Daily Archives: October 30, 2011

Quote of the Day: Occupy Mainstream Media


Jesse LaGreca surprises Fox News by knowing far more than Fox News expected. Fox News has not broadcast this interview.

Dahlia Lithwick in Slate takes apart the enervating meme that OWS has “no message.” An excerpt:

Occupy Wall Street is not a movement without a message. It’s a movement that has wisely shunned the one-note, pre-chewed, simple-minded messaging required for cable television as it now exists. It’s a movement that feels no need to explain anything to the powers that be, although it is deftly changing the way we explain ourselves to one another.

Think, for just a moment, about the irony. We are the most media-saturated 24-hour-cable-soaked culture in the world, and yet around the country, on Facebook and at protests, people are holding up cardboard signs, the way protesters in ancient Sumeria might have done when demonstrating against a rise in the price of figs. And why is that? Because they very wisely don’t trust television cameras and microphones to get it right anymore. Because a media constructed around the illusion of false equivalencies, screaming pundits, and manufactured crises fails to capture who we are and what we value.

For the past several years, while the mainstream media was dutifully reporting on all things Kardashian or (more recently) a wholly manufactured debt-ceiling crisis, ordinary people were losing their health care, their homes, their jobs, and their savings. Those people have taken that narrative to Facebook and Twitter—just as citizens took to those alternative forms of media throughout the Middle East as part of the Arab Spring. And just to be clear: They aren’t holding up signs that say “I want Bill O’Reilly’s stuff.” They aren’t holding up signs that say “I am animated by toxic levels of envy and entitlement.” They are holding up signs that are perfectly and intrinsically clear: They want accountability for the banks that took their money, they want to end corporate control of government. They want their jobs back. They would like to feed their children. They want—wait, no, we want—to be heard by a media that has devoted four mind-numbing years to channeling and interpreting every word uttered by a member of the Palin family while ignoring the voices of everyone else.

And there’s this. The mainstream media thrives on simple solutions. It has no idea whatsoever of how to report on a story that isn’t about easy fixes so much as it is about anguished human frustration and fear. The media prides itself on its ability to tell you how to clear your clutter, regrout your shower, or purge your closet of anything that makes you look fat—in 24 minutes or less. It is bound to be flummoxed by a protest that offers up no happy endings. Luckily for us, #OWS doesn’t seem to care.

It must be painful for the pundits at Fox News. The more they demand that OWS explain itself in simple, Fox-like terms, the more cheerfully they are ignored by the occupiers around the country. As efforts to ridicule the protesters fail, attempts to repurpose the good old days of enemies lists falter; and efforts to demonize the occupiers backfire, polls continue to show that Americans support the protesters and share their goals. The rest of us quickly cottoned on to the fact that the only people who are scared of the “violent mobs” at Occupy Wall Street are the people being paid to call them violent mobs.

Report from Occupy London in the Guardian.

Frye on Anarchism Coming Soon

The rise of the Occupy movement invites a consideration of Frye’s views on anarchism. I am putting together a comprehensive collection of quotes, which I will post soon.

But not before I post Joe Adamson’s essay, “On Relevance: Frye on Universities and the Deluge of Cant,” which will go up at midnight.

Péter Pásztor: “Translating Frye into Hungarian”

Paper read at the conference ‘Canada in Eight Tongues’ organized by the Central European Association for Canadian Studies and Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, October 21-22, 2011

More often than not, discussing Frye is a reward and treat. That I have been invited to speak to you about Frye among learned women and men of letters is also a great honour, which I worry I shall not be able to live up to. After all, I am just a practical translator, not one who can deliver gems of theory. Moreover, I have been an unfaithful Frygian, who now finds it difficult to pick up the thread. But perhaps some of my insights might be worthy of your attention.

I first heard Frye’s name from a professor I perhaps unfairly hated. He mentioned Frye as an example of mythopoeic understanding of American history, and, as I had already come to the sophomoric conclusion that history was a nightmare from which I was trying to awake, I thought I had no time for any concept embracing history, let alone a reductionist model of history. Then I remember desultorily picking up a copy of the TLS or the New York Review in the English department library in Debrecen and reading of a Canadian professor capable of making sense of the Bible in literary terms. I instantly knew this was something I had been looking for. I asked the librarian to order the book, which was rather unusual for a student and for such a subject matter at the time. This was in 1982-83, when, though rotted at the core, communism was still showing no sign of collapsing. For all I know, the request may have been conveniently forgotten. The book eventually got to me through the U.S. Presbyterian Reader Service about two years later, and it lived up to my best expectations.

I am a PK, a priest kid; I had gone to a protestant school founded in 1538, and, as a 16-year-old snob, I had tried reading my Milton in the original from a time-worn octavo in the reading room of the old library. I had a keen sense of my cultural tradition, but a likewise keen sense of the stuffiness of the church I was brought up in, being marred by teaching a compromise with communism and a hopelessly outdated, shallow piety. However stifling this illuminating-tradition-turned-ghetto seemed to me in the late 1970s, the Marxian stance of the immediate world outside, particularly its fresher, seemingly truer Lukácsian brand, could hardly have had a lasting attraction for me, not to mention the fact that it soon went down like ninepins. But the lacklustre anti-metaphysical attitudes it was leaving behind seemed to me unimaginative and bleak. What was cast out of official and semi-official intellectual inquiry most lured me – irrationalism, esotericism, and archaic modes of thought, identifying the accidents of our existence with myths and archetypes, as brilliantly expounded by Mircea Eliade, whom I later happened to not-so-accidentally translate. This was walking on thin ice because archetypal repetition, for all its spiritual imaginativeness, implies a necessity that leads to authoritarianism on the social plane – recall Eliade’s own Romanian Nazism. This is particularly dangerous in Central-East Europe where archaic attitudes were not naturally outgrown, but trampled underfoot by communism. Though I believe I was always aware of this danger, I was much in need of saving.

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