FCC Hearings in Seattle: Report Back II (After Soup)
I just got back from Seattle, where I attended the 6th and final opportunity for the public to confront the FCC on plans to allow further consolidation of the corporate media. Knowing that there is a vibrant and independent culture of media activism in the NW, the commissioners in favor of the sweeping changes resorted to a sneaky ploy: They gave the public only a few days' notice prior to the hearing. They figured this would prevent us from being able to attend the hearings, and thus we would be as silenced from the debate as they would like us to be from the public airwaves. As you will see, the ploy did not work.
Since there was so little notice, I (like so many other people who care about this issue) was unable to take the day off from work. So, after working a full day, I did what more than a thousand other Cascadian citizens and media activists did yesterday. I headed for Seattle. Even though the hearing started at 4pm, about the time I was getting off work, it was slated to go until 11pm so I figured that even after factoring in several hours for the trip up there, there would still be plenty of time to at least show up. And it was important that people show up.
It was nearly 7:30 by the time I found myself walking up the stone steps to the Great Hall, in order to register my voice. I had come a long way for this, and I was about to shake off the road dust and go inside. I thought my last-minute journey was remarkable, given the lack of notice... and then I heard from a woman who had driven the 500 miles all the way from Missoula, MT that very morning. And people who came from Moscow, Idaho, and people who came from San Francisco, and people who came all the way down from Alaska. All on less than a week's notice. This is how much the people of Cascadia care about the freedom of the media.
I had no trouble finding the venue. As I squinted through the rainy night on the streets of Seattle, I suddenly saw a large, stone building with the doors thrown wide open, spilling a warm glow out into the dark night. People, too, were spilling out of the building, congregating on the steps and the sidewalks outside. I saw a gangly, paper mache puppet -- a skeleton - leaning against a tree on the way in, and a few makeshift signs discarded here and there. (One read, "What the FCC is going on?") It was the aftermath of what must have been a very spirited NW welcome for the 5 FCC commissioners who thought they would sneak in under the radar. As I approached the building, I could hear the roar of the crowd within. Still a lot of spirit, I noted. Once inside, I found throngs of people surging through the corridors, lining stairways, and prowling through the halls. The hearing was proceeding noisily on in a large auditorium up a short flight of marble stairs, but there were also folding chairs set up around a television monitor in the lobby, broadcasting the proceedings to the overflowing crowd who had apparently not been able to find enough places within.
This had already been going on for 3 and a half hours by the time I arrived, and I was anxious to get inside the auditorium to see what was happening. Still, it had been a long journey fueled by a lot of hot chocolate, and I needed... a moment. According to the agenda that I had hastily printed out before I left, there was supposed to be a break in the proceedings from 7:30 to 8, so I figured I could safely take care of business and then get up to the auditorium in plenty of time for the resumption of the hearings. While standing in a long line snaking out of the downstairs women's room, though, I heard the roar of the crowd above me, again and again erupting into applause. Apparently, they had elected not to break.
As quickly as I could, I made my way up to the auditorium, where I found standing room only. It was a very large room, but the place was packed to the rafters with people. Row after row of wooden, church-like benches creaked under the weight of hundreds upon hundreds of people, waiting to take their turns at the microphone. (On the back of one of the benches, I could see a sticker that read, "Become the Media!") People stood along the walls around the perimeter, including at least 3 armed police officers that I could see, apparently there to keep order or something. There were rows of video cameras, perched on tripods or purring from the hands of videographers. I noted, hardly surprised, that each and every one of those cameras belonged to independent videoistas. From cable access stations and indy media collectives and independent documentarians, there was plenty of media there... but not a single corporate media camera or reporter in sight. Clearly, this is an issue that the corporate media prefers not to inform the public about.
After surveying the room for awhile, I slid into a seat that people had apparently been afraid to take, because it was in front of an imposing array of cameras. (I ducked down... but I saw no reason to leave the seat unoccupied in such a crowded room.) It was just after 7:30, and the 37th speaker of the evening was giving her public testimony. There were nearly 300 people already signed up to speak, and more people were arriving every moment. Clearly, it was going to be a long night.
