Tea With Chris: Slow Discourse

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Carl: A little behind the curve, but my favourite thing I found out about this week was the Occupy Wall Street protesters’ invention of “the human microphone”: Someone speaking calls out, “Mic Check,” and then the crowd repeats back what they are saying, in unison, phrase by phrase.

Here’s Michael Moore using it:

The human microphone is ingenuity responding to necessity: The police have banned real mics, amps and megaphones from the gathering (as someone in the YouTube comments says, this is “free speech” in a society where the courts have ruled that corporations can spend as much as they like amplifying their messages). It’s also culture responding to history – the call-and-response structure directly recalls church, and particularly the African-American gospel tradition, which radiates out through a lot of the greatest American music.

There are additional effects too, hilarious and poignant and challenging ones: First, of course, the technique means that every speech takes at least twice as long. It’s kind of Slow Discourse, on the model of Slow Food and other Slow Movements – with the implication that what each person has to say, and the crowd’s process of (literally) chewing it over, is a higher priority than the efficiency of the communication and decision making. What’s more, in repeating a speaker’s words, the crowd simulates affirming and agreeing with them, which of course the individuals may not, in fact. In that act of repetition they experience what it might be like to agree, probably before they begin to think about disagreeing or critiquing. That’s the reverse of the adversarial debate culture that permeates so much of western politics, a kind of deep-listening technique, and the kind of happy accident that the spontaneity of Occupy Wall Street seems to make possible on many levels.

When my old friend Naomi Klein spoke at the gathering last night, she amusingly began by saying, “I love you” – adding, “I didn’t just say that so that hundreds of you would shout ‘I love you’ back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone: Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.” But she also meant it. The text of her speech, up on the Nation website, explains why, in a manner that may help skeptics get past their doubts.

(By the way, The Nation also has the best piece about Slutwalk I’ve ever read, for those who are still on the fence about that phenomenon.)

Meanwhile, the week has also seen the rise of #OccupySesameStreet (which I was happy to learn was largely thanks to Patton Oswalt). Because we should not rest while 1% of the monsters consume 99% of the cookies. Don’t allow Mr. Hooper to have died in vain.

Chris: The piping-hot music video for Beyonce’s “Countdown” underlines why a lot of music critics I know are tipping it as the single of the year: formal experimentation rarely feels this joyful,  this confident in its own weirdness. It’s an epic in 3:33. And yet, as the clip amply demonstrates, not self-serious; she mugs in fabulous maternity outfits, channels Audrey Hepburn and Anna Karina (or at least that’s what all the blinking reminded me of), spawns animated GIFs at record speed. Daunting sample size, but between “Countdown” and those music videos with Gaga, I think B might be sexiest when she’s being funny.

Tyler Coates, a genius, refracted the video into this screen-filling multitude of Beyonces.

Someone shot footage of their puppies running around and used Geto Boys’ decidedly non-adorable “Still” (chorus: “DIE MOTHERFUCKERS”) as its soundtrack. Mildly hyperbolic Youtube commenter: “this is the best fucking thing america has given us.”

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Filed under carl wilson, chris randle, linkblogging, margaux williamson