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’ve been paying close attention to the ongoing battles to protect workers rights to collectively bargain in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan you are well aware of what these attacks look like. If you are struggling against draconian budget cuts in Pennsylvania or New York, you know that the economic collapse caused by Wall Street is being used as cover to redistribute public resources under the pretense of “crisis.”
Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism provides a useful way of understanding what’s going on today. The current budget-cut lust is part of a systematic strategy of radical free-marketeers who, since the 1970s, have sought to privatize public resources following natural disasters or economic crises. In his piece, “Shock Doctrine, U.S.A.,” in the New York Times, Paul Krugman picked up on Klein’s argument and made the case that the assault upon public resources, unions, and workers’ rights is properly understood as part of the shock doctrine.
In many ways, this current assault is an attempt to make permanent the huge disparities of wealth caused by two decades of anti-government, radical free-market policies in the U.S. 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. A new breed of Republican is attempting to put a stake through the heart of the last vestiges of resistance to unbridled, corporate wealth accumulation. 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.
In Pennsylvania, we are at a critical point in the history of and access to public higher education and quality K-12 education. Over the past several few decades, especially since the passing of NAFTA, Pennsylvanians have taken it on the chin over and over and over as radical free market policies have 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 capital of the East. Steel replaced by slot machines. Middle class stability replaced by games of chance.
Pennsylvania Governor Corbett’s willingness to use the Commonwealth’s budget 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. Corbett’s deep cuts require us all to make a decision about our future. Will we leave PA in hopes of greener pastures? 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 several weeks have been encouraging, for sure. However, 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 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). I think we are at a point where we need to begin networking our networks in a “hub” of sorts, to “assemble our chorus” in the words of Clark and Van Slyke. Time to build an alternative “press” that is rooted in the local context of Kutztown and PA, but makes use of our digital networks. A Glocal, progressive media site.
So, I figured, what the hell…let’s give it a shot. This web page is that shot. So, let me “formally” announce the launch of a new alternative media project: the Raging Chicken Press.
The goal is to have a polished version ready to go by the beginning of fall 2011. However, I have learned most of what I know about blogs and social networking by actually using blogs and social networks. So, it made more sense to get this little puppy up and running immediately. I mean, we’re in the midst of a serious battle for the future of public education and public services in Pennsylvania. The Commons are under attack. Seems that a little messiness is in order. So, consider this a call for participation as well as a call for readers. 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, 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 [email protected]
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 or May to work out some details.
Oh, yeah, the name.
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 few 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!