On Mediums of Self Expression (The second Public Comment pilot)

What is the right way to express one’s self?  I felt, for far too long in life, conflicted by this question. The “Public Comment” experiment had gone through several different iterations: vlog, video diary vlog, political commentary show, podcast…what was I actually doing!?! And why? What should I really be doing? And why?

The more research I did, and the more thinking I did, the case for focusing on a making Public Comment a podcast grew stronger and stronger. From the perspective of pure logic it seemed to follow that my thought could reach more people if they didn’t have to “sit and watch” me for an hour; if instead they could listen, whether driving or just “chilling” on the couch.

Up to this point though, I was fixated and the vlogging idea. (I remain in love with the talking-head vlog, however think the most effective approach to the medium is to keep them under 15 minutes or so, and think they work great as part of a wider, supplementary multi-media approach, along with the website, essays, et cetera). I was so inspired by Proust, Musil, Dostoevsky, Montaigne, Joyce, Whitman, and all the great artists who dared to share their consciousnesses without concern for their verbosity, how time consuming their works were, et cetera, and how intimate a glimpse we have of their souls, that as far as I was concerned, I was simply exploring and capturing the soul. Thus, Public Comment had been mostly developed as a vlog it no longer seemed logical to me. Frustrated with how tangled my aesthetic and multimedia thinking was, I decided to experiment with a second “pilot” launch, but this time, I was consciously intending to create a podcast, and develop the series from here on out as a podcast.

The Era of Revolutionary Debate

There are few eras as exceptional and consequential as this one we’re currently living in.

There’s the advents of fire and language, money and democratic government, Aristotle’s laws of identity and non-contradiction, the printing press, the industrial revolution’s sort of destruction of feudalism (though these days the richest 1 percent seem to me like new age lords and nobles, and the niches of the working people– though lacking in their rights to strengthen as official unions– seem like contemporary guilds, and bursting through the caste system of sorts, despite proof of so many so- called “American Dreams” fulfilled can feel impossible when you haven’t done it and the way through seems unwritten)…

…and I wonder, really, since the Civil War, at least from an American perspective, when have we seen a time as radical and revolutionary as this?

When, since the tumult related to World War II have we seen so much global radicalism and revolution?    

Nationalism continues to spread like a global fever (so much so that the March/April 2019 Edition of Foreign Affairs titled the issue “The New Nationalism” and the publication’s editor says Nationalism “has come back with a vengeance” ).

Indeed, it has, from Brexit to the fighting between Israel and Palestine, from Russia’s lust for Crimea and more to “the ascent of strongmen in states such as China, the Philippines and Turkey,” as Jack Snyder puts it in one of those Foreign Affairs articles”

The Global Nationalism trend though is just one piece of a fascinating strand of the intensity throughout the world lately.

Vox reported this weekend that New Zealand “released the first-ever ‘well-being budget’ on May 30.” Happiness is starting to matter more.

The Economist reports that “According to India’s telecoms regulator, subscriptions for mobile-broadband services more than doubled between the end of 2016 and the end of 2018, from 218m to 500m.”

People in severe poverty which once kept them from accessing the internet increasingly are gaining access, especially to make and watch videos.

As of 2017, according to an article by The Verge, “the aggregate time people spend watching videos on YouTube’s home page has grown 20 times larger than what it was three years ago.”

Some people, like Caleb Cain, according to a New York Times feature on the YouTube vlogger,  “f[a]ll asleep to YouTube videos at night.“

The New York Times adds:

With two billion monthly active users uploading more than 500 hours of video every minute, YouTube’s traffic is estimated to be the second highest of any website, behind only Google.com. According to the Pew Research Center, 94 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 use YouTube, a higher percentage than for any other online service.

With YouTube in the midst of a dramatic rise, forget how this might impact network television. How will  Netflix, Amazon and Hulu compete for viewers in the 18-24 demographic?

Will some of the biggest vlogs become Netflix vlogs? What is this mean for the Maddow-Hannity style political commentary we got used to?

Meanwhile: “Public support for left-wing policymaking has reached a 60-year high,” Vox Reports.

So just like there was a consciousness revolution in the 1960’s from the politics of that decade to the increased depth of Bob Dylan & The Beatles style music, something distinct yet comparable is going on now.