Commissioners Martin, Copps, Adelstein, and McDowell were sprawled in their chairs along a table, perched up on a stage above the crowd. All looked uncomfortable and a little rumpled, having been sitting there like that for several hours already, facing a politely hostile crowd. Most had long-since removed their sweaty jackets, but oddly, each wore a red tie. Commissioner Tate was nowhere in sight, though I understand she had been there earlier, and had given a thoroughly uninspired statement, peppered with cloyingly patronizing phrases like "from sea to shining sea." (Read the contents here: http://www.fcc.gov/seattle-tate.pdf.) Her statement had ended with the words, "I appreciate all of our esteemed panelists, as well as the many members of the public who have taken time to participate in this process, and I look forward to your remarks." She then left before listening to most (any?) of those remarks. There was another person up there whom I did not recognize. Apparently, that was Louis Sigalos, FCC Chief of the Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division who was moderating the affair. So that left five bored-looking white males up on the stage, looking down on a diverse and energetic throng of people who cared enough to come from all over Cascadia to make their case against media consolidation.
Again and again, throughout the evening, my attention was drawn to the stark contrast between the monolithic faces of the five white guys in power ties, versus the people who were there to defend the free media. One by one, old people, high school students, Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, women, people with disabilities, people in suits and ties, people in tattered t-shirts, people in carharts, made their way to the microphone to plead their cases and make their demands before the indifferent gaze of the five white guys in power ties, looking down from above. From behind cans of Coke, no less. I'm not making that up. Could the imagery be any more clear than that?
WHAT THE FUSS WAS ALL ABOUT, AND WHY ALL THIS MATTERS
We base our beliefs, philosophies, and actions upon the information that we have about the world. In other words, we live through the stories that we create together. Or... that are created for us, sold to us, forced upon us, by the media. Although we are often not aware of the importance of these stories, the truth is, they determine our very reality. We imagine that the things we "know" are learned through our direct experience of the world around us. In truth, though, most of what we know about the world comes to us through the stories that carry our tenuous connection with the outside world. It is this knowledge, based on these cultural stories, that determine how we relate to each other and to the world, and how we behave in that world. Often, too often, these stories come to us from the corporate media.
Obviously, the power to control the stories that vibrate through our culture has been eagerly sought by various interests who understand that to control the story is really to control reality. It is the "mind control" that shadowy mad scientists and megalomaniac cartoon characters have always sought in our cultural mythology. We can all see this, if we look. How many times do you hear a story on the news in the morning, only to find yourself mindlessly repeating it later, to other people? Do you really know anything about that issue? Or do you only know what you heard in the corporate media?
Indeed, control over the media means, in a very real sense, control of the world. (The US government knows that too, which is why so many un-"embedded" journalists have been killed trying to cover the dirty war in Iraq, and why infiltrators in foreign media are so often paid off to plant false stories there. Perhaps it may even be why the very first victim of the now bizarrely forgotten anthrax outbreak in the US was a Florida journalist.)
And so, for example, the story pulsing through our culture a few short years ago was a scary one about weapons of mass destruction and September 11th and Saddam Hussein. There was drama to this story, and intrigue, and even a tailor-made villain. In the end, it made no difference that this story was a lie. It didn't matter that Iraq had nothing to do with the disaster at the WTC in 2001. It didn't matter that there were no weapons of mass destruction. It didn't even matter that most of us knew that this story was a lie or that millions of us stood in the streets and screamed that we knew it was a lie. All that mattered was that the people telling that story had the power to shout it literally from the rooftops, and to silence every other perspective. And so they did. They repeated the story again and again and again, until it took on a life of its own. And the consequences were very, very real.
Now, hundreds of thousands of innocent people are dead in Iraq. Because of a story. Because the people who wanted to go to war had the power to repeat that story to the exclusion of all others, because hardly any other voices could be heard in the run-up to the war, and because no one in the corporate media was asking any questions. It was the complicity of the corporate media, the propaganda arm of the corporate police state, that brainwashed the people into acquiescence, and that laid the path to a war that made no sense.
