Fox It Is and Fox Is It (September 21, 2007)
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
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Origins of this content
This 2007 blog post caught me like a deer in the headlights as my LFYT class began to go viral and I was asked to do a national news interview. I worried about the personal and political contradictions raised by gaining this mainstream media attention just as I was completing a feature length independent documentary (SCALE) about the American Left's (as well as my sister's and my own) conflicted and contradictory relations with media power.
SCALE (2008) is my feature documentary about how "divisions and connections between and within the Left mark the contradictions of individual action, collaboration, media attention, and grassroots movements for social justice."[cit] It also deals with the related pressures of getting big and staying small.

In "What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream," Noam Chomsky writes: "The elite media set a framework within which others operate ... That framework works pretty well, and it is understandable that it is just a reflection of obvious power structures."[cit]

Media activism has long played a part in international social movements with diverse goals and tactics including: empowering local people to tell their own stories, documenting social movements for the historical record, intervening in mainstream discourse to ensure fair representation, engaging in media literacy education, creating alternative media, and engaging in research about the role of media in development and activism.
I went to bed last night exhausted, relieved, and resolute. I had survived one week in the media limelight and it was over, ending on a mid-note with my mediocre performance on CNN. At last I could return to my life as teacher, scholar, and documentary maker, speaking in a language I know to people who talk as I do and who really want to be having this conversation.

I was glad enough that it had happened because it was a really great learning experience about both SCALE and YouTube. Living it confirmed much I already knew, although of course until the lived experience I knew this only theoretically: for me, it is preferable to speak to people I can see and who can reply, people I know share with me a discourse and values about American and media culture, and in a context where ideas can be exchanged and knowledge and feeling can grow.

I am certain that there is real value in raising SCALE's scale through numbers, exposure, networking, simplifying while staying honest, and speaking to people who are not yet exposed to my concerns or approaches, but I learned last week that I am not the one to do all that. The attention makes me feel self-conscious and self-critical; not to mention, I spent a significant portion of last week with my stomach clenched (not pleasant); I was distracted from the things that really matter to me (my teaching, friends, family, and intellectual and political work); and I refused reducing my thoughts to preorchestrated but effective sound bites. I just don't want to talk that way (note the rambling and repetition here!), so in the end I'm just not that good at it.

And then FOX emailed this morning. And I decided quickly: no. No more fear; no more second-guessing myself; no more wasting my time on something that proves at once inconsequential and stressful to me. But then, of course, finally: yes. I started this thing: it's my responsibility; if I won't stand up to corporate media to say why I'm attending critically if playfully to YouTube, who will? My students? The blogosphere? That's not fair.

So, I must play the media professor, maker, and scholar who wants to think about using this sudden expansion of access to media production and distribution to do better what media has always done: to try to enrich and change the lives of individuals and community, self and world. And this I will say, as best I can, and as me, when they ask me to speak, and I hope I can stay focused, and I hope I can keep on mark. I can only do my best, but I shouldn't run away. And that's my last post on celebrity and YouTube even if I have to play this game for more than the time being.