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The UNDERGROUND PRESS in

GRAND RAPIDS : The Root by Ian Post

In November 1971, roughly 10 concerned college students and working class people began to question the availability of news in the Grand Rapids area. These individuals found it difficult to discern rumors from facts in television news and the dominant newspaper, the Grand Rapids Press.

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n order to fill the media gap, an independent biweekly publication entitled The Root was created. The Root’s founders were convinced that citizens would act sincerely and positively if they knew about the conditions of welfare, the confusion in schools, and the misuse of law. The publication was not the first of its kind, though. Underground newspapers exploded across the nation following the New Left youth countercultural movement of the 1960s. As a community media source targeting the countercultural audience, The Root reflected the liberal, anti-government ideologies and themes that surfaced throughout the national underground press movement. Grand Rapids, among other West Michigan cities, has traditionally been considered politically conservative, or “right-wing.” The Dutch Calvinist tradition has contributed to the social and political landscape of

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the region. Despite the general conservatism, Grand Rapids was not exempt from the effects of the 1960s liberal countercultural movement. Newspapers that were not sanctioned through schools or existing publications began to appear in Grand Rapids during the early 1970s. Other West Michigan underground newspapers included Grand Valley State College’s Babylon Free Press, The Muskegon Free Press, The Salt, and Sound of the Watchman’s Trumpet. These newspapers reached a common audience, covered similar stories, and were created to serve the purpose of providing news that mainstream media overlooked. The purpose that The Root, as well as the other underground newspapers, served was to provide the Greater Grand Rapids area with information and perspectives not readily available through other local media. The news that traditional sources of media failed to report was considered


- The Root -

valuable information for increasing for a small fee in April 1971. Instead of public awareness. In order to open- door-to-door delivery, the newspaper ly express their opinions, The Root was sold in local retail stores. In nearstaff maintained a commitment to the ly every issue, retail outlets where the First Amendment. Their commitment newspaper could be found were listto the First Amendment provided the ed. Record stores, bookstores, head foundation for their editorial policy. shops, cigar stores, the Y.W.C.A., and The publication’s editors believed that many other local stores carried curfree speech was essential to an open rent issues of the newspaper. Selling and democratic community, a belief the publication proved difficult for that underground newspapers nation- The Root, which forced them to sell, or wide also held. The Root aimed to “… “hawk” as it was commonly called, on educate public opinion towards an af- the street in the same fashion as their firmation of human liberation, and contemporary underground newspatowards action against those forces per providers. Suppression and harassment accompanied the which are oppressive and The most common dehumanizing.” This state- suppression of The street sale of underground ment grounded the un- Root targeted their newspapers, though, makderground newspaper in a method and areas of ing the distribution process even more difficult. distribution countercultural effort that T he most common supopposed “the establishment,” middle-class working values, pression of The Root targeted their and the political conservatism Rich- method and areas of distribution. In ard Nixon represented. Underground the December 9-23 issue, an article tinewspapers implicitly, and oftentimes tled “Root Harassment” explained the explicitly, envisioned a social revo- troubles they confronted while dislution on the horizon. The only thing tributing the paper. Security guards that needed to be done was to spread at Roger’s, Eastbrook, and Woodland malls chased away the hawkers, while the word. Underground newspapers in North Kent Mall security looked the the late 1960s and early 1970s direct- other way. They claimed that distribly competed with existing news sourc- uting outside of bars on busy nights es that already had a firm customer proved most successful. Although The base. Although underground news- Root successfully distributed its newspapers had a vastly different audi- papers on the streets, hawkers were ence from existing newspapers, they continually cited for trivial civil inwere both selling the news to citizens fractions like panhandling and jayof Grand Rapids. The Root was unable walking. According to U.S. law, every to employ neighborhood delivery per- person has the right to distribute litersons, but began to offer door delivery ature on public property. Despite what the law stated, high school students

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faced intimidation, some even receiving suspensions from their school, for selling the underground newspaper. The sixth issue described the distribution status in various communities. Both the community of Caledonia and Woodland Mall considered The Root a “commie paper” and consequently prohibited the newspaper’s sale. Although there was nothing illegal about it, some people thought that the newspaper was too subversive and countercultural for their community. The nation’s worst harassment of underground newspapers occurred in the South where the publications faced legal and illegal suppression. The opposition that The Root faced while selling their newspaper on the street was minimal in proportion to the harassment of other underground newspapers. A group of Emory University activists began working on Atlanta’s own underground newspaper in 1968 titled The Great Speckled Bird, commonly referred to as The Bird, intended “to bitch and badge, carp and cry, and perhaps give Atlanta… a bit of honest and interesting and, we trust, even readable journalism.” Although their mission to provide such a newspaper was bold, their intent was to solidify a ‘hip’ culture in the predominately conservative Georgia. Race relations in the South were tense as the Civil Rights movement threatened the white power structure, and those who supported the movement were apart of the minority. Suppression of The Bird, which supported 4 THE LAKER SENTINEL