Later, it was the corporate media that erased the story of American torture of human beings from our sight. As soon as the first images of hooded figures dying in torture chambers broke across our screens, they flashed past and then were gone. Replaced by strangely engrossing treatises on, as one delegate to the hearings pointed out, Britney Spears' panties. Propaganda is a science now. It is an easy thing to distract and manipulate the public discourse, if you have the power to decide what will, and what will not, make its way into the collective consciousness of an entire nation's shared sense of reality. So American war criminals faded away beneath American Idols, and the war goes on and on.
And that's why this matters. Because the struggle over media democracy is literally a struggle between life and death. When we fight for control over our own media, our own stories, we are literally fighting for our lives. Our lives, our sanity, our connection with reality. And the lives of millions of other people across the planet, whose very survival depends upon their voices being heard, their stories being told.
Those of us in Seattle last night understood that. And that's why we came.
A LITTLE HISTORY
It's been recognized for a long time that the media is a powerful tool that can be wielded for the public good, or ...it could be wielded in ways that can hurt people and undermine democracy. For that reason, the FCC has been charged with protecting the public interest. From the earliest days of broadcasting, there has been a concern (though not enough of a concern) with ensuring that this powerful tool will be used in ways that help, rather than hurt people. The Communications Act of 1934 began the auctioning off of our public airwaves to corporate interests, by allowing private parties with enough money to gain exclusive access to the scarce broadcasting frequencies through licensing deals. However, the Act also made it clear that, although the airwaves might be licensed to corporate interests, the airwaves nevertheless continue to belong to the public. Us. You and me. The airwaves are OURS.
The law also required that licensees must "serve the public interest," and if they did not, the public could theoretically revoke that license. Sadly, this requirement of the law has rarely been met, and the FCC has almost never pursued revocation for failing to meet it. Media giants are allowed to claim that a few toy drives or a story about some new drug on the market qualifies them as public servants... Even as their choke-hold over the airwaves prevents people and organizations that really would serve the public from ever being able to use those rare broadcast frequencies to the benefit of the community. (Apparently, one of the corporate panelists had made reference to the "public service" they provide by contributing to a few charities. This happened before I arrived, but several people referred to the comments in the ensuing testimony. One woman responded, "It is not good enough to collect food for the hungry if they don't tell us why they are hungry in the first place.")
Similarly, laws have protected the public in the past from media monopolies, which would otherwise hand too much power over to a single entity -- the entity with the most money. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, for example, was an attempt to limit the power of cartels over the lives of Americans. The law clearly states, "Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce ... shall be deemed guilty of a felony." The law makes it illegal to restrict competition or to monopolize any part of the market, including the media. At the time that it was passed, it sailed through the Senate by a vote of 51 to 1, and was passed unanimously in the House. On the same note, the FCC itself has, for most of its history, had strict rules limiting the number and types of media that can be controlled in a single venue, by a single corporation. The potential for abuse of power has always been seen as simply too great to allow only one voice to control too much of our collective stories in any given community.
Again and again, congress, the courts, and even the FCC reaffirmed both the duty to serve the public interest and the prohibition against media monopolies, even if only in a half-hearted manner. Corporations were forbidden from monopolizing the media market, were restricted in the number of television stations, radio stations, and newspapers they could own and operate in a single venue. They were required to demonstrate a commitment to the public interest, and to share the airwaves with the public.
But, beginning in the 1980s, that began to change. The same free-market forces that were sweeping away democracy in South America under the auspices of the CIA and the Chicago Boys were also taking their toll on media democracy here in the US. Under Ronald Reagan, the FCC extended TV broadcast licenses from 3 years to 5, boosted the number of stations a single entity could own, and abolished limits on the amount of advertising allowed. Similarly, requirements guiding the amount of non-entertainment programming was abolished, effectively removing whatever "public interest" had ever been served by the corporate media. (As another delegate to the hearings in Seattle noted, "We are some of the most entertained people on the planet... but we don't know very much about what's going on in the world.")
The 1980s also saw the death of the "Fairness Doctrine," which had required that contrasting points of view be covered and that the public interest be served in reporting on important events. It had forbidden one-sided political editorializing masquerading as news, and had mandated "equal time" for views from various facets of the political spectrum. (For more on the history of the Fairness Doctrine, see http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/F/htmlF/fairnessdoct/fairnessdoct.htm.) Clearly, the erosion of the free media went from a trickle to a hemorrhage in the 1980s.
