M. Annenberg discusses the arrest of Dr. James Hansen and the suppression of climate news
in broadcast and print media.
WHAT DON’T WE KNOW – AND WHY DON’T WE KNOW
IT? – M. Annenberg
UN Commission on the Status of Women – UN Chapel – March 22, 2016
I want to
thank Maureen Burns Bowie and the CSW for inviting me to speak at this
important venue. My talk is entitled. “What Don’t We Know and Why Don’t We Know
It?” I would like to begin with an excerpt from a prayer by Pope Francis, –
Prayer for our Earth.
with peace, that we may live
and sisters, harming no one.
That we may
sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
who look only for gain
expense of the poor and the earth.
us, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.
There are men
in my country, who would like to become our next president, who don’t
understand the science of climate change. They keep saying, “ I’m not a
scientist”. As if, that was a reasonable
explanation. Well, I believe they
don’t understand the issue, because they aren’t women. Any woman who knows how
to boil a cup of tea, can figure out climate change, without being a scientist.
I’m not a scientist either, but I’ve figured out that when water boils, the
steam rises to the ceiling. The greenhouse gas CO2, also rises, from tail pipes
and from factories. It forms a
ceiling in the atmosphere, because gravity won’t let it escape – and it traps
sunlight that would otherwise bounce off the earth and go back into space. It’s
a concept as easy to understand as boiling water. Secondly, if you add lemon to
your cup of tea, it becomes tart, instead of sweet. This is an example of ocean
acidification, because when C02 emissions are absorbed by ocean water, it turns
the water into an acid, called carbonic acid. Creatures with shells, like the
Pacific oyster, can’t form their shells, because the acid in the water won’t
This is not
just going to happen in the future – it is happening now. How do you make iced
tea? You add ice cubes to your cup
– and amazingly the water level rises! Just like, when the glaciers melt there
is more water flowing into our oceans – and the water level rises! When Lower
Manhattan flooded, during Hurricane Sandy, it wasn’t a surprise, because the
oceans have a greater
volume of water in them, than ten years ago. Since greenhouse gas forms a
ceiling, our atmosphere and our oceans are hotter. The heat makes water
evaporate from the oceans. A warmer atmosphere holds more water and then it
comes down in huge mega storms, sometimes, with 20 inches of rain in two
days. Over land, the heat makes the water evaporate and
causes drought. Ladies – I think we get this!! We’re not scientists and we
don’t need to be!
has shown that women’s participation in government is vital for the passage of
environmental legislation. Professor Kari Norgaard and Professor Richard
York, published a study called, “Gender Equality and State Environmentalism’.
They wanted to know whether women’s participation in government had an impact
on the signing of environmental treaties? Norgaard &
York studied two affluent countries – Norway and Singapore. In 1990, the CSW
estimated that a 30% presence was needed for women to influence legislation. Norway
exceeded women’s participation threshold at 36.4 %. Singapore was very low in
women’s participation – 4.3 %. Norway has signed 13 out
of 16 recent environmental treaties. On the other hand, Singapore has signed
only 4 out 16 recent environmental treaties. They concluded that states with a greater
proportion of women in their national governments are more likely to ratify
environmental treaties than other nations. As we work to save the environment
from ecological collapse, it is imperative that we also work to improve the
status of women.
