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Making Outrage Contagious: Chronology Of The Gulf Crisis TV Project with Texts And Testimonies
Written in collaboration with Simone Farkhondeh, Cathy Scott, and Marty Lucas
Abbie Hoffman once said his job was to make outrage contagious.
August 1991: Iraqi Military Invades Kuwait
Us Begins Troop Build Up In Middle East
Paper Tiger Tv Starts Planning To Counter Media Disinformation
SF: In August, when Iraq moved into Kuwait, the U.S. and Iraq were having tense discussions. The way that the mass media portrayed the situation was first of all limited. There was very little information about Iraq, or about the history of the Iraq/US relationship. There was no information about the colonial past of the region. We felt that there was a gearing up toward a bigger confrontation, a war possibly, and we realized very quickly that we would have to move immediately to counter the lack of real information.
September: Us Mobilizes National Guard For "Operation Desert Shield"
Anti-War Teach-Ins And Demonstrations Are Held In Many Cities
DD- It is hard to say at what point we knew that there would be a war. Everyone from Jimmy Swaggert to Jesse Jackson had said that the most likely place for World War III was the Middle East. After so many years of Armegeddon warnings, it was hard to know how to react when the real thing began. There were those who did see it coming. For example, the veterans. In early September, my hometown of Woodstock, NY held a rally for peace in the Gulf-- organized by Vietnam vets. I heard about it late and hurried to the rally. I came running across the field clutching my Hi-8 camera and my tripod, trying to screw on the "handy snap mount" for the tripod as I ran, eager to catch the last poem by a pair of vet poets who were reciting to the beat of congas. In Woodstock you can always count on pretty good music at rallies. As I got up to the stage, close enough to use the in-camera mike, I was surprised to find that there was already a camcorder taping: one of the vets had set up his own. In 1970 I had helped out cutting negative for a collective of filmmakers on a film about the Vietnam called Wintersoldier. The Vietnam Vets Against the War worked with this group of independent producers to testify against atrocities which some of them had themselves committed. Hmm...I thought...this time around the vets are covering their own resistance. The camcorder war had begun.
Late one night in September I got a call from Margaret Brenman Gibson, an associate of Daniel Ellsberg (ex-Defense Department analyst who had leaked the Pentagon Papers, in protest against the Vietnam war). She was in tears: she had just been to Washington with Ellsberg. From their contacts at the Pentagon and in Congress, they had both deduced that the United States was absolutely going to go to war. "How much does an hour a satellite time cost?" she asked. I tried to explain that the $250 for a transponder rental for one hour does not include the costs of the office, the making of the tape or the promotional work that needs to be done to let people know it's coming. "OK," she said determinedly ignoring the implications of my accounting. "I'm putting a check in the mail for $300."
That was the first funding for the Gulf Crisis TV Project, which was officially organized at one of the weekly meetings of Paper Tiger the next week. It was a tense meeting. There were many members of the collective who felt that a war project would eat what scarce resources we had left for the year in a time when our state arts funding was being drastically reduced. Deep Dish staff had serious reservations about the problems that a last-minute labor intensive program could bring to what was supposed to be the lull after the fall series and before the spring series storm. However, so many volunteered to do something to stop the mad rush to war that we did not have the heart to turn back.
Paper Tiger had some minimal production equipment and an off-line editing space. Deep Dish TV had a network of several hundred cable access stations who were willing and able to down-link programming that we sent. We knew that many cable access stations would run peace programming. We got a call from John Schwartz from 8 full time cable channels that play alternative material in major urban centers--i.e. Baltimore, Los Angeles, Denver, etc. He pledged $5,000 for the rights to air and distribute any programs we would make over his mini-network. Having that first money meant that we could begin to cover some of the costs. So it was full steam ahead.
October: Peace Talks Fail; Us Troop Strength Increased
Paper Tiger Produces Two Programs On The Gulf Situation
DD-- By early October, the war fever that gripped the country, energized the activist communities. People started calling Deep Dish about teach-ins, demonstrations, sit-ins and draft resisters. I talked with Marty Lucas about all the tapes, like the one of the vets rally in Woodstock, that were being made across the country. He knew some free-lancers who also had footage-- one worked in and around the United Nations press corps. She was gathering footage of interviews about negotiations to stop the war: footage that she knew no network would use, footage that showed some of the arm twisting going on behind the scenes at the UN. The Ninth Street Theater was working on some performances around the war build up. The Paper Tiger office in San Francisco was already talking about doing coverage of the anti-war activities there. We started making lists of possible segments for an anti- war program.
