By Al Giordano
George Sanchez, graduate and professor of the School of Authentic Journalism, opens the 2010 j-school class on How to Write a News Story. Photo DR 2010 by Omar Vera.
Anyone who has talked with me for more than five minutes about the state of journalism today knows that my critique quickly spreads from the commercial media – which everyone now accepts is obsolete and dying, it is almost redundant now to point that out – to the so-called “alternative” or “activist” media, which too often ends up mimicking the worst vices of the corporate media.
We receive many story submissions to Narco News each week, plus requests to link to other independent media stories. And it mostly pains me to have to pass up on the sincere and honestly written pieces that unfortunately end up incoherent because they either use a ki nd of “activistspeak” that is pitched at an insular audience of those that already agree with the writer, or because they read like academic essays by people who, in their writing pens, never escaped from the poor writing formulas they were taught at universities.
And that’s one of the reasons that since 2003 we’ve offered the School of Authentic Journalism, which convened again this past February on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. And the main reason we’ve never charged tuition for students is that, unlike the big university j-schools, we don’t want to select participants for their ability to pay, but, rather, on the merits of their talents and social consciences. To reconstruct a journalism of the people, the participants have to come from all economic strata of society.
At the 2004 School of Authentic Journalism in Bolivia, two graduates of the ’03 school – George Sanchez and Reed Lindsay – together with Bolivian journalist Claudia Espinoza, offered a plenary workshop titled “How to Write a News Story” which I lamented not videotaping, it was such a clear and coherent expression of our approach. But YouTube didn’t even exist back then and it was only that year’s j-school experience that convinced us to branch into the production of online video, through a then-launched sister site, SalonChingon.com.
So this year I asked George – now a veteran of various daily newspaper staffs – along with French correspondent in Mexico Anne Vigna and up-and-coming independent reporter Erin Rosa (whose job at the time was to train US college students to do better journalism at their school newspapers) to captain the 2010 version of this workshop.
As you can see from the video, above, they took what most journalism schools have turned into a drudgery-filled spectacle of boredom – the basic steps of how to write a news story – and yet held the intense interest of an audience, half of whom were “professors” at the school. This almost-seven-minute video, of course, only captures a fraction of the 90 minute session – which included audience participation – but you can see in the “b-roll” shots of those of us receiving the course an attentive and interested public.
A week after this year’s j-school, I wrote up that workshop for Narco News, intentionally adhering to the steps recommended by Sanchez at the opening of this video in constructing that news story.
And today we offer the seventh in the ongoing series of viral videos from the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism, this one about that very plenary session. Here it is:
Greg Berger – ’04 graduate and, now, department chairman at the School of Authentic Journalism - captained the production of the How to Write a News Story video. (Don’t miss his latest masterpiece, Love In Times of Swine Flu, which he writes up this week for Narco News, too.)
Here, Berger shares some tips about how the video was made, and the philosophy behind producing it:
If there is one thing I took away from the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism this year, it was a rule that I have since applied in all of my classes. Don’t be boring, or else! This video, therefore, is not boring. The NO BORING clause is a cardinal rule of my friend, colleague, and School of Authentic Journalism founder Al Giordano. Of course, I have long followed this rule, but I liked the way Al said it this year.
I believe that it is this sacred commandment which separates the School of Authentic Journalism from traditional journalism schools. No one has ever been bored at our school.
Part of the reason this is so is that teachers like George Sanchez, Erin Rosa, and Anne Vigna are able to say in just a few minutes what many students don`t learn in four years of graduate journalism school.
So when I sat down to make a synopsis of the session "How To Write A News Story" for our ongoing viral video series, I wanted to do two things. Above all, I wanted to make a video which would provide visual illustration for the concepts that the professors were talking about. But I also wanted to make a video that would be fun to watch.
After Al and I edited the text of the session down to its essence, we downloaded lots of videos in the public domain that make reference to journalism. Cutting up old campy stock footage is always an easy way to punctuate people`s thoughts in a video.
However, one problem we ran into while making this video is that it is difficult to make pop-culture references that play coherently across cultures. So we decided to use clips whose visual meaning was clear (such as the cowboy angrily ripping down a posted newspaper page) or with characters universally recognized (such as Bart Simpson or the Road Runner and Coyote.)
But the heart of this video is the clear and succinct instruction that Sanchez, Rosa, and Vigna offer their students.