One of my
heroes in this fight for climate justice, for the future of our children and
grandchildren, has been Dr. James Hansen. He was the Director of NASA’s Goddard
Institute for Space Studies, for thirty years. I believe he will be remembered in
the future, as a hero on par with Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King marched to
save the civil rights of the African American people. Dr. Hansen is working to
save life on Earth as we know it. He withstood the Bush administration’s
attempt’s to re-write NASA’s climate press releases and to cut NASA’s funding. My
artwork, Early Wednesday Morning, here, examines his treatment in the press. This painting is based on Edward
Hopper’s, Early Sunday Morning. Notice
the horizontals in the roof and the verticals in the windows. Hansen testified
25 years ago, in 1988, before the Senate’s Energy Committee to warn our country
that, ”The greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate
now”. In 2008, 20 years later, he went back to Congress, before the House’s Committee
for Energy Independence and Climate Change. This time, he called for the chief
executives of large fossil fuel companies, like Exxon Mobil and Peabody Coal,
to be put on trial for crimes against humanity and nature – for the destruction
of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. How many people here read the Guardian
newspaper? Well, if you weren’t a regular reader of the Guardian newspaper in
England, you wouldn’t have heard about this speech, because it was never
reported in an American newspaper. A few years later, in 2012, Dr. Hansen got
arrested in front of the White House, protesting the Keystone XL pipeline – a
business venture he has called, ‘Game Over for the Planet. Can you imagine
America’s leading climate scientist having to engage in civil disobedience? Here
he is. Do you think the headlines were screaming “America’s Top Climate
Scientist Arrested at the White
House!’ No – his arrest was barely reported in our national press – not in the
New York Times, the LA times, The Wall Street Journal or the Detroit Free
Press. The irony of this artwork is that it reveals the absence of news – not
the presence. I only found the arrest in the Washington
Post – as if it was just a local story. Of course, it’s not a local story. Wasn’t
it a source of national shame for our top climate scientist to get arrested at
the gates of the White House with his supporters in order to be heard? Except that, he still wasn’t heard –
because the press here was silent! The question for all of us is, does a free
press now mean, that the press is free not to report the news?
Check, Checkmate tracked the reporting
of the recent 5th IPCC – the 5th Assesssment of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The terms check and
checkmate come from the game of chess. The point of the game is to capture the king. When the king is about to
be trapped, you warn him by calling out, check. When the king can no longer escape,
he is in checkmate and the game is over. This title was chosen, because the
climate deniers in this country, were put in check by this report, written by
hundreds of scientists all over the world, whose research confirmed the human
responsibility for global warming. The report stated that climate change was unequivocably caused by humans and that we only have a twenty five year window to lower emissions before hitting an
irreversible threshold. American newspapers showed a partisan bias in reporting
the 5th Assessment. The NY Times and the LA Times covered the report
on P. 1. The WSJ p. 9 and the Dallas Morning News, p. 15. The handcuffs in the upper
left hand corner refer to the crime of ecocide. The kangaroo at the bottom symbolizes Rupert
Murdoch’s media empire, since he is Australian. He is the CEO of Fox News and
the NY Post. His NY Post has never, ever, reported any of the IPCC climate
reports. If this isn’t news suppression, I don’t know what is. This newspaper
has the 7th largest daily distribution in the US. It is worth noting
that up until last year, Bloomberg reported that the Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal owned 7% of
the stock in Murdoch’s company, News Corp, owner of the NY Post. Bin Talal currently owns 4.9 % of the stock in 21st Century Fox, which produces Fox News. Conversely, Forbes and Arab News reported
that Murdoch owns 19% of Rotana, the prince’s
entertainment company in Saudi Arabia. They clearly have a business
partnership. When the major source of funding in Saudi Arabia is from oil and
gas interests – is it
farfetched to think that there may be an influence on the coverage of climate
news? We have to infer that there might be a possible connection. Fox News is
known for rampant climate denial. According to a 2014 study, by the Union of
Concerned Scientists, 70 % of the climate news on Fox is misleading. Unfortunately,
according to a 2015 poll conducted by St. Leo University, more US adults
believe Fox News is a reliable source of information about climate change, than
President Obama. The American
public is being misled by a news organization that promotes itself as fair and
balanced, which is untrue.
the phrase “Inverse Propaganda” at Princeton’s Bernstein Gallery, in an
artist’s talk I gave there, three years ago. “Inverse Propaganda”, is the
absence or withholding of information, vital to being an informed citizen; in
this case, the non-reporting of the 5th Assessment, by Murdoch’s
paper – although this scientific study was reported by media around the world.
Murdoch is therefore complicit in confusing the public, through an absence of
reporting, about a climate crisis, described in this UN Assessment as a
our men have failed Mother Earth. Let us band together to save it. Please join
your local environmental group, or join branch of 350.org, which is
international, to work towards a world with clean energy. It
is our generation that has been called to this task. It will be our generation
that makes a difference in these perilous times. Let me close by repeating the
famous words of Yeb Sano, former climate negotiator
from the Phillipines. “If not us, then who? If not
now, then when? If not here, then where?
