April 12th media war protest – 1 of 2

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This protest took place a few days after America’s military conquest of Baghdad.

Portland’s march began with a funeral procession carrying symbolic caskets and mournful placards. The huge signs each held a single word seemingly carved out of granite – "MOURN", "GRIEVE" or "LAMENT."


thanks, Brandon, for taking this one for me.

The march ended with a giant skeleton puppet master that controlled a network of TV talking heads. This trailing bit of irreverent street theatre was put together by folks from Tillamook, Oregon. They brought several extra TV helmets. I decided that my sign, which you see me displaying above, meant that I belonged in the Tillamook Television network. The other side of my sign advertised one of my favorite web sites:


– the site that set out
to bring the media
to its knees,
but found
they were already there.


The blonde was our star pundit, our Ann Coulter, who engaged spectators with sound bytes like:

"Turn me on!"

"War is must-see TV."

"You know you want it. Everybody does."


Detail from the right panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s 1504, Triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Commentary from John Berger’s essay “Against the Great Defeat of the World” that answers the question, what the ?!#?$? is this painting is doing in the middle of the photo essay.

"...if Bosch’s vision of hell is prophetic, the prophecy is not so much in the details – haunting and grotesque as they are – but in the whole. Or, to put it another way, in what constitutes the space of hell. There is no horizon there. There is no continuity between actions, there are no pauses, no paths, no pattern, no past and no future. There is only the clamor of the disparate, fragmentary present. Everywhere there are surprises and sensations, yet nowhere is there any outcome. Nothing flows through: everything interrupts. There is a kind of spatial delirium.

"Compare this space to what one sees? in a typical CNN news bulletin, or a mass media commentary. There is a comparable incoherence, a comparable wilderness of separate excitements, a similar frenzy.

"What the painting by Bosch does is to remind us – if prophecies can be called reminders – that the first step towards building an alternative world has to be a refusal of the world-picture implanted in our minds and all the false promises used everywhere to justify and idealize the delinquent and insatiable need to sell. Another space is vitally necessary.

"The act of resistance means not only refusing to accept the absurdity of the world-picture offered us, but denouncing it. And when hell is denounced from within, it ceases to be hell."

– excerpted from, “Against the great defeat of the world” an essay from The Shape of a Pocket.

John Berger, an art critic, novelist and screenwriter, is arguably our greatest living writer. He lives and works in a small village in the French Alps. About 50 years of his art criticism (not including The Shape of a Pocket and the excerpt included here) has been collected in Selected Essays. If you love the visual arts, this is a book to live with, and it has just been released in paperback.


"Take me into your bedroom, everybody does.

"Bombs are dropping, let’s go shopping

"Kids are dying, keep on buying."


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© Brian Thomas, 2009
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