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The 200k Challenge Live Webcast

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: –for the final night at the Real News Webathon. And the number is really amazing. We’re at $195,000, as we approach $200,000, and it looks like we may actually crack through the $200,000 barrier. And as I explained earlier, the $200,000 just barely covers four months of work. So if we can crack through $200,000 and get perhaps even as much as $250,000 tonight, this is going to be an enormous support for what the Real News does. We also–having a little bit of a technical meltdown. For those of you who have followed, this has been a little rough at moments, and this is mostly because we’re dealing with kind of low-cost consumer solution to things, like Skype and things like that. Now it turns–we just found out our phone software system, the company that does that, their entire website went down about ten minutes ago. So we’re quickly scrambling for a solution to the phones, because we want you to be able to call in and ask questions and to be able to directly talk to our guests and if you have any questions for me about The Real News Network. So we’re going to take a short break now. But one of the things that we’d like you to know is that if you donate $75 or more or $10 a month or more, we have some gifts for you. One of them is a film called Machine Gun: History down the Barrel of a Gun. This is a three one-hour series that was originally produced for the Discovery Channel, and I was involved in it. It’s the story of the rise of the–really, of the rise of the American Empire, from the explosion of American innovation and technology in the 19th century, which gave rise to many things, including the light bulb and other sorts of things, but it also gave rise to the machine gun, which over the next decade played–I should say the next century, played an extraordinarily important role in the unfolding geopolitics and global war, colonialism, and within national liberation movements. And The Machine Gun is the story of all of this, and including a remarkable interview with the inventor of the AK-47, Mr. Kalashnikov himself. So in a few–couple of seconds, we’re going to play you a promo of the Machine Gun film. And as I say, if you donate more than $75 or $10 a month, we’ll send you the film. Another promo we have is something called Return to Kandahar. It’s a film I was involved in. And it’s the story of a woman named Nelofar Pazira. This is an interesting kind of double story, because the original film that was made about–a fictional version of Nelofar Pazira’s story was called Kandahar, by the Iranian filmmaker [Mohsen] Makhmalbaf. And this was a kind of well-known film. It won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. And it was a fictitious film about this young Afghan-Canadian woman who goes back to Afghanistan looking for her lost sister in Kandahar, which was a fictional take on a real story that Nelofar Pazira did go back during Taliban days, looking for, in fact, her lost friend. What makes this even a little more complicated is Nelofar Pazira in Makhmalbaf’s film played the led character, based on Nelofar’s real story. Anyway, when we met Nelofar, I met Nelofar, I said, listen, why don’t we do the real story? And so with her we went back to Afghanistan, and we did a real search for her friend, who she had originally heard that the friend had committed suicide, and then later heard that the friend was alive and living in Mazar-i-Sharif. And we went back and started the story in Kandahar, because that’s where so much of Nelofar’s own story had connected with because of the film. And then from Kandahar we went to Kabul, and from Kabul we went to Mazar-i-Sharif. And this is all in the spring of 2002, just after the fall of the Taliban. So it’s also a story about Afghanistan and why and what happened there. So it’s a fascinating journey, both through Nelofar Pazira’s eyes of the Afghanistan we found, and the history of Afghanistan and what had happened, including what had happened to women in Afghanistan, ’cause when Nelofar was a teenager growing up in the ’80s in Kabul, she lived in many ways like a European or North American kid might have been. You know, she wore blue jeans, and almost no one wore a burqa, certainly not in the public school she went to. She was active in a local magazine and radio show. And so the transformation of that society to this society of sharia law was quite a dramatic event for her to see what had happened. And so the film is that story. Some of the–a couple of the other films. Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows, which is kind of a fun film. It’s a film about Bret Hart, five-time champion of the World Wrestling Federation, and his battle with Vince McMahon, the owner of the World Wrestling Federation. But it’s a documentary, a feature-length documentary that’s–we think has been seen by about 40 million people now. But it’s really about a boss and someone who works for a boss. It’s about whether there’s anything more important than just making money. Vince McMahon represents this view, which is essentially neoliberal economics, which [is] it’s naive to think that there’s something more important than making money. So now–I’m sorry, I just heard something about the phone’s back on–is that what I was told? Ah. So–okay. So we have a–phones are back on. And–but we will sometime in just a few minutes take a break and show you some of the trailers from these films that are gifts for you. I should add there’s also–one of our gifts is a collection of The Real News’ coverage of the Toronto G-20, which I think is some of the best work we collectively have ever done, and most people have assessed it as really the best of the coverage anyone did of the G-20. So we’ll be happy to send you these things for a gift of $75 or more, $10 a month or more, and just you click the donate button here. Let me also say, we know there were some sound problems last night, and this has to do with another third-party application we use, Livestream. If by any chance you are hearing an echo here–and this was what was weird for us last night is it seems about half or more than half of the people watching, listening, had no problem at all, but maybe as much as a third of the people watching had quite a serious echo problem. And we can’t figure out why it seems to be so random. At any rate, the solution is that up above the player here, there should be a link which says if you’re having sound problems click here, something like that, and that will take you directly to the Livestream website, and as we understand it, there is no problem with the sound over there. And for most people there’s no problem for the sound on The Real News site, either. But at any rate, if you’re having any problems, you can use the email we’re using for questions, which is questions (at) therealnews (dot) com, and let us know you’re having sound problems, and we’ll do whatever we can to fix it. So I’m told we have a caller on the line. Caller, go ahead.