Enjoy the video, follow the tips offered for writing a news story, and if anyone gets bored you can track me down and beat me to death with an old copy of Newsweek magazine. That`s the only thing that magazine is good for anyway.
Many thanks to the viral video team for filing the event and to 2010 School of Authentic Journalism graduate Karina González for finding stock footage online.
Today, it is also my pleasure to announce that we are embarking on a new branch of the tree of authentic journalism. Coming soon to a screen near you: Narco News TV.
These videos from the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism – and those that are still under production – will serve as the foundation stones of that online video journalism project, and we’ll bring six years of the SalonChingon.com videos onto the new platform as well. Eventually, resources permitting, it is our goal to regularly produce online news videos from the stories we cover throughout the hemisphere and make them available (like everything else here, free of charge) to the worldwide public.
Meanwhile, if you have sent us story submissions over the past ten years that we haven’t bit on, this video, and the accompanying news story about the workshop upon which it is based, serve as an excellent first step to know what we look for in the stories we publish, and also offers a good example of how the teaching and learning at the School of Authentic Journalism is done.
By Al Giordano
Robert Downey Jr. as weapons magnate Tony Stark ended the first Iron Man movie in 2008 with a press conference declaration that “I am Iron Man” and the sequel, opening in the US on Friday, begins by reliving that confession. As is common in the Marvel comics franchise films, the fourth wall in Iron Man 2 doesn’t just get broken. It is mercilessly sledgehammered into rubble, again and again. Downey Jr., in real life, has come back from an industry-imposed tomb; there were years in which the big insurance companies wouldn’t indemnify the single best actor of my generation and so Hollywood would not hire him, and his chemical preferences and resulting antics were grist for the gossip rags and the puritan finger-waggers. The Stark-Iron Man role has put Downey Jr. back on top of the box office and his resurrection parallels that of the blockbuster character he now commands.
But what am I doing writing about what many consider to be a mere action film when an oil slick covers the Gulf of Mexico, when Arizona has declared immigrants as public enemy number one, when the specter of paramilitary ambush and assassination has reappeared in Mexico and all of that ought to be like shooting fish in a barrel for an investigative journalist? It is because at this dark hour of history, humankind needs a hero, or, better said, collectively needs to become one. Unfinished drafts of stories about each of those things and more clutter my desktop but none have yet found that glimmer of hope that has infused so much of the body of work that has flowed from this pen. If there is no chance to change history, why write at all?
And so as I was waiting for the social movements and organizers (forget about the “activists,” whose Modus Operandi is dull repetition, boredom and certain defeat) to show some fighting spirit and get creative in reversing these evils, and thus to give us something to talk about, I wandered into the cinema last Friday for the international Iron Man 2 premier, which opened in Latin America a week before it will in the United States. It is frankly rare when we expats get to see or hear a piece of American pop culture before you who live there do. So let me get out in front of Iron Man 2 and define it for the homeland.
Marvel comics – in which Iron Man has been a lead actor since 1963 - introduced a generation of kids to the concept of the flawed hero. Those books taught that you can be screwed up, neurotic, lacking in self-confidence, an outcast, an illegal alien or a mutant, or any other kind of misfit, and still do extraordinary acts for the good of society.
The Marvel universe provided the older brothers, father figures and role models I never had in real life during a somewhat troubled youth: Matt Murdock (Daredevil) was a blind working class kid from a broken home turned defense lawyer in Manhattan's Hell’s Kitchen who sought vengeance after his pop, a boxer, was murdered by the mob. Dr. Stephen Strange was a Greenwich Village eccentric living at 177A Bleeker Street who’d lost use of his surgeon’s hands so had to learn to transverse separate realities and manipulate time and space via sorcery. Inventors Hank Pym (Ant Man, Giant Man) and Janet Van Dyke (the Wasp) had a dysfunctional marriage and, when not fighting vs. supervillains, were daily at each other’s throats. James “Logan” Howlett (Wolverine) had been born in 1810 but didn’t age, causing him eternal boredom, which he medicated with tobacco, booze and roguish antics. Arms merchant playboy Tony Stark (Iron Man) was a regularly bottom-hitting drunk. Despite – and also because of – their flaws, they, and others like them, saved the world, every month, for twelve cents an issue.