Then, in 1996, the Telecommunications Act handed control of our stories over to corporate America on a silver platter. In the stroke of a pen, wielded by Bill Clinton no less, this Act eliminated all limits on national radio ownership, drastically reduced restrictions on ownership of local radio stations in a single market, and relaxed restrictions on control over the television market. Prior to this act, a single corporation was allowed to own a total of no more than 40 radio stations. Shortly after its passage, Clear Channel launched its mega-media empire, buying up more than 1200 stations reaching into the minds of millions of Americans and closing off the airwaves to dissenting voices all the way across the nation. In addition, the 1996 Telecommunications Act required the FCC to examine all of its rules and regulations, to see what could be discarded. This act paved the way for further deregulation, which would be justified by the precedents set in the 1996 Act.
Then, in 2002, FCC chairman Michael Powell (son of Colin Powell) took out all the stops. Referring back to the 1996 Act, which mandated a review of all FCC regulations, he opened up the door to the possibility of removing what little was left of the FCC's role as guardians of the People's right to a free media in America. Suddenly, everything was up for grabs. Powell announced that the FCC would conduct a review of all media ownership rules. (Bill Moyers noted that the only corporate media network to even mention this important moment in media history was ABCs "World News This Morning," and they did so in a terse sound bite at 4:40 in the morning.) Media giants issued proclamations to the FCC that all media ownership rules must be eliminated, and it looked like the FCC was going to come through for them.
With as little respect for the public as the current FCC commission has demonstrated, the Powell commission attempted to evade public comment and slip through the New World Order of media monopolies without a whisper. Legally mandated "public hearings" were obscurely announced on the FCC's website (who checks that?), but the public was hearing nothing about them in the corporate press. With astonishing brazenness, Powell assured concerned lawmakers that there would be "no radical changes" in media regulations, even as he plotted one of the most far-reaching and devastating assaults on the media that had ever been entertained by the FCC.
But the people were paying attention anyway. Despite the silence in the corporate media, word was seeping out about the FCC's plans, and about the impact that this would have on the American media. Throughout 2003 and 2004, the FCC and the people of America fought a pitched battle over the rights of the people to have access to their own airwaves, to have a voice in their own presses. The FCC went ahead and issued new rules which would have reduced almost all restrictions on media monopolies (for more info, see for example, http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/fccchanges.html), but the people fought them. Literally MILLIONS of people filed public comments opposing the move toward media consolidation. Sensing which way the political winds were blowing, even congress got into the act. In July of 2003, Congress voted 400 to 21 to block the FCC's decision to allow a single television network to own up to 45% of the nation's television market. (The Bush administration complained about this move by congress, but the public applauded it.)(Don't get the wrong idea here, though. Congress' efforts to safeguard the public interest in this was lukewarm at best. If they had really cared about the issue, they could have done much more than they did to restore media democracy in America. They chose not to.)
The most substantive challenge to the FCC's assault on media democracy came from a band of independent media activists who took on Big Media and the FCC in court. The Prometheus Radio Project, among others, sued the FCC over the attempt to lift restrictions on corporate media ownership, while Clear Channel, FOX, and numerous other corporate media giants entered the fray to demand even more concessions from the FCC. In the end, the courts sided with Prometheus et al, and the FCC was effectively barred (for the time) from pushing most of the changes through. Although the FCC and the corporate media appealed the initial decision, it was upheld by the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and a further appeal was turned down by the Supreme Court. So the people won that round. (Read the court's decision here in its entirety: http://www.fcc.gov/ogc/documents/opinions/2004/03-3388-062404.pdf.)
This has been a quick overview of the history of the issues that brought more than a thousand people to Seattle last night to fight the FCC. We won this battle once already. Why, then, were we back to the same issue? Three million people had filed public comments denouncing media consolidation, a bi-partisan congress wrangled to prevent the proposed deregulation, and the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the proposed deregulation was illegal. And now, the FCC wants to "revisit" all of that, to find a way around the Prometheus ruling and push through the corporate agenda once again. (As a woman named Susan who took her two minutes before the microphone Friday night said, "We told you the last time you came here that media consolidation was a bad idea. What part of that did you not understand?")