Truth or Dare
M. Annenberg Named One of Origin Magazine’s Top 100 Creatives
Speaks at Flomenhaft Gallery- April 22, 2015
This is the magazine article that named our Marcia Annenberg one of the 100 top creators. And she – I saw her work at a mixed show of artists, and I fell in love with it immediately. I thought she’s got to be in my gallery.And she answers questions and makes observations in her art that no one else does.
And that’s why she’s called one of the top 100 creators. She’s going to tell you more about what she does and why she does it, and then there’s going to be questions. I have many questions for her, but I’m going to save it for after her talk. So now I want to introduce you to this absolutely wonderful artist, and wonderful lady: Marcia.
Thank you so much everyone for coming. I’m so thrilled to see you all. And you should know that Elly Flomenhaft is an extraordinary person, because there are very, very few gallerists in New York City, or out in America, who would even think of broaching topics like global warming, or the media.
And she’s so courageous, and she has such integrity. And I feel so blessed, and lucky to have met her, and to be a part of her world. So let’s give it up for Elly..
So our topic today is the media. What don’t we know, and why don’t we know it? And I want to start talking about my painting Black Gold. It was done right after 9/11. And if you look at just the art of the painting, it was actually done before I studied the geopolitics of Central Asia.
It was just a gut feeling. The bottom layer of the painting is done in a style called abstract expressionist, like Pollack. The Twin Towers are done as hard edge painting. The red area on the bottom is like color field painting. The maroon in the middle is pop art style. And what you’re left with in the middle has a conceptual edge to it. It’s an oil rig – an offshore oil rig. Now why is that part of the 9/11 story? And that’s the question. Why it came up to my mind, because if you remember back then – I think we all remember that day.
President Bush kept repeating over, and over, and over, and over that Bin Laden hates democracy. These people hate democracy; they hate our life. And I thought like, well, that doesn’t sound true. I mean, what’s the real story? What’s going on? How much could they hate democracy to want to put planes in the World Trade Center? And the actual frustration was you couldn’t read anything anywhere about this movement called Al-Qaeda.
You couldn’t see their videos. You couldn’t get the texts of his speeches. It was just impossible. But anyway, I did this painting, and I just had that gut feeling that resources had something to do with the whole situation.
And the – I did the study for this painting, is now in the Library of Congress. There’s this gallery that is defunct now, called Exit Art, and they did an exhibit called “Reactions”. It was an open call.
Anyone who wanted to could participate, and exhibit. And I sent them the study of this painting, and you know, as I learned more about Central Asia the painting became worth more, and more to me, because – Well, just to begin from the beginning – I sent away to buy a book on Amazon, for Osama Bin Laden’s speeches, because I just had to know what he was saying. And, in 1996, “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places”.
He was enraged that our infidel forces had come into Saudi Arabia, to protect Saudi Arabia against Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein had gone into Kuwait, and they were afraid he would go into Saudi Arabia. So we stationed our troops in Saudi Arabia for many years. And this infuriated Osama Bin Laden to the point of rage. And he talks about that in 1996. In 1998, he published something called “Jihad against Christians and Jews”.
He hated Israel. He hated the Jews and Christians working to keep – He fantasized that Jews and Christians would try to destroy Muslims. And he calls on Muslims, in this document, to kill Americans. And the thought I had was like, well a lot of Muslims are Americans. Does he want Muslims to kill Muslims in America, as well as Christians and Jews? I mean, that’s when you’re dealing with someone who’s a fanatic of hatred. It colors their whole world view. The document that was really important to me, was a 2002 “Letter to America”. It was released on the internet. And he blames America for the low price of oil. Now before the year 2000, oil was under $20 a barrel, and he blamed America for stealing the wealth of Saudi Arabia. He says, “You steal our wealth, and oil at paltry prices because of your internal influence, and military threats. This theft is indeed the biggest theft ever witnessed by mankind in the history of the world.”
Now, it’s a very odd statement, because oil is a commodity. And commodities are traded on the world market. It’s a fungible commodity because the price of oil depends on supply and demand. So the feeling I had was like, why is he blaming America and he’s not blaming OPEC? I mean certainly OPEC has as much influence on the price of oil as American demand, or Saudi supply. So this is a man filled with hatred, and who’s world view is formed by this hatred, whether or not it’s accurate or not. So after reading all this stuff I realized, it wasn’t really democracy he was against.