Donald Trump, a former reality TV Star, is president of the United States. He’s the first president without any meaningful experience and he’s on the verge of becoming only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

To be sure, his attempts to obstruct investigations into his suspicious ties to Russian interference with our elections (mixed with a plethora of other disconcerting , abusive, and criminal acts, including violation of the constitution’s Emoluments clause) make him far  more impeachable and criminal than Clinton’s lie about oral sex. And the law on which President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment was based was ultimately deemed unconstitutional.   

The political response is likewise, historical: as Bloomberg reports: “There are more current and former governors and members of Congress running this year than there were total candidates in any party primary in the last several decades.”

Politico’s David Siders writes in his headline and subtitle:

Trump backlash sparks avalanche of 2020 policy proposals–The sheer multitude of policy proposals is staggering.

He calls it “an unlikely renaissance of ideas” and says “For brooding Democrats, the primary field’s position papers are an emotional refuge — this summer’s dreamy must-reads.”

And those old tried and true conventional ideas such as “electability” which Trump destroyed in the 2016 election (read Bob Woodward’s book Fear for example after example of Republican operatives dismissing Trump, after each of his missteps, as “unelectable” and Stephen Bannon’s consistent rebuttals to them) are undergoing further demolishment as mainstream media darling, the former Vice-President Joe Biden seems to flaunt his aura of unbreakable “electability”  with the utmost cockiness in a way that is shattering support that he might not have lost eight years ago.

Consider the following quotes Politico documented this weekend:

“It’s not just a flip-flop. It’s like a double axel flip-flop, and he’s not even nailing the   landing,” said Democracy for America Chairman Charles Chamberlain, whose group has supported Warren and Sanders in the past.

“Look. He’s running for president,” Marianne Williamson, the self-help author running in the Democratic primary, said of Biden’s changing position on the Hyde Amendment on CNN on Friday. “People came up to him and said you’re really behind the times on this, Joe. You’ve already got a problem with women, all of that, and so he changed his mind.”

And Politico published another article poking more holes in the “electability” concept and demonstrating why we can really now call it– and please excuse my profanity on this one occassion, this would be one of the very few instances in my blogging life where it seems like the appropriate word– bullshit!

[Read the Politco article here: “Why You’re Wrong About the Democratic Primary– the Wild History of Presidential Campaigns Has a Lesson:  Nobody Knows Anything”]

The 1973 Supreme Court Case on Abortion rights, Roe v Wade this year is being systematically and methodically challenged by a number of state legislatures. ABC News says their

News Supreme Court Contributor Kate Shaw, a law professor who regularly writes about reproductive rights, explained the new spate of abortion restrictions, acknowledging that they present an unprecedented attack on one of the country’s most controversial laws.

“Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, these are absolutely the most extreme laws that have been passed,” Shaw said.

Over 40 prosecutors, including state attorney generals, signed a statement pledging not to prosecute these laws. In other words, we’re in the midst of a major legal faceoff.

What does it mean to live through such an age?

I think it means there’s a special chapter, or maybe even a series of special chapters reserved in the history textbooks of the future which will be taught to posterity. I believe that furthermore this means what how we act in these very particular times will be extremely consequential.

While those of us who are deeply embedded in social media communications and politics are more energized than we’ve been in nearly half a century, and while access to the internet is growing exponentially, especially on already massive sites like YouTube, that doesn’t mean those who live outside our niche, our clique, our Twitterverse if you will, necessarily care.

To illustrate, as someone said to me recently, while the crowds on social media for are calling for Trump’s impeachment, (myself included), that does not necessarily represent the majority or a plurality.

Not that I suggest this is an argument against impeachment and why it’s a losing political move. Rather, I’m thinking of Massachusetts Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and what she said at the recent MSNBC Town Hall event:

See 10:15-10:54

If most of America isn’t with ya, then you talk about it. You make the arguments and then you listen…you start with what you believe is right then you go out there and fight for it.

My bottom line then is this: however revolutionary the times may be, however liberal the plurality of Americans may be, even if internet access is opening up for the severely poor, Nationalism is on the rise, and there are traps like the U.S. Electoral College, gerrymandering, and a Supreme Court which is a product of those– I mean that the revolutionary fervor is alive and well on both the left and the right from different angles and if we want posterity to look back and say this age- not just of revolution, but of revolutionary debate- was won by those who care about things like…abortion rights, not just internet access as a means to distract the poor from their miseries but to help them grow intellectually and economically, and happiness for as many as possible, those kinds of things…we need to make the most of it.

