Commentary on “Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech”

Credit to…”coastscapes” from zazzle.com

After watching HBO’s documentary Shouting Fire, I can’t say that I was totally surprised but it did help me to reflect on my personal life, and obviously, the real meaning of freedom of speech.

As you might now, I was born in Colombia, a country infamously known for its drug trafficking cartels and a 50-year-old armed conflict between guerrillas and the state.  The country seems to have controlled to some extent these two issues; however, there are still thousands of cases where liberty in all its forms has being taken away from its citizens. Freedom of speech and press exist but sometimes, people pay a great price.

I’m providing this example as the background story of how I was inspired to become a journalist after a very important Colombian political satirist called Jaime Garzon was killed by suspected right-wing paramilitary forces. (Although, the case remains open due to heavy accusations made against army generals that indicate that they were in fact the ones behind his death.)

Garzon was a really good journalist and commentator, who created many political satire shows that were very popular during the 90’s. (Think of a “Colombian Jon Stewart”) In his shows, Garzon highly criticized every aspect of the country’s politics, military and judicial processes, the war on drugs and the social and cultural situation of Colombian society. Myself, and many people in my country believe that he was murdered because he spoke with the truth. He was enforcing his earned right to speak, and yet, in a nation politically modeled by the values of democratic countries such as the U.S, he was brutally assassinated.

Absurdly naive, I looked up to all these American films and television series that proudly portrayed a “free country;” and I wondered if it was truly real. So, when my mother came to New York, and I found myself living in this city, I started to comprehend that although there is some freedom, in fact “you have to fight for it”, as Martin Garbus (First Amendment Atttorney featured on the documentary) said.

I consider myself lucky to have had many different politically opinionated professors at CUNY. (I will not say their names, to protect their privacy. Because hey! You never know if they end up being accused of something.) But this type of influence might seem wrong to many people, (including some of those who appeared in the documentary,) but this positive exposure really opened my eyes, and helped me see both sides of the coin. As a soon-to-be journalist, I can definitely understand better how some mediums undeniably participate in a biased process of misinformation; sometimes even working against the freedoms of its citizens, such as the case of Debbie Almontaser, the Muslim teacher of Yemeni descent that told her story on Shouting Fire.

The only thing I regret is that documentaries like this one are barely funded or promoted in local channels. Hopefully, the internet provides us with an open window of learning, where we can read, listen and watch various versions of a same event. But bear in mind that this wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for a continuous movement of people that still defend the internet. Truly enforcers of the right to protest, to assemble and to speak.

Opposite to what happened to Garzon, people might not be murdered here in the United States for what they say. (And its citizens should consider themselves lucky for that.) But taking away someone’s job, banning him from a place or institution, using McCarthyism tactics or police actions against him just because he says what he believes in , it’s not just totally undemocratic, it also socially wrong.

It’s almost like denying our right to have a mouth.

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Favorite commercial..

Although I do watch television, I usually don’t pay attention to commercials. As a matter of fact, my boyfriend and I always criticize the lack of imagination of the American advertising agencies. So when Prof. Dunphy asked us to post our favorite commercial, I couldn’t think of any. Lately, I did enjoy this one by Fiat.. however; I believe ads with babies are just too easy to like.

Finally, I remembered a really good commercial of Nike. I’m a huge soccer (football, futbol) fan, so I could say this is my favorite…

Ron Paul in The Daily Show.

Credit to blog.masslive.com

I chose Ron Paul’s extended interview with Jon Stewart from the Daily Show, because I was interested to know a little bit more from him. During the national debates, I always thought he was a respectable republican.  Some of Paul’s proposals were really interesting, and the fact that he was the only who actually believes in what he preaches attracted me. I do not in any way support Republicans, and although I admit I prefer Democrats, I wished there were more than two political parties in the United States. (Can someone explain me why, a country of 300 million people is governed by bipartisan politics? Please?)