THE BATTLE FOR THE VOICE OF SEATTLE
As I noted above, virtually no notice was given for this hearing, in the hope that no one would show up. This cynical decision was reportedly made by commissioners Martin, Tate, and McDowell, who are in the pockets of industry. They did not even bother to inform commissioners Copps and Adelstein about the date of the hearing until moments before the announcement went up onto the FCC website, which seems to have pissed the two dissenting commissioners off. (Read their irate, if overly punny, statement on this matter here: link to hraunfoss.fcc.gov.
In any event, despite the ploy to limit public participation, more than a thousand people showed up to voice their dissent. The number that is being offered by most sources is 1,100 people. Although this seemed to be a fair estimate of the number of people I saw when I arrived, I believe it may actually underestimate the real number of people who made their way to Seattle for this hearing, since people were coming and going throughout the night. People who came early were filtering out as the evening wore on, but at the same time others who had come long distances on short notice were arriving and taking their places. As of the last time I checked the sign-up list, almost 300 people had signed up to speak.
Each member of the public was given only two minutes to state their case. Often, they were perfunctorily cut off in mid-sentence in the throes of a passionate plea for the freedom of the media. As they were unceremoniously rushed past the microphones set up down on the floor beneath the dais, beneath the half-empty Coke cans and the bored gazes of the commissioners, I found myself taking note of the absence of any corporate entities here. Where were they? What kind of access do they have to these commissioners? Why are they not forced to make their cases like this, in 2 minute sound bites, in full view of the public? Why are thousands of voices relegated to such a disrespectful and marginalizing proceeding, so non-conducive to any real communication, while the voices of the corporate world get private audiences in plush boardrooms and ritzy restaurants? This is unfair in the extreme.
Of the hundreds of speakers I heard that night, not one of them expressed any interest in allowing media consolidation. Each and every voice spoke up to oppose any attempt to lift restrictions and further deregulate the media. The most eloquent words I heard came from a student of Ballard High School, whose name, I believe, was Sami Kuba. (This is what it sounded like through the muffled mic, but I can't be sure of the spelling....) As she took the mic into her hand, she looked the commissioners in the eyes and stated clearly and firmly, "Commissioners, I am not here to tell you that you should not further consolidate the media. I am here to tell you that you cannot." At this, the crowd erupted into a roar of applause.
Sami went on to denounce plans to allow more control over our cultural soul by the corporate media, describing the "God-like influence" that the media has upon her peers. She proceeded to decry the corporate media's promotion of "unrealistic standards of beauty," which intentionally leads to insecurity and self-loathing in women, and particularly young women like herself. Pointing out that media ownership is, by design, skewed toward a tiny handful of people with similar interests and values (in other words, rich, privileged, white men), she expertly made her case that media consolidation is not in the best interests of the majority of members of this society. They are not serving the public interest, they are selling us out. They are using the airwaves to promote an ideal of beauty and worth that feeds their own narrow needs, at our expense. Disconcertingly, she closed by describing the cost that this phenomenon has extracted upon her, personally. She said that she has been acutely impacted by the promotion of self-loathing, and that she has given up on her dream of becoming a filmmaker, because she is not wealthy, not white, not male, and not beautiful by the standards set forth in the corporate media. Therefore, she has no access to the scarce airwaves. (I wanted to find her later, to see if she understands how truly beautiful she really is, and to encourage her to rekindle her dream of becoming a filmmaker. I lost track of her, though, in the crowd.)
When Sami finished speaking, the crowd leapt to its feet in a spontaneous ovation. This was a ritual that would be repeated many times throughout the night -- eloquent words in defense of a free media, followed by roaring approval from the crowd. Two minutes at a time, citizen after citizen got up to urge the FCC commissioners to remember that they work for the American people, and not for the corporate police state. One woman presented a copy of the US Constitution to the commissioners with special emphasis on the First Amendment, and several people urged them to keep a copy near them as they made their decisions. One after another, delegates explained to the commission that a free and informed media is an integral and indispensable component of a true democracy, indeed, the very foundation of democracy itself.
