Author’s Burden

If only the product of my own internal discord as a meddler in the written word, I’ll at least be satisfied in having it documented and available to the public – though I feel like for every issue one person experiences there are at least eight-hundred more to make the same claim.

To do something in any creative field, a basic sense of drive is layered behind it. But this doesn’t provide a cause, a goal to accomplish. The fuel doesn’t necessarily dictate the direction of the vehicle. This is probably the first important distinction when becoming self-conscious as a creator of any kind, the second is understanding obligatory creation based on social currents and that derived from genuine inspiration or personal investment.

The task of journalists specifically is to follow emerging issues and situations and develop reports on them. Give the news, more or less. This being a job is naturally an obligation to create stories on whats happening. But does personal interest play a part at all in this? The progressive newspapers of the 1960s and 70s were personally invested in covering the development of the American civil rights movement, while divisions of mainstream media such as CBS and ABC at the time were burdened as part of their job, not influenced, to cover this particular emergence and be as cold and unemotional (objective) as professionally possible all the while. So its easily possible to meld assignment with passion in an environment where your job may collide with your political or social alignment, but is it practical? Moreover, does it give an advantage in creating a story?

If we take the work of Orwell for instance in covering the 1936 revolution in Catalonia, its easy to see how his experiences transcended his correspondence with The Labour Leader and became his most abounding political account, Homage to Catalonia. Orwell’s placement in the left-wing secured his vigor and integrity in documenting the situation in Spain. He needed to witness this uprising on a personal level. Through his sympathies with the Spanish anarchists, he gave the outside world perhaps the best possible account from the front lines. We see the same in the modern case of Chris Hedges and the Iraq war.

So maybe we could conclude that if you mix your interest with your job, you reach the best place of authoring ideal extensions of the current world, where your interest is your motive. But if, for example, we look at corporate media which day in and day out covers how great their economic hopefuls are apparently doing, they don’t seem to go on to expand on such things in writing which draws in the common man in the same way as others. Jim Cramer’s ridiculous books didn’t really make any millionaires since his time with Mad Money – but he followed close enough the same formula as Orwell and Hedges.

What of unfettered freedom in writing? Thoreau answered to no master and felt no outside impulse to put pen to parchment, and his work was a pure output of his heart’s surge in Walden. Likewise regarding Kropotkin or Goldman. Their cases were made free of third-party supervision or direction. Does this then serve to say that without the eyes and ears of an intangible current of literary and critical demand, the influx of new works is more wholesome and virtuous? But is a raw outpour of thought good by default? We can easily say that Mein Kampf was also a free expression of the mind. It becomes a question of chaos or order in this field, I think. A suggestion if something is correct or not, which is never totally certain one way or the other: Do we write about what other people are alking about, or do we seek to go beyond that?

When something new happens, we record and share it. We have vague ideas about why we do it, but we mostly know that we just do. The premise that coverage of events or other developments in a society is what we should pursue is correct insofar that it is helpful or provides a unique perspective – or so we would assume. We aren’t dependent on a central responsibility of people. We have unlimited means to get information nowadays, some better than most. The development of the information is the most delicate process where ensuring not only objectivity and accuracy, but personal integrity and worthiness of honor is essential. Works made with passion and ardor have been among the richest of their division, while those lacking fell short of its goal. It seems the former is rarely guarded in places where its needed most.

Covering what should be covered becomes coverage in order to be an excuse to flaunt personality and sensationalism. In TV news, for ratings. In online publications, for traffic and ad revenue. If this is the inevitable end, what good are the means if wasted? Why should we write about what we should if that sector is in constant turmoil? And striving at resolution often does us no good. Insisting to cover whats new draws new desperation. The higher the demand, the shallower the output.

In my own little realm, I sit where I am now with text editor open and feed of the world’s trending chaos and conversation alive. I don’t exactly keep the last one open to get my blood boiling and find something to comment on like most people do, but rather to poke at that curiosity and see if I should reach out and add my voice to it all. Rarely I do in any notable manner, since I meditate what my honest reaction is to if the most active corner of the world is worth writing about in that specific instance – it usually isn’t. Aside from a political panel, event or intersection of pop culture and copyright or capitalism, I don’t often follow most writers in chasing the crowd. Maybe I don’t quite understand their outlook on it either. I’ve always found that whatever happens over there, which I usually don’t care too much about to begin with, is in better hands. To be among the last ones to spit out whatever fragments of something previously relevant is totally pointless, unless I was the first to sound the alarm at the first glimpse of something interesting.

