Hand-Held Visions: The Impossible Possibilities of Community Media

By Deedee Halleck | Go to book overview

Introduction

IT'S ONE THING to critique the mass media and rail against their abuses. It's quite another to create viable alternatives. This section looks at some attempts to create a different kind of television. In 1979 I began to make programs for an access series entitled Communications Update, which had been founded by Liza Bear on Manhattan Cable. I organized a production group to tape Herbert Schiller reading and commenting on The New York Times. Sitting in front of a subway backdrop, he held forth on the evils of, in his words, "the steering mechanism of the ruling class," that is, The Times. It was a perfect fit: Herb's Brooklyn accent and a painted subway; his acerbic humor and the august publication itself; Herb's dignified decorum and our ragtag scruffy production chaos. Herb told it like it is. He was not afraid of words like imperialism and hegemony. When he wrote The Mind Managersin the early seventies, he foresaw the media moguls and mergers which now dominate the headlines and our lives. Around the world this book was welcomed (and is still in print in many languages) for its insights into systems of cultural control. Many felt that power, but until Herb, no one had clearly articulated the problem.

Herb read The Times every Wednesday night for six weeks. The format seemed to work, the crew liked working together, and it evolved into a collective which became Paper Tiger. By the year 2001, Paper Tiger had produced almost 400 programs, presented hundreds of workshops, and trained generations of videomakers. "Paper Tiger Television" is a history of this collective, with excerpts from the first programs. "Tiger Dreams: Midwest Museum Intervention" is a recipe for a Paper Tiger installation, this one at the Wexner Museum in Columbus, Ohio.

With the coming to power of Ronald Reagan and the Chris-

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