JAY: Hi.

CHEN: Thanks for taking the question.

JAY: This is Dan from Ottawa, is that right?

CHEN: It’s Chen from Ottawa.

JAY: Chen from Ottawa.

CHEN: Yes. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about the reason you chose the name The Real News. It suggests that there’s sort of different issues that will be examined, different from what the mainstream media or the different conventional media organizations will be looking at. And I’m wondering if in the decision to cover different subjects there’s sort of a democratic element, or if there should be a democratic element in selecting how you’re going to–what news you’re going to cover and how you’re going to cover it.

JAY: Yeah, okay. Well, stay on the line and I’ll try to answer, and then you tell me if I’ve answered your question or if you want to follow up. Okay?

CHEN: Sounds good.

JAY: Okay. So let me start with the beginning, why we chose The Real News. We began our life with the name Independent World Television or IWT. And we’re not entirely sure why, but at least half of the people started calling it International World Television. There was a lot of confusion about it. IWT, the initials, seemed to work, but the name, the Independent World Television name, seemed to be a little confusing, a little bit of a mouthful, too, for people, and maybe not as populist as we wanted it to be, because one of the whole points of this network, why we’re in video and why we’re not in print, is this, the–our objective has always been to speak to a mass audience in the millions, people who watch–more or less watch television or video more than they’re reading, perhaps. Or, you know, obviously, a lot of our viewers do both, read and watch. But we wanted it to have more of a populist take on it. Independent World Television, in a lot of people’s minds, just sounded a little bit too dry. And we were working or looking around for a name. And for people that have seen this interview I did called “See the Patterns”, something like this, I’ve told this story. There was actually two things that led up to it. The first was a conversation I had with a taxi driver in Chicago–and not only him, but it was the clearest. [To] the taxi driver I’d say, where are you from? And he asked me where I’m from. And then, you know, he’d say what do you do, and I would tell him we’re creating this network without government funding and without corporate funding, and we’re not going to sell advertising. And he said, oh, you mean real news, I say, yeah, real news, and we talk about what real news was. But he understood immediately that if you change the economics of journalism, you’re freer to better approximate reality. I mean, I’m–these are my words, but that–he understood that’s what it meant, that you’re less fettered. The other thing that kind of lead to this name, the name of The Real News, was the–one of the Bush White House people, I can’t remember which one, but in an interview said something along the lines of “Reality? We make our own reality.” And the idea was that if you have enough military power and enough money, you can make the world what you want it to be. And we–you know, I objected to it, that whole concept, and I don’t believe that concept. I do believe reality asserts itself. And whether you think you have–. I mean, Hitler thought he could accomplish many things, and he wound up not accomplishing those things. And Bush and Cheney, you know, thought the Iraq war would be a cakewalk, and reality asserted itself. And often that reality is people resisting this kind of force and saying, no, just ’cause you have the force, actually, when we say no, you know, you’re not going to have your way. And it was true in Vietnam. And in fact it’s been true in most of the places there has been foreign intervention into people’s lives. In fact, on the whole it’s failed. So the idea of that, that there is a reality. And then there’s another piece of this there is a reality, which is we just believe there is such a thing as facts. There’s a real world. It’s not just a matter of opinion. And there’s a whole kind of philosophical school that says, well, there’s no real objectivity to where we live. You know, you think this, I think that; we can all have opinions; who’s right, who’s wrong. And, you know, people say that, and I think to some extent just to–you know, it helps to cause confusion. Now, people can draw different conclusions from facts because of what their interests are, and that’s why we, you know, quite unabashedly say we’re ordinary people: our interests are with ordinary people. We are going to be fact-based. We’re not going to make stuff up. We’re not even going to fudge facts, to the extent that we’re humanly capable not to do so, ’cause–what I mean by that is you’re never going to know some absolute truth. You may think something’s a fact today, and because of further revelations, more research, you may have to say, We were wrong. And as long as you’re really fact-based, it’s actually not so hard to say you’re wrong, because you have a kind of scientific spirit about it. So all of that–when we first had the name, some people criticized it and they said, oh, it means you know the real truth when you’re saying The Real News and other media has the unreal news. And we only mean it when we’re talking about corporate media and its economics. We’re not suggesting mainstream media doesn’t have facts, and we’re also not saying some of the people there don’t try to seek truth. And we’re being a little deliberately provocative with it. But we’re certainly not saying we think we know some absolute truth or some absolute real truth. Okay. Chen–. Just a sec; I’ve got to deal with Chen’s second question. Maybe I went on too long. But remind me again, Chen, what was the second part?