SF-- A coalition working out of Ramsey Clark's office taped a teach-in at Cooper Union. We edited it into a half hour and transmitted it on cable locally, and sent it to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Springfield, Washington and several other cities. We just sent it around as a teaching/activist tool, but once we did that, some people started sending us material back. We had started a little circle of tapes circulating. By this time we were working with the Vietnam Vets Against the War, the Coalition to End US Intervention in the Middle East, the War Resisters League, and Hands Off.
DD- The offices of both Paper Tiger and Deep Dish are in the same building as the War Resisters League. W.R.L., while a cordial neighbor down the hall, had scarcely taken notice of our media work as it did not fall within the standard left classifications of "organizing". With the coming of the war, we began to collaborate on many aspects of the anti-war activities. We were exchanging information and resources on a daily basis. We helped to promote their activities and we were listed in their mailings. We designed promos for their campaign to help those interested in getting out of the military and we agreed to place in our programs a public service announcement calling for anti-war tax resistance. The War Resisters League finally understood that our media work was a kind of organizing and that we could work together very constructively.
November: Bush Doubles The Number Of U.S. Troops In Gulf
Gulf Crisis Tv Project Officially Formed; Sends Out Call For Tapes
SF- When I put together the list of all the footage we had, it was easy to see that we could mobilize support for a national project about the crisis in the Gulf. DeeDee, Cathy, Marty and myself came together with the idea for a collaborative series.
SF-We needed a call for tapes that would go out across the country. We wanted to let people know that they could send their material to us and we would organize it quickly and put it out on the Deep Dish TV Satellite Network.
DD- Cathy Scott designed the call for tapes and with Martha Wallner wrote several proposals for funding. Marty and Cathy organized teams of producers for four programs: Chris Hoover and Simone Farkhondeh to work on the media distortions, Jen and Cathy to focus on veterans and military resistance, myself and Ilona to give an overview of the history and current situation, and Marty and Cathy worked on the connection to oil. We saw our roles as coordinating producers-- putting together material from others around the country. Within two weeks we received over 130 tapes from as many locations.
CS- It was clear that Paper Tiger was already in the process of doing what it does, which is speaking back to the mainstream media-- which was ignoring war resistance. It was obvious that we needed a national organizing media effort to make the opposition to the war plans a visible thing. We wanted to empower the people who were already out there working to stop the war, to show them that there were many other people around the country who shared their thinking.
ML- In 1982 during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, I had the experience of going to the Middle East with video producer Ilan Ziv to work on an independent documentary. On our return, we put together a tape about the war which we made available to PBS stations, announcing it on the PBS internal DACS (electronic mail) system and uplinking on public TV's satellite system. We followed up with more DACS publicity and calls to stations around the country. We got several stations to run the show. So I knew that PBS had this "soft feed" option (a "hard feed" comes from a station) for independent producers to get access to the PBS system.
December: Bush Gives Iraq An Ultimatum Of January 15
Gulf Crisis Tv Project Links Up With National Anti-War Organizing Efforts ; J. Roderick Macarthur Foundation Gives $20,000 To Gctvp Fbi Starts File
ML- We had been working since September in a corner of the Paper Tiger office. With funding we would be able to pay people to organize, send out the massive outreach mailings, book satellite time, and buy videotape for our one camera and out edit system.
CS- On December 1, there was a national meeting of hundreds of organizers from around the country held at Riverside Church. We were put on the agenda of the plenary session to explain what we were going to do with our national media project. We made "activist guides" to "take control of your TV set" which explained three different things: how people could get the GCTVP shows in their local communities, how they could contribute to the shows, and how they could use camcorders to make their own programs. Our project was endorsed by both the Coalition to Stop US Intervention in the Middle East and the Campaign for Peace in the Middle East. (It was one of the tragedies of the anti-war mobilization that a bitter rift developed in the left. Two separate groups had been formed and two demonstrations were held later as a result of this squabbling among the U.S. left). The Gulf Crisis TV Project office became the one organization with good relations with both of the peace movements, on occasion acting as a liaison between them.
