The Yes Men’s New York Times Edition: Iraq War Ends

November 12, 2008

yesmen_nytThe Yes Men deliver another fake! BBC reports that the interventionist art/activist group distributed 1.2 million free copies of a fake New York Times edition in New York and Los Angeles. The headlines: Iraq War Ends. The date: July 4, 2009. Replacing the NYT’s venerable “All The News That’s Fit To Print”: All The News We Hope To Print.

70 years ago, Orson Welles’ radio broadcast “War of the Worlds” sparked mayhem because listeners mistook scripted fiction for real-time fact. Today, The Yes Men are taking this a step further by simply turning the dates forward.

Is this a fake NYTimes, as the BBC describes the action? Or is it prophetic? Is this a fake-real paper or a real-fake paper?

Certainly, my fingers are crossed that come July 4th, 2009, the NYTimes WILL, in fact, read: Iraq War Ends.

Ah… art. One small step for The Yes Men, a big leap for humankind. Nothing like putting something out into the universe I’m told.

Old Media Dips Into New Media Waters

November 10, 2008

In Ars Technica today: film studio MGM has partnered with video-sharing site YouTube to deliver full-length movies online. In the NYTimes: book publishers have signed a deal with e-giant Google (which also owns YouTube) to sell electronic versions of out-of-print, copyrighted works.

Both are obviously landmark deals that test possible unions between old and new media — parties that have been wary of each other, but whose business futures are hugely co-dependent.

Both also highlight a persistent (historically-pressing) need to redefine/rethink the role of the media creator (authors, musicians, visual artists, etc.). And her rights to her own produced, reproduced, and distributed works.

The 2007-8 Writers’ Strike is just one vivid illustration that the increasingly digital and transnational mediascape has far outgrown already-deficient intellectual property protections.

As more and more of old media creeps into the internet, the challenge will be to keep new media from morphing into the closed institutions and lopsided relationships it sought to tear down. The more things change the more they stay the same?

Let’s hope greater reach translates into greater financial support for media creators, not just middlemen. Information wants to be free! Yes, indeed. But artists need to be protected and compensated as well.

Note: Larry Lessig (Stanford University/Creative Commons) talked about copyrights and creative freedoms at this enlightening TedTalk back in March 2007.

Supreme Court Justice Blames Al Gore for 2000 Election Mess

June 27, 2008

Yesterday, Justice Antonin Scalia led a 5 – 4 vote to lift a ban on handguns in D.C. — a decision welcomed by many Republicans but criticized by many law enforcement officials around the country. Today, the conservative, originalist judge is spouting nonsense again.

The UK’s Telegraph reports that Scalia blames Al Gore for the outcome of the 2000 presidential elections. Apparently, Gore should have conceded without resorting to the courts, without pushing it up to the Supreme Court. Just like the honorable Republican president Richard Nixon.

In an interview about his book “Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges”, Scalia told the Telegraph:

Richard Nixon, when he lost to [John F.] Kennedy thought that the election had been stolen in Chicago, which was very likely true with the system at the time…

But he did not even think about bringing a court challenge. That was his prerogative. So you know if you don’t like it, don’t blame it on me.

I didn’t bring it into the courts. Mr Gore brought it into the courts.

So if you don’t like the courts getting involved talk to Mr Gore.

Nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, Scalia is one of the leading conservative justices on the Supreme Court. He insists that the controversial 5 – 4 decision to stop the Florida recount was “absolutely right”. Because of these 5 justices, Bush prevailed in Florida by just 537 votes.

I can’t help thinking where we might be today had just one justice changed his or her mind. I guess Scalia’s new book on how to speak and write persuasive arguments will come in handy next time.

(Here’s an interesting video interview with Scalia on CBS News back in April 2008.)

Nepal: A Republic Is Born But a King’s Watermark Lingers

May 29, 2008

As we blogged about transiency in China yesterday, Nepal’s newly-elected assembly voted to end almost 240 years of monarchic rule. The new republic has given King Gyanendra and his entourage 15 days to leave the royal palace, which will be turned into a national museum. (Art and Politics merge yet again.)

The transition has been brewing for some time. Widespread protests two years ago stripped King Gyanendra of his powers (himself having just been named king in 2001 when his brother’s entire family was massacred by the crown prince), setting the stage for major political change. In April, the country’s former rebels, the Maoists, won the most seats in the assembly. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has been acting as head-of-state until a new President is appointed.

Regime change always has an impact on visual materials, so we thought we’d look into Nepalese currency, the rupee. It seems spectres of the past are not that easy to erase. In IHT last month:

Shortly after the king gave up power in 2006, the government ordered the printing of new money, starting with the 500 rupee note, free of the king’s portrait. In the new design, developed by the central bank, the image of King Gyanendra was replaced by that of the noncontroversial Mount Everest. But the paper on which the new bills were printed, having been ordered long ago, still bore a watermark of the king’s face.