Although that is what we were told. That’s what the American people understood. He is against our military presence in the Gulf States. He’s against our alliance with Israel. He’s against the low price of oil, which he blames on us. But what really got me after reading is that, why can’t the American people know the truth? Why can’t the American people have a discussion about these ideas, and accept or reject them? Why do we have to be treated like 4th graders?
To be told a very, very simple idea. Oh, these people hate democracy, and that’s why they did this. They hate us, and we need to get them. It’s so simplistic that it’s just mind-boggling. And it shows a contempt really for the intelligence of the average American, because aren’t we capable of reading on our own and coming to our own conclusions without having this information suppressed?
I think it’s really a terrible thing. And the media goes along with this. Is anyone here familiar with the country Turkmenistan? Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan has the fourth largest supply of natural gas in the world. Why is that important? It’s important because the Taliban were on the verge of signing a contract with an American company called Unocal in 1997. Unocal was going to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan.
That was almost a done deal. As a matter of fact, people don’t know that a group from the Taliban actually visited Texas. In 1997, George Bush was governor, and they went to visit the home of the vice-president of Unocal. His name is Martin Miller, and they were about to sign a deal. A very lucrative deal. About this time, unfortunately, Osama Bin Laden decided to attack our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, 1998.
I wanted to think like, why in the world would the Taliban harbor Osama Bin Laden, if this violent person was out trying to destroy our embassies and these relations. Why would they even do that? Like they’re on the verge of signing a contract with this huge oil deal, and they take Osama Bin Laden to give him safe refuge. I mean, in the short term Bin Laden gave them a lot of money for weapons and armaments, but in the long term it was really against their interests to do this. And, I was thinking that the Taliban have this code, they are Pashtuns, called Nanawatai. What is Nanawatai?
It’s where a host takes in a visitor. Must be willing to die for the sake of someone to whom they’ve given refuge. Even if it means they will also be destroyed. It’s not something we’re familiar with, but it’s a code of honor among the Pashtun people. So I thought like, isn’t that amazing? If they hadn’t taken him in, very likely this deal would’ve gone through and we would have a very different Afghanistan today than the one that we have. To bring us up to date Unocal was acquired by Chevron in 2005.
And a new entity called the Trans Afghan Pipeline Initiative, which involves Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, will run a pipeline in the near future from the gas fields of Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to India. So actually pipe – we are in favor of this. Pipelines have a very strategic importance in our foreign policy. But you know, this is all really under, under the radar. But this is something I think people should know about. The American artist Jack Levine once said, some thing’s need to be said. And a lot that has gone on since 9/11 has been really suppressed. It’s one of those things that’s really bothered me was the battle, for Tora Bora. I don’t know how many of you followed the Battle of Tora Bora, but when we invaded Afghanistan Osama Bin Laden took a group of 2,000 followers there.
There were just 2,000 followers left with him in the hills of Tora Bora. And General Tommy Franks and Donald Rumsfeld sent in a team of 75 Special Forces to capture him. There was a riveting account of this battle by Peter Bergen, who was on the scene in Afghanistan. And it’s so amazing because it would’ve been – If they’d sent in more soldiers it would’ve been so easy to surround this area.
And there’s only one road, there’s one road that leads from, Afghanistan into Pakistan. There’s one road. And the question is, why in the world didn’t we blockade that road? There was no other way to get to Pakistan, because the mountains were so hilly. Why didn’t we blockade that road? The military strategy leaves one completely befuddled. How did they make these decisions?
They sent in 75 special operations soldiers, and not to blockade the exit into or out of the country. And of course, he escaped. Bin Laden escaped, and the rest is history. But it’s like military strategy 101. I mean, I think any one of us, if we were given the problem of capturing this person could’ve done a better job than Don Rumsfeld, because it’s – What, was he trying to save money? What – What was going on there?
Was it possible that they were already focused on their next war, and didn’t want to divert men and materials? And this brings me to the next piece of misinformation, foisted on an unsuspecting public, namely the allegation that Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden had some kind of pact to join forces.