DD- In 1982 at the June 12 demonstration (the largest in U.S. history) I was part of a group that up-linked the rally live to those PBS stations brave enough to take it (over fifty did). The June 12 mobilization committee would rather give press passes to NBC than to an a group of peacenik videofreex. In those days it was hard to get alternative media taken seriously. We were never invited to any of the organizational meetings, nor allowed to make suggestions about press coverage. During the rally our sound lines were cut by rally personnel. There was a total lack of support for or even interest in our project of building an alternative network for the movement. In the 1990's however, there has been a discovery of the potential of activist video. In this case the coordinators for the anti-war actions felt that our effort was important enough to warrant full participation in the initial stages of organization.
SF- At the PTTV office the phone lines were ringing off the hook. The FEDEX person was bringing in bags of tapes. We found out about actions all over...there was an incredible energy in the office. While the tapes were coming in, we had to log them, and begin the editing and at the same time do outreach to make sure people knew how to get the programs, and to make sure that the cable stations would downlink them.
DD- Because we were in the War Resisters League building, we were in close contact with military resisters. Every day National Guard members, enlisted men and draft age youth came by the building for information and counseling. On several occasions, crews from the Gulf Crisis project taped counseling sessions for inclusion in the series, but also to document these important meetings for circulation within the organization.
In most of these situations, peace activists were working directly with video makers and public access coordinators, some for the first time ever, and many realizing for the first time the potential that this type of collaboration can mean. One of the most stubborn problems of making progressive video has been the recalcitrant attitude towards technology of many movement organizers. There has been a deep distrust of all media. But this time around they began to understand the importance of collaboration with activist videomakers. They found that we could work together very effectively: we were exchanging information and resources on a daily basis. We helped to promote their activities and we were listed in their mailings. We designed promos for their 800 numbers for those interested in getting out of the military and we used a public service announcement for tax resistance to military expenditures that they had made (with help from Deep Dish) as break between half-hour segments on the programs.
Another aspect of the project was the outreach to PBS. Both myself and Marty had had experience in up-linking to public television. I had worked with The 90's, which began in 1988 as a "maverick" feed to the PBS satellites. The 90's office in Chicago furnished us the list of those first 70 channels that had taken a chance and agreed to program the 90's for the first season. We worked closely with the new alternative PBS station in Philadelphia, WYBE. Program Director John Vernile and Station Manager Aaron Ezekiel agreed to sponsor the first series to the PBS system. Vernile and the Gulf Crisis office did heavy outreach to program directors, through cajoling phone calls, creative FAX blitzing and instigating local pressure groups. This resulted in over forty PBS stations carrying the series. These included major cities such as WNET in New York and KETC in Los Angeles, and others in Virginia, Florida, Texas and Alaska. In addition many of them gave it multiple air plays: New York ran the series four times in very good time slots.
Jen Lion, a young producer who had studied with Sherry Milner at Hampshire College, had received the call for tapes while taping military resistance in Hawaii She brought us excellent footage of Honolulu demonstrations, and also brought herself and her new Sony 5000 camera for the duration of the war. She was one of many people over the course of the project who literally gave their all the project. At times there would be three or four of us asleep on the floor of the office in the morning. By late December we had collected several Hi-8 cameras, a super VHS or two and a M-3. In the coming months, with that base of equipment ,we recorded literally hundreds of hours teach-ins, interviews and guerrilla theater in and around New York. This was a cam-corder war all right.
Peace activists would call and ask us to tape their demonstration in Fort Wayne for example. We'd say, call your local cable access organization and if you can't get help there, borrow a camcorder from your aunt or cousin and tape it anyway. Many of the tapes we received were documents of town meetings, teach-ins or demonstrations that were shot by participants who do not consider themselves video producers. We received material in every possible format: VHS, Super VHS, Beta Max, Beta-Cam, 3/4, 3/4 SP, even 16 mm film.
ML- We divided into four groups of two producers-- each pair would be responsible for one half hour. The shows were War, Oil and Power, Operation Dissidence, Out of the Sand Trap, and Bring the Troops Home. In addition to the four of us, the group included Ilona Merber, Ramin Ashraf, Chris Hoover, and Jen Lion. The Deep Dish staff, Dolores Perez, Steve Pierce, Lorna Johnson pitched in with the up and down-links while Martha Wallner worked on funding and outreach. The Paper Tiger staff, Linda Ianconne and May Ying Welsh fielded calls and helped with local production.