Which is why it was disappointing that the first Iron Man movie, in 2008, turned Stark into a mere social drinker glossing over that which made his character most interesting. The hero who could fire repulsor beams from his palms was regularly, outside of his clunky uniform, repulsive. That lack in the first flick was particularly a letdown because we all knew that Downey Jr. could nail the essence of that character, but the script did not give him the chance. But if you don’t like “spoilers” stop reading right now because here it comes: Iron Man II includes a sensational scene of Stark going on a raving drunk in his Iron Man suit, putting a mansion full of civilians at risk. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, (Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard from the 2008 film in the sidekick role), then has to suit up in the uniform that readers of the books know as War Machine to stop him. And Downey Jr. finally gets to market what too many pounded on him as a weakness, now, as a strength and a well to draw from on screen.
The bigger surprise yet from Iron Man II is the emergence of Scarlett Johansson as agent Natasha Romanoff (The Black Widow), cast totally against nice-girl type and emerging with a role that should earn its own spin-off movie as well as a seat around the SHIELD roundtable in the 2012 Avenger’s flick for which the Iron Man films and the 2008 Incredible Hulk movie – along with upcoming flicks based on the characters of Thor and Captain America – are stage setters.
Johannson plays two roles at once: the SHIELD agent Natasha Romanoff (originally named Natalia Romanova in the Marvel book) in black cat leather, sophisticated pistol whip weaponry and loyal accomplice of eye-patched SHIELD chief Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who in the first part of the movie goes undercover at Stark Enterprises posing as legal department attaché Natalie Rushman. Her covert assignment is to keep tabs on Stark. In each metamorphosis Johannson accomplishes something I can’t remember another actor or actress doing in any film, ever: she steals entire scenes from Downey, Jr. To my sister native New Yorker's credit, she also does most of her own stunts. One violent action scene she shares with director John Favreau (who ably plays Stark Enterprises' guy friday Happy Hogan) cements Johansson's baptism into the role of kick-ass superpowerdom and any movie critic who tries to say otherwise will end up like the dozen uniformed security guard she wastes with jaw-gaping acrobatic grace.
In April 2009, without mentioning Iron Man II by name, Johansson wrote a Huffington Post column about her training regimen to be able to skinny into the black leather suit that US movie goers will be seeing her in later this week. Her transformation from perky, bright, amusing Woody Allen comedic sidekick-muse to hard edged, no-nonsense, lethal kickboxing disciplinarian for the reckless Stark goes way beyond physical form. Stark cannot take her eyes off her (“can I have one?” he comments to love interest Virginia “Pepper” Potts, played again by Gwyneth Paltrow, upon meeting his company’s latest employee) and neither can the audience. Johansson out-Downeys Downey entering each scene like a tornado that vacuums up all the attention available on the big screen.
Marvel Comics movies have the budget and fun-factor to have drawn many of the better actors and actresses in Hollywood (and Broadway, as Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine character attests) but until Johansson’s appearance this week, Academy and box office favorite female leads like Paltrow and even Halle Berry (X-Men’s Storm) have been mostly outshone by the male characters in the all-star ensembles (Fammke Janssen’s Dr. Jean Grey-cum-Phoenix in the X-Men series being a notable exception). Jennifer Garner nabbed a spin-off for the Elektra character that she developed in Daredevil, but her solo film didn’t rise to the gut-checking Joseph Campbellian mythology of most of the Marvel motion pictures. Not so with Scarlett as The Black Widow. It’s been some days since this viewer left the theater, and there’s still a welt from her super-heroine sting.
Once Iron Man II breaks box office records (it has already grossed more than $100 million abroad and its commercial triumph is inevitable on the domestic front, too) there should be a clamor to write Johannson into the 2012 Avengers mega-flick if The Black Widow isn’t in there already. She is the character that the Marvel film universe has been waiting for. At 25, Johansson is younger than most of the aging stars of the films that have been worthy of sequels (The X-Men key cast characters, for example: Jackman is 41, Janssen is 45, Patrick Stewart (Professor Charles Xavier) and Ian McKellen (Magneto) are 70, giving that franchise limited staying power.) As for the Iron Man/Avengers franchise, Jackson is 60, Downey, Jr. is 45, Ed Norton (it is not yet confirmed he will be back as The Hulk in the Avengers movie) is 41, Paltrow is 37. Anthony Hopkins, who will play the role of Norse god Odin, father of Thor, is 72. But who among the Marvel movie bigfeet has the potential to usher the franchise into another decade, not to mention Johansson’s potential to widen the demographic? (The Marvel.com website, for example, has a 57-percent male audience, probably indicative of its comic and movie viewers as well.) These times need a heroine even more than they need a hero.