It’s just preposterous to think that a secular socialist like Saddam, and a longtime member of the Baath party whose slogan is “Unity, Liberty, and Socialism”, would have anything to do with Bin Laden, who hated communists, socialists, civil law, and any society not ruled by Sharia Law. But we live in an information vacuum. Our 80 seconds of news around the world don’t prepare us for the nuances and complexities of today’s world.
President Bush was banking on our ignorance to manipulate our fear of the unknown. We believed the allegations, because we know nothing about the people of Central Asia or the Middle East.
Not only is the public ignorant, how much did the Congress know about the ethnic makeup of Iraq before the invasion? There was a fascinating editorial in 2006, in the New York Times by a man named Jeff Stein. It was called “Can you tell Sunni from Shi’ite?” He actually went around Congress, polling Congressman and then he went to the directors of the FBI and he asked them to describe to him – what is the difference between a Sunni and a Shi’ite? And most of them couldn’t do it.
This is 2006, this is five years after 9/11. How little was understood about Iraq before we decided to invade? We live in an infotainment vacuum and the disintegration of another country should not have undertaken in ignorance. Does greed know no bounds? It’s important to know, under Saddam, the oil industry was nationalized; under the current government, it is open to exploration by international companies. What has become of the life of the Iraqi people? It’s seized by ISIS now, and other terrorist groups. What kind of decision was made in those days? And was the decision made out of knowledge or out of ignorance?
Speaking about Central Asia, how much do we know about that part of the world? We have been at war for ten or more years. Can anybody name one fact about one of the people who lives there? When was the last time when you saw a public interest documentary about Central Asia, since we’ve been at war for over ten years? I can vividly remember the first time I saw a documentary about Afghanistan. It was on the Al-Jazeera network.
Two years ago, it was a story about the reconstruction of a music school. The first, National institute of Music, a doctor Ahmed Sarmast recruited street children and orphans, to teach them both classical music and traditional Afghan music. He was in Kabul, he was very celebratory because the Taliban had banned music from 1996 to 2001.
Has anyone else in this room seen a program about the life of the people of Afghanistan? Anyone? Anywhere?
Very few. Very few.
If American broadcast media aren’t filling us in with the rest of the world, how about our educational system? In 2004, I was still teaching art in the public schools. I was horrified when militants attacked a school in Beslan, Russia, killing hundreds of school children. I remember asking one of my students if they discussed the event in their history classes and they said, “No, it’s not part of the curriculum.” My students sent teddy bear drawings and actual teddy bears to Beslan to show these kids solidarity.
Don’t you think it’s time that our kids have some understanding of the contemporary world before they leave Middle School or High School? Shouldn’t the curriculum of today’s students include contemporary current events as well as World History and American History? How can we stop this decline into an American bubble of mostly local news and Hollywood e-news, where kids know about the lives of movie stars and know nothing about the lives of people around the world?
This vacuum has been created by our press and our educational system and that leaves us with leaders who have a very superficial understanding of foreign affairs. What don’t we know? And why don’t we know it? We fell for very easy answers in Afghanistan and Iraq. What will be the next crisis? Will we be any better informed?
We’ll move on to the next painting.
Dusk, Railroad, it’s a painting about loss. It’s a painting about the loss of our constitution. It was influenced by a painting by Edward Hopper, Railroad Sunset. It has an almost identical composition, except for the color and the addition of a watchtower from Delta. When we think of America, the American landscape, we think of Edward Hopper. The reason why I used his composition as a structure is that the America we grew up with, the American ideal – has been lost in the past 10 years. What has it done to the idea of America, when we hold people indefinitely without a trial?
The National Defense Authorization Act 2012, which was passed by Congress, legalized the arrest of terrorists and suspects by the military, to be held indefinitely. Now why should the military arrest people who are criminals? We have a police force. Police arrest criminals. Why has the Army have to get involved? But what’s more disturbing about this law, isn’t that it was signed.
What’s disturbing, is that it wasn’t reported that it was signed. That’s what is really disturbing. I was waiting, and waiting to see if Obama would sign this law and I found out a week later that he signed it, on the internet. So I sent away for dozens of newspapers to find an article. One article! One article, and I found one article [chuckle] in the Dallas Morning News.