January 1-7, 1991: The Un Endorses Bush's Ultimatum
Gctvp Programs Up-Linked
CS- We called more than 300 cable stations, as well as hundreds of activist groups to tell them to encourage the both access and PBS stations in their communities to show the series. For example, we talked to a student in Greensboro, North Carolina who wanted to get the program. We explained about calling up the cable station. The next day, he went to a demonstration with fliers he'd made, telling people how to call the cable station and request the Gulf Crisis TV Project. The station received fifty calls and played the programs.
DD- Our transmission date for the first two shows was January 7. We worked around the clock to prepare for the on-lines. Fiona Boneham, (who on-line edited most of the Deep Dish programs) stayed through the night with more than one GCTVP producer to get the one-inch masters finished. Downtown Community Television and the Stand-by Project provided facilities at cost.
The first programs were completed and the Deep Dish network brought the show to hundreds of cable stations on January 7, 1991.
The first series aired on January 7th: eight days before Bush's deadline of January 15. The response was beyond anything we expected. We received hundreds of grateful telephone calls and letters. The War Resisters League had to put more people on the phone lines, they got so many calls. We could tell when the programs were running by the location of the calls. Austin, Fort Lauderdale, Kansas, Boston, Portland.... But the success swamped the Deep Dish office, whose phone number was the tag line at the end of the programs. Key staff members were forced to stop important work just to answer the ever-ringing phone. It was impossible to get a line out: a new call would come in on the heels of a hang-up. The four lines were busy all the time. Requests for additional information, for dubs of tapes, for interviews taxed an already over-worked and under-paid staff. The office became a nightmare of short tempers and long faces. Worse of all: the war seemed inevitable.
January 7-10: Troops Mass On Iraq Border
Gctvp Storms Pbs Fortress
ML- The directors of an innovative PBS station in Philadelphia, WYBE, agreed to present the first four shows to the PBS system. Over 30 PBS stations showed the GCTVP to an estimated 40% of the PBS viewership. The largest PBS station, WNET in NY, repeated the series three times in the days just before the war began.
DD The 90's a maverick weekly program from Chicago on public television, helped with outreach to PBS stations by giving us their annotated playlist. Mark Sugg who produces a weekly program called America's Defense Monitor for the Center for Defense Information shared his down-link list (and by sending us interviews and military footage). By building a data base from the 90's and the Defense Monitor list, we were able to have a clear idea of which PBS stations would take risks and play controversial programming. We started an intense outreach campaign to those stations. Working in Philly with fax and phone, John Vernile collaborated with Louise Gluck in Willow, NY, for a successful assault on the PBS fortress. This campaign included heavy outreach to program directors, through cajoling phone calls and the PBS electronic mail DAC system, creative FAX blitzing and instigating phone calls from local peace organizations. It was the last week before the air war started. PBS had very little Gulf-related programming ready. There was a vacuum into which we leapt.
ML- The programs were on the air-- all over the country. We knew because the phones rang around the clock for a week at Deep Dishes' New York office. We could tell where the programs were running by the source of the phone calls: Austin, Fort Lauderdale, Kansas, Los Angeles, Hartford. In addition many of them gave us multiple air plays: New York ran the series four times in very good time slots before January 15. There was such a dirth of material, and such a high level of interest, or rather desperation, that the programs were received with a great deal of enthusiasm.
DD- There was a snowball effect. The more it was shown, the more people wanted it. The fact that it was on WNET NY helped us with other PBS stations.
January 10-15: Us Pushes For International Support For War
Gctvp Reaches Japan, France, Canada, Australia And Brazil
DD- We expressed VHS copies to several key people around the world. There was an immediate response. In Japan, activists made several hundred dubs and showed the programs in many large and small meetings. The tapes served as an organizing focus for anti-war activity. The text of the four programs was translated into Japanese and typed into the two biggest computer networks. This information went to thousands via electronic mail and became a base for organizing resistance to the war in Japan. country.
ML- Our outreach was successful in Canada, where peace movement people told a local producer for the Vision network about the series. This ecumenical religious satellite network reaches 3.2 million households. They pre-empted two hours of their regular programming on January 15 to present the GCTVP programs back to back. Vision Director of Programming, Peter Flemington said, "In light of concerns about the role played by the media in the unfolding of the entire crisis, it's the kind of programming we feel strongly compelled to present."