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liberal social and political ideologies, was performed both legally and illegally. Street sellers, similar to The Root’s newspaper distributors, were frequently arrested for trivial civil infractions such as jaywalking and panhandling. The police also rejected the legitimacy of The Bird’s press badges, which limited their journalistic practices. In 1969, the First Amendment right to freedom of the press protected The Bird in a lengthy legal battle in federal court that claimed the newspaper’s content was obscene. The worst harassment of The Bird came on the morning of May 6, 1972 when their newly purchased headquarters was firebombed with a Molotov cocktail. Although the First Amendment legally protected underground newspapers, the fact that they voiced the opinions of “left-wing” radicals and revolutionaries forced them underground to avoid conservative extremists. Reporting news that many Americans considered subversive or obscene may have forced the newspapers underground, but cooperative services were founded to ensure that the news they found important was disseminated. A loose confederation of underground newspapers formed the Underground Press Syndicate in 1966. The UPS worked to create a network of underground newspapers that could communicate with each other nationwide. Opinions and articles were shared in order to expand the journalistic movement and solidify connections within the counterculture. The


- The Root -

Root published at least one article that underground newspaper, The Fifth Esthe UPS distributed concerning the tate, began in 1965 and is now considRock Liberation Front’s occupation ered the oldest continually publishing, of the Rolling Stone’s magazine offic- English language, North American anes. In the book Smoking Typewriters, archist paper in American history. An John McMillian discusses how, simi- FBI report claimed, “The Fifth Estate lar to the UPS, former members of the supports the cause of revolution evNew Left’s formal organization, the erywhere.” FBI investigations and inStudent Democratic Society, created filtrations into the activity of underthe Liberation News Service in 1967. ground newspapers were not only The LNS served as a radical Associated conducted on The Fifth Estate, but Press distributing twice-weekly pack- on underground newspapers nationets of news regarding domestic pro- wide. West of Detroit, a few students tests, radical activiat Michigan State Univerty, and Third World sity found that the schoolFBI investigations guerrilla struggles. sanctioned State News was and infiltrations into the These packets, sent to merely a promotional outactivity of underground more than 300 pub- newspapers were not only let for the university. Conconducted on The Fifth lications nationwide, sequently, they formed The Estate , but on underground included photos, carPaper in 1965 and started newspapers nationwide toons, articles and edan underground newspaitorials with the purper tradition in the state’s pose of centralizing the underground capitol. After The Paper discontinpress. Scattered throughout The Root ued in 1969, multiple Lansing newswere, in particular, political cartoons papers sprung up to bring news to the that the LNS distributed. Through co- university and city’s counterculture. operative services like the UPS and The most notable of these new unLNS, as well as smaller organizations derground newspapers was Joint Issuch as the High School Independent sue, which saw itself as a tool in the Press Service, the New Left movement struggle for a collective community. was able to centralize its voice in un- Ken Wachsberger says in his article derground newspapers. However, the A Tradition Continues, “We were all national distribution of LNS packets young middle-class people who were did not compromise the importance becoming aware of our own oppresunderground newspapers played in sion and of the need for our own revtheir specific region. olution.” Joint Issue became the voice Grand Rapids was not the only of Lansing’s underground youth, carcity in Michigan with an underground rying on the tradition that The Papress that reflected the nationwide per began well into the 1970s. The ismovement. Detroit’s most significant sues these newspapers discussed were

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countercultural at the time, but are now the values and concerns found common today. Underground newspapers of the late 1960s and early 1970s covered specific recurring topics, perhaps unknowingly. These recurring topics formed a singular theme to help convey their liberal ideologies. As discussed in “An Examination of Latent Threads and Themes in The Catalyst,” similar themes could be found in Lubbock, Texas’s underground newspaper The Catalyst. The major themes were societal values and their perception of a corrupt government, with coverage focusing primarily on the Vietnam War, government and politics, and civil rights and race relations. Despite their focus on news in Grand Rapids, the concerns and values addressed in The Root were consistent with those covered in underground newspapers across the nation. The four main topics that The Root reported were: international and national news; students, youth culture and new lifestyles; poor and minority groups; and local domestic items. International news centered on Third World struggles and U.S. foreign relations. The focus of international news was the criticism of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The war was generally considered capitalistic imperialism that the Establishment disguised with the threat of communism spreading to America. National news covered the anti-government activities and trials of political prisoners 6 THE LAKER SENTINEL