As the Avengers prequel movies come into focus, the Marvel film empire is developing some new and younger talent. 26-year-old Chris Hemsworth will play Dr. Donald Blake a.k.a. the Norse thunder god Thor, and Chris Evans, 28, will be Steve Rogers, The First Avenger: Captain America, in its own feature film that begins shooting next month. Those films will bring those young actors into the top tier, but Johannson entered the Marvel universe one already.
As with Downey’s increasingly complex Iron Man, The Black Widow character has its own complications for the artist Johansson to develop over sequels if they happen. A Stalingrad-born Russian secret agent, markswoman, black belt, and spy, orphaned and raised by Soviet agents, artificially enhanced for long life, and reprogrammed with false memories, The Black Widow defected to the US hopelessly in love with bad-boy Avenger arrow-man Hawkeye. (The book character gets around: The Widow has also had stormy affairs with Daredevil and with Captain America sidekick Bucky Barnes, among others.) Like Captain America, her story begins in the World War II era and the old lady in a young woman’s body has a loner’s streak and rocky relationships in her on-again off-again membership of multiple super teams and duos. The Black Widow, as portrayed by Johansson, screams out for more big-screen time. Joss Whedon - likely director of the Avengers movie and the creator of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series - won’t be able to, nor should he, resist her bite.
As for the villain in the film that critics are raving about, yes, of course, Mickey Rourke puts on a credible Russian accent, broods, aces the role of Ivan Vanko (Whiplash) and then he dies. The end. He was a better villain than the first film's Jeff Bridges, which is what we expect from Rourke. But the heroes of this flick - Downey Jr., Johansson and Jackson as Nick Fury - are what viewers will remember long after exiting the theaters.
(And, as Marvel movie aficionados know already: Do not leave your seat until after the final credits have rolled: there will be a "tag" scene at the end that sets up the next movie in the series. 'Nuff said.)
None of this high praise for Johansson’s Marvel movie debut can obscure Downey Jr.’s acting triumph in Iron Man II. Something about playing a wounded hero is natural to many of the aforementioned Hollywood stars, but more so for the man who plays Tony Stark, a man who has more money and wisecracking charm than God but whose best friends seem to always have to deal with “the problem with him,” put up with him and pick up after his messes more than they seem to enjoy him. Saving the world with Tony isn’t always a picnic. And so it is in life, too. That’s what makes the best Marvel hero flicks so much more than special effects razzle-dazzle, as complex and broken humans stumble through the duties and crises that are much bigger and nobler than them. The DC comics franchise (Batman, in particular) has copied the Marvel formula bringing more angst and edge to its characters, but nobody does it like Marvel, which invented and deepened the characters over so many decades precisely around that genre.
Iron Man 2 is Hollywood’s first super hero of the Obama era, and like the USA itself, the lead character has growing pains of peacetime conversion. “I have privatized world peace,” Stark announces, flashing Nixonian peace signs, at a Congressional hearing in which a pudgy US Senator played by Gary Shandling seeks to make him turn over the Iron Man suit technology to the Pentagon. And there’s an awesome anti-corporate subplot with Sam Rockwell as rival arms dealer Justin Hammer playing an envious Bill Gates to Stark’s Steve Jobs. In the first Iron Man movie, Stark emerges from a kidnapping to cancel Stark Industries’ weapons production and devote the corporation’s entire resources to development of a new energy source. Meanwhile, the suit itself has become the weapon that makes all other weapons systems impotent and nation-states simply can't carry on with wars with the same gusto as they did before.
In the comic books, Stark was Marvel’s token right wing hero - obsessed with fighting communism and ever battling Russian and Chinese nemeses – flanked in the Avengers super team by social liberals like the selfless and noble Captain America and the hippie environmentalist Thor. That theme continued right into this century with the Marvel mega-comic series Civil War, in which Stark leads the half of the superhero universe that is in favor of a Super Hero Registration Act while Cap leads the guerrilla civil libertarian resistance. But the on-screen Stark has adapted to the times, rejecting empire for a higher calling, at least at the key moments between his out-of-uniform personality crises.
