By: Harold Michael Harvey
I have been missing in action of late, much to the displeasure of my editor. You see my editor has been my sidekick for thirty years. She relishes finding my faults and pointing them out with a sense of humor that both pains and refreshes my writing. I’ve not given her a cathartic vent in recent weeks. Thus she has time to find fault with sundry other aspects of my being, which is a sure prescription for writer’s block.
Not that my absence can be neatly summed up as writer’s block. I’ve been busy fighting my publisher for much needed revisions to the proofs of Paper Puzzle. It seems these days the traditional publishing houses have reduced their editorial staffs in cost cutting measures similar to most other industries. When duties overlap, little editorial miscues can make an otherwise Pulitzer Prize winning manuscript just an ordinary piece of literature. So when the personal editor says to change it, it’s worth slowing down the production process to get the necessary changes implemented.
I’ve also cut down a tree or two in the back yard with the assistance of my son and we are set with fire wood for the winter.
Additionally, my focus has not been on my son’s budding career as a sports writer for my hometown newspaper. A job I would loved to have had when I was his age. So he and I have spent the past few days talking about the importance of social media, as we approach the close of the first decade of this bold century. A century that is vastly different from the century of our birth; as different as his great grandparents’ birth century was from mine.
Big and small town newspapers have perhaps seen their golden days. The model that will survive the Craigslist pandemic will not look anything like the daily paper dropped on the doorsteps and driveways of American families before the advent of the information superhighway. Thus an enterprising reporter has to be on the look out for opportunities to expand his or her career.
“We,” says Mitch Joel, author of Six Pixels of Separation, “are connected to each other” by someone we personally know.
As is my habit, to drive this point home, I resorted to a story from the past. I told my son of walking into the book store my first day on campus at Tuskegee Institute and seeing the shelves loaded with Norman Mailer’s 1959 rant, Advertisement for Myself. It was strange to see the Harvard educated Mailer with more shelf space than the Institute’s own former student, Ralph Ellison, who had penned the brilliant novel Invisible Man.
At semester’s end the shelves were still overflowing with Mailer’s pitch to ensure his “present and future work....will have the deepest influence of any work being done by an American novelist in these years.” Yet I bought and read it. I still have my copy. It is bounded today by a strip of clear tape.
Thus Mailer knew in 1959, any writer worth his or her ink had to engage in the self deception of advertising oneself for public consumption.
Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan and other social media gurus have learned what Mailer knew 50 years ago. So the son and I built a social media platform that says, “ hey world, get your sports news at Coley Harvey-MaconTechTalk on FaceBook and @MaconTechTalk on Twitter”. They are not technical posts, but technocrats are certainly welcome. The Tech in the name stands for Georgia Tech. Coley is the Georgia Tech beat reporter for The Telegraph in Macon, Georgia.
As we talked about Norman Mailer, in the background, a television news anchor waxed on about NASA’s pending aggression on the moon in search of ice beneath its core. My thoughts turned away from Mailer’s seminal work, Advertisements for Myself, to his epic depiction of the first manned moon landing, Of a fire On the Moon.
After the landing, it was not so much that man had visited the moon; what mattered now was getting them back into the lunar atmosphere. The spacecraft that had floated onto the moon’s surface like a singular snow flake on a blustery winter’s morning on earth, would require an enormous fiery explosion to get back to Apollo11, which was orbiting the earth in nervous anticipation, like a cheer leader waiting to be asked out by the captain of the football team.
Why then, with two wars, an economy in recovery and political fanaticism running amuck, is there a national fascination with a bombardment of the moon 40 years later? Could this aggression on the moon, to paraphrase Mailer: represent the core of some magnetic human force called Americanism, or is this exploration simply the knights of a new silent majority emerging from human history, with an African in the White House, in order to colonize distant planets.
We watched this morning in anticipation of the fiery explosion NASA had promised. We saw nothing as depicted in the models; no light, no dust, no plumb of smoke coming from the crater on the moon. What happened this morning may not be known by average citizens for another 40 years. Perhaps Mailer was correct in 1969 when he postulated that machines may possess a psychology of their own. Imagine, machines with minds of their own, so unpredictable in functionality that the massive brain trust at NASA can not predict the outcome.
Which brings me to my closing point. For the third time in history a sitting American president has received the Nobel Peace Prize. This year’s award goes to President Obama. He was preceded by Teddy “Rough Rider” Roosevelt and Thomas Woodrow Wilson. All three American presidents were confronted with at least one war which threatened the economic and political security of the nation.
Roosevelt was the nation’s first strong chief executive. The power of the oval office has increased exponentially since the early 1900s when he first flexed his executive authority. He received the Nobel Peace Prize for volunteering to mediate a dispute which threatened to disrupt Western access to raw materials in the Far East. His efforts led to the end of the Russo-Japanese War.
Wilson, following World War I worked to form the League of Nations, the precursor of today’s United Nations. Although the League of Nations could not hold the peace, Wilson was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1918.
In his brief time in office, Obama has extended an olive branch to Europe, Asia, Africa and islands of the seas. The common thread which binds these three sitting presidents is a belief that the security of its neighbors means long term economic and political security for America. Their actions were outside the box of conventional thinking.
Yet the nay sayers will not allow President Obama any peace. On the social network, Twitter, I recently mirrored the rants of the fanatical right. I deliberately presented an extreme opposing view to their displeasure over Obama’s selection for the Nobel Peace Prize. After a few rounds of nonsense the mob, as they call themselves, cried they were sick of me and no longer wanted to engage in further discussion. I wanted them to see exactly how they appear to other people. If my conduct was nauseating, theirs was equally vile. One can only hope this group will reevaluate their conduct in light of the assault projected upon their extreme positions.
Mailer prophetically penned the frustration of the present day mob in his 1959 piece titled The White Negro. The consternation of the current day mob causes them to blur the lines between socialism and democracy. Following Mailer’s line of thought, the mob’s fear that the nation will resort to socialism has to do with the ascendancy of the “Negro,” or in our day, a black president.
“It is no accident,” Mailer writes, “the source ..:is the Negro for the Negro has been living on the margin between totalitarianism and democracy for two centuries.” Indeed, Mailer is right, and we are now into our third century of living on the edge. If the Negro has learned anything from the American experience, it is how not to govern; it is how to share power for the betterment of all. It is precisely this fact, that the mob fails to understand.
Thus Obama is stuck in the craw of the mob causing the mob to gag, just like the Twitterer who said I “make her sick”. They gag on Obama’s every success and every seeming failure. This nauseating feeling fuels the mob’s desire to denigrate each of Obama’s presidential experiences. He’s a bad man and must of necessity be thrown out of office either through the rise of the “birth certificate movement,” or by way of a military coupe, this band seems to argue.
Hopefully the mob will be able to extricate Obama from its throat, before they miss the most innovative presidency since fellow Nobel Peace Prize recipient Teddy Roosevelt represented both the GOP and the Bull Moose Party in the White House.
© October 9, 2009