Unable to afford new currency paper, bank officials took creative license. They slapped a dark-pink rhododendron on top of the watermark. The king and his bird-of-paradise plumed crown can be seen only if the bill is held up to the light.

rupeeIn Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times last October: a woman holds up an old 500-rupee note (top) and a new one (bottom) with Mount Everest and the concealing rhododendron, Nepal’s national flower.

The notes were ordered from an Indonesian manufacturer before April 2006, when the king was stripped of his authority.

DNC: Black Blogs to the Back of the Bus, I Mean, Tent

May 27, 2008


With only three months to go until the Democratic National Convention, black bloggers are voicing concerns about the lack of racial diversity among bloggers authorized to report from the floor. The convention committee is selecting two blogger pools: a State Corps (closer floor access for blogs reporting on local and state issues), and a General Pool (rotating floor access for blogs reporting on national politics and niche issues). According to Jose Antonio Vargas, writing for the Washington Post today, the State Corps list was announced two weeks ago and the General list is expected this week. The so-called Afrosphere (itself a loaded term) is crying foul:

“…to the frustration of black bloggers, the list appears to be mostly white — during a primary race in which black voters turned out in droves in Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi. And, they add, this pool is for coverage of a convention that might very well see the first African American presidential nominee.

In other words, this constitutes convention drama and…accountability is being demanded. Francis L. Holland, one of the vocal black bloggers, sent e-mails to DNC officials asking that 15 black-operated blogs be added to the State Corps. “There is nothing ‘Democratic’ about an all-white Democratic National Convention floor blogging corps,” he wrote in an e-mail. Holland is also asking for the inclusion of 15 Latino-operated blogs.

L.N. Rock…of the African American Political Pundit blog, likens this “black shut-out” in the State Corps to an “I’m sick-and-tired-of-being-sick-and-tired” Fannie Lou Hamer moment. The civil rights activist and Mississippian challenged her state’s all-white delegation at the 1964 Democratic convention.

“This is all very puzzling to me — and to a lot of black bloggers… The Democratic National Committee says it wants to be inclusive. It wants to have a big tent. And then this? What were they thinking?”

The DNC committee insists that race is not a factor and blog selection is based on readership, ratings, and focus. To me, this sounds like people who say there is no racism in their all-white neighborhoods or gated communities. Is the current blogosphere simply overrun by white men?

Photo: alcomm on flickr

Ars Technica Becomes Condé Nast Property

May 19, 2008

ars condeIt’s official. At 10:12am today, Ars Technica, a leading technology news site, announced its acquisition by Condé Nast, a multinational publishing company owned by the Newhouse family. As scooped by TechCrunch last Friday: For the price of $25 million, Ars Technica will now be part of Condé Nast’s Wired Digital arm (which also owns, social news site, a resource site for web developers called WebMonkey, and Hot Wired, the first website to run display advertising.) Condé Net will take over advertising sales, relieving Federated Media Publishing who also lost Digg last year to Microsoft.

Primarily known for top fashion/lifestyle titles in print — namely Vogue, W, Glamour, Vanity Fair — Condé Nast is planting the seeds for long-term expansion into digital media. Based on its history of grooming and allowing editors to run their own ships over time, Condé Nast is expected to give Ars Technica the same “independence”. Founders Ken “Caesar” Fisher and Jon “Hannibal” Stokes will remain on board as the site is integrated into Wired Digital. Fisher’s press release declares:

“Ars Technica will remain an independent publication, with the same editorial leadership in place… We wanted to be somewhere corporate leadership would “get it,” somewhere the next fiscal quarter isn’t more important than the long term, and somewhere with a proven track record of fostering smaller businesses. We looked positively on what Condé Nast has done with and (both acquired in 2006): left their leadership alone to grow their sites, while helping them with tools and resources along the way.”

Let’s be honest: digital properties are big business, the younger sibling to print. There is a very fine line between building ad sales/monetizing content and producing content that is critical and independent. In other words, keeping advertisers happy and keeping readers happy. (The recent hoopla over Annie Liebovitz’s photograph of Miley Cyrus, aka Disney’s Hannah Montana, in Condé Nast’s Vanity Fair is a case in point). As traditional media begins to buy into digital media, it will be very interesting to see how this balance is negotiated, upgraded, and stylized. Or, maybe: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Anonymous Blogging with WordPress and Tor

April 18, 2008

A tangential follow-up to yesterday’s entry on uncensored blogging:

Ethan Zuckerman (co-founder of Global Voices Online) published a very thorough how-to guide titled “Anonymous Blogging with WordPress and Tor”, a free downloadable pdf available on the Global Voices Advocacy* website. Recognizing the dangers certain people face when they express themselves openly in certain environments, Zuckerman also wrote a technical guide back in 2005 that explains how a combination of web tools could be deployed to maintain a high level of anonymity. It was intended particularly for human rights activists, aid workers, and whistleblowers who needed to “ensure that their writing couldn’t be traced back to their identity”.

*Global Voices Advocacy is an online project whose goal is to “build a global anti-censorship network of bloggers and online activists throughout the developing world that is dedicated to protecting freedom of expression and free access to information online”. Different kinds of pirates! We love them just the same.