Over the past couple of months we have seen what amounts to a coordinated attack upon the vast majority of Americans: the middle-class, the working-class, and the poor. If you find yourself reading the XChange on a regular basis, chances are you are on the receiving end of that attack. As Michael Moore has been saying into every microphone he can get his hands on since Wisconsin Governor Walker launched his war on organized labor: “Right now…just 400 Americans–400–have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.” If you are better with percentages, that’s about .0000035% of Americans. The story of income inequality and wealth inequality in the U.S. has only gotten worse since Wall Street wrecked the U.S. and global economy a few short years ago. What we see in the recent attacks by a new breed of Republican is an attempt to put a stake through the heart of the last vestiges of resistance to unbridled wealth accumulation by a very small group of people. We’ve seen it in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Idaho, Michigan, Florida, New York, and right here in Pennsylvania. If this is not class war, then nothing is.
As I’ve said on several occasions now, we are at a critical point in the history of Pennsylvania and access to higher education and quality K-12 education in our Commonwealth. Pennsylvanians have taken it on the chin over and over and over as radical free market ideology has facilitated the shipping of good jobs overseas and the fleecing of our public resources for the benefit of a few. The state known for steel and coal is now set to out-pace Atlantic City as the gambling capitol of the East. Steel replaced by slot machines. Middle class stability replaced by games of chance.
Governor Corbett’s willingness to join the class war against middle and working class Pennsylvanians marks an attack on one of the last vestiges of the “common” part of our Commonwealth, requires us all to make a decision about our future. Will we leave the State System of Higher Education? Will we leave PA? Will we suck it up and take another one on the chin? Will we fight back? Will we defend those public goods that invest in the future, that provide opportunities for all citizens? The powerful rallies in PA over the past two weeks have been encouraging, for sure. I’ve been thinking a lot about the need to build our “organizational infrastructure.” That is, I believe that the only thing that will ensure that we, to borrow a phrase from Rick Smith, “live to fight another day,” will be our willingness to organize and sustain our fight for the weeks, months, and years ahead.
In particular, I’ve been thinking about what I could do to help build that organizational infrastructure. The XChange has been a very important touchstone for thinking through that question. Since the Wisconsin protests broke out, I’ve been networking with activists and bloggers in Wisconsin and Ohio. I’ve come to appreciate the critical importance of alternative media networks in helping sustain social movements. During the first couple of weeks of the Wisconsin protests, I stumbled upon a great progressive blogger from Wisconsin, blue cheddar. I became a follower of hers on twitter and recall one day in which she was frustrated with mainstream media’s coverage of the protests. Yet, in defiance of the despair that can seep in when you watch your experience being erased on the nightly news, blue cheddar was defiant, noting that she became convinced that the alternative media, that network of bloggers, twitterati, vloggers, and more established alternative publications, did a much better job of critically reporting local issues. She reminded me of similar conversations I’ve had with friends over the years that ended up with us producing a ‘zine or alternative newspaper.
In their book Beyond the Echo Chamber: How a Networked Progressive Media Can Reshape American Politics, Jessica Clark and Tracy Van Slyke draw upon Bob Ostertag’s book, People’s Movements, People’s Press: The Journalism of Social Justice Movements, in discussing the “pivotal role that newspapers and magazines served in U.S. political movements” (Clark and Van Slyke 148) Here’s how Osterag situates that role:
if we seek to have a voice in shaping our society beyond our immediate social circle, we have to step outside our daily existence into roles to which we are not accustomed and for which we have little or no institutional support. We have to band together to maximize our very limited time and resources. Before we can do any of that, we have to find each other–identify others with the same interests who are also willing to step outside their daily lives and pursue our long-shot objectives. We have to see who’s good at what, who else is doing what, who might rise to the occasion if given half the chance. We have to make plans, formulate strategies, set priorities. We have to agitate, educate, mobilize, confront and more. In short, we have to constitute ourselves as a political subject, a constituency, a social movement. And if we had done this sometime between 1830 and 2000, we would have made a newspaper. In most cases, it would have been the first thing we did (qtd. in Clark and Van Slyke 148-9).
Clark and Van Slyke add that from “2000-2008, the first thing that many activists and journalists did to join and define the progressive movement was to start a blog” (149). In many ways, the XChange is part of that tendency. However, I think we are at a point where we need to begin networking our networks in a “hub” of sorts…an alternative newspaper that is rooted in the local context of Kutztown and PA, but makes use of our digital networks.
So, I figured, what the hell…let’s give it a shot.
After another sleepless night, I decided to give the idea of an alternative news site some serious thought. And I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say I’ve already created the site. I have, actually. There’s a lot that still needs to be done, but I think there are people out there–yes, you XChange readers–who might just be willing to help get this project off the ground. So, let me “formally” announce the launch of a new alternative media project: theRaging Chicken Press.
My goal is to have a polished version ready to go at the beginning of the fall 2011 semester. However, as I have learned most of what I know about blogs and social networking by actually using blogs and social networks, I thought it made more sense to get this little puppy up and running immediately. I mean, we’re in the midsts of a serious battle for the future of PASSHE and PA public education. Seems to me that a little messiness is in store. So, dear XChange readers, consider this a call for participation. I am looking for:
writers, photographers, artists, podcasters, media activists, cartoonists, graphic designers, grant writers, bloggers, and people who are just plain pissed off at the attacks on the middle and working classes happening all across the country right now. I’m looking for Kutztown students, faculty, staff, community members, or people just invested in the struggles we are facing.
Raging Chicken Press is a progressive, alternative, political project. If you have an aversion to democracy, social justice, and activism…well, then, Raging Chicken Press is probably not for you. I am seeking those who want to help build a media site that is part of building a social movement, not one that simply reports.
Interested? Well, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The spring semester is quickly winding down. Over the next week, I will be working on the web site and hopefully there will be a few of us that can sit down sometime in April to work out some details.
Why “Raging Chicken”? Well, for those of you not from the Kutztown area, if you look at the clock tower of KU’s Old Main building from a particular angle, it looks like a pissed off chicken. The tower can be seen for miles around. I played around with different versions of “Golden Bears” or just bears, but a couple years ago KU introduced Avalanche, the friendly and cuddly mascot who parades around the sidelines during games. Our current times seemed to demand less snuggle.
So, move over Avalanche, make way for the Raging Chicken!