Autonomy? Down the Rabbit Hole…
In the novel, (1984 by George Orwell) the memory hole is a slot into which government officials deposit politically inconvenient documents and records to be destroyed.
I decided to check this blog yesterday after last checking three or four days previously in order to to see if there had been any problems between my last post, ‘King’ Robbo 484 – Rest In Peace – 1969 – 2014 [http://www.jonhammer.com/2014/08/king-robbo-484-rest-in-peace-1969-2014-2/] , and now, and, lo and behold, I found that strange changes have been happening again, not from the usual suspects’ Black Ops dept. this time, but instead thanks to the actions of, err…The Guardian. I was surprised to find that the content in my post about how the content in one of my posts had been mysteriously altered – has mysteriously altered!!!
Embedded videos from the Guardian espousing their “Open Journalism Campaign”, which trumpets complete open access of opinion and interaction in both news and culture news, as demonstrated in their award winning story of the public interaction with, and subsequent part in uncovering the unfolding story of the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs, and which I had included in a narrative – have suddenly, since my last post, after working perfectly for a couple of years, had their ‘embed’ functionality, previously at this url:
…and another on ‘open’ at this url:
…removed, leaving instead the above message ‘This content is no longer available and has been removed.’ and meaning that my blog post:
The Cold Joke You Gotta Get[http://www.jonhammer.com/2012/08/team-robbed-the-cold-joke-you-gotta-get/]
…which had suddenly become much more poignant, now no longer made any sense whatsoever. You can watch the Three Little Pigs video here, (embedded this time from YouTube).
I cannot imagine any reasonable explanation for the retroactive removal of embed video options from such a high profile media campaign built on such a powerful publishing platform, which is after all about freedom of expression and opinion and citizen involvement through open journalism- and which would indicate that, if such an embed option is offered to bloggers and content providers, it must surely warrant ongoing support and future-proof functionality on today’s integrated web, in respect of our hard work assimilating it into our content, upon our taking up of their offer that we do so. So, in the light of recent events, I can surely not be blamed for wondering at the reason for its sudden removal, given the timing and the still ongoing refusal of the Guardian to open the tragic ‘Graffiti Wars’ saga for comment, and in the light of the empowering content of the above video.
In the original post I speculated on the possibility that affiliations of Guardian journalists may have had an effect on their complete failure to mention that the documentary ‘Graffiti Wars’ had won a RTS award in their annual RTS award write-up, including, to elaborate a little further at this stage, that a staff member from ‘Dazed and Confused’ magazine was apparently working as a curator for Banksy’s long-time business associate, the fashion-mag person / art dealer Steve Lazarides, while simultaneously holding down a job at the Guardian.
Dazed and Confused magazine is parodied in the legendary 2005 spoof comedy ‘Nathan Barley’ as the magazine Sugar Ape – you can watch Episode 1 below. Despite the comedy being made nearly a decade ago and the fact that the fashions, technology and art have changed somewhat it appears to still be worryingly relevant in its depiction of certain attitudes prevalent within the media and arts and may even give a certain indication of the kind of colonial ‘creative mindset’ that engineered the original hacking and subsequent alteration of my blog which sparked the original ‘cold joke’ and the ‘cold joke’ post now in question, not to mention the seemingly endless profusion of tiresomely inane ‘cold jokes’ of contemporary art and much of the irony and hullaballoo that has lazily and exclusively reappropriated indigenous and autonomous culture for vanity and profit and has increasingly colonised public consciousness through the media for nearly a quarter of a century.