Ron Paul’s opinion about the war on drugs really impressed me. During the last months, some Latin American presidents, (Including Colombian’ president Juan Manuel Santos) have declared that the war on drugs has failed. That the huge amount of money spent in attacking drug traffickers has been useless. Nowadays, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia continue to be the major producers of cocaine, and even though their internal trafficking problem has decreased; countries like Mexico have seen the increase of violent drug-related crimes. To be a Republican, Paul opposition to the current management of the war drugs, left a really good impression in me. (Actually, after Obama’s futile trip to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia, the White House released a new plan to use preventive measures to fight drug abuse which is really interesting. You can read more about that here.)

Back to Ron Paul, I was interested in the way he uses words such as civil liberties and freedom of choice. I believe those are strong and appealing words, especially in modern society. No question he is so unpopular in his own party.  His position about overseas jobs, environmental laws were also attention-grabbing. As Stewart pointed out, Ron Paul his consistency is remarkable and that something that seems to be missing in current politicians; (well that, and common sense.)

I really felt that Jon Stewart could have asked stronger questions. He did give a chance to Paul to answer about things he definitely knew he could connect with the young viewers of The Daily Show. Maybe if Stewart had asked Paul’s opinion about important and controversial (which actually, they shouldn’t be controversial at all) such as abortion, gay marriage or immigration, we could have been able to see the real Republican version of Paul. Even though, I’m studying journalism and I love Stewart’s show, I believe that Stewart sometimes fails in making a little more uncomfortable his guests. This is where I believe journalism and satire separates from each other.

In overall, I enjoyed the interview but I feel it could have been better.  You can see the extended version here. 

The price of “free”

Credit to Bilerico.com

After reading “The Filter Bubble” by Eli Pariser, I find it ironic to write this blog post. After analyzing the sources of power of two of the most prominent internet companies in the world (Facebook and Google); shouldn’t we stay away from the internet?

Probably not. (Hard to do so, anyway.)

It is not the first time that people are being seen more as consumers than human beings. (All Mad Men freaks, you know what I’m talking about.) We’re in the middle of a war. Companies fighting one against each other just to get you.

Think for a minute about your everyday life. You wake up in the morning and probably one of the first things you do is turn on some device. Television, phone or radio? They are constantly bombarding you with ads. Newspapers? Same thing. Your commute to work wouldn’t be the same without the subway advertisements or the huge billboards along the road. However, we don’t seem to care anymore. We are targets of the industry, and as a result we are the most – consumer oriented society that ever existed. We don’t fully understand the problem, because we believe that our choices are still our own.

Some full grown up adults are conscious about this problem, but what about the easily impressionable minds of young kids?

I remember my little cousin Lenny. When the television is on, some kids enter an impressive state of passiveness; but not Lenny. She didn’t care about the “telenovela” (soap opera) or the cartoons. But once the commercial ads appeared, Lenny would stop anything she was doing and just stared at the TV.   Back then, we all thought it was funny. Nowadays, it actually concerns me. [The fact that she has grew up in to a rebel, I-want-everything kind of girl might be a coincidence, but well, that’s the way it is.]

What about Facebook these days? Sometimes, it seems almost as we can’t live without it. And even though I’m a regular user, I’m starting to get uncomfortable with the ads they show me. From photography schools to Colombian traditional food, it scares me how much they know about me. But it’s my fault, isn’t it? I feed the machine that wants to eat me.

During an against-my-will trip I had to make a couple of months ago, I was without internet access for a little more than a week. Boy, it felt refreshing! I focused more in my family and friends, something I didn’t do in a long time. From that trip, I have decided to unplug more of the 2.0 world and connect more to my personal relationships. However, when the six people around you stop to check their phones every five minutes, I can’t help but wonder if I look THAT stupid.

Rush Limbaugh – The fish always dies by its mouth.