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or anti-war protestors who had been arrested. Many of the articles attacked the established government with open dissent, often using sarcasm to represent their frustration. The people who operated underground newspapers felt that their voice was not being heard. No matter how anti-government the articles were, The Root did not advocate anarchy as a solution to America’s political problems. The student and youth culture news appeared in nearly every issue, with a special section devoted to local high school and university events. One article in 1971 covered a student strike at Grand Valley, where roughly 100 students dispersed themselves across campus and went into each classroom to rally other students and professors. The Root’s objective to strengthen the Grand Rapids community was especially seen in their coverage of poor and minority groups. Home renter and prisoner’s rights were published in order to thwart discriminatory practices from occurring in the area. The Root provided an outlet for the opinions and events of the Latino and African-American communities that were not available in mainstream media outlets. Their belief in an open and democratic society led them to place an importance on the proletariat peoples of Grand Rapids who were not offered a voice in the Press or television news. The coverage of poor and minority groups also existed within the fourth primary focus of local domestic items. Community gatherings


- The Root -

that supported peaceful race relations and public awareness were promoted in The Root. A special section in The Root entitled “What’s In The Bag” aimed to make the public aware of harmful drugs with a bulletin notifying readers of harmful drugs being distributed in the area. The user’s choice to use drugs, free from government prohibition, was a recurring perspective that appeared in many articles. The Root constructed a countercultural ideology that reflected the radical liberal beliefs that the New Left founded through the four main topics it covered. These issues and opinions were believed to strengthen public awareness within the community of Grand Rapids. The final step to achieve community awareness was to get the community involved, but operating an underground newspaper was not easy business. Funding for The Root was almost entirely out of the pockets of those who conducted the operation. The money earned from selling the newspaper was close to breaking even, but a business without profits dies quickly. The Root staff was able to purchase a headquarters at 449 Jefferson Ave. SE, now a concrete cutting facility, to print and produce their underground newspaper. Other underground newspapers, like The Bird, were more unfortunate as regional businesses refused to print the radical publication, which forced them to print out of state. Despite having their own printing press, The Root

frequently asked for donations to help continue publication. In order to ease their troubles with distribution, they also asked for drivers who could deliver issues to retail outlets and subscribers at home. An article in the May 1971 issue outlined the underground newspaper’s operation. Around 30 people were involved in the process with six to 10 individuals who worked on the final layout. An editorial board oversaw the newspaper, but their goal was to maintain a democratic and decentralized process. The belief in a purely democratic society was important to the 1960s liberal counterculture, but informal leadership eventually formed in the organizations that held this belief. The struggle to prevent authoritative leadership was common in the New Left movement and underground newspapers, and even brought some newspapers to an end. It is uncertain why The Root ceased publication, but their frequent request for donations and trouble distributing reveal that the lack of profits caused a great deal of concern for the individuals involved. Independent forms of media in America did not die with underground newspapers of the late 1960s and early 1970s, though. The alternative press boomed with the invention of the Internet, where online publications and blogs have provided an outlet for anyone seeking to express their opinions and promote particular issues they believe are important. ISSUE 2

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FRACTURING MICHIGAN Chemicals, Politics and the Environment by Katie Torkelson

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ichigan is of critical importance in However, released lists show the use of the future of horizontal hydraulic carcinogens and toxins such as formalfracturing, or fracking, due to its abun- dehyde and hydrochloric acid. Operadance of both natural gas and water re- tors are also not required to report or sources. Among those eager to augment test the chemical mixture before injectthe domestic energy industry and envi- ing it into the well. Stephanie Lynn, 24, is a memronmental and public health protection groups, fracking has moved to the cen- ber of Kent County Water Conservation and currently is testing Rockfordter of the energy debate. Currently there are 1,460 Class II, area water for methane and benzene, or “gas and oil related injection” wells, two chemicals associated with fracking. Other residents have operating in Michigan, Companies are not said that they are unable and 12 of these are horirequired to list all of the to more precisely monitor zontal hydraulic fracking chemicals used due to air, land, or water condiwells. That number could protecting industry secrets, tions because they do not be on the rise. Oil and gas but released lists include know for which chemicals lease auctions took place carcinogens and toxins to test. “Most people don’t throughout Michigan in such as formaldehyde and know what to look for. It’s May and October 2012, alhydrochloric acid not publicized and the inlowing 500,000 acres of state land, including game areas and formation is hard to find,” she said public parks, to be used for fracking about the other chemicals. Frack fluid, or flowback, can be exploration. The influx of natural gas companies seeking permits for frack- disposed of by injecting it back into the ing are raising questions about poten- ground after being used. Chemicals extial underground water contamination, cept diesel fuel are exempt from followenvironmental implications and health ing the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act. Instances of water contamination have issues. The components of fracking flu- never been reported in Michigan but id are about 90 percent water, 9 per- environmental groups claim that flowcent sand and 1 percent chemical mix- back or faulty well structure could leak ture. In order to protect industry into underground water sources. Another concern is air pollution secrets, companies are not required to release lists of the chemicals they use. due to gases released from drilling.

