Sitting in on the NCMR keynotes

June 7th, 2008 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

As I mentioned in my previous post I’m currently at the National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis. Yesterday was designated as an ‘evening on the town’ by writ of the organizers, and I ended up spending much of it at several of the receptions run by groups like IPA, FAIR, and the Media & Democracy Coalition. It was enjoyable to meet some people I’ve mainly, or only, corresponded with by email and phone previously, and it led to some interesting conversations not only about media – mainstream and alternative – but also about politics more generally. It’s been a rather surreal experience to sit in a bar and restaurant and realize that most of the conversations at surrounding tables are focused on various aspects of media policy, infrastructure development, and more. Humbling, too, to talk with people who are engaged in a wide range of important and innovative media activism, in Alaska, in Wisconsin, in Washington D.C., and elsewhere.

This evening we headed back to the conference center – from which I write this post – where the evening entertainment consists of a stream of luminaries from media, politics, and the media reform movement. We came in late, just in time to catch the talk from the manager of Radio Arte in Chicago, which was upbeat and cheering to hear. The other speakers vary in their energy levels – Byron Dorgan was amusing and engaging, others more downbeat. It’s a strange way to spend a Saturday evening, really, but the hall is about 2/3 full, I would estimate, which indicates that most people have chosen to return for the event (or stayed on site).

As with the experience of realizing one is surrounded by tables of fellow activists, there can be something invigorating about being in such a large crowd of like-minded people. I tend to feel, though, somewhat more passion and energy in a march, where we are more participants than audience. … Strangely, as I wrote those very words, Naomi Klein spoke of the need to stop treating politicians “as celebrities, as rock stars” – that is, that the public should have an active relationship with their politicians, pushing back and shaping their actions and policies. As she puts it, “the greatest gift you can give Barack Obama” is to keep the pressure on, so when he talks with Wall Street backers he can say “I’ve got to do it – they’re crazy out there.”

That, of course, is a large part of why I’m involved with community media – not to pressure Obama, or politicians specifically, but because an active public, the members of which understand themselves as active players in society on an ongoing basis, shaping their own realities, rather than spectators occasionally called on to cast a ballot one way or another on a pre-set menu of options.

Update: They’re ending with a progressive preacher, who’s told us he’s hopped up on red bull, and it’s a good thing, I think. He’s talking about drawing strength from others when activists get tired of fighting. “What can we do to build a stronger movement for change? …. We can find the strength to keep going…. through unity. What does that mean? …. In the words of John Maxwell, unity is made real when we are able to come together in spite of our differences… Unity allows us to accept that even though… we come with different agendas… even though there are times we we do not agree we are still on the same side. …. You see, obstacles are the things we see when we take our eyes off our goals.” He’s referenced (and seemingly hit home with many in the audience) cases of fights over speaking order and press conferences, disputes over a group’s logo being left off a flyer.

Interestingly – to me – he’s now talking about the need for people to occasionally remember the moment that led them to decide to join the progressive movement (seemingly in order to make sure they stay on track). I’m constantly intrigued by this very question. I was brought up in a political family, so left-wing values – and action to match it – have been part of my experience as long as I can remember. However, so many activists I know have come from apathetic or conservative backgrounds. What is it – what moment of awakening – that brings people not only to change their world-view, but to be encouraged into action to support their vision.

  1. 3 Responses to “Sitting in on the NCMR keynotes”

  2. By Andrew Ó Baoill on Jun 16, 2008 | Reply

    Rev Romal Tune was the progressive preacher at the end, and there is now video available.

  3. By Shelly on Jul 6, 2008 | Reply

    Hi there, I was at the NCMR and was wondering if you have a recording of the Naomi Klein speech or know where I can get one? It is not on the NCMR website. Please let me know….Thanks.
    (shelly at civilianism dot com)

  4. By Andrew Ó Baoill on Aug 5, 2008 | Reply

    Submedia.tv managed to locate a copy of Naomi’s keynote. They’ve now released it – note that their version includes commentary (in their usual acerbic style) at the beginning. Not safe for work or broadcast in its raw form – you’ll need to edit out the first few minutes of commentary, cutting directly to Naomi, if you want to use it on air:
    http://submedia.tv/stimulator/2008/07/02/naomi-kleins-controversial-speech/

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.