This is not a time like the mid to late 1990s when things seemed so well and yawning in apathy and lethargy didn’t seem to come at such a cost. Like the democracy of Ancient Greece and Rome, like Aristotle’s discovery of logic there’s a lot we can either embrace or lose for who knows how long under the sand inside some time capsule.

On Acquainting Myself With Technology, Determining What’s Interesting, and Friendship (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog–episode #10)


I suffer from extreme ignorance with respect to all things STEM so this new phase of learning about computer and internet technology– specifically dealing with live and recorded audio and video files– is challenging. Still, I find it fascinating and relevant to culture awareness and literacy. If only that was enough to keep all my treasured friendships afloat.
LISTEN TO THE PUBLIC COMMENT PODCAST

So since I can’t afford the best equipment just yet, and since I lack any kind of support staff some of the technological aspects of my presentation, alas, suffers. At some point in life one must, if one suffers from degrees of perfectionism, come to terms with the fact that one simply cannot do it all. I read about this earlier today on a website that is new to me: fastcompany.com– a technology news site of sorts, it seems. “Make peace with incomplete knowledge” is what the article suggested.

I’m working on it!

One of my struggles, which you may have heard me mention earlier, is that I get so flustered trying to research everything I want to learn, trying to pay attention to as many aspects of the world around us as I can, trying to be what some may refer to as a “well-rounded person.” (Political news, entertainment news, podcasts, radio, art work, history books, social media, business news, technology news, blogs and vlogs, et cetera….) I accept and I am in the process of making peace with the fact that nobody can be perfectly well-rounded. (I mean, I get it…nobody can be perfect at anything. But still, one wants aims, standards, et cetera, right?)

Focusing on politics, culture and introspection as may three main topics of interest help me find a sense of balance. That may seem counter intuitive, especially with respect to culture. Isn’t culture such an endless thing? Yes. But if I think in terms of getting a look today at just one, or just a few key aspects of the culture, and other aspects tomorrow, then that helps relax me. (As opposed to saying: an article on psychology for ten minutes, then another ten minutes on real estate, on but then what about technology news?…If I just think…pieces of culture…I have a topic and I can free think based from that center).

If you know me or if you take even a quick look at my website, the depth of my interest in politics is pretty blatant and substantive, but what about my love for introspection?

I see introspection, I think, on two levels– the private, and that which I consider with sharing. How does one decide what to keep private and what not to keep private? A friend of mine said there is really nothing one must keep private, though context of course, he said, does matter. Why talk about say, issues relating to what happens in the bathroom if it’s arbitrary?

I love having friends, but it brings me tremendous chagrin to think of friendships that either I have lost, or that seem as though I have lost. I hate to think I played any role in the destruction of friendships and relationships I’ve been a part of but I aspire at least to preserve those relationships I’m blessed with today, and hope to revive lost relationships some time in the future.

CBS’ SCOTT PELLEY: “I TRULY, DEEPLY, DO NOT CARE”; “MAYBE IT’S A GENTIC DEFECT”

I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the College Media Association (CMA) Spring National College Media Convention in Times Square, where I got to ask CBS’s Scott Pelley a few questions about freedom and bias.

The CMA describes itself on its website (http://www.collegemedia.org/site/about.html) as “the preeminent source for education and support for professionals and students engaged in creating all forms of student produced media on college and university campuses.”

Also according to the website, it was founded in 1954 and has more than 900 members.

The CMA published a program for the convention and inside that program it says they hold two annual conventions. Every Spring they hold a convention in New York City, and every fall the convention “convenes at varying sites across the country.”

One of the convention’s keynote speakers was CBS’ Evening New’s managing editor, Mr. Scott Pelley.

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Photo by Sean O’Connor 

When I got to question Mr. Pelley I mentioned some specific things that I found to be troubling that prompted me to ask my question: things such as the Washington Post article about former CBS employee Sharyl Attkisson, who resigned due to the network’s alleged liberal bias, and their alleged refusal to air certain stories on the Benghazi scandal (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/03/10/sharyl-attkisson-leaves-cbs-news/) , and a commentary in the USA TODAY that day on America’s drastic loss of freedom of the press. (Preserve Freedom Of The Press; Jonathan Turley; 3/13/14).