What does that mean? Why didn’t we find out about this? When did it become acceptable to the American people to have the military arrest criminals and hold them indefinitely without a trial? In 2013, the Feinstein Lee amendment, which would have explicitly restored trial by jury, was stricken from the new NDAA 2013 Bill. Why is that? What is happening to our constitution? As our constitutional protections slip away, and that’s the point of this painting, we need to heed the warnings of people like William Binney.
You’ve all heard about Edward Snowden. How many people know about Binney? He proceeded Edward Snowden. William Binney tried to warn the American people years ago of their losing the protection of the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure. He was the head of Foreign Signals Intelligence for the NSA for thirty years. Right before 9/11, he devised a method of analyzing signals from the internet, foreign internet traffic, to highlight dangerous people through a program called “Thin Thread”. I love the names of these programs, they’re really like wild.
This program was dismantled by the head of NSA, Michael Hayden, who favored a much more expensive program called “Trailblazer”. “Thin Thread” cost 3 million dollars to set up. “Trailblazer” cost 4 billion dollars to set up. “Trailblazer” didn’t even work. Ultimately, it was discarded. And William Binney resigned in 2002, because he found out that the program he set up, “Thin Thread” to analyze foreign intelligence was now going to turn against the American people, all the American people, criminalizing our entire population. So he tried to warn a lot of people about the illegality of what NSA was doing. He went to Diane Roark, a legislative aide on the House Intelligence Committee. He filed a secret complaint with the Pentagon’s Inspector General. He went to the Department of Defense Inspector General and all to no avail. He got, he got nowhere.
And in February 2007, his house was raided at gunpoint and so was the house of Diane Roark. They took away his computers and all his papers and the question I have is, if someone like William Binney who’s so, so concerned about our constitution- what is legal in terms of surveillance. When someone like him is raided at gunpoint, where does it leave the rest of us? I feel that he is a patriot. I feel he deserves the presidential Medal of Freedom and instead he’s being accosted at gunpoint by the FBI and taken in like a common criminal. There’s something wrong here. There’s something wrong here and it really behooves us to find out what it is.
I’m sure Edward Snowden realized that going through channels in this case, wasn’t going to have the end result of alerting the American people to overwhelming surveillance; our email, phone conversations, Google searches, Skype calls, Facebook entries.
The Fisa Court, a secret court in Washington, set up to oversee the intelligence community, allows warrantless surveillance of our metadata since the passage of the Protect America Act of 2007. Where does that leave us?
The advantage of William Binney’s system ‘Thin Thread”, is that he encrypted the personal data of the American people. Will apathy get the better of us, so some people say, “I’m innocent. Who cares? I haven’t done anything wrong? What difference does it make?” But where will this lead in five years or in ten years? Already our understanding of the term ‘terrorism’ is getting broader and broader. Animal rights’ activists who film animal abuse are considered criminal in Iowa, Utah, and Missouri.
Last week, in Pasadena, California, a young woman named Jasmine Richards, an organizer for a higher rate wage of 15 dollars an hour, in Black Lives Matter, was arrested and charged with domestic terrorism: $90,000 dollar bail. Isn’t that what’s wrong. Isn’t that the danger of the slippage – with that one thing goes and another thing goes and another thing goes and suddenly you know, people demonstrating for one thing or another, – are becoming criminalized?
As the time goes on, when the threat of international terrorism dissipates, the protection of lawful dissent in this country will erode. Lawful dissent. Did anyone else notice military tanks in Ferguson, Missouri? Military tanks were on the street of Ferguson, after the death of, the shooting of a black man by the police. What are military tanks doing on the streets of America during a civil dispute? That wasn’t a mirage. Let’s hope it’s not the beginning of a national nightmare. Martin Luther King had a dream, a dream of what America can be. Let’s all work together to keep the dream alive. Thank you so much for coming.
Now you know why I wanted to have this wonderful woman in this gallery. Because I learned so much more.
One-person exhibit, entitled, News/ Not News, April 28 – June 18, 2010 at Boricua College, New York, New York.
Bunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse spoke on “Ethics and the Whistleblower” in conjunction with artist Marcia Annenberg’s lecture and exhibition “News/Not News” at Boricua College in New York City on May 19, 2010.
Thank you to Jose Hernandez for giving me the opportunity to exhibit in this beautiful space. He’s recovering from surgery today and I wish him well.
Thank you to family, friends and faculty for coming to support the exhibit.
Thank you to my honored guest, Bunnatine Greenhouse, a woman I’ve looked up to for many years, who is a genuine American hero, who put her country first and her own self-interest second. A woman who had the inner strength to stand up to Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld when asked to do something unethical. Bunny, I don’t know where you got your courage from. I’m thrilled that you are here. When we get to her portrait across the room, she will have a chance to say hello prior to her presentation.
I am exhibiting my work because I ‘m worried about America as I’m sure many of you are, too. I’m afraid that America is changing and I can’t do anything to stop it. I’m afraid that America is becoming a place that I no longer recognize. I’m afraid that our children will grow up knowing a different America than the one we were raised in. I remember Walter Cronkite and I remember that the news hour was something really really important in my house. Why is the news disappearing from network television? – because corporations own the TV networks and it’s not profitable to cover news, so American news bureaus are closing all over the world.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and when the Germans marched into Poland, the American people knew who the enemy was.
For the first time in American history we are fighting an enemy most people know nothing about, namely Al-Queda. Who are these people? What do they want? Why do they hate us? Why don’t we know anything about these people? How many of them are there? How are they able to attract new adherents? Where is the news? We have soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan and we have no idea on a day to day basis how the war is going. What town are our soldiers in? How are the civilians doing? Are we winning or losing? Why don’t we know? Where is the news? According to the Pew Research Center only 60 % of the American people get their news from the computer. That means that 40% of the American people still get their news from television –which mostly covers local news. Where is this leading us? What is going to happen to America with an uniformed public?
I want to start my art talk with a work called ”Oh Say, Can You See?” – the opening lines of our national anthem. You see a TV set, a veil and an article. It would not be an overstatement to say that this article changed my life. It was written by David Barstow. It won a Pulitzer prize although noone knew about it because it wasn’t reported on network news. I used to assume that the generals who spoke about the war were giving objective, neutral opinions. After reading the article I realized that wasn’t the case. The article states that retired generals, were given talking points about the Iraq War from the Pentagon. Further, that they also worked as consultants to military companies and they profited financially from the war and from access to the Pentagon. .
Is there anything wrong with becoming a consultant
after you retire? Not at all – I’m a consultant myself..the difference is, I’m not a general that is sending our young people into war..
The question I want to ask all of you is.. is it ok that our generals become consultants for weapons manufacturers and then promote war on television? What do you say? I would really like to know..
The story gets more complicated…
Furthermore, retired General Barry Mc Caffrey is
a military analyst for NBC. NBC is owned by GE. GE not only makes refrigerators, they also manufacture missiles and engines for war planes… The second question is: … Is it OK for a company that makes missiles to also own TV stations? Or is there a conflict of interest? What does the audience feel about that?
Gen Eisenhower warned about a military –industrial complex in 1961. He could not have imagined a media-military-industrial complex.
What Did You Learn In School Today? Should really be called what didn’t you learn in school today? The painting is brightly colored with Wonder Bread dots
a pink film strip, Shirley Temple and Pluto. But underneath the happy surface is a sinister message –
Agent Orange and Depleted Uranium. The American people had no idea that the herbicide Agent Orange contained the poisin dioxin. Dioxin seeped into the soil and the groundwater of South Vietnam and caused 1/2 million birth defects. Depleted Uranium was used in the Gulf War as a tank-buster, which released radioactive particles into the air. Both our soldiers and the Iraqis are suffering from the after-effect of these weapons. The doll symbolizes the generations of victims that are suffering long after the war has stopped.
Is it OK for America to use weapons that persist in the environment long after the war is over?
Home On The Range is a spoof on Grant Wood’s famous “American Gothic”. Grant shows an iconic American farm couple from the Midwest. I updated this image to show a couple of couch potatoes, in their reclining chairs, focused on the TV with a map of America in the background –their awareness of the world extends only to our borders.