CHEN: The second part was about whether or not there should be a democratic element to the selection of news, because there are just so many things happening, and a lot of different people are interested in a lot of different topics. How should that selection be made of what is covered, what gets airtime?

JAY: Yeah. I mean, that’s a great question, and not an easy answer for us. In terms of being more democratic, and especially involving viewers, our biggest problem, really, is resources. I mean, we get so many great suggestions on stories to do and areas we can cover, and we simply don’t have enough people. Like, you wouldn’t believe how few of us, you know, there are to kind of produce all these stories. It’s really just a handful. What we need is specialization. And then–so that’s one issue. I was talking about this the other night. Like, for example, a lot of people have quite correctly said we’re very weak on questions of climate change–and generally environment, not just climate change. We just need a dedicated producer to do that. So–and the same thing in other areas. We need somebody just on economics. We need someone just on the questions of war and peace in geopolitics. We want to have someone based in the Middle East. We want to have someone that covers Latin America. You know, ideally you’d probably have seven, eight producers purely thematically focused. Now, within that, let’s say we had one of those now. That doesn’t mean there isn’t still a question of how could you have a more democratic character to what choices are made, what stories get done. That’s something we’re trying to develop more as an actual form, where there’s more attempt to interact. So, for example, more of this, where you can phone in, directly ask a question. When you donate, there is a place when you donate you can choose where thematically you want your dollars to support. We want to do kind of more of that. We want to create what we’re calling community editorial committees. Right now we want them to be geographically based. Like, we’re–probably the first one’s going to be in Baltimore, where a real group of 30, 40 people in a studio, another 30, 40 online, can directly interact with us journalists and tell us what you would like us to cover and have kind of a debate, discussion amongst the audience, and maybe a vote on what the next story should be. I mean, I think some of what we do always has to be internally quite directed. We need an editorial approach. But I think a certain amount can have this kind of characteristic of this direct interaction, direct democracy, if you will. And it doesn’t always have to be geographically based. Maybe what we need is for people that are particularly interested in this specific area, say, economics, create a community editorial committee for economics. I mean, I don’t think it’s right for us to ever say that we will give up our final decision-making as journalists, as editors. But to create a much more forum for consultation, I think that’d be a great thing to do, and members–it would be for members. You’ve got to pay to play. So you’d have to donate something to be part of this, and we don’t say how much. But I think we need to do more. Does that answer your question?

CHEN: Yeah, that was really great. Thanks, Paul.