(It is worth noting that I was later told by an advisor at the convention who once interviewed President Barack Obama, that one should never ask someone in a political position to “comment” on something, because it only gives them the opportunity to dance around the issue. A point well made.)

While Mr. Pelley responded by saying “I will put The CBS Evening News- of which I am managing editor- up against any news organization, broadcast or print, when it comes to coverage of Benghazi”, and that he has been accused of having both a liberal and conservative bias, which in his opinion means he has “nailed” his interviews, he said nothing about whether or not he believed we are losing the freedom of the press.

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Photo by Sean O’Connor 

For Mr. Pelley to fail to point out that the U.S. Justice Department seized phone records of reporters and editors of the Associated Press,and seized records of Fox News phone lines, and that the FCC had planned to monitor news rooms, and grill journalists on how their organizations select news stories, and that these events are problematic, is, on his part, most discouraging, especially because he is a veteran journalist, and was in a room full of people who will become future members of the media industry.

It was also rather inconsistent with the message he began his speech with, as he spoke of how without a free press there is no democracy.

He identified the lack of free press in Syria but failed to mention a single attack on free press here in America. Considering how important the issue theoretically is to him, he should have at least raised questions: Should the government monitor news organizations?

If it does, what is the difference between news that is officially run by the state, and news which is unofficially run by the state?

Why do we call the unofficial state ownership of the press “free press”?

There is something else Mr. Pelley said, in response to another person’s question. Mr. Pelley was asked if he worries about being a tool of the government. He said he did not worry about that and then added “I don’t care whether there’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House. I don’t care which party is in the leadership, on either side of the house or senate. Maybe it’s a genetic defect that I have of some kind, but I truly, deeply, do not care. My job is to report on what those people do or say and illustrate the contrast between what they do and say.” He said he is neither a conservative or a liberal, and that he just tries to “inflict as much pain on both of them” as he “possibly can, because…that’s what journalists do.”

It is one thing for a reporter to be unbiased in his official report, and another thing for him to have an opinion. Having an opinion does not make a reporter’s report inherently biased. Injecting an opinion into a report and refusing to tell all sides of the story is biased and is essentially what we would refer to as propaganda. I wonder what Mr. Pelley would say in response that.

I also wonder: was Mr. Pelley being honest?

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Photo by Sean O’Connor

Does he just tell us what he thinks we want to hear so we’ll like him and trust him, or does he mean it when he says he “truly, deeply [does] not care” whether America is led by Republicans or Democrats?

While I wish I could speculate that by not caring, he means that he believes both the Republicans and Democrats are corrupt and he himself is an independent, unfortunately his comment that “maybe it is a genetic defect” suggests that he doesn’t think that deeply about it, and instead, considers his apparent political apathy to be just some bizarre and very paradoxical aspect of his personality.

When he said that his job is to “report what those people do and say and illustrate the difference” and that “we [at the CBS Evening News] just try to inflict as much pain on both of them as we possibly can” it comes across as impersonal, detached, and somewhat nihilistic.

What does he mean when he says he tries to “inflict pain”?

Even supposing he is speaking figuratively, it still comes across as arbitrary since he “truly, deeply [does] not care” about who is leading America, causing his projected ideal image of a journalist to look, not like a person with a moral consciousness, but rather a sadomasochist who views an interview as a means of “inflicting pain” on people merely because it is his job to do so.

A journalist should care about the state of the universe. All people should care about everything that is produced, from ideas to food.

As for journalists in particular, it should be their rational consciences that prompt them to ask the questions they ask and report events honestly. No, not all journalists have to broadcast or publish commentaries.

Perhaps some would rather let reporters report, and commentators publish and broadcast their opinions. That is fine. But all people- no matter what job they work- should most certainly analyze the news and have opinions and share them if asked and act on those opinions.

I would have loved to ask Mr. Pelley if he even votes, and why or why not, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for me to ask a follow up question.

As I mentioned earlier, the CMA describes itself as “the preeminent source for education and support for professionals and students engaged in creating all forms of student produced media on college and university campuses”. If the association is what it claims to be, then it should be clear to students, that above all things, they should never be politically apathetic like Mr. Pelley, because in doing so, further attempts by the U.S. government to manipulate the media would grow more and more successful, would trickle down to the college media, and reach a point where American media begins to resemble the Syrian media that Mr. Pelley rightfully condemned.