I suppose the maxim I tend to follow is that whatever one independently witnesses or expresses, they should write the original record; then everyone else is in a better position to branch off of that with critique and expansion, instead of writing about that same thing but in another light. Not that this should be a convention or law, the world doesn’t operate on a first come, first serve basis which would be terrible. Instead, it could be the most ideal instruction of conversation wherein many different versions of one topic can exist seemingly interconnected, instead of multiple, carbon copy discourses piled on top of each other, as if in competition of who can be the most pretentious or witty instead of holding valuable contribution.

The mainstream current of journalism or eloquent craftsmanship is tainted, in my opinion. The gonzo league of storytellers always inferred this. Maybe that’s the sole purpose of a “mainstream”: To incentivize the honest channels. In any case, the whole sphere in this millennium is entirely predictable – the attitudes and approaches, not so much the stories. I feel like all the postmodernist, self-appointed challengers of a made up status quo are the ones writing what gets read. Each story feels like a self-important 20 year old with a shitty attitude going “No, this is what we need to be talking about” when, no, we really don’t. Like they know they’re going to save the world with their passionate conjecture. But this isn’t so different from previous times. Many authors before have hijacked the report of current events in some manner for their own agenda. The Red Scare afforded McCarthy his witch hunt and thus the propagandizing of Americans, 9/11 and the Iraq war warped patriotism into imperialist, tribalist fury, and now the current 2016 election allowed corporate media to grasp onto Americans’ love of everything being a joke and whats trending on social media by making a new reality show for Donald Trump.

This is probably the gleaming reason why standing apart from the most restless subjects of coverage is best when faced with how everyone else is dealing with them. An individual can remain loyal to a basic sense of honesty as the rest of the world is spiraling into excess. The figures who actively opposed the crowds of reporters stumbling over one another to carry on a hollow crux of events are now the ones cherished more than any Walter Winchell or Barbara Walters. Instead of reporting again and again the same crisis or stage of politics, express the solution more ferociously than the status. Assign yourself a responsibility to widen consciousness, not to be a servant of a media model. Tell the people that those whose job it is to make the news are corrupted by contract and pay. Show that the media outlets people run to are owned by the creators of the very problems they report on. Explain why media is common property, not the sole duty of private entities. Yes, everything sucks. No, people don’t need an update, they need guidance and honest judgment. But what do we write after we made our great escape?

I think its pointless for someone in my position to write about what someone a hundred times bigger than I already has. I don’t try to be like, or outdo, someone at The Daily Beast or wherever else. My work is my own which serves people who would agree or otherwise be looking for a second opinion. I think this is the principle that people moving in this direction should embrace. To an extent, the point of this course is to make you a no-name vagrant who is occasionally unearthed in the heaps of noise by any given wanderer who exposes a few others to what he’s found. A small, honest unit in the cycle of discussion. A hidden gem. To express and structure casually is the practice, in the same form you would if you knew the intended reader. The theme contours to all of this – your rant about what artist matters more than people think, the situation in the Middle East, or what have you, exists free of the corruption which deafens the inspirational honesty that larger outlets base themselves on. To write freely; not in the sense to avoid objectivity, rather to humanize what is objective both in story and in reaction. It adds up ideally to those who know what they’re after, though not everyone does. People often aren’t as immersed to any degree in the social and ethical roots of media, and so they seek the closest outlet which seems intelligent enough to tell them whats what, which is any major publication or TV news network. They go to these places and not your own, and when constant, you’re a very small voice.

We wonder if having the largest, broader attention is favorable, or if maintaining a smaller, specific audience is. Truthdig doesn’t seem to mind that it isn’t as recognized as The New York Times, but if they hold true that they’re the honest outlet, surely they would have a larger audience than now. But this isn’t their own fault so much as it is domination by major media over what gets attention, even with something like the Internet, theres bound to be a small central focus and not people at large paying attention.