DD-In France, Nathalie Magnan and others translated the tapes and organized screenings in Paris and several universities throughout the country. The organizational liaison aspects of the project were highly successful. Over fifty stations working with local peace activists around the country produced their own series to introduce the Gulf Crisis TV Project shows. These local programs, from Santa Barbara, California to Somerville, Massachusetts, included panels with community peace organizers, camcorder activists, local draft resisters and high school counselors. Many of these had inter-active aspects-- some took telephone calls, some showed camcorder footage of local demonstrations and teach-ins. Some, as did Doylestown, Pennsylvania, set up "soap-box" forums: participatory structures to be sure local opinions could be aired. as their letter put it; "inspired by your programs." San Francisco cam-cordists, led by Paper Tigers Jesse Drew and Carla Leshne, started a weekly program just to deal with the Bay area anti-war activities. Rob Danielson and others in Milwaukee did nightly programs.
January 15 Midnight-January 30: War!!
Allies Of U.S. Pledge Millions For War Costs
Gctvp Masses Troops For Second Series;; Channel 4 Pledges Thousands
DD- January 15 and the midnight deadline rolled in and with it the sorties over Baghdad. The office became even more frantic. What would we do next? When are the next programs coming, everyone seemed to be asking. We had not planned to do any additional programs, but more field tapes came in, unsolicited. Great tapes. Interviews with Chomsky. Demonstrations of 10,000 in San Diego, of thousands in Minneapolis. In the midst of our discussions of what to do next, we got a call from Channel Four in London. They wanted to buy rights to the first series for around $30,000. We had said in our initial contract with producers that any income would be spent on making more programs or more distribution. With the Channel Four money, we could go on. We decided to make six more programs and to try to get even more distribution of the series we had made. We ordered 200 copies on VHS to satisfy all the hundreds of requests we were getting. We had the capital to bulk order so that we could sell them at home video prices.
ML- On Channel 4, the four shows were condensed to one hour and shown back to back with a half hour about anti-war activism in Great Britain. The effect was electrifying. The program was one of the most watched of the week, was reviewed in many major dailies, and culled extensive viewer response. It even got Channel Four sued by a right-wing think tank(later dismissed). Acquisitions Director Alan Fountain suggested that it changed the whole tenor of debate around the war in England. The Gulf Crisis TV Project's program had the highest ratings for the entire month at the channel and elicited many hundreds of phone calls to the Channel Four offices.
DD- In the initial stages of the second series, we tried to set up a structure that would take the heat off of the Deep Dish office. We were lucky to get offered a large space at cut-rate rent from Deborah Shaeffer and Larry Bogdanow. We hired additional office personnel and outreach staff. We borrowed desks, file cabinets and shelves and set up an instant office.
In assessing the first series, we all agreed that we had not done enough "affirmative action" in putting the production team together. We decided to try to bring more producers of color into the production for the second series. We brought on eight producers, many of whom were very young and had had little experience with the kind of compilation programming our first series was. Several of these new producers were familiar with the facilitating role of Deep Dish producers; some were new to group/collective work: they had only had experience with highly structured production organizations. For some the anarchy and open-ended quality of the office structure was perceived as a problem.
The goals were even bigger this time around and the situation of the real war going on added tremendous stress to everyone involved in the project. For the first series, we had been motivated with the urgent need to stop the war from happening. Once it had started with its inexorable pattern of destruction and violence, it was hard to feel any power to effect the outcome. What kept us going was the flood of responses to the first series. But many people were feeling this way, and had needed the first series because of the hope it projected by bearing witness to the vital resistance that many in this country had maintained. The mainstream coverage was getting worse and worse. People urged us to keep providing an alternative.
In the first series we were able to use a number of short video art pieces: in the second series most of the segments submitted were in standard documentary format (was it that people felt that with a real war going on they had to be more serious?) The experimental pieces that we used in the second series were made in New York by the coordinating producers themselves or their friends.
SF- One of the things that was encouraging was talking to people all over the country who were active in their communities, knowing that we were sending shows that they were going to use. Meanwhile, just watching TV, the disinformation at the time was so angering and oppressive that it really kept us going.