Yankee Doodle Went To Town
This is a Postmodern painting because it is based on an earlier work by Tom Wesselman called “Still Life No.28”. I appropriated his composition in order to make a statement about how America has changed since he painted the picture. Wesselman’s picture reflects an America filled with the fruits of Post-War affluence. In my picture, Lincoln is replaced by a picture of oil-men and the tablecloth is imprinted with the name of Halliburton.
Portrait of Two Women
This painting take us to our honored guest. She is of course much more beautiful that her painting. I based the composition on a painting by German artist, Gerhard Richter, called Portrait of A Young Woman. It is
a portrait of a young woman named Ulrike Meinhof who was a founding member of the Baader-Meinhof gang, also known as the Red Army Faction – a violent group who tried to overthrow the German government of the 60’s and 70’s through the use of violence. I used
Richter’s composition to highlight the treatment of Bunnatine Greenhouse and Christine Axsmith (who worked for BAE Systems – waterboarding is torture –on personal blog –
They were fired and demoted for upholding the highest moral standards – instead of being recognized and applauded. They are heroes being treated like criminals, instead of criminals being treated like heroes.
Days At the Races
This painting focuses on Katrina. The left side represents the people of the ninth ward. The right side represents Michael Brown, who was the head of FEMA at the time of the hurricane. He was a lawyer with no experience in emergency management. However, he did serve as a commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Assoc. I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose the difference in their backgrounds..
Great American News
This painting tries to show that news and entertainment industry have merged. Theatrical masks border the smiling face of a reporter. The bottom of the painting selects elements from James Rosenquist “F-111”. His
painting done during the 1960’s links elements of militarism and consumerism.
I came across this story on the BBc web-site and at first I thought it was some kind of joke. A thirteen year old girl,in Somalia, named Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was raped on the way to visit her grandmother. Her parents reported the crime to the police. Unfortunately, the Al-Shabab. a fundamentalist Islamic group was in charge of her town. So they arrested Aisha and took her to a stadium and stoned her to death for the crime of having sex before marriage.
Helen of Troy
Helen of Troy simply states that we become accustomed to the idea of beauty because of what we are exposed to seeing every day. American magazines and fashion promote nudity and the Muslim world promotes modest dress.
The Bobbitt affair took place in 1993 at the height of the Bosnian conflict. It was a marital dispute that became violent. The TV networks covered this sensational story for weeks – while ethnic cleansing and murder was occurring in Europe. If it weren’t for BBC
coverage, I never would have known about the events in Europe.
White House/ Your House
President Clinton’s affair with his intern, Monika Lewinsky, in 1988, dominated the news for weeks –it is interesting to note that in 1988, also, Bin Laden formed a coalition called the Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders. Did you hear about it? There was a fatwa printed in a London newspaper against Americans . Did you hear about it? How would our lives have been changed if someone had heard about it and took it seriously?
This painting is a virtual copy of an iconic Hopper painting called Railroad, Sunset. Hopper’s setting is the lonely expanse of a railroad somewhere in the West at sunset. This painting inserts an image of a watchtower from Camp Delta, Guantanamo. The painting asks the question – with unlimited detention of the enemy , do we violate the Geneva Conventions/ our Bill of rights? How does this change our perceptions and the perceptions of the world as to what America is becoming?
This is a Conceptual painting because the meaning takes place in the mind. The four images alone have to be integrated. It pertains to nuclear proliferation – we are essentially one button away from blowing up the world.
This work is made of found objects. It is a take-off on Duchamp’s “Urinal”. The urinal was displayed in 1917 as a protest against the mass slaughter of World War I. This piece protests the collusion of military and media companies who influence the news.
Pies for Sale
A program called Worldfocus carried this story on PBS.
There is so much hunger in Haiti, that the mothers make cookies made of soil, sugar and oil. I was thinking of the American obsession with conspicuous consumption.
Our way of life depends on the import of oil. We export entertainment to the world. The image of little rectangles around the border symbolize the film industry.
This is the end of the art talk. I think that we the people have to demand better news. We have to try to stay informed even though it means searching out news that isn’t covered in mainstream media. I’ll be happy to answer any questions after “Bunny’s talk”. Thank you very much for coming.