The prequel’s confession that “I am Iron Man” infuses and is the theme of Iron Man 2. Downey Jr. is Iron Man. And he is even more so Anthony Edward “Tony” Stark (both of whom inherited their trades from famous innovator fathers, a commonality that Downey Jr. cited to MTV as influencing his portrayal of Stark). This third in the five-or-more-part series leading up to the Avengers crescendo in 2012 – excuse my heresy – will probably end up surpassing the X-Men movie franchise as a pop cultural definer of what heroism looks like in our times.
The personal struggles of the flawed Stark who inherits the sins of his fathers and of his country and has a difficult, not always successful, time evolving into what he knows he needs to be mirrors that of US society and its citizens. And that’s what makes Iron Man 2 more than an action picture for boys and toys. The truth is that in 2010, we are all Iron Man, without enough time left to heal our considerable personal wounds and with new technologies at our fingertips that are at least as evil as they are good, but also the urgent duty to rise above our flaws and convert our technologies at an hour of moral crisis and to go out and save the day.
By Al Giordano
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Word - No Problemo|
When on the night of the passage of the US health care law March 21, I wrote that the next big battle would and should be immigration reform, I had no idea that the state of Arizona was about to polarize the issue with the passage of its Juan Crow law last week. It is a law so unwieldy, unenforceable, unconstitutional and un-American that its authors inadvertently gifted to reform proponents that “fierce urgency of now” that Martin Luther King, Jr. once spoke of as a basic building block of change.
And, unwittingly, they opened a hole big enough for President Obama to drive a Mac truck through, as Greg Sargent noted at the moment:
This is pretty big: Obama just now sharply condemned the controversial anti-illegal immigration effort in Arizona, calling it “misguided” and “irresponsible” — and even said his administration could insert itself into the fight if civil rights are found to be violated.
This could cause the issue to heat up to full boil on the national level, with untold consequences for the midterm elections.
The effort in Arizona would require anyone suspected of being in the country illegally to produce “an alien registration document” or other proof of citizenship. The Governor of Arizona is expected to decide within days how to act on the legislation — and Obama today pushed the issue hard.
“Our failure to act responsibly at the Federal level will only open the door to irresponsiblity by others,” Obama said. “That includes for example the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”
In 2007 – the last time the US Senate attempted to enact immigration reform, creating a path to citizenship for twelve million undocumented Americans – we reported extensively in Narco News on the political battle. And we’ve been waiting two years to report the sequel (one that is of high interest both to Field Hands and to Narco News readers, two audiences that, hard as we try, do not always overlap, but largely will on this one).
There are three givens that I would like everyone to keep front and center:
1. The political reality is that the US Senate has to tackle immigration reform before the House. That’s why the moves now to put it on the upper chamber’s front burner are sound politically. Strike while the fierce-urgency-of-now is hot!
2. While I support and fully join in the boycott underway of products from Arizona, we must keep in mind that Arizona-bashing may feel good for the activists but it is not enough by itself (boycotts are historically mostly unsuccessful, something the two young ladies I spied at an outdoor restaurant in Mexico City this afternoon sipping tall cans of Arizona brand iced tea underscore). The Courts will eventually upturn the Arizona law, but that will simply return the situation to an already rotten status quo in which twelve million undocumented Americans are still persecuted severely.
3. Therefore, the big enchilada is national immigration reform itself. That is where to focus the laser of our efforts. Keep your eyes on the prize, and hold on.
And all this happens on the eve of the annual May 1 pro-immigrant rights rallies that emerged in 2006 and recent events pretty much ensure they’ll be bigger, once again, than all the “tea parties” put together.
Let us not forget that in 2006 only two US Senators out of 100 walked alongside the May Day marchers. One, Ted Kennedy, is no longer with us. The other, Barack Obama, well, you know where he is. It’s clear that as the son of an immigrant himself, that this famous quotation of his is a principle he applies to immigration reform:
“We may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction--towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren... working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.”
Under radar, Obama and his party’s Organizing for America army has, for months already, been doing the stealth community organizing spade work, preparing the ground for this perfect storm. Throughout the country, organizers show up at citizenship swearing-in ceremonies with voter registration forms, and in key areas have begun door-to-door canvasses in Hispanic neighborhoods previously untouched by electoral machines because they had so few eligible voters. The national organization Real Immigration Reform for America has already deployed 60 paid community organizers in key states and districts, and has trained hundreds more volunteers in twelve states, to fan the perfect storm.