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Lynn’s opinion on the natural gas obtained from the wells “has the potential to be worse due to the methane” that is discharged. Methane has been proven to be more potent than carbon dioxide in changing atmospheric and climate conditions; researchers have found methane concentration to be around 17 percent higher around frack wells than normal wells. Insecurity over water is an important factor in the question of horizontal hydraulic fracking, considering the amount needed to inject into the wells is in the millions of gallons. Michigan signed the Great Lakes Compact, a series of agreements promoting fair use of interstate resources, but exempts fracking wells from large water withdrawal limits. Well operators are required, however, to monitor large bodied water levels when drilling nearby and are not allowed to operate near or under any of the Great Lakes. These legal exemptions are often the cause for protest. Ban Michigan Fracking, along with concerned landowners, has appealed to sue the Department of Environmental Quality in Gladwin County after the dismissal of a petition to have frack wells follow the same laws as other injection wells. Ellis Boal, the attorney representing Ban Michigan Fracking, said the case is still pending in the Court of Appeals. Michigan Land Air Water Defense, a Barry County-based organization headed by Steve Losher, has sued

the DNR for the oil and gas leases because they are on state land; MiLAWD believes the leases do not represent the best interest of residents. Governor Rick Snyder has repeatedly stated his support for fracking. His crusade for secure intrastate energy is led by a desire to decrease constituents’ energy costs, which are the highest in the region. In November 2012, Synder praised the management and regulations of natural gas wells. He also stressed the importance of making “protect(tion of) the environment... one of the pillars on which we make our decisions in the future.” Currently, the University of Michigan is conducting a study analyzing the effects of fracking in the state, specifically on the environment and local communities. The comprehensive study will have input from professionals in areas such as economic development, energy and public health. Studies like this are essential for communities and citizens to make their own decisions on fracking. Lynn said, “The ball is rolling, other counties are starting to hold (community) forums... I feel like it is an educational issue.” The conversations, and battles, over fracking will continue in the coming months as Michigan prepares for another state land auction in May, and as energy policies evolve to accommodate questions about the changing climate and international energy disputes. ISSUE 2

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MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ISLAM HATE CRIMES on the rise by Katie Nix

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n January 11, Zero Dark Thirty, a movie about the Navy Seals’ manhunt for Osama Bin Laden was released to the American public. Hours later, social networking sites were flooded with comments such as “If you’re a woman you need to see this film. If you’re an American you need to see this film. If you’re Muslim, not so much” and “Zero Dark Thirty makes me hate Muslims.” A movie surrounding the sensitive topic of the United States Army’s

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decade-long involvement in the Middle East was bound to generate some social commentary concerning the relationship between the Middle East and the United States. However, the commentary produced in the wake of Zero Dark Thirty contained no basis in reality and startled Arab-Americans by how little their fellow countrymen understood their culture. Major generalizations have been made between the terror of 9/11 and


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the religion of Islam, or simply peo- a Christian based simply on a person’s ple who look Middle Eastern. The hate appearance. In a Zero Dark Thirty response mongering that resulted from the re- lease of Zero Dark Thirty was not re- via Twitter one person stated, “If ported and dismissed merely as the un- you’re a woman you need to see this intelligent people of Twitter exercising film. If you’re an American you need to their freedom of speech in 160 charac- see this film. If you’re Muslim, not so much.” This tweet demonstrates a maters or less. A week before the release of Zero jor misconception concerning MusDark Thirty, an Indian immigrant to lim-Americans. The statement divides America, Sunando Sen, was pushed being American, being female, and beonto the tracks of a New York Subway ing Muslim into separate categories, station and was killed moments later. therefore asserting that being Muslim Sen was pushed by a woman who stat- and truly American are mutually exed, “I pushed a Muslim off the train clusive possibilities. “Being a Muslim tracks because I hate Hindus and Mus- in America is one of the most Amerilims…. Ever since 2001 when they put can concepts I can think of,” said Natalie Gallagher, a Grand down the Twin Towers, The amount of Muslims Valley Student and recent I’ve been beating them that interpret jihad in this convert to Islam. Gallaghup.” Sen was not Muslim, nor did he have any as- manner is proportionate to er added, “The freedom of sociation with the attack the number of Christians religion is what this counon the Twin Towers. Hate in The Westboro Baptist try was founded on, so beChurch ing Muslim and expressing crimes against Muslims is at an all-time high and continues to your faith is extremely American.” The disassociation of American climb according to recent New York Po- values and Islam may stem from the lice Department reports. The association between the reli- misunderstood concept of women in Isgion of Islam and Arabs seems almost lam, the most-discussed topic being the automatic for some Americans. Accord- hijab, or headscarf, sometimes worn by ing to The Pew Research Center’s Mus- Muslim women. “It is funny that the lim mapping project that took place in hijab has become a symbol of oppres2009, Indonesia has 202,867,000 peo- sion in America,” said Grand Valley ple who follow Islam, making it the larg- Student Nargilya Gasanova, who grew est population of Muslims in the world. up in Turkmenistan, adding “drawIndonesia is not in the Middle East ing a veil over women’s chest is menand the vast majority of people living tioned in the Qur’an, but to really unthere are not of Arab descent. It is dif- derstand that verse you must crack ficult to look at someone and tell if they open history books. In pre-Islamic Araare Muslim or not, in the same manner bia clothes were a representation of staone cannot distinguish an Atheist from tus. Therefore women who were free

