JonWolff_June_2016_2 001by Jon Wolff

The Free Venice Beachhead is the oldest newspaper published of, by, and for Venetians. It has reflected the complex Spirit of Venice for decades. The Beachhead has served as a chronicle of the history of struggle of the Venice Community and is known the world over as the journal of record of Venice.

But there have been other papers about Venice throughout the years. The Ocean Front Weekly was available from the late ‘70s into the early ‘80s. That paper was very pro-real estate development and it cheered on the increasing commercialization of the Boardwalk. It was basically an instrument of the corrupting forces that were infiltrating Venice back then.

There was nothing wrong though in reading the Ocean Front Weekly if one had a discerning eye. In fact, reading it was vital to an understanding of the strategies used by the other side. If you could read between the lines, you’d get a pretty good picture of their agenda. And you’d see through the stuff that we know as “Propaganda”.

Today, the inheritor of this tradition of Propaganda is the paper, Yo! Venice. Don’t let the ridiculous name deceive you into thinking it’s all “Hey dude” and “Let’s party bro”. Yo! Venice often contains articles that communicate a carefully crafted editorial position. A good example of this position is in an article in the May 13 – 26 edition entitled “Paradise Lost: Residents Call for Action on Growing Homeless Numbers”.

The article begins as a sort of human interest story about a woman and her kids and husband fearing the unhoused people in the neighborhood. It lists her concerns about noise, sanitation, and drugs and how these issues are affecting her kids. The article concludes with a call for “action”, although no specifics are mentioned anywhere in the text.

The article would be easy to dismiss because it says nothing new and proposes nothing original. But understand that Propaganda isn’t about content, it’s about style and emotional impact. Consider one paragraph where the woman’s younger daughter refers to the people on the street as having “dookie faces”. By this she only means that they have a kind of facial expression that one might make when performing that particular bodily function. The daughter probably did say the words “dookie faces”; no one can question whether she did or not. But that’s not the point. The point is that the writer of the article chose to include the quote for a reason. The words are supposed to stick in your mind as a lingering vulgarity. They’re supposed to wear down your morale little by little. Nowhere in the article is there any mention of the names of any of the people with the faces. That would add a measure of humanity to them and divert the purpose of the article. The purpose of the article is to create a sense of revulsion and alienation. And it’s a fascinating piece of Propaganda.

The article goes on to remind us that these people without names are associated with drugs. It would be easy enough to argue against this sweeping generalization. It would even be tempting to counter sarcastically that all the condos in Marina del Rey must surely have nothing but folks conducting Bible study groups in their homes every night. But again, that’s not the point. The article is just supposed to leave you with an open-ended sense of despair that says, “Someone should do something about this.” And indeed, someone, in fact a lot of people, are doing a lot of things about it. But what the article would condition you to want is something very vague and removed from your experience. Namely, you are to want the unhoused to just vanish. Few people would phrase it that way but that’s the general sense of the article. The specifics about how a person might vanish aren’t part of the conversation. Whether provided with adequate housing somewhere or incarcerated in a concentration camp, it doesn’t matter. You, the reader, are supposed to want them to not be seen anymore. The article doesn’t have to be specific. It only has to appeal to your general emotions and wear down your will. And it’s a classic example of Propaganda.

The article concludes by listing the city councilman, the mayor, and a government agency all pledging to do something. But the woman who’s the subject of the article wants “action now”. What would this “action” look like right “now”? Well, right now, some businessmen are trying to create Business Improvement Districts, or BIDs, in Venice. Know that these BIDs always include security officers patrolling the areas defined as districts. They’re basically private goon squads with bicycles and walkie-talkies who wear colored sport shirts signifying what district they represent. If the goon squads are allowed to take over, get ready to be harassed and detained for not being dressed right. You see, the nameless people in the article are just the start. By the time they’ve vanished, it will be the housed, longtime Venice residents’ turn. Picture walking to the store at night in sweats and flip flops and being stopped by two security thugs asking what you’re doing in the area. By then, you’d be outnumbered by those who have been conditioned by the Propaganda.

But this doesn’t have to happen. None of this is inevitable. One can resist the Propaganda and keep one’s own mind focused. For starters, don’t think defense; think offense. Instead of waiting for the other side to make a move and then fighting back, choose the fight you want and win it. Act first and then watch them re-act to whatever you did. Second, get involved; that is, physically get up and go find out what the people of Venice are doing now. There are meetings happening in Venice. The Westside Tenants Union has ‘em every month. And last, expect Victory. Visualize the developers and big money corporations not just backing off but backing out. Completely. Like, out of Venice forever. Imagine the Lamberts and Pardees giving up and going out of business and being reduced to telemarketing jobs because the people of Venice wouldn’t quit fighting.

And believe that the Free Venice Beachhead will be here to report it. While Yo! Venice goes where all the other ex-newspapers go: out of sight, out of mind, and at the bottom of the birdcage of history.

Categories: Beachhead, History, Politics, Venice