a column by Paul Chaderjian
for the Asbarez newspaper
Once there was and there was not…
… an Armenian prostitute, a crack-addicted Armenian prostitute, who lived at the intersection of Atwater and Minneapolis in Los Angeles.
But this story column isn’t about her; it’s about you, and how your life is more interesting than the woman whose Armenian clients in Hummers and Mercedes Benzes kept the residents of my former apartment complex awake until she was locked out by the Sheriff’s Department.
That faceless woman with her despicable existence was exerting her personality and her “brand” on all her Armenian and non-Armenian neighbors. She had even threatened the lives of the Hispanic family that lived next door who called the cops about her.
This call girl had a miserable story she would tell the two blond film school students across the courtyard, so all the neighbors knew about her abandoned children, crack addiction, her clients, and her pimps.
If she was a brand – as almost everything is in capitalism and consumerist societies – my former neighbors were aware of the prostitute, and she had successfully marketed her brand. And in this day-and-age, people, products, organizations have all become brands that need recognition and marketing.
What does this have to do with you?
The fact that you are reading this column means you are expressing an interest in wanting to stay informed and involved in your Armenian identity. That in itself is interesting to other Armenians. You are above and beyond the norm of the clock-punching, freeway-driving, television-watching, baseball cheering masses that populate your neighborhood. Thus, you have a brand that needs to be publicized.
Who are you? What do you do in your life? How do you interact with your Armenian and non-Armenian communities? Are you a Homenetmen coach, a volunteer at your kids’ school? Did you protest outside the Beverly Hilton? Have you written President Obama about Genocide recognition? Have you made a donation to the Armenian National Committee? Or are you an activist that tells your colleagues at work about Armenian issues?
The answers to these questions should be fodder for Armenian media. And this column is about why YOU should make media content in this day-and-age when we, as a collective, are getting lost in the shuffle of a chaotic 21st century, when our values are misguided and where we seem to know it all but have no idea why we are and where we fit into the chaos.
The Information Age is like an out of control avalanche racing downhill and gathering more momentum and mass. Every day this massive avalanche is piling more and more information on modern civilization. Stick your head out the window for two seconds, and the world is telling you about Windows 7, John Travolta’s trial, uranium in Iran, Wall-Mart rebranding, the Dodgers, Kate and Jon, Balloon Boy, and Mos Def’s tour in Japan.
The messages come faster and faster, are interesting, entertaining, and repeated so often that they become important, hip and happening. In this climate individual identities, small communities, ethnicities, and small nation’s agendas – especially a mission to seek justice for a 20th century genocide, and the Armenian Cause – can be easily forgotten and lost.
In the Information Age and this era of multiple-platforms of communication, knowledge and science are expanding like never before in the history of man. But how much of any of this is useful or important, and how much is produced just right to get you to buy something or watch until the next commercial?
Clearly the traditional gatekeepers of information, the editors at the dying mainstream newspapers and the producers at the murder-chasing, paparazzi TV news channels have failed at their jobs miserably. They don’t have your best interest in their decision-making and only want you to be a consumer.
In addition to the failed mainstream media channels, information is blasting your way as billions of humans with Internet and cell phone access are creating media content as simultaneously and prolifically as the traditional media content creators like film studios, TV networks and news channels.
Left behind in this age of mental clutter are the classics, the important, the somewhat staid but more relevant, the historic, and even the recently historical, but especially the ancient like our four-thousand-year-old culture.
Age of Narcissism
We also live in the Age of Narcissism, where mass culture celebrates Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian and covertly teaches that any human has equal right to have the spotlight for doing nothing. This Age of Narcissism thus forced individual humans to exhibit themselves and be an exhibitionist via technology, hardware like cell phones and software like Twitter and Facebook.
Today, modern man (you) has to create media to retain some semblance of existing or existence. People, businesses, and organizations are now among the ranks of brands like Coke, Pepsi, Walmart, the GOP; we are all ad men (mad men) who need to exert ourselves on an hourly or daily bases in order to validate our existence or move any agenda to the forefront of this Information Age.
Some of us in the community have started using these new media of information, but what exactly are we sharing, and how does that drive our community forward?
When we log into Facebook, you’ll surely find Lucy telling you she had a white mocha latte, Razmig reciting the lyrics of a new song, Tatevik’s new glam shots, 13 people trying to sell you Vicken Tarpinian concert tickets, and Stepan saying just about anything to get a rise out of anyone.
Lucy, Razmig, your 13 friends promoting Tarpinian, Tatevik, and Stepan have all realized that if humans, organizations, and businesses don’t create media, they risk being forgotten in this turbulent storm of information made up of e-mails, cell calls, text messages, billboards, webpages, Google search results, streaming radios, iPhone apps, thousands of channels of cable and satellite stations, antenna TV, radio stations, CD’s, books on Kindle, the 65 thousand titles published annually in the US alone, millions of Internet sites, Twitter, MySpaces, and Facebook updates.
The Armenian Revolution
To be relevant in the modern era, Armenians, our organizations, and the Armenian cause have to be viral as well. Our messages must be viruses that enter the information mega-storm in a creative way, in a way where people accept the cause as they have accepted the necessity of themselves creating media hour-after-hour.