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and could afford to cover themselves arrested in New York in September of did so and it was a honorable and lib- last year after she defaced an advertiseerating act.” The act of covering wom- ment that read, “In any war between en’s bodies with a cloth is mentioned civilized man and the savage, support in one Qur’anic verse and in transla- the civilized man. Support Israel. Detion states “O Prophet, tell your wives feat Jihad.” Pamela Geller, founder of and your daughters and the women of Stop the Islamization of America, fundthe believers to bring down over them- ed the ad. Gasanova said, “No situation selves [part] of their outer garments. is exactly alike. This is not a perfect That is more suitable that they will be comparison, but the “jihad” militants known and not be abused. And ever is of Islam are similar to the Crusaders Allah Forgiving and Merof Christianity.” The jihad ciful.” Tawakul Karman, If you’re a woman you militant groups that are ofthe 2011 Nobel Peace need to see this film. If ten depicted in American Prize winner from Yemen you’re an American you media are the equivalent replied to a journalist’s need to see this film. If of radicals in any religion negative statements about you’re Muslim, not so throughout time that beher hijab replying, “Man lieve the act of a person not much in the early times was albelieving in their religion most naked, and as his intellect evolved is by itself an act against that religion. he started wearing clothes. What I am The amount of Muslims that interpret today and what I’m wearing represents jihad in this manner is proportionate to the highest level of thought and civiliza- the number of Christians in the Westtion that man has achieved, and is not boro Baptist Church. Anti-Muslim hate crimes soared regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is regressive back to ancient by 50 percent in 2011, skyrocketing over 2009 levels. Internal relationtimes.” Despite these clear connections ships between the differing cultural between America’s idea of freedom components of the United States is at and core values of Islam, there remain an all-time low; it is the sad reality that many Americans who cannot seem to comments like the ones produced in redisentangle terror attacks and the re- sponse to Zero Dark Thirty will most ligion of Islam. Words such as “jihad” likely continue without pause. In addibeing tossed carelessly around by po- tion, Sunando Sen will likely not be the litical and social figures only escalates last victim of the escalating hate crimes misunderstandings. Jihad is translat- in the U.S. The only question is how ed into English as “to strive” or some- much more violence must occur before times “a struggle.” In Islam this term is Americans choose to educate themselves instead of blindly hating a large used for any act a person takes to bring portion of their own fellow civilians, himself closer to God. Mona Eltahawy, who have been made into scapegoats. an American-Egyptian journalist, was

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ELECTRONIC PIRATES by Graham Liddell

When it comes to internet piracy, there is an anecdote, a question-and-answer fable spreading from living room to living room in suburbs across the country: When a man walks into a grocery store and walks out with a box of cereal that he didn’t pay for, is he a thief? It doesn’t matter. Is he a thief?

Father

Well, is he hungry?

Yeah, I guess so. Okay, and if he walks into Best Buy and shoves a pile of CDs and DVDs Well, yeah. into his trench coat, is he a thief?

Daughter

Right. So Scotty Nogood is smoking pot with his friends in the basement, and one of them asks, hey, have you heard the new Crack Head Metal album? It’s totally the bomb. And Scotty says, no, but what if I told you I could Dad, where are you going with get it in thirty seconds, and we can listen to it right this? What , do you think I steal now? And the friends say, what? how? and Scotty says, music or something? easy, I can pirate it right this second on my parents’ computer. And his friends say, rad! and he does it and they rock on down there and all blaze happily ever after. So tell me, Honey, is Scotty a thief?

Well, do you? No, of course not. I totally respect musicians and think they, like, deserve to make a living Okay, well, just checking. It’s been all over the news like anyone else, you know? that that’s what you kids have all been doing these days. I just wanted to make sure I haven’t been raising a thief without knowing it. I’m not a thief, Dad.

Sorry. You can’t be too careful these days, you know? ‘Cause if the government catches you—smack— millions of dollars. I’m not kidding. I saw it on Fox last night. Dad, I get it, I won’t steal music. They’re suing these kids big . A hundred fifty K per Can I go do my homework now? song. And guess who’s responsible? The parents!

