PRINT MEDIA AND MUSIC
By Roland Watson
To continue with the activism review, we will examine each of the forms of the media in turn. And, we will begin with print media, specifically, with books. This is because in many ways books are the best medium of all. While they do not have the immediacy, and hence the surface attraction, of music and video, they are of much greater depth, and hence more enduring. One of the real joys of life is surveying all of the books which have been written, by browsing in bookstores and in public and school libraries, and then building a library of your own. And, as you do this, over time you will develop an attraction to certain authors (such as with me and Witold Gombrowicz), and reread their books, and consider their ideas, again and again.
The great benefit of books is that they are usually concerned with education, or else they attempt to provide truly stimulating entertainment. The only caution is of the publishing industry's supply of "consumable books," such as trash fiction. (This is a relatively recent phenomenon.) These are meant to be an escape from reality, and are therefore only a social narcotic. Also, they are inevitably riddled with form, and as such are best avoided.
From books we can proceed to magazines, of which there are many types. The big news magazines are fine, generally informative (if superficial), but it is important to recognize their biases and also to reject their advertising content. In addition, they exhibit little restraint with regard to photography. On the other hand, "lifestyle" magazines, both for women and men, and also fashion magazines, should be avoided completely. They are wholly form. You should never buy them, and if you do sometimes glance at them, such as in office waiting rooms, you should do so only to keep yourself up-to-date on the latest techniques and subjects in brainwashing.
Of these, teenage magazines are the worst. Their sole purpose is to sell adolescents, for the most part adolescent girls, "teen" products, and get them hooked on the addictions of appearance and consumption (and also lead them to become avid buyers of lifestyle and fashion magazines when they get older.) The fact that teenage girls as a group are now among the largest buyers of consumer goods has not escaped industry's attention. Business is taking every step it can to encourage their materialism.
Of course, there are many magazines of merit, such as the special interests and activities magazines, including for sports, hobbies, pets, food and wine, etc. Most of these magazines seek to educate their readers about their subjects, and therefore are commendable. However, insofar as they convey form, such as unspoken messages and values, especially of class differences and us versus them, or political agendas, or cult tendencies towards activity leaders, or simply the association of the activity with a particular lifestyle, particularly a "cool" lifestyle, you must be on your guard.
The last media in the print area are newspapers, which generally can be separated into the quality press and tabloids. Regarding the tabloids, they are the worst, in the same league as lifestyle magazines, and hence to be avoided completely. But, the problem with the quality press is much more subtle. They almost always have biases and agendas (witness the situation at The Times), but these are usually well hidden. Their rhetoric is of a very high quality; the writers would win most debate contests. Your only defense, therefore, is to advance your education, to study the subjects of press coverage extensively, including the various viewpoints thereon. Only then will the opinions of a particular writer become apparent, and only then can you safely make up your own mind.
In addition, there is the problem of newspaper coverage of crime, terrorism and war. The best coverage would be a simple statement of the facts, of what is known with certainty. But since this makes for brief stories, which are also, in a sense, compiled rather than written, journalists inevitably beef them up. Your only options are to avoid the purveyors of rumor and hearsay, and to complain. You should write letters to the editors and, if you have them, you should terminate your subscriptions.
A far better approach is not to buy print media at all, other than a quality daily newspaper, books, and a few, select special interest magazines. Instead, save your money! Go to public libraries. You can then review what is available (well, at least some of what is available), and read what you like.
If you want some magazines to read, an excellent choice are the publications of the major activist groups. Earth First! Journal, for instance, is a must for anyone who cares about nature. (Shouldn't we all care about nature?) However, it is unlikely that you will find it in a public library, or at a newsstand. Instead, you can learn how to subscribe to it through its website.
Next, we can review the medium of music. We have already seen that little girl pop is a great formula business, but it is not the only one. Black music, by and generally for black audiences, the music of rap, or hip-hop, or spoken word (rap was originally synonymous with improvisation), and though its roots are in protest (Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy), also shows signs of turning into a formula product. And, country music exhibits this trend as well. (Both now specialize in the manufacturing of celebrity.) As a discriminating listener, then, you should reserve your patronage for the truly original artists. Do not automatically accept everything that the studios play at you.
As to other forms, including classical (the ultimate refinement of order), jazz, blues, etc., since they are not big business, they are not distributed widely. There is an enormous amount of excellent music available in these forms, but because of their limited distribution it reaches only small audiences (meaning probably not you). For the rest of the music of the world, the hundreds of different forms and styles, not to mention instruments, if you do not travel to the cultures where they are created, you will not know about them at all. (This is another benefit of the internet: a great amount of music, in a wide variety of forms, is now available online.)
My last comments about music concern rock and roll (the music of controlled chaos). First, it truly is protest music, and hence a serious target of co-option. For example, many ads use hard core or heavy metal music as background. But as to availability, it also is being pushed aside by the business of pop. (It didn't help when modern rock's frontman, Kurt Cobain, shot himself. Corporations will always shy away from expressions of deep feeling, especially of sadness and despair.)
But rock will survive. It is a real form of protest, and with Golftopia there is much to oppose. It is possible to hear as well. Corporate censorship has not eliminated its creation, and you can usually get a local college or "alternative" station on the dial. But this music also deserves a word of caution. Rock lyrics are full of anger and self-destruction. It is the music for people who have great sensitivity to form, and great frustration about the way things are, knowing full well how they could easily be better. But such lyrics convey powerful messages, and as we have seen, you should be careful about any powerful messages or images to which you are exposed, to make sure that they do not influence you unduly.
So, to return to activism, you should avoid the forms of music that are only business, that are premeditatively constructed as products and sold to you using the most advanced marketing techniques. And, you should be alert to the messages in all of the music that you hear. Listen to the words: what are they talking about, or telling you to do? Do you understand and agree with this? Lastly, reach out and find the forms of music that are not favored by business, and learn to appreciate them, and travel to hear the music of the world. Music is a distinct expression of culture, and it is also one of its most enjoyable components.
© Roland Watson 2016