As always when anything real might get done in Washington, there is some concern trolling going on, and on both sides of the aisle. Republicans like Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) have bolted (for now) from the same immigration reforms they once supported and co-sponsored. Graham’s explanation is revealing as to why:
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said frustration over the Arizona law is understandable, but an election year is not the time to bring up immigration reform.
"If you bring up immigration this year... you have really done damage to immigration prospects in the future. You have taken the country and pitted it against each other," Graham said
And on the Democratic side, there are those complaining that immigration reform may bump Climate Change legislation to second-in-line, as if one victory doesn’t make the other more possible.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA), a big supporter of both bills, smacked that canard down artfully:
"It's practically a rite of passage. No serious legislation ever makes it very far in Congress before it's declared dead - at least once, sometimes two or three times."
Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos has done yeoman’s work heading off the concern trolls at the pass by highlighting polls that show strong public support for reform and additional argument as to why it is smart politics to do this in an election year (and citing the historic backlash against Republicans from California’s anti-immigrant proposition 187 in 1994).
And so here we go: Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more. Lace up your canvassing cleats, dust off those clipboards... and wear a cup. The storm is going to be torrential before the rainbow appears. But we already know how to make history in the middle of a storm, one doorbell at a time.
By Al Giordano
Saturday night marks ten years since the first midnight that Narco News - of which The Field is part - appeared on the Internet and what else can be said other than that we're real happy that you, kind reader, have come here and have stuck around, and that we're real proud to be able to keep doing the work of authentic journalism day in, day out.
If you're in the New York area, join with more than 15 graduates of the School of Authentic Journalism, and other writers, journalists, media makers, artists, personalities, Field Hands and readers for a memorable night of food, drink and conversation.
If you can't attend, please consider making a contribution via this link:
Or send a check to:
The Fund for Authentic Journalism
PO Box 241
Natick, MA 01760 US
If you can attend and need directions to the celebration - it begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday in Fort Greene, Brooklyn - email me at email@example.com
On Saturday night, the next ten years begin. Stand with us as we ring in a new decade.
By Al Giordano
Students and professors from the School of Authentic Journalism visit the headquarters of the daily Por Esto! in Cancún in February of 2010. Photo DR Noah Friedman-Rudovsky.
Greetings Field Hands and all from the little town that created your correspondent, where we are getting everything ready for Saturday's Narco News 10th Anniversary Celebration (hope to see you there: to rsvp, click here).
And where, also, tonight, Wednesday, some of the graduates of the School of Authentic Journalism and I will be leading a discussion on Authentic Journalism as Civil Resistance at the Brecht Forum at 7:30 p.m.
From the Brecht Forum announcement:
This month marks ten years since Narco News (www.narconews.com) began publishing “on the drug war and democracy from Latin America.” Launched as a means to publish reports from Mexico by Al Giordano – New York native and community organizer-turned-journalist – Narco News fast grew into a vital radical news source in seven languages with hundreds of collaborators who walk alongside social movements and report on civil resistance, organizing campaigns and official corruption throughout the hemisphere.
Four months after its inception, Giordano and Narco News, together with veteran Mexican journalist Mario Menéndez Rodríguez, found themselves as defendants in a lawsuit brought by the National Bank of Mexico (now part of Citigroup) in New York (Banamex v. Mario Menéndez, Al Giordano and Narco News). In December 2001 they won the landmark decision from the New York Supreme Court extending First Amendment protections to Narco News reporters and, by extension, to all Internet journalists, paving the legal path for the online journalism that exists from so many corners today.
The global attention from that court case - together with the daily reports on social movements from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela, from all 31 states of the Mexican Republic and so many other parts of the hemisphere - brought a wave of emails from young journalists, community organizers and change agents throughout the world asking if they could come work or intern in Narco News’ offices. Not having an office, Giordano and colleagues decided instead to form The School of Authentic Journalism, which has trained scores of communicators from more than 40 countries in investigative and online journalism, documentary film production, community radio and the creation of viral videos on the Internet.
Giordano, who during his final year in New York (1996-97) authored “The Medium is The Middleman: For a Revolution Against the Media,” a document that applied anarcho-syndicalist, Situationist and other histories and philosophies to “the problem of media,” comes to the Brecht Forum on April 14 to talk about the philosophical underpinnings of what he calls “the authentic journalism renaissance."