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ut when she goes downstairs to the basement, she doesn’t do homework. She logs in to the family computer, does a search for Crack Head Metal, finds out that the band does not, in fact, exist, and proceeds to download the new Dodos album instead. In fact, she has illegally procured over three thousand songs, all saved conveniently in a folder entitled “The Sims.” She doesn’t talk about this. It’s not that she feels guilty—she wouldn’t put it that way. It feels more like she’s getting away with something she’s not supposed to do, like sneaking out in the middle of the night when she’s supposed to be grounded. It’s more like, gotcha!

We’ve all seen the PSA: YOU WOULDN’T STEAL A CAR / YOU WOULDN’T STEAL A HANDBAG / YOU WOULDN’T STEAL A TELEVISION / YOU WOULDN’T STEAL A MOVIE / DOWNLOADING PIRATED FILMS IS STEALING / STEALING IS AGAINST THE

LAW / PIRACY. IT’S A CRIME.

What are we supposed to do with this? Can internet piracy really be equated with stealing a car? When we pirate music, we obtain access to songs that we might have heard in various other ways: Youtube, the radio, a friend’s living room. When the file lands in our Downloads folder, it hasn’t been taken away from anyone else. We do not profit financially—it’s not like we’re trying to sell the downloaded music. Is this really the same as theft? The moment we steal a car, someone lacks a car. Possession is shifted from one individual to another. The offense is personal. The car companies don’t care. The manufacturers don’t care. It’s an individual attack. This is theft. What’s the big difference here? For us, both cars and music are commodities, but don’t we agree that cars fit that label more comfortably? Can art, abstract as its function is, ever be

fully commodified? In Capital: Critique of Political Economy, Karl Marx says, ...It was the common expression of all commodities in money that alone led to the establishment of their characters as values. It is, however, just this ultimate money form of the world of commodities that actually conceals, instead of disclosing, the social character of private labor.... Therefore, it seems that the modern financial understanding of music-making has clouded our understanding of it as an essence. Aside from whatever class privilege with which we’re endowed, art is all we have, is it not? It can’t be easily taken away. Music, graffiti, literature, dance, drama: these are poorman’s tools, methods of escape from ISSUE 2

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the pressures pushing down from above. They are used to celebrate the good, mourn the bad; in protest they serve as weapons, unstoppable, everspreading, morphing mediums, penetrating the palace walls into the king’s bedroom, settling as an unscratchable itch on in impossible crevice of his back, torturing him while he tries to sleep. Music, flawed as its industry has become, on the surface has nothing to do with money. Music is thought to have originated in the paleolithic era, whereas money has only existed for approximately five thousand years. Music seems embedded in some of us. We are born with it in our bones as if by natural selection (Here, Nature says, take the gift of music. It will help you survive, it will grant you many sons and daughters). In this mindset, the words “music” and “business” seem mutually exclusive. Marx continues: “The whole mystery of commodities, all the magic and necromancy that surrounds the products of labour as long as they take the form of commodities, vanishes [as] soon as we come to other forms of production.” Isn’t there a distinction to be made between the production of physical products and MP3 “production”? It follows, then, that there is a distinction between physical theft and MP3 “theft.” I understand how stealing a pair of pants is stealing. Or a coffee mug. Or even a physical copy of an album, whether on vinyl, tape, or 16 THE LAKER SENTINEL

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CD. That’s because the product itself has been manufactured. Because of the physical cost of the materials used to make each product, those involved with its production deserve to be compensated. But jeans, mugs, and vinyl records can’t be cloned at the click of a button. Audio files, however, can. ⌘C, ⌘V. That’s all it takes to copy an MP3. It takes nearly no energy. It costs nothing. The new file has no physical aesthetic value. You can’t hold it in your hand. It makes noises in your ears that have a varied effect depending on who you are. Some may ask: “If musicians don’t sell MP3s, how will they make money? Are you saying that being a musician can no longer be a legitimate trade?” Certainly not! The fact is, musicians, even successful musicians, are making a relatively tiny amount of money on MP3 sales. According to an excellent infographic by Information is Beautiful, a solo artist would have to sell 1,229 albums on iTunes each month to earn U.S. minimum wage. For a four-person band to earn minimum wage this way, they’d have to sell 4,916 albums each month. That means that each minute, they’d have to sell an average of 3.41 copies. On top of all this, it is important to remember that selling music is a recent phenomenon on the whole. Since sound recording technology was invented in the late 19th Century, only then rendering the sale of music


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possible, are we to assume that musicians made no money before then? Of course not. We need look no further than Beethoven or Handel to see that musicians can be (and often are) successful without selling music. Today, musicians find other ways of making money than selling MP3s. The Future of Music Coalition conducted research on musicians’ revenue streams and found that the following were more profitable than music sales:

There has been, and always will be, a way for musicians to make money—our society values music too much for it not to be so.

now-forgotten comic book, putting off cleaning our rooms as Mother demanded, and then the song came on— the one we’d been obsessed with but hadn’t been able to afford the CD. We popped in the tape, missing only seconds of the intro, and pressed record, excited to hand the cassette up to Dad during the car ride to Aunt and Uncle’s house in a few days. Were we thieves back then? Were we thieves when we grew up a bit, and tapes had become obsolete, and iTunes was only an infantile program recently installed on the family computer, and we burned a CD of our favorite love songs for our high school girlfriend or boyfriend? Were we thieves when we drew the artwork on the CD and our hand-crafted paper-bag jewel case? Sharing music in this way is termed lovely, sensual, and associated with good feelings, not the guilt and shame and sneakiness associated with internet piracy. Today, the internet has made sharing music easier than ever before, and has also depersonalized it. Whatever our understanding of the morality of all this, we can’t stop it. The internet lives and breathes, and our philosophies, our relationships, our daily lives both affect and are affected by it.

Is internet piracy theft? Some of us will recall making mix-tapes in years past, hovering over our combination CD and tape players, finding a track on the CD, pressing record, waiting. Or laying on our beds with the radio blasting, reading some

If internet piracy is theft — ...then who are we stealing from? In the breakdown above, we’ll now realize that we’re not taking much from the artists themselves. We’re mostly “taking” money from the distributers such as iTunes, and the record

1. Playing live—on average musicians earned 30.5% of their income from live performances, as opposed to a measly 3.5% from online record sales. 2. Salary from regular gigs—many musicians are members of orchestras and other ensembles. 3. Teaching—many musicians give music lessons. 4. “Knowledge of Craft”—this involves producing, sound engineering, and the like. 5. Publishing/Royalties (music in commercials, films, podcasts, etc).

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companies such as Warner. The Do-ItYourself/indie music phenomenon has taught us, if nothing else, that many musicians see record companies more as a hindrance than a help. Thus, musicians have begun to work around major record labels altogether, creating their own publishing companies instead. By signing with major labels, bands legitimize them. They trade personal control and individual oversight of their projects for breadth of influence and sales. But when record companies do not fulfill their end of the bargain—maybe the band’s intended audience can’t afford their albums, or is no longer interested in the albums due to studio decisions that have rendered the band’s music less desirable than before the band was signed— bands drop their record deals and thus delegitimize the record company, stamping them with red ink: “not good for our music.” I would go so far as to say that internet piracy is another important aspect in delegitimizing record labels. Just as more and more independent films are gaining credibility in pop culture, so is independent music. How much do we really need Hollywood? How much do we really need Sony? The idea that music and film would somehow be less prevalent in society without these entities is, to me, misguided. If internet piracy isn’t theft — ...then what does this mean? As I’ve said, it would be far from the end of 18 THE LAKER SENTINEL

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the world for musicians. A world without the sale of MP3s will mean a change for the music industry (it has already begun changing in this way). Here are some differences between the old model and the post-online-music-sales model: 1) For record sales, a return to vinyl, a physical luxury that music enthusiasts will not likely stop investing in 2) For musicians, an emphasis on performance over recording 3) For listeners, free access to all MP3 music 4) And thus, popular awareness of music beyond that of major labels and radio hits 5) And therefore, hopefully, a culture that is more intrinsically connected with music than ever before. The Takeaway This has been an exploration of the effects of a free internet on the music industry, but “piracy” has sway in other art forms as well. What would a world of free digital files mean for literature? For film? It’s all still to be explored, and at this point, speculation is purely hypothetical. We can imagine all we want. But for now, us “pirates”? We are thieves. Each one of us thieves.


WHEN TRAGEDY AND COMEDY COLLIDE ACT ONE

by Andrea Kooiker

I

f all of the known ancient Greek plays had high school lunch together, Euripides’s Alcestis would be the awkward non-conformist who hid in the bathroom to eat. It wouldn’t fit in with any of the clichés: tragedy, comedy, satyr, etc. Alcestis, Euripides’s oldest

surviving play, was performed as the fourth play in a set of four, the customary position for a satyr play. However, as the chorus is clearly not made up of satyrs and there is not much salient comedy in the play, it cannot be categorized as true satyr drama. Likewise, ISSUE 2