JAY: Alright. Thank you very much. So I think we have another caller. Thirty seconds before the next caller? Okay. So let me talk a little bit more about how we kind of increase the viewer participation. Okay, I am being told I should remind you that Emira Woods is coming up soon. Is that what I’m saying? Will not be joining us–Emira Woods will not–. Ah. Emira Woods was supposed to be coming in by Skype, and again we’re having this problem with a lot of our–this kind of third-party technology and our lack of satellite feeds and things. So Emira is not going to be joining us, which is a pity. We will get Emira back on The Real News soon, ’cause we were going to talk about AFRICOM and the whole role of US foreign military policy in Africa, which is something that doesn’t get talked about too much. Okay, BJ from where?

BJ: Hello?

JAY: Hi, BJ. You’re from where?

BJ: I’m having a little bit of trouble hearing. Could you repeat that last statement?

JAY: Okay. You’re from California, and it’s BJ. Go ahead. What’s your question?

BJ: Oh, Paul Jay. I recognize your voice.

JAY: Thank you.

BJ: Okay. My question is this. It’s a simple question. What if advertising works? So let me just elaborate a little bit.

JAY: You’re talking about our financial model.

BJ: No, I’m–kind of. I’m saying advertising as a whole. We’ve seeing how demand for products, like gadgets, like the iPod or women’s fashion, is driven largely by advertisements that get people to shell out their own money to buy a product. But also you could even sell an idea; you don’t necessarily have to sell a product. So my question is: if it’s possible [inaudible] using the right iteration and the right jingles to sell an idea to people, and if access to media is controlled by how much wealth people have, then is the idea of a representative democracy even possible where the more wealth you have, the more you can sell your ideas? Basically, if advertising works, what are the implications of that for a democratic society?

JAY: Well, I don’t know that it’s that different than the role churches have played at times where you didn’t have a mass media, and certainly there’s been plenty of–if you look at Latin America, there’s been revolutions and quite significant transformations in countries that have massive advertising and television and media, just, you know, every bit as much media as we have in North America. It makes it more difficult. I think that, you know, who controls the mass media, who controls advertising, you know, particularly in kind of modern elections, American-style elections, which are very much taking hold in Canada and, you know, Europe and other places, where the more dollars you have, the more advertising you can buy, especially with this new Supreme Court decision–. But it’s only a factor. There’s many countries, as I say, with Latin America being the most immediate example, where it hasn’t–you know, in spite of all the advertising, in spite of all the media power, people become conscious of what’s in their interests, and they vote with their feet and they vote at the ballot box, and sometimes they vote in other kinds of mass struggle. And regimes topple, regimes change. And I actually am not one that believes, like in the United States and Canada, that our biggest problem is the control of the media by the elites or the amount of advertising. What I mean by that, that our biggest problem is that we need to be able to be better at communicating with ordinary people about what’s happening, what’s in their interests, what public policy would actually serve them, and help, you know, debate solutions and ideas about what people could be doing. If we find that voice, and it may take some time, in spite of all this mass media I think we can break through. What do you think?

BJ: But at the same time, I’m wondering if–I mean, that works for small ideas and small regimes and things people can see, but for more elaborate concepts, like if instead of selling iPods, if you’re trying to sell the idea of greed is good and Austrian school economics and the government is the enemy, if those ideas can be sold and advertised, if people are vulnerable to this kind of, I guess, attack on the mind, how is free-market media compatible with representative democracy?

JAY: Well, there’s two different questions here. Is it compatible with real representative democracy? Maybe the answer is no; maybe it’s not compatible. And that’s why so many people want campaign finance reform, so that you could severely limit the role of money in the elections. You know, I think a lot of people would rather see straight publicly funded elections that you get enough signatures that say they want you to run, you get access to some public money, and that’s the only money you can get. If you’re asking my personal opinion, that’s–be the only way to have actual representative democracy and still have mass media and all the rest. But there’s a second question whether–because you can’t pass those laws right now, that doesn’t mean change isn’t possible, that doesn’t mean people can’t do something. I think we can. So–and the other side of it is, I mean, we can advertise too. I mean, we said we wouldn’t sell advertising; we never said we wouldn’t buy it. I mean, we can also, you know, make some use of advertising and fight back. But I think it’s–again, it’s more about crafting–. See, like, it’s not about crafting the message as much as–which is what the Democratic Party is kind of having this big debate about now, you know, should we have a different narrative, should we present what we’re doing, you know, in a more accessible way, and all that. That isn’t really the problem. The problem with the Democratic Party right now is the leadership of the Democratic Party is pursuing policies that help their section of the elite. I mean, the Democratic Party is an alliance of different class forces. And nobody talks about this very much, but I think we should be kind of honest about it. There’s an alliance between a–you know, what–they like to call themselves the liberal section of the elite, versus the right-wing or conservative, neoconservative section of the elite. And it’s an alliance between this liberal section of the elite, a section of what–you know, of professionals and, if you want, the kind of higher end of the middle class and a section of the working class, you know, probably a majority of workers, especially the trade unions, who are part of this Democratic Party alliance. And then the the poor are mostly left out of it all. And a whole lower section of the working class, certainly all–most, you know, unorganized workers are out of this whole alliance. But to a large extent, when they vote, they vote for the Democrats. Anyway.

