On YouTube Celebrity and SCALE (September 15, 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.

"What is documentary film? The subject of what constitutes a documentary has been debated ever since John Grierson labeled the non-fiction film Nanook of the North as a 'documentary' because it was an example of the 'creative treatment of actuality.' What is meant by 'creative' varies widely among filmmakers. Should documentary only display actual people and events, giving the straight story without the addition of drama, aesthetics, actors, etc.?" [cit]

The consolidation of corporate ownership of the media, and its effects on democracy, are much discussed by academics, journalists and citizens: "What if you woke up tomorrow to find that Yosemite National Park had been turned over to Chevron? Or that the Everglades were now under the watchful eye of DuPont? Most people would agree: Giving corporations nearly unlimited control over a precious public resource is unacceptable. But that's exactly what we've done with our airwaves and media—delivered them into corporate hands."[cit]
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More videos related to the content of this page
An article about my class ended up on the AP wire, and less then 24 hours later I've done or scheduled ten print and radio interviews, including a visit from CNN to my class scheduled for next week. It's been on the local news in Florida, on my sister's elevator in NY, and in the Herald International Tribune. It's all over the web; can't track it. Heart-pounding, adrenaline rushing, I've been able to do nothing else all day but worry about how I represent myself, my ideas, and my course through a mainstream media which does not usually speak my language or acknowledge my concerns, given their erudite nature and political leanings. But reporters have been polite and intelligent—I'm an expert after all with a Ph.D.—as have I. Why?

I knew that the form, and even the content of, LFYT would be sexy, approachable, and even marketable but I did not know what that would mean for me. Most strikingly, it has made me engage in thoughts of self-censorship (whether I will follow through or not is another matter), where I worry that the radical nature of my work will disallow me to be taken seriously, thus closing down channels before they open and minimizing my credibility, as well as the more general and less ideological intellectual ideas raised about cyberculture and the Internet.

But beyond this, given that my documentary SCALE: Measuring Might in the Media Age is all about celebrity, the power of not being known while still doing good work, and the Left's inability to successfully think through how or why to use the media machine as a way toward power and change, it seems downright ridiculous that I'm suddenly having just such a moment—after having determined that the nature and focus of my work would, by definition, keep it small, intimate, and in my control, and given how radical I am.

At the end of the documentary, I ask my sister why she never got on the morning talk shows, and she suggests that it is because she is "too left and also too right, too correct." So, why am I being invited? I'm not too left and also not too right? That sounds correct to me. How am I being seen and used and by whom? And how can I make use of this access, if at all?