In the ten years since Narco News was born, social movements have grown to rely on producing their own media to be heard and seen and to communicate among their participants, and the mass media has become increasingly dependent on citizen journalism to cover international social conflicts. The act of reporting coherently, freed of the corporate constraints of “objectivity” and obsessions with the machinations of those in power “up above,” of using a cell phone as a video camera, of editing a viral video, and of deploying other decentralized weapons of communication to report on the struggles from “down below,” has itself become a form of civil resistance. Giordano will be joined at the Brecht Forum by invited graduates of the School of Authentic Journalism to help lead the conversation, where they will also discuss the urgent responsibility of radical communicators to grow “faster, better and more coherent” at covering news in ways that make authentic journalists part of the struggles they report, and that help, and not harm, those movements' prospects for victory.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about some scholarships available to independent journalists and community organizers to be able to attend gratis.
Sliding scale: $6/$10/$15
Free for Brecht Forum Subscribers
Post-event we'll move to some nearby hole in the wall to celebrate the birthday of School of Authentic Journalism graduate Ter Garcia, native of Spain visiting NY (I've told her that in her honor the city is keeping the subway open for 24 hours...).
By Al Giordano
I haven’t seen anybody ring the obvious bell on yesterday’s “straw poll” results at the Republican Southern Leadership Conference, but the key word there is Southern, and (the Southern Belle?) tolls for thee, Mike Huckabee.
Members of the RSLC are primarily from the South, and even in the case of candidates busing in their supporters to stack the poll, most of those folks had to come from either the South or from Texas to go cast a ballot in Louisiana.
Rewind two years to the February 9, 2008 primary in the Bayou State and Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won 43 percent of the vote to 41 percent for John McCain. Mitt Romney garnered 6 percent and Ron Paul got 5 percent.
Huckabee also won Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas in ’08, so for him to come in fifth place in this straw poll that took place among party activists in what should be his geographical base territory is nothing short of devastating for his 2012 presidential prospects. It probably also indicates that he's not working that hard for it, which would firm up speculation that he doesn't plan on running anyway.
I had speculated here a few days ago here some reasons why Huckabee would be unlikely to become a candidate, and yesterday’s results increase that likelihood, leaving Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich to duke it out to be the Christian Right’s standard bearer in the Anybody-but-Mitt primaries and caucuses.
Additionally, scratch the surface of the first round results (where Romney edged out US Rep. Ron Paul, of Texas, by one vote to win the straw poll) and there are two candidates that significantly advanced their causes yesterday: Romney and Gingrich.
The deep south is the toughest region for Romney (for the Evangelical bias against Mormons that we discussed earlier this week) and so he astro-turfed an “Evangelicals for Mitt” group to carry his water for him at the RSLC convention while skipping out on it himself to avoid any YouTube moments of getting booed or otherwise embarrassed. That Romney is this well organized in his weakest region two years out signals that, A. He’s running a fifty state strategy, and, B. Money can buy you love.
I still believe Romney has little to no chance of winning the nomination because the anti-Mitt vote will coalesce behind the last surviving alternative to defeat him.
What Gingrich showed yesterday was that he can go toe to toe with Palin in the sub-primary to be that candidate. And if Huckabee doesn’t run, Gingrich becomes heir apparent to be the Southern candidate in the contest, which gives him a Super Tuesday February 2012 shot to knock Palin out of the game altogether and spend the rest of the primaries as the Anti-Mitt.
Furthermore, this straw poll included a second choice ballot that, when combined with the first choice results, shows a first tier troika emerging between Romney, Palin and Gingrich. And that will lead to some delicious moments as they try to tear each other to pieces. (And the nasty meter a lso would rise dramatically without Huckabee - the archetypal middle child always ready to play the Rodney King "can't we all get along?" role - on the debate stage.)
Follow my reasoning on this, and then I’ll add some chatter about Ron Paul and Rick Perry, among others.
Here were the first round results of the straw poll:
Initial Choice (If the primary election for president were held today, for whom would you vote?)
Mitt Romney (439) 24 percent
Ron Paul (438) 24 percent
Sarah Palin (330) 18 percent
Newt Gingrich (321) 18 percent
Mike Huckabee (80) 4 percent
Tim Pawlenty (54) 3 percent
Mike Pence (58) 3 percent
Rick Santorum (41) 2 percent
Gary Johnson (3) 1 percent
Come on! Four percent, Mike? So, not only is Huckabee plunging down into the second tier quicksand, but Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty can’t get out of it: two wooly mammoths in the tar pit, sloshing around with Indiana US Rep. Mike Pence, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. (And if South Dakota Sen. John Thune, or former RNC chair Haley Barbour jump in, they, too, will start from the tar pit and have to navigate their way up to the first tier due to lack of name recognition.)