BJ: But does it not seem as if their campaigns had actually worked? Democrat, Republican, corporate party red or corporate party blue, attack the socialists, attack the communists, attack the terrorists. It seems like their campaigns have worked.

JAY: Yeah, it works until the system falls apart, and I think we’re in the midst of that.

BJ: Yeah, but I love this country. I don’t want it to fall apart.

JAY: Well, what I mean by the system falling apart–and I’m not–when I talk about the country, I’m as concerned as–the wellbeing of people here as well. Like, I’m not, like, happy that we have unemployment and all of these things. But what I’m saying is reality asserts itself. The mythology runs up against the real world. And the real world is, if you depress people’s wages, you make it very hard for them to organize into unions, and then you try to encourage people to become addicted to credit, that that’s not a sustainable system. So it’s not me urging the system to fall apart. The system’s falling apart because the dominant section of the elite–and not all. I mean, there’s millionaires and billionaires that are in favor of paying higher taxes, who understand how irrational the system is, but they’re not dominant. But when you have a–. My point is, because of the high unemployment, the unraveling in the finance sector, these extreme inequalities, reality will assert itself in ordinary people’s consciousness, and it already is. And they’re–more and more people–.

BJ: That’s what I’m worried about, because people are upset and they’re angry and they’d like their lives to improve, and all this anger was basically channeled by groups like FreedomWorks to form their Tea Party, it seems like advertising won again.

JAY: Well, I think it’s–the Tea Party has been able to break through mass media because of the interests they are in alliance with or directly represent, people that either own mass media or have billions of dollars to buy their way into mass media. But I don’t know [if] that represents where the country’s at. I mean, let’s remember, like, you know, most poor people didn’t vote. A lot of people didn’t vote in these midterms. So what happened was, you know, you could say a slight majority, maybe a majority of people who actually voted got persuaded by this advertising. But I don’t see any evidence that’s a majority of Americans [inaudible] persuaded, in spite of all the money. But listen, we’re going to–let me hear what I’m doing. Are we taking a little break right now?

BJ: What?

JAY: We’re–I’m sorry. Oh, apparently there are sound problems on the Real News Network website. So let me ask my person in my ear here, Danya: Danya, are they going to the other website, then? Alright. So let me remind you, if you’re hearing echoey sound problems, just above the player here you should see a link which talks about if you’re having sound problems, and if you click on that it will take you to the direct Livestream channel we have, and apparently the sound on that is working okay. Listen, thank you, JD [BJ], thank you very much for your phone call. Let’s–we’re going to have some more phone-ins in the coming weeks fairly regularly, and we can pick up this conversation. Okay? So thank you very much for joining us. We’re–coming up soon is Frank Hammer and Bill Fletcher Jr., who–it’s very interesting, ’cause we’re–just kind of picks up what we were talking about. We’re going to talk about what’s happening amongst the–in the trade unions, amongst ordinary working people, and what their response is to this crisis. Of course, we’ll talk also about the debate over the Bush tax cuts and what’s been happening in Congress today (but also was happening in Canada and some other places). So right now we’re–earlier I described to you some of the film gifts you can get if you donate over $75 or $10 a month, and now we’re going to show you some of the trailers of those films. So I hope you enjoy them. And we’ll be back in just a few minutes on The Real News Webathon.

End of Transcript

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