Now that certain veterans of protest / alternative / outsider art and the graffiti writing scene have gotten used to our freedom of expression being curtailed, we find that key elements of autonomous grassroots culture are not just being parasited, but actively suppressed so, it would appear, that the kind of inanity illustrated above can flourish uninterrupted by any reality which contradicts its’ dominance, and while I fully support anyone’s right to dress how they like, do what they like, be entertained how they like, to express what identity they like, make what art or music they like, and, of course, have fun doing it, it should never, ever be at the expense of others civil liberties including their freedom to do the same, for then we enter dangerous waters. For the Barley dynamic seems, to have entered a new and aggressive state, for concurrent with the proliferation of such media and mindsets as those illustrated in the above video we have simultaneously seen the unexplained disappearances since 2009, of some of grassroots culture’s most significant outlets for our, often passionately opposing, expression of opinions and stylistic values, including such publications as:
Canned Goods website
Street Art is Dead blog
Graffiti Wars documentary
…not to mention content from this site, the banning, blacklisting and sabotage of art from myself and many of my friends, and the endless promotion of opportunists and let alone the absence of any genuinely autonomous voices representing art in mainstream media outlets, a situation which is approaching a dangerous precedent that cannot safely be overlooked, given the horrors of the 20th century.
So to sum up, it appears that any comment, history or even art and artists from our range of grassroots subcultures that don’t fit in with the carefully policed pantomime of the contemporary art market may now be ‘edited out’ at will.
Britain is a class-riven society and in spite of feeble attempts on the part of some political leaders to reconcile the classes; the upper classes – the dominant social and cultural classes – continue to have the whip hand.
Guy Debord’s Cat- Hegemony, Censorship and Satire
And that ‘whip hand’ appears to be wielded, very worryingly, and without anyone in the media appearing to notice, by the likes of the ‘Sugar Ape’ and ‘Trashbat’ set, who far from having disappeared since the days of Nathan Barley appear to have gone on to pastures new, ascending ever higher, in fact such Barleyesque qualities seem sometimes to be a cast-iron prerequisite of success, and is a phenomenon which is often, it appears, blindly supported by elements of the media whose loyalties to this enforced dumbing down appear to override their commonsense or ethics.
Ruling groups do not maintain their hegemony merely by giving their domination an air of moral authority through the creation and perpetuation of legitimating symbols; they must also seek to win the consent of subordinate groups to the existing social order…ruling groups never engineer consent with complete success; the outlook of subordinate groups is always divided and ambiguous.
T.J Jackson Lears The American Historical Review. Vol 90 Issue 3 June 1985
And it would appear that one of its’ new “legitimating symbols” winning over ambiguous “subordinate groups” may, alongside ‘street art’, now sadly be ‘Open Journalism’, for exactly like ‘street art’ if it is not completely open, then it is actually worse than the censorship both claim to despise, for in their cross-platform utopian assertions both imply an oceanic community of sentiment, a fundamentally false sense of being in touch with the full spectrum of expression across society as it unfolds unfettered in real time. In this capacity a veneer of tacit consent is engineered by the illusion that people are not only involved in and informed of every single development in everything important that is going on at a grassroots level, but that they are actively involved in shaping it, in leading it, and therefore are under the impression that if it is important then it must be in the public domain, so if it isn’t in the public domain, it can’t be important, thus casting an extremely powerful spell of complacency over dark deeds that go on below the radar of such supposed free exchanges.
As a consequence we have seen “open”, is much more readily achieved with the fairy story of the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs, or even the facts of Edward Snowden and the Iraqi and Afghani wars, as we have seen bravely covered by ‘open’ than in the grim reality of 21st century contemporary art. For anything that could implement the real democratic power they both vehemently espouse and make any actual change for the better in attaining real freedom for the autonomous arts, appear to be spotted and ‘weeded out’, nipped in the bud, before they can flower, creating a ‘hot house’ environment swarming with Nathan Barley and his privileged mates, and those from the subcultures that often unintentionally buttress their rule, (like Dan Ashcroft’s sister, through lack of any other opportunity) while the scene claims to be a veritable oasis of creative freedom.
And while we are assured by the Guardian that Open Journalism:
… is transparent and open to challenge – including correction, clarification and addition.
…I didn’t imagine for one minute that that “…open to…correction”, meant the removal of its videos from critical blogs, I hope it was just a coincidentally timed freak I.T. mistake.