But now look at the second choices of the Southern party faithful:
Second Choice (Who would be your second choice in the Republican Primary Election for president?)
Newt Gingrich (339) 20 percent
Sarah Palin (332) 20 percent
Mitt Romney (242) 14 percent
Mike Huckabee (178) 11 percent
Mike Pence (141) 8 percent
Rick Santorum (125) 7 percent
Tim Pawlenty (114) 7 percent
Gary Johnson (104) 6 percent
Ron Paul (98) 6 percent
The second ballot is interesting on many levels, because it shows the comfort factor that Romney, Gingrich and Palin have, each, among about 38 percent of the attendees. It also shows who has room to grow, and who benefits as other candidates decline to run or stumble early on. Primary voters tend to coalesce around frontrunners with every new primary or caucus.
The sharp drop off for Ron Paul – from the stellar to the cellar – from ballot one to ballot two pretty much explains why the nomination is out of reach for him on this planet. In 2008, Paul got about five percent of the total GOP primary votes nationwide, bringing him a paltry 35 delegates to the convention. Even if he were to double that in two years it still would leave him out of the real fight.
To best analyze these second ballot results we first have to look at where the Paul voters went. About 80 were so enthusiastic for their man that they didn’t bother to cast a second ballot. Another 104 went to Johnson, the most truly libertarian of the remaining candidates (and that pretty much describes what percent – about a quarter – of Paul voters are true blue libertarians, as opposed to the hooligan yahoos they’ve thrown in with). The rest likely divided up between Pence, Pawlenty, Gingrich and Palin, probably in that order, with maybe some flat tax believers falling into the Huckabee camp. I doubt that many Paul votes, if any, went to Romney, with the man-of-the-system cologne that he exudes.
Now, let’s look at the combined percentages from the two ballots cast:
Mitt Romney (681) 20 percent
Sarah Palin (662) 19 percent
Newt Gingrich (660) 19 percent
Ron Paul (536) 16 percent
Mike Huckabee (258) 8 percent
Mike Pence (199) 6 percent
Tim Pawlenty (168) 5 percent
Rick Santorum (166) 5 percent
Gary Johnson (107) 3 percent
So there are your two tiers, plus Ron Paul off in a tier of his own.
As for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who spoke at the conference but asked for his name to be kept off the straw ballot, I watched some of his speech and could barely sit through it. Know why? Because to every American that is not Texan, the guy sounds exactly like George W. Bush. (And as Mark Halperin noted, practically nobody even mentioned Bush during their speeches; the nightmare is still too fresh.) Sure, Perry, if he runs, will have lots of money, he’ll have all the Texas delegates (which could make him a convention kingmaker), but he will not be able to avoid reminding everyone else of Dubya, which even for Republicans that liked Bush still sounds Pavlov’s Bell as a signifier for electoral defeat. So while I’m sympathetic to the commenters here who warned not to underestimate Perry, I see his path to national traction to be very difficult because of the ghost of Bush.
If I had to pick which candidate I’d rather be in a three-way first tier between Romney, Palin and Gingrich, my money would be on Newt today. He is less likely to say something jaw-droppingly stupid than Palin, and far less likely to be perceived as flip-flopping, sterile, or ideologically weak as Romney.
The computer keeps spitting out the name Gingrich from many different scenarios that could happen in the long two years ahead. That said, you betcha that the oppo research teams of Romney and Palin are working overtime to find the perfect skeleton in Newt’s closet. But, also, Gingrich’s oppo research monkeys are likewise digging up dirt on the other two. And I ask you: which of the three is the most nasty and Machiavellian when it comes to throwing the dirt, and knowing exactly when to dish it?
Also, for Field Hands and political junkies in the New York City area, I’ve just added another event to my upcoming visit there: A gathering of NYC Kossacks and bloggers on Tuesday, April 20, 6 p.m. at Zanzibar, to the left of midtown. Should be a great free-wheeling discussion. Maybe I'll bring my bookie from the Bronx to coordinate a 2012 GOP nomination betting pool...