Saturday, June 6, 2009

The revolution will not be televised... maybe ... last word on the Tank Man for now and a note on the WWFing of news

Stuart Franklin, © Magnum Photos

Last word on the marvelous photographs of the Tank Man and his inspiring act of courage. If you read the New York Times piece, you know the bravery of the men who photographed this event. Hate to mention this in public, but there's a screen play somewhere in this.

Gil Scott Heron wrote a provocative song in the late 1960s called "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." It became an anthem of sorts in anti-war, civil rights circles. Heron is a gifted poet and writer, who had the musical foresight to combine his spoken word poetry with jazz, collaborating with saxman Brian Jackson. "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" was, in my opinion, their best moment.
Here's the opening bit:

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

But, when you look at the photographs of the Tank Man, or recall the televised images of students standing on top of the Berlin Wall with sledge hammers, how can you not think the revolution will be televised? Maybe Gil Scott Heron was wrong. This is the age of cable news and the 24-hour news cycle. The president recently described this modern cable news environment as the WWFing of news. Of course it will be televised and Geraldo or Brian or Anderson or Campbell will be there to cover it.

Then again, maybe not. The Tank Man -- and this takes nothing away from his act -- did not make a revolution. A real revolution would make television itself irrelevant, wouldn't it? I mean, the real revolution would be if mankind rejected the television.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In four parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

Then again, doesn't the election of the first black American president make a revolution? If you think so, then you have to say he was wrong; the revolution was most definitely televised, and in minute detail.

The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

Then again, perhaps the jury is out on whether the election of Barack Obama actually constitutes a revolution. It may be a start toward one, but, then again ... well, we're well past a hundred days and we've still got two wars going, we've bailed out Wall Street on the backs of working men and women who have lost their jobs in stunning numbers, and ghettos all over this country are caught up in senseless, self-defeating, murderous drug-fueled wars.

In academia, we would say, the revolution may be televised but at this point we don't have enough data to suggest whether the hypothesis is supported.

Confused? Me, too, obviously. Here, at any rate, is more of Gil Scott Heron's great lyric.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie Mays
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.

The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver's seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

You can listen to some of his music -- not "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," unfortunately -- here, however you'll need to read French to fully use this unofficial site..

-- Lofflin, banging the drum again tomorrow...

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