Clowning the agenda
That's my nails done!
At 4pm today, I’m speaking to the poet and artist Paul Sakoilsky about his acts of dressing up as a clown and inviting the public to throw pies at him. It’s at a group show at Gallery 46, Whitechapel. Don’t you wish everyone could back down and be so cool? I don’t want to go into art speak, ever, or start adding high fallutin values to what is basically a nihilistic attack on the narcissism of the ego, but as I was just lying in the bath, removing one manicure before applying another, between paragraphs here, I began thinking about what’s important to Me, and how I’m going to negotiate my empathy and the pain I feel for another war as the news agenda drops Covid for the Ukraine.
Plague times saw the rise of the self like never before. The individual and the one way mirror of our timeline really came into place with the backdoor propaganda that enabled Brexit. The funding of Intelligence HQ and Cambridge Analytica to programme elections, and the data wars we are victim to, programming future AI that the rich will benefit most from. Algorithms that used to be elitist are now pinging the proletariat to stay engaged in sharing information that is used to keep the rich rich, enabled by slaves on the digital plantations.
We’re at a time of unprecedented greed, where energy companies have the technology to provide users with solar and chimney windmills, but raise their prices to award shareholders with more cash than they’ve ever seen before, meanwhile, poverty in the UK is at a terrifying brink of social crisis, with poor people simply dying. The regulators only appear to operate on the same terms as those they are supposed to police, one of conservatism, where progressive ideas of local grids and sharing aren’t considered or entertained. Communication companies do the same. And so does transport. As we saw with the criminal scams of using taxpayers money for PPE fake companies, Cayman Isle funds - the toxicity levels that surround the life of all citizens, not just artists, such as Paul, who’s studio and home-free currently, staying in the spare wing patronage of another artist, that leads me to ask how we can guide our way through another phase of psychic warfare.
I feel very fortunate to be working as the editor of Ambit. It provides me with an income, and our strapline of Poems, Stories, Art is similar to what I used with Cold Lips - art, music, literature against the world. I started Cold Lips, sucked dry by walking into news rooms and seeing news agendas mimicked from station to station. The news meme is another lecture, but today, as it is hopefully a day of rest for most of us, or cleaning up after a week at the machine, I challenge you today to set up your own news agenda.
What is important to you?
For me, it is music, art, poems, literature, film, photography and the beauty of the skies, the light on the wheelchair which someone has walked out of, unbothered to retrieve their £1 token like a supermarket trolley - the person walked off like Jesus. Did they piss through that commode hole?
When I taught News, to undergraduates, B-Tec students, City and Guilds, workshops with folk from every minority, after leaving BBC News after suffering a breakdown following sexual assault I had a lecture which would begin by asking What is News?
News is always New.
There is an Agenda, a top story, an order. How do you get your story to fit. Is it a Global/National or Local story?
All news is is gossip. Whether we can change it is the challenge, and this is the classic, OMG, the chicken crossed the road and then this happened storytelling that we all find so wonderfully true due to it reflecting our own times on this earth, and our tragic eventual demise being the greatest cruelty, after finally getting that all there is is Now. And maybe the local issues, of the cat getting caught up the tree wasn’t anything you could retrieve, or change, and o yeah, I remember that time when the man bit the dog being better than all those times the dog bit a man, would expand in my discussions into the research of Galtung & Ruge, their evergreen news values of:
Frequency - if it’s rare, it’s got shock value
Proximity - how close are the audience to the event, does it matter to them?
Threshold - the general scale and impact the story can make, is it newsworthy?
Negativity - it’s its bad news, it’s good news, baby. Cos, wow, those cats up trees love gossip
Predictability - The Queen’s Jubilee, we saw that coming - forward planning
Clarity - telling it straight, without ambiguity, for stupid audiences
Unexpectedness - wow, was that a fish slapping around my face? What is the spin, the twist, the slant that means I can tell you about the plight of the Yemenis/Palestinians/North Nigerians/Syrians again, because you’re so stupid you’re probably bored just reading something you’ve heard about once already
Composition - how does it fit with the wider items, we’ve already got a story about a fish slapping Noam Chomsky around the face, so we don’t need another like that, even if it’s happening in China, unless it’s happening three or more times in which we could possibly run it as a trend story, but that’s more budget that the 2 hours we have to make this story as our sponsors would rather be spending their money on false news farms to get into the minds of the young through TikTok, Spotify, where are they? Let’s atomise them, and feed them with a distraction politic, and steal their money! YAY! Look in that direction, there’s war! And a cop’s killed someone again. Meanwhile we’re keeping your wages at an inaffordable level, so try this new form of cash that will use up your time, and plough your energies into NFTs because all we really care about is cash because without it, we can’t survive…
Personalisation - why do I care about this subject, let me tell you…the script at the top every reporter’s tale. Gonna whip you with pathos. I relate, yeah?
Narrativisation - oh yeah, I know that guy’s name, check me out, I’ve even learnt how to spell it. Z-E-L-E-N-S-K-Y-Y. GOOD. L-E-B-E-D-E-V. A new baddie. He didn’t say what we wanted him to. And I know which countries they represent, where they are on a map, I KNOW. So I’m not going to unknow, so keep telling me about Bin Laden, as the iconographic enemy like this is the bible, Koran and 1001 Nights…
Visual imperatives - how does it look, what are the semiotics, are there bookshelves behind the talking head, or are they a cleaner who deserves a mop and little else?
Audience theory about how the story would work across social and age hierarchies, and that affecting the stories would make a discussion. Quad audiences is a word used in film so that you can hit all target groups in mass media, which is why it is so soft and fam values. We are way more sophisticated that that now with the endless hall of mirrors of data, of course. I’d also talk about impartiality and unbiased reporting, but that doesn’t happen anymore, so it’s barely worth discussing. The world has become so swept up in polemics and camps, and identity politics that have us screaming to be heard against what I was talking about before, that the dominant values of objectivity are harder and harder to find in the matrix management fields of corporate psy-ops capitalism. Yeah man/woman/mx/mate.
That’s one coat of nail varnish applied, and I’m looking at the time, and it’s flying - but that’s your basic introduction. We need to know who owns our information, who appoints it, why and whether there is any POINT IN LISTENING. The only way to win is to be aware of what is happening outside, understand what we can do to change it, but also understand how we fight to preserve our own hearts.
So what is your news agenda today:
Survival, what do you have to do to stay alive?
Pleasure, how are we going to make this sacred time of being alive enjoyable?
Poems, Music, Art, Literature. Those are what I want on my agenda. I want to resonate.
There’s a good documentary out at the moment, a BBC Storyville, F THIS JOB (Tango with Putin) Produced by Vera Krichevskaya and Mike Lerner (Oscar-nominated Hell and Back Again, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer) and Executive Produced by Jess Search (Oscar winning Citizenfour, Emmy-nominated Virunga), Sandra Whipham (Emmy award-winning P.O.V. and Enemies of the People) and Barbara Biemann (National Bird). Together with ZOHA, why not watch something that has taken months to make, rather than the sausage factory of newsrooms? I’m not saying they’re all bad, but media literacy, as I discussed with Anthony Anaxagorou on the recent Ambit podcast, would be mandate in a system that cares for its community.
Anyway, enough politics, let us return to my final coat topcoat.
Come to Gallery 46 this afternoon if you can, and if not, please do try to join us there on Thursday 10th March for the cover artist of the new Ambit 246, Jason McGlade.
See my social media, and theirs, for more information.
Set your own agenda.