics and choices we’re allowed to make are dictated by gender. The absence of an understanding of the role gender plays allows it to continue on in silence. This is the real danger of conservatism: not its resistance to change, but its denial of the possibility of change. But we can change things—and we must!
Like a lot of you, I was despondent after the 2004 election. A poll came out that 75% of those who voted for GWB thought he stood for the exact opposite of what he does. So joining with other scholars and media professionals, we created the Women’s Media Center
To make women visible, to ensure that our concerns are seen and heard in all media
To make women powerful, as they advance to the highest levels of their fields
Many media enterprises produced by ad for women. There is no shortage of women’s voices. We didn’t want to add another voice, but to be the megaphone, to facilitate and amplify women’s role.
The first thing we did was create Greenstone Radio, greenstonemedia.net, then we created a website, womensmediacenter.com. We broke the story of the attempt to restrict abortion in South Dakota.
Gloria Steinem said, “if we don’t learn to use and create our own media, we’ll be invisible in the present and absent from history’s first draft.”
This goes not only for feminists but for all true progressives.
Graduates of the right-wing Leadership Institute stick to the party line. 80% of talk show guests come from places like this. No wonder we’ve had a hard time framing the debate. We have to challenge the disproportionate influence of these right-wing media.
So collaboration is our weapon of choice. We worked with Mother Jones, we’re working with Ms. Foundation and Common Ground to make sure women’s stories (of Katrina) aren’t left out of history’s first draft.
The disastrous conditions that so many women still face more than a year later. We will continue to report on this until these women’s lives are [back to normal].
We’re pitching women’s stories with women sources. The Center is a place for media pros and consumers to come together in NYC, at the Empire State Building. Come by and see us. We provide a workspace, luncheon series, media training, The Bridge, which helps rural women and women of color to learn how to use the media, how to do press conferences.
I want you to leave with an awareness of the inequity that is so invisible precisely b/c it’s in plain site.
Resume your work with an awareness that media often leaves out women’s side of the story. The media establishment that prides itself on balance is also divided by race and gender. There’s more than two sides to every story.
I’m not saying that if news is written by or reported by women, that that [makes it right]. There are women who serve as ventriloquists for the patriarchy, and not coincidentally, they are asked to comment on the issues of women.
I’m looking for the truths of our experience, the obstacles we face. It’s hard to program for people you don’t look like or feel like.
The media shines its spotlight on celebrity pregnancies but not on women’s reproductive rights
What would look different? Women would actually begin to feel that they matter. It’s like gendering God as a male. If God is male, then men are God and women are at the bottom. And we tend to unconsciously absorb that and feel that we’re not quite as worthy.
Two separate women were raped and murdered in New York City, and the papers scolded them for going out to a bar at night, instead of focusing on the real issue: male violence against women. Last month, in the Washington Post, there was a heart-breaking article by Nancy Trejos about the women’s lives in Iraq. The headline was, “Women Lose Ground in the New Iraq. Once They Were Encouraged to Study and Work; Now Life Is ‘Just Like Being in Jail.’” The article was on page A12. If the female half of the world were visible and powerful, that article would have been the lead story, on the front page and above the fold.
Abeer’s murderer: the ringleader had a criminal record and emotional problems. They once would have rejected him but they granted him a moral waiver. The women’s media center is the only one to focus on this oral waiver. Far from being the exception, brutal violence and rape are the wages of war, and always have been. War always falls most cruelly and heavily on women and children. It may occasionally make heroes, but more often it makes victims.
We need to transform the conditions that make violence and rape common; this is not about breaking glass ceilings but about revolution.
The opposite of patriarchy is not matriarchy; its democracy!
The only way to build a powerful indy media a force for truth and progress, is to build an equitable media. Go out and change things.
Van Jones, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, gone from one person to 24 employees and a national reputation. Co-founder, ColorOfChange.Org (a MoveOn-style organization specifically aimed at African-Americans) (Native of Jackson TN, one hour away)
It’s good to come back home and see that the struggle here in Memphis is still continuing. I want to give respect to Grassroots Leadership and Si Kahn. There are forces who want to make Memphis the home to the biggest private for-profit prison in the world, to create a huge slave ship on dry land—that struggle against any sense of decency, to create a new Jim Crow. You don’t have to call someone an n-word if you just call them a felon. For-profit prison corporations are now being traded on the NYSE, turning it into a high-tech slave auction.
Many of you are going back, you’ve had a few days away. You’re going back to deadlines that are hard to meet, payrolls that are hard to meet, and policymakers that are hard to meet. You might have to be a little rowdy.
At the end of a conference, you can sometimes feel, the agenda is so widespread and the enemy seems so big, and are we going to get anywhere?
I want to remind you, doesn’t this feel a little familiar. In the 60s, in apartheid, [they told us] it was impossible. I’m talking about two years ago, weren’t we crying in our soup threatening to leave the country? If we had told you that in just 24 months, George W. Bush’s polling numbers would be in the toilet in Tennessee, in the Red states, that six years of one-party authoritarian rule would be shattered, and Donald Rumsfeld would be home watching YOU on TV, you wouldn’t have believed it. And when I tell you that Josh Silver and the FreePress folks, I’m talking about this year April, 2007, this will be the tipping point for this media justice and democracy movement. You don’t believe it, but I’m telling you the truth.