The writers aren’t in chains or beholden to any discernible demand, but it seems what one writes about dictates their scope of attention. You’ll be paid more attention to if you conform to what people are chatting about. If you deviate from this and talk about something else, you find a lesser audience, but a very specific demographic. The obligation is rooted. Common sense. Because of this, I think a distinction between size and impact is needed. You can easily have 25,000 readers who go about their day not paying a second thought to what they read earlier, far less likely to expand on it or put its proposed actions into motion. Or, you could have 200 to 500 readers who are so dedicated to a subject that they’re significantly more likely to act on it or rally others into their association. The crossroads becomes choosing empty size or a wholesome minority. But looking at the present issue of the public understanding urgency and simultaneously being idle and content with their current world, there is much greater potential in the condensed forgotten groups of commentators and spokespeople who, even if lacking in the dust-gathering power of the empires before them, they have a unique devotion to their subject which no greater party can claim. Their energy employed in media acting as the construction of their monuments, as they acknowledge them with modesty. The smallest and most unknown groups of authors becoming the cult icons of media in a decade’s time. The legitimacy of an audience rests with what they put forth for what they have subscribed to. They’re merely onlookers without a stirring in their hearts, if they haven’t been accounted for in a sense of impact.

This is why questions of raking in traffic, subscribers, etc., don’t concern me. If anything they horrify me. I’ve seen the lifeless rot in dozens of upstart magazines and blogs which garnered enough attention which replaced the initial goal of the authors. We have all these followers and views, but absolutely nothing is happening. My concern is if I can strike a chord in the most genuine way in a single individual who can ratify that what I wrote has made the impact, making this practical and real.

But then I wonder if our attitudes thus are too egotistical and individualistic to do the function of writing any good. Do we neglect this burden in being this way? If we assume that countering the mode of writing about current things is to be opposed to them, we are true insofar that they become writing’s own enemy. When reports about a blatantly authoritarian presidential candidate gradually warps into the latest addition of sensationalism for the sake of ratings and traffic, and not substantive reviews of new emerging statements (being reduced to mere footnotes), we should oppose any further coverage beside denouncing the figure on a substantive basis from a unique perspective. When corporate tyranny is reported only to the extent that it doesn’t “send the wrong message” or make the company look bad, we should suspend all related corners of beating around the bush and resort to direct literary action against the causes of the event.

We neglect the burden of tackling news to the extent that it begins eating itself. To slow down the train so it doesn’t miss the station. Or crash and burn.

So yes, there is an ethical demand for expressing the current conditions of a society and relevant opinions. But the extension to this would be to provide not only the best possible state of these things, but also the purest means of doing so. To do away with an obligation to report on for the millionth time a saturated and depraved chain of events which do no good other than angering the most conscious individuals by further pacifying the many, and a strict attitude against harming a money-making quota of so-called journalism by breaking the chain with a human moment. An obligation to resurrect a lost state of nonconformity and anarchy in media – not the same branded and sold nonconformity™ of young pseudoliberals – and to oppose a decade-by-decade mold to conform to in desperation of being heard on a hip, trendy platform.

Outside of the entire cluster, we already know there is nothing but unlimited liberty. Become a reporter for a major outlet or join the level of small commentators with a blog, or anything else. But when faced with what the society or mindset after the fact would expect of the architects before, what would it be? At present, those who we run to for news and commentary are suppressing the effective anti-establishment drive which was the genesis of great social movements. They present domestic and global events in humanly devoid and careful ways, cloaked as objectivity through neutrality, which people begin to think of as the only way to inform. This is how they neglect the obligation to honest writing, as we neglect the manufactured burden of conforming to frail words and standards of limitation. The society would base their information on looking at their impact and into the horizon instead of the traffic, conventions and revenue.

Those who assume the renegade character in media must grow beneath the mainstream until ultimately collapsing the system’s purpose. To transfer audience and heighten impact. The goal is not to inherit the whole thing, but to remove the need of competitive news networks and bogus no-spin figures. To inherit all of media means to change who is the enemy. Instead it is to inherit, or rather reclaim, the meaning and spirit of it.

Author’s Burden