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Alcestis doesn’t quite fit the mold of the average Greek tragedy. These tragedies are typically riddled with betrayal, revenge, and death. Alcestis, though riveting and at times highly distressing, does not include much of any of these qualities. Lust for revenge does not influence the circumstances of the play. Admetus is not forced to let his wife die in his place; he begs any and every one to die for him, and does not seem hesitant to let Alcestis take the job. Since no force but his own greed kills her, there is no one for Admetus to take vengeance upon. It is a sort of betrayal to ask her to take his place in Tartarus, but she accepts it willingly. Admetus does blame his father Pheres for not sacrificing himself and “making” a young woman from outside the family take the fall instead, but threats of neglecting his father in old age aren’t quite up to the same standards of revenge as tragedies such as Medea or Antigone. Not even Alcestis’s death is tragic when compared to Medea murdering four people, including her own children, or Antigone’s death as a martyr. Sure, it sounds pretty tragic at first: Alcestis sacrifices herself, leaving her children behind and willingly going to Tartarus out of love for her husband. If the story stopped there, Alcestis might not have been eating its lunch in a bathroom stall. Euripides had other ideas, however. Maybe he was in a particularly good mood the day he finished writing 20 THE LAKER SENTINEL

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the play, or maybe he was just sick of killing his characters off. Regardless of the reason, Euripides ruined any chance that Alcestis had at an undisputed classification when Heracles rescues Alcestis from Tartarus and returns her to Admetus right when he is finally beginning to realize how cowardly he acted. A tragedy with a happy ending is an oxymoron. By the end of the play, no one actually dies (and stays dead); Admetus isn’t properly punished for his hubris; no gods intervene (though Apollo does make a weak attempt to politely ask Death to postpone Alcestis’s fate); there is no seeking of revenge, and everyone lives happily ever after. Even Disney wouldn’t change a thing. Though the play lacks some of the most basic traits of tragedy, Alcestis has something that few or no other tragedies have: a comedic undertone. It is not laugh-outloud funny to read, but there is underlying humor in the borderline ridiculous behavior of Heracles. Because of this and the happy ending, some classicists categorize the play as tragicomedy. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, tragicomedy is a “literary genre consisting of dramas that combine the elements of tragedy and comedy.” So, by definition, Alcestis may have found a home. But, how blatant does humor have to be to be considered comedy, and how tragic does a story need to be to earn the title of a tragedy? If the rather vague dictionary definition


INFORMATION

issues than communal issues, though they still make statements (or, try to) about society as a whole. When Greek drama is performed in contemporary society, certain elements are often altered or omitted. Not necessarily because the director chooses to leave them out, but because they are not always understood. The demands of culture from any type of entertainment are constantly changing. If Alcestis were performed tomorrow in New York City, it would be seen as an entertaining story about a misogynistic husband and his obliviously devoted wife. It no longer has the context to be powerful to the public. People can no longer relate to the idea of having someone die in their place or going to the underworld to save a loved one, as they did when these types of stories were a prominent part of culture. Euripides is known for his plot twists. There is usually a pivoting point in the action, and the direction of the play is suddenly flipped. In Alcestis, it is when Heracles rescues her from Death, at which point the play is no longer a tragedy. It happens in Medea when she kills her children, after which she is no longer the pitiable victim.

We aspire to provide a professional and accurate product. Journalists are to reveal, inform, and even anger their readers. We, as students of Grand Valley, aim to better lives of our fellow Lakers through public discourse and awareness.

Visit our forums at lakersentinel.com This week’s topic is the First Amendment Read. Register. Respond. If you’re interested in being a part of the Laker Sentinel contact us at editor@lakersentinel.com.

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of tragicomedy was all that there is to the genre, the classification of Euripides’s earliest surviving play would be old news. When Alcestis was performed in 438 BCE, the Dionysia would have been packed with citizens of Athens and the surrounding areas. The festival was one of the biggest communal events in Greece at this period, making the performances extremely influential on Greek culture. There is nothing like this in modern American society, no one event that an entire population attends. Hence, today’s drama has an entirely different impact on society; even the most famous Broadway dramas have only been seen by a fraction of the population. In ancient Greece, drama was a means for making political statements, raising questions, starting important conversations, and uniting the community. In the modern-day U.S., however, drama is a medium through which the monotony of everyday lives is fictionalized. It still has a sense of community, but it is far more exclusive. The exclusivity of modern drama extends to the way statements are made by the performances. Today, the events in drama tend to focus more on interpersonal

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CONTENTS Misconceptions About Islam, 10-12 Katie Nix

Electronic Pirates, 14-18 Graham Liddell

Fracturing Michigan, 8-9 Katie Torkelson

When Tragedy and Comedy Collide, 19-21 Andrea Kooiker

The Root, 2-7 Ian Post

Acknowledgments Illustrations....................................Grace Carpenter Design & Layout......................................Dave Leins Research.....................................................Ian Post Editing.......Joel Campbell, G. Liddell, Andrea Kooiker

Laker Sentinel Magazine: Vol. 1, Issue 2  

Second Issue of The Laker Sentinel's magazine. This issue's topics include underground newspapers, misconceptions about Islam, electronic pi...

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