Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Absence of Minagahet and the Presence of the Guam News Factor

I have to really apologize. I haven't put together an issue of Minagahet Zine in close to a year, nine months actually. Its not because nothing has been happening on Guam or to Chamorros around the world. Its quite the opposite really. Over the past nine months there have been too many things happening, and so I tried to get someone to guest edit an issue of Minagahet. One of my friends agreed and started putting it together but never finished. I was so busy with finishing my dissertation, and now working at the University of Guam that I couldn't work on it either, even after it was obvious that my friend wasn't going to finish it.

So I just wanted to put out a quick note saying that the next issue is on its way. I'm trying to find some time this weekend to organize and upload it. So many things have been happening lately, and a few things that were supposed to happen, haven't yet. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the bulk of the construction for the military increases the DOD is planning on Guam was supposed to be out several months ago. It was initially supposed to be released in April, then July, and now we're in September and have yet to see it. At the same time, there are political rumblings in Japan about their diplomatic and military relationships with the United States. The "transfer" is not in jeopardy in the sense that it might be cancelled, but there is a strong possibility that it could be delayed or the larger framework deal that its a part of could be renegotiated.

Two events that I participated in over the past few months, will hopefully help change Guam in a different direction than those mentioned above. I helped organize the Reclaim Guahan/ Chule' Tatte Guahan Rally in May, which brought together 500 people of all ages interested in art, social change and decolonization on Guam to an all day event at Skinner's Plaza in Hagatna. Guam also hosted the 7th International Meeting of the Network of Women Against Militarism last week, which was inspiring in so many ways, as it brought together activists from all over the region together in Guam in hopes of building some solidarity against the increased militarization that is being planned from their governments.

One interesting change that has appeared in the small and generally useless media landscape of Guam (which is why Minagahet Zine first came into being six years ago), is the emergence of the Guam News Factor. The media in Guam, trends towards the conservative or the lazy, and the Guam News Factor is no exception to this rule. It is an avowedly conservative website (hence its title), which is invested in attacking liberal ideas, Democrats, and doing the heavy and difficult ideological work of being unwaveringly pro-military buildup.

Its is an ideological outlet in the sense that it doesn't really have a mind of its own, there is no thinking behind its content, just battle lines clearly drawn around who is doing wrong and who is doing right. There are regular attacks on certain (mainly Democratic, but a few Republican) figures, but they go beyond any rationality or thinking and just seem to stem from the fact that those people are not the good ones or the ones that we should support and so therefore any minute and ridiculous thing about them should be considered to be a mortal sin and attacked. Some of the articles that they post are almost pathetically funny. They are written with the righteous fury of a 17th century Spanish missionary admonishing the savage natives of Guam, but are about things so tragically small, you can't help but laugh at them and wonder if they are taking seriously what they are writing.

In terms of colonization (one of the main things I follow in researching Guam), they offer us nothing new in terms of media on Guam. The Pacific Daily News scores very poorly on this topic because the only real time that they engage in discussions on political status is when something appears in order to prove that we're one step closer on that never-ending path to Americanization, that path which tells us we are far more American than we really are, and is the core of Guam's colonial amnesia and denial. In order to see any rhetoric such as this, you need only place statehood for Guam at the end of the road and it quickly evaporates.

The Marianas Variety scores better but not because they have a different ideological bent, but simply because, as I wrote about in July, they follow whatever stories are out there and print almost anyone's press releases. If there's activists protesting, then the Variety has no qualms about telling their side of the story. That is a massive ideological difference than the Pacific Daily News.

The Guam News Factor scores very close to the Pacific Daily News, maybe a bit worse right now, but who knows they could get better over time. They regularly cover "scandalous" Guam mentions out there, where Guam is portrayed in savage, racist or inaccurate ways. Their take on it however is always the same and a fundmentally useless one. In any colony, the easy way out of any sort of scandal where people in your mother country exclude you or articulate you as being outside of their nation, is to chalk it up to ignorance. That they simply don't know me, that's why they assume I'm not part of them or assume that I suck or that its okay to treat me like I'm nothing. If only they knew me, then I would be treated fine, then I would be a real American, its just a lack of knowledge, its nothing more, I just need to talk and inform everyone in the world about me, and then everything would be just fine.

This is the normal position in Guam and as I said, from a colonial perspective, its the easiest one, its the one which doesn't involve any heavy lifting, involve anything really fundamentally wrong with the world, just misunderstanding, miscommunication, maybe a few racist people, but really everything is still just great. The more difficult task, which is far more useful and effective in terms of fixing things or garnering respect, is to change the political relationship, because so much of the ignorance and disrespect for Guam stems from the fact that more than 100 years of US legal tradition says that the United States (and by default its people) can do whatever they want to Guam. This is perhaps the most important element that all people on Guam, Chamorro or not, who feel the regular disrespect or ignorance of the United States in their lives, unintentionally or intentionally leave out. The Guam News Factor is no different and always emphasizes the need to make our case, to have accurate information out there (which is fine, lao mampos ti nahong). It never makes any connection that our political relationship, our dependent status, the fact that legally we are a "possession" of the United States might have anything to do with it.

I'm truly hoping that in the next few months the Democrats on Guam, or the liberal side of Guam step up and recognize the narrowness of the media here, and start to see that something needs to be done. The Guam News Factor isn't very influential right now. They obviously have some money behind them and they are obviously tied into some other businesses on Guam, but they don't have much of a presence yet. When you go onto their articles, and read the few user comments, you get the idea that the writers or staff for the site is actually leaving them. But all of this could change very quickly, especially with the 2010 election just on the horizon. Alot of what lost Robert Underwood the past two elections, had to do with websites and campaigns which operated on the same sort of smear levels that the Guam News Factor sometimes sinks to. The smears for 2010 are already being put in place, and so like Obama did in his campaign last year. When people attack you, you need to push back, you need to fight back. I'd absolutely be willing to help, so if any Guam Democrats are reading this and are interested in starting their own media site or outlet, just get in touch with me.

1 comment:

Drea said...

A friend of mine told me about Guam News Factor so I checked it out. Now I go on when I'm really bored and in need of a laugh. They are obviously out to get certain people and I'm not a journalist, but the writing they put out makes me think they aren't either.

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