DD- The contrast between the kind of information that we were able to provide and what was on the tube every night became more and more apparent. The networks coverage was limited to close-ups from the nose of the bombs alternating with bravura strategy sessions among retired generals. While the polls showed that a wide majority supported the war, there were many polls that showed that people realized that the media wasn't showing the whole picture. For many on the left, the rage over the war turned to rage against the media. Cathy Scott, May Ying Welsh and other Paper Tiger people along with Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) became involved in organizing a huge demonstration on January 28: Operation Storm the Media. This historic confrontation with the information industry brought thousands to the streets in front of the network offices in New York in the largest show of outrage against the media in U.S. history. It was similar to the scenes in the film, Network when crowds chant "We're not going to take it anymore!" That demonstration was the largest ever organized with media as a focus. It gave us hope that the public could be mobilized around information issues.
One of the themes of the demonstration was the camcorder. Ellen Spiro, Martha Wallner, May Ying and others made camcorder commando vests from neon camouflage fabric with stenciled slogans: Make Video Not War! Camcorder Commandos! Take Control of Your TV Set!
February: Air War Intensifies; Bombs Hit Shelter, Killing Hundreds Of Women And Children
Gctvp Suffers Information Overload; Tension & Stress Exhaust Staff
DD- The GCTVP office became a sort of clearing house for both media activities and activist actions in general. Hundreds of tapes were sent in, even though we never did a general tape solicitation for the second series. Dozens of volunteers who had heard vaguely about the project and wanted to do something against the war signed up to log tapes or work in the office. The production staff became so large that it was difficult to keep the communication lines open. There was wasted effort on many levels. People would log a tape that was perfect for one of the programs, but the program producers would not have the time to read the logs, or check the in-coming stacks. Research was requested and done by highly qualified and talented volunteers whose work languishes still in countless files of statistics, dates and clippings. Information was gathered, but not retrieved. Producers in other cities were asked to shoot certain sequences. Many of those who worked hard in compliance with those requests were never acknowledged and their tapes only scanned in fast forward and never used. It was an overload of information. The kind of over-load and production panic that we experienced was probably inevitable given the stress, the urgency and the absence of hierarchical structure.
CS- Paper Tiger and Deep Dish have been working for years to democratize the media and to talk about issues like the "war at home". We had a core group who knew each other and had worked together, and matched their effort with the work of people all around the country.
DD- We were invited to show the first series at Mediumoperatif at the Berlin Film Festival. By opting for discount tickets we were able to juggle the fares to allow both myself and Cheche Martinez to go. Cheche toured many of the U.S. bases in Germany interviewing dissident soldiers and volunteers in the extensive AWOL support structure set up by peace organizations in Europe, for the Just Say No! program. One of the AWOL soldiers hung out with us in Berlin. He was just a scared kid from the area around San Diego, trying to get to college with an ROTC scholarship. Getting to know him certainly brought the war home to us.
ML- We hoped that press coverage would help with extending the network for the second series. Maggie Smith put together an aggressive publicity campaign designed to give the project recognition as the first satellite anti-war organizing effort. The major press organizations were as reluctant to cover the TV project as they were to cover the resistance to the war. Ultimately, the strong popular response to PBS and cable showings did inspire wide-spread press coverage. In the initial stages of the second series we tried to set up a structure to produce six half hour segments in six weeks starting with a feed on February 19th. We had nine additional producers: Fusun Ateser, Tony Avalos, Ludger Balant, Yanni Damianos, Indu Krishnan, Victoria Maldonado, CheChe Martinez, Amy Melnick, Dawn Suggs. We also had Abdul Wahid Cush and Claudia De Megret doing full time outreach.
DD- The office had aspirations of being non-hierarchical, but there were obvious differences at work: between those with steady jobs or income sources and those desperate for a place to sleep at night; between those with families and other responsibilities and those who could give literally give their all to the project; between those from a highly educated film school background and those with a nitty gritty rough and ready Paper Tiger approach. There were differences of age: those with thirty years experience of independent production and those who had had their hands on a camera for a few months. There was the group that had made the first series and those who were brought in later. The funding was always insecure so the material basis of the project was always at risk. People never knew if they would be paid. However one tried to "equalize" the situation, those who initiated the project and who were writing the proposals for the continued funding had a vested interest in determining the conclusion, and an obvious background of experience and confidence. Because of a host of tensions and contradictions, many of the new producers felt less like collaborators and less empowered in the larger project structure. It was tense.