If people feel a necessity to generate Tweets, Facebook entries, and phone calls, why not make the Armenian agenda something we can use to perpetuate our personalities, individual agendas and our need to exhibit our lives in this Age of Narcissism? Witness how the survivors of the Holocaust started doing this successfully decades ago with traditional media like feature films, television news, and literature.
If we want people to think about our Armenian existence, be they fellow Armenians, non-Armenians, our scouts, athletes, students, fellow members of our organizations, or congregants at our churches, why not make those ideas part of the 65,000 daily thoughts they have. Most of these thoughts are triggered through the messages that they are bombarded with via external media, so why not plant the right seeds for them to germinate into thoughts?
The solution is to invite Armenians from all walks of life to financially support and be a part of mass media and to create the mass media through the Armenian Media Network (Horizon TV and the Asbarez newspaper); and why not through AYF, and ANC web sites (instead of a Facebook or Twitter application).
You readily pay an average of $100 monthly to your satellite and cable providers, at least $40 monthly to your Internet company, and as much as $150 a month for your iPhone and Blackberrry service. And you do this just to be audience to the world at large. What if you turned the tables and paid a small portion to Armenian media outlets – this paper and website – and became a media creator?
We saw a glimpse of how powerful and active our community became when hundreds of you followed the Asbarez and Horizon TV during the Protocol protests, the hunger strike, and the President’s visit around the Diaspora. Thousands watched ANC YouTube videos, Asbarez and Horizon pages had thousands of hits, and AYF members reported the news by videotaping interviews from the front lines and posting if for other Armenians around the world to watch.
The momentum that we glimpsed and that we collectively created around the Stop the Protocols campaign was unprecedented. Our story and our collective engagement with the creation of media was viral. Not only did we engage the story, but we engaged our peers and made them active. On top of that success, our viral messages reached mainstream media, the LA Times, and all the television networks. Our Tweets and iPhone videos reached the “Tipping Point” and put us and our people at the forefront, at least for two weeks, during the Information Age.
But why stop now? Why not continue this grassroots Armenian revolution of the 21st century and continue and build upon the creation of media messages as we did during the Protocols Campaign. And why stop at Facebook and Twitter? Why not report about all of our individual and community successes to our own media network. And why stop with our media? Why not write letters to editors, engage your lawmakers, create YouTube videos, submit stories to Current TV, iReport, CNN, and other media outlets?
The WAY, our Armenian Revolution, is to share our small and big steps in this whirlpool of information, so that all of our friends, colleagues, the Armenian community-at-large, and the world knows what we are doing. Share your news, share what’s new and different, promote your successes, highlight and advertise whatever makes you proud by writing, videotaping, blogging, Tweet-ing and Facebook-ing. If you have a keyboard, you’re a journalist. If you have a video camera, you’re a reporter.
Your personal journeys, what your school board or church council, your scouting or dance troupe are doing and have done ARE interesting and relevant, and these small news items are what should make up the collective of our community’s need to exhibit and validate ourselves to not only our local community but to the world-at-large.
We must and should share our community organizational life by offering even short news bits. We must not withhold news bits about our biweekly meetings and banquets and parties because we think they’re not important or less interesting than what Kim Kardashian had for dinner or how many were arrested in some random drug raid in La Puente.
Remember, in the Information Age, what the prostitute downstairs is up to, whom Kim and Kloe are dating, where the President and First Lady went to dinner, are on an equal playing field with anything you are doing. Whether you attended a protest rally, attended a book signing, wrote a play, or heard a new artist, everything is relevant to your community.
Every single Armenian should take it upon him or herself to write a few paragraphs or videotape 30 to 60 second news reports to let others in our community know what everyone else is doing as members of the “Armenians.”
You don’t have to write like John Steinbeck or Micheline Aharonian Marcom. You don’t have to perform like Peter Jennings or Anderson Cooper on videotape. What you have to do is tell the 5 W’s of journalism: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Who was involved in the story you’re telling? What happened and what’s the story? When did this take place?
Where did it take place? Why did it happen? How did it happen?
Write a few paragraphs, run spell-check, insert a quote by an organization or the subject of your story, and you have the basics of a press release or short news report. Then e-mail it. Share it. Post it. Publish it. Blog it. And send me a copy: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be they the issues of the day, your take on things, your kids’ afterschool activities, a poetry reading, a summary of the sermon you heard at church, fundraising bake sales, basketball or track meets, or innovative techniques to make better khorovatz, let’s put the news out there and be part of the information age.
If someone from the ARS is working on a project, if Hamazkayin is organizing a series of performances, if an ANC activist has a pitch for a grassroots campaign, or if an Armenian teen just had a slice of impressive pizza on Abovian Street in Yerevan, then all this information can be on an equal playing field with everything else in the media. Your brand, your story, your organization, your name are all equals now to AT&T, Nokia, Armenchick, the Tamil Tigers, or Windows 7.
Your stories are as interesting as any other stories out there, so tell them. Tell not just your stories, but your parents’ stories, your children’s stories, your church’s stories, and your grandparents’ stories. In this day and age, you have the tools to place video reports or short or long articles on any mass media platforms. We are not just consumers of media anymore, but we are the creators of media. We are media, and we must communicate.
Without communication, there is no community. Without a community, there is no ‘people.’ Without a people, there is no nation.
And three apples fell from heaven: one for the storyteller, one for him who made him tell it, and one for you the reader.