 

Credit to Freep.com

It’s unbelievable the way we [media consumers] still become surprised at the stupidity we hear in the airwaves. Rush Limbaugh is just another fool who feeds the mainstream radio with absurdity and sensationalism. By calling Sandra Fluke (a Georgetown law student) a “slut;” he only demonstrates his mental inferiority and irrationality. However, he is free to do so. (A timeline about the whole issue.. here)

In matters of freedom of speech, Limbaugh can say whatever he wants to, even if it is insulting and despicable. I know this a complex topic, one that seems upsetting to many people for its relation to women’s rights and their sexuality; but personally, this is not about him and his speech; this is about the influence of his words.

Being the most –listened radio show in the United States, The Rush Limbaugh Show is a dangerous platform; where millions of listeners are bombarded with remarks like these. But the most concerning story behind this kind of shows (Sean Hannity’s, Glenn Beck’s) is how powerful they are in the media world. So when someone like Limbaugh dares to call a woman a slut, he is reaching lots of ears; including young and impressionable minds; which is what worries me the most.

While there are several campaigns to take him out of the air; (See MoveOn.org campaign) I think Limbaugh will continue with his show. And even though; many companies are dropping their advertisements, and his radio station could cancel his show; I think there would be another place where he would do exactly the same. (Fox, I’m talking to you.)

So, just let him succumb to the public hatred of the liberals, democrats or as he likes to call them: terrorists. He is not the first and would not be the last (insert insult here _____) behind a microphone.

It is our responsibility to keep our brains away from his influence, (and any other similar idiot’s.)  Because at the end…the fish always dies by its mouth.

 

 

Waiting for.. The Daily Mail.

I’ve been listening to Radiohead since I was 10 years old. I would sneak into my uncle’s room (who was the rebel soul of our family) and listen to all the weird rock music he owned. From his Beatles’ collection to Nirvana and Pink Floyd, I would spend hours trying to decipher what the hell those singers were babbling in a language unknown to me back then. However, none of them amazed me more than Radiohead and their “Ok Computer” album (hence the name of this blog.) I felt connected to their music in such an unbelievable manner that they became my favorite band automatically.

Much changed since those days. I discovered lots of different genres and bands and artists. I learned English and acquired a better understanding of the music I listened to. And although, it’s almost impossible not to fall into the mainstream music trap nowadays; I’m still that childish soul looking for highly dosages of catharsis. Radiohead with their complexity, always seem to work. So when professor Dunphy asked us to analyze “The Daily Mail” I was very excited to do so!

As a fan of the band, I had previously listened to “The Daily Mail” a couple of times. The compelling melodic mood of the song begins with a beautiful and melancholic piano backed up by the sometimes unintelligible voice of Yorke. It might be complicated to understand what he is singing, but to me, it doesn’t matter. The story is there: full of calm and serene emotion. However, the song then falls into a sudden convergence of dissonant but gentle sounds and ends in what is probably my favorite part of the song: crashing chords, powerful drums accompanied by overwhelmingly delicious guitar riffs that seem to be full of anger. Yorke’s highlights the lyrics by using his distinguishable tone changes. It is almost like he is telling you to wake up from whatever hypnotic state you are (the one he actually put you in with his relaxed introduction.)

The lyrical part of the song was a little bit more challenging. I know the title of the song must have some relation to the known British tabloid paper. I’m acquainted with Thom Yorke’s undeniable political and social criticism; therefore, I think this is an indirect message towards those in charge of the journalism industry. He sings:

“Where’s the truth? What’s the use?

I’m hanging around lost and found

And when you’re here, innocent

Fat chance, no plan
No regard for human life

Is he asking the media to show the truth? Does he know he might not be heard? Is he just like us? Lost in a world of too much information? Or is it disinformation? Do we care?

(Probably we don’t.)

It is hard to know for sure what Yorke means. And even though my hypothetical explanation might be farfetched; I believe in it. I enjoy the song much more with that meaning. It’s personal and special.

Rating 5/5.