Although there were many complaints about the chaotic and tense conditions in the office, despite of, or perhaps because of, the difficult circumstances, there was a healthy autonomy given to the individual show producers which resulted in shows that are very strong, often brilliant. More difficult was the personnel relations between show producers and among the larger group. It had been naive at best to assume that twelve headstrong creative people could be almost randomly paired together to make a television series in a very short time. It was even more naive to expect difficult racial and national tensions to be erased easily in a common project.
ML- For the second series we developed topics which we felt were being ignored by the mass media and divided into groups to produce the shows. We had moved without fully realizing it into a situation of producing shows as individual producers without creating a framework for collective discussion of the editorial content or direction of the shows. The combination of the deadline pressure and the distance between producers' expectations and the reality of resources created real problems. Nevertheless, the shows came out on the Deep Dish network as the ground war came and went.
DD- The first program of the second series, Manufacturing the Enemy, looked at the violence and racism that was being aimed at Arab-Americans. Testimonies from Arab students, store owners and dishwashers was compared with memories of the Second World War experiences of Japanese Americans. The final program, Global Dissent, contained footage from over a dozen countries, documenting demonstrations of reaction to the war in such places as Taiwan, the Philippines, Spain, Korea and France. Nathalie Magnan, who coordinated screenings of both series in France remarked that the second series is much stronger, more angry, more defiant. She said the message was , "OK guys, we tried to be polite the first time around, and you went to war anyway, well, now we're going to let you have it!"
ML- Although the level demand for tapes was unexpected, we produced five hundred copies of the first series immediately and started sending them out to callers for $20. The growing publicity brought new demand for tape copies and we began distributing from San Francisco as well as new York. We estimate that 2000 copies of the first series were distributed in the four months after the was began in the United States and Japan. Vision TV in Canada transmitted them to the continent. Since the war's end the ten shows have continued to go out to festivals, universities, media centers and activists around the country.
DD - Other distribution strategies included showing tapes in a sixties type "media bus" in shopping mall parking lots, and even projecting them on the wall of KQED, the public TV station in San Francisco, that had refused to air it. I think the Gulf Crisis TV project tapes were seen by more people in a shorter time than any other independently produced and distributed video work in the history of the medium. The series contained the work of over a hundred producers, from dozens of locations. The work ranged from rallies, to comedians, to guerrilla theater, to intimate interviews, to didactic charts and history texts. Artists such as Seth Tobanken and Mary Feaster made graphics for the series. Performance artists Paul Zaloom and Papoleto Melendez created performance pieces. Norman Cowie, Joel Katz, Tony Avalos, and Karen Ranucci made short video art pieces. The programs bristle with anger and outrage, but also have humor, music and dramatic moments. They have testimony from such experts as Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, Dessima Williams, Daniel Ellsberg and Grace Paley, and heart-felt testimonies of GI's who were willing to go to jail rather than fight. The War Resisters' League began a whole new campaign based on the calls that they received when our programs gave information on how persons in the military could resist the war service.
It was the special circumstances of the rush to stop the war that energized the production. I'm not sure how applicable our experiences are for future projects. Despite the admirable solidarity of literally hundreds of producers, despite the often glorious feats of editing and the astounding pace of distribution, many of us were left with a sense of failure. So much energy was directed at the shows and the external process of distribution that the internal group languished. This is evident in the fact that there was no integration of the talented corps of new producers into either Paper Tiger or Deep Dish, nor any on-going collaborative work among them now being developed. And then there was the war. We hadn't stopped it. We hadn't even made a dent in the U.S. war machine. The left in general in the U.S. is still reeling from the events of that winter.
The yellow ribbons are now faded. For supporters of the military, the war was supposed to have been a glorious answer to the Vietnam syndrome. But maybe the Iraq syndrome will be the ultimate questioning of the U.S. military. The fact that the war was summarily dismissed from the organs of the consciousness industry may be because the American people are beginning to sense the reality of the war. The image of its effect on Iraq has been seared into their brains with undeniably horrifying photojournalism of dying children and ecological devastation.
The war came and went, but it wasn't without a response. We responded and our response is often rebroadcast on many cable systems around the country each January during the anniversary of the war. Meanwhile the price of camcorders is dropping. We're still here.
Last modified: 02-26-2001
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Last Modified: June 1, 2001
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