Look at what you have already done. We defeated the authorities, and I’m not talking about people you don’t know. I don’t mean people not in this room. We have built a progressive infrastructure on line that rivals right-wing talk radio in its impact. That’s an incredible accomplishment in any society. Look at the documentaries we’ve produced. Many of you in this room have produced beautiful, brilliant media that has undermined support for the war—and you’re just getting started. Al Gore, not the sexiest man in America, took a PowerPoint presentation and has upended the discussion on climate change inside a year.
I don’t have to tell you about our musicians, poets, rappers, our radio guerrillas like Amy Goodman, who’s here, who have used their voices to call this country back to its best self. I don’t have to tell you about the beauty of this movement. And now look—there was a guy who people thought might be a Republican president, who slipped on a Macaca, and the US Senate is now in the hands of the Democratic party. 24 months ago you had never heard of a Macaca or of Youtube.
You’re beginning to see hybrids and coalescences of stuff. You’re seeing stuff like Video the Vote. We are stunned by the continued genius of James Rucker, an African-American brother, formerly with MoveOn and now with Video the Vote. He partnered with MoveOn to protect democracy around the voting booths, and more than 1000 people said they were willing to be deployed at a moment’s notice, and they rushed into action and videoed what was going on with people being lied to at the voting place. And all of a sudden, [the election officials] found all the paperwork. And CNN said thank you because we don’t have enough cameras to go to all the places anymore!
Is that activism? Is that media?? This is the beginning of a new modality that blurs the lines of content production, media activism high tech, high principles, high touch, and on our way to achieving our goals and aspirations for this country.
But lest we forget—where did it start—this authoritarian movement? Katrina. Bush’s presidency drowned in the floodwaters of Katrina. Just as the Macaca incident shows the continuing pressure of racism, but also the continuing of anti-racism, when America saw an American city drowning something happened. The media was caught off guard, they didn’t have a script, and they had to report what they saw. And when we saw people left behind, waving American flags on top of roofs holding babies, something in the hearts of this country was touched. For years, we’ve been sold this conservative ideology of sink-or-swim, and then you saw it—people sinking, and in their hearts they said no, this is not the country I want. It rehumanized the black poor, but also the mainstream media the people on the other side of the camera.
They were rehumanized by an engagement with the poor. The moral power of a movement that’s engaged with the poor, the disenfranchised, began a slide that GWB has never recovered form.
So why don’t we do more than we have to stay engaged? It’s not charity. When we reach out, it invigorates our movement.
As I move to my close, I have to confess. I got a little hungry last night. I went in the car with Jeff Perlstein and we went to Wendy’s. I knew it was wrong. When we got there, I didn’t notice the guy behind the counter. And do you know who was serving? It was Donald Rumsfeld! And I said, Mr. Rumsfeld, what are you doing serving fast food at Wendy’s in Memphis? And he said, you know, I’m out of work. So I said, what do you think, now. He lied, but he said, it would have gone fine, it would have gone well. But we were unprepared for our catastrophic success in Iraq. It wasn’t that I screwed anything up.
What if this movement succeeds? Are we prepared for our own success? Can we write that story of what it looks like when we succeed. It does no good to win on net neutrality if net neutrality has a neutral impact on the lives of the people. This entire movement, as we begin to get into a place of real power, we have to begin to say, what is our agenda, and is our agenda inclusive enough? Will it lift up enough people. Fighting to make sure every local city and municipality is making free broadband available to everybody has to be #1 on our agenda.
Climate change: 300 cities singed first to Kyoto, and that gives us the backbone and the infrastructure [to go national].
It’s not enough to have the broadband and not the raining. Every child I every am public school has the right to a top-notch first-level media education. And we can go to Silicon Valley and Hollywood and urban teachers and create a beautiful coalition to make that happen.
When we look at the FCC, there’s a reason why you can’t go to urban America and say I am here to warn you about the FCC and get people to give one goddamn. Because the FCC has no one with heart and concern for the community who are visible. We have to say we want Davey D on the FCC. If you say, who the hell is Davey D, that’s the point. He is a walking library of deep critical analysis, and a hip-hop artist. If you were to put Davey D on the FCC, you’d have every entertainer marching, we want Davey D on the FCC.
Internally and externally, we are beautiful, gaining momentum. Something happens to a movement around this time. You think, oh, FreePress, they’ve got all the money. They’re the teeny little guys. We need to hug ’em, hold ;em. You hold people accountable. I want to encourage, as we get bigger, the people who have access and privilege, yes there are people above you, but also there are people behind you who need that love and support. RFK went to sit with the foreign workers, and he went to Harlem. He said, I’m going to take this on myself. For the giants of this movement to take inclusion on as if it’s their own. That’s #1, and #2., MLK didn’t get famous giving a speech called I Have a Complaint. I have a Critique. A Have a Long List of Issues About which I Am Thoroughly Pissed Off. The brother had a dream. And we have dreams, beautiful, hopeful, helpful dreams about a country coming back together to put its arms around the toughest problems. The reason we want this pro-democracy movement is that we believe this country can lead the world—but not in war, incarceration. We can lead the world in clean green technology, and we need a movement that stands for that.
So I say to you that we have to be real careful about what kind of stories we’re telling about each other. I expect a lot from the big folks and little folks in this movement, and that we will be as wise as my son, who’s 2-12. He’ll let me read Chicken Little only a couple for times. But I can read him the Little Engine that Could all day long.