Someone named Jennifer announced that she was "shocked that we had to have so many people here begging you to give us what is our right." At least three people from three separate Native American tribes got up to say that the lack of Native voices in the corporate media is unacceptable, and that it will only get worse if they change the rules in the manner that seems to be on the table. And indeed, Joseph Orozco, who was a member of the second and last panel of the evening (and therefore got all of 5 minutes to speak), spoke to that same issue. Mr. Orozco is the station manager of KIDE radio, the only Native-owned station in the state of California. (On a side note, it is the only solar powered station in the state of California.) Mr. Orozco explained that radio is a community building tool, and that as a Native American, he uses the airwaves as a "language and cultural restoration tool." He described his radio station as an "electronic version of our oral traditions," and stressed the importance of maintaining access to the media for Native Americans. He noted that Native Americans are often "the last seated at the table" in discussions about media ownership, and then pointed out that he was, in fact, seated as the last panelist at the table. A very concrete metaphor indeed.
Mr. Orozco, like several other Native Americans who spoke, expressed concern that any further deregulation of the media would make it even harder for women or people of color to gain access to the media, would minimize indigenous voices, and would increase the assault of Western, culturally imperialist forces on Native peoples. Others expressed similar concerns regarding deregulation's impact upon diversity in the airwaves and the newspapers. Some people referred to the case of the Jena 6, which would never have made it to the national consciousness if it had not been for independent African American media sources. And almost everyone there, in one way or another, demanded the right to define who they are for themselves, rather than being defined by a megalithic, overpowering, and oppressive corporate media. A DJ from Radio-Free Moscow told the commission that "Corporate radio does not consider the stories of 'small people' like myself." Still another woman stood up to say that she is concerned about the lack of images of breastfeeding or positive birthing experiences in the media. She noted that the corporate media is responsible for "silencing and pathologizing these normal, healthy experiences," and she connected that to the fact that the corporate media is almost exclusively owned and controlled by men.
Many people got up to tell stories about how difficult it has been for them to get any media coverage for their own stories, or for important events that impact their local communities. Advocates for survivors of domestic violence, for child welfare, for the rights of people with disabilities, and others all talked about how hard it is to be heard amid the din of commercial jingos and status-quo propaganda. There was a strong sentiment, expressed by one woman who advocates for children, that the media is only concerned with sensationalism, and that, as she said, "If it bleeds, it leads." (I have to say, I disagree with this somewhat. If the role of the corporate media were simply to profit from sensationalism, there are a lot of stories that we would be hearing more about. All too often, though, rather than leading, the victims of the corporate police state are left to bleed in silence. The corporate media is not about sensationalism so much as it is about power and control. They are, as I have said, the propaganda arm of the police state. So the blood of torture victims, the blood of anti-war demonstrators, the blood of South American labor activists, is never allowed to "lead.")
Another of my favorite speakers introduced herself as, I think, Lila. She said that she works with Pepperspray Productions in Seattle, and that she provides media education to young women. She said that she became the media after the WTO demonstrations of 1999. She had attended the demonstration and had seen what was happening first-hand. Later, she went home and watched the coverage of the protest on TV. In horror, she said, "Every station was telling the same false story." At that moment, she was reborn as a media activist, and she has been telling her own stories and teaching others to do the same ever since. (Incidentally, this is close to my own awakening as a media activist. Although I was already a filmmaker at the time, I, too, had my eyes opened to the importance of being my own media after experiencing the vast chasm between what was really happening all around me, and what the corporate media was saying about it.)
Besides the issue of democracy, many people also noted the impact of media consolidation upon the issue of public safety. Lots of people referenced the incident in Minot, North Dakota, in which the lack of local radio stations nearly killed people. (This incident is already pretty familiar to most people who would be interested in media democracy, so I won't re-hash it here. But if you would like more information about the Minot episode see, for example, http://www.projectcensored.org/publications/2004/17.html
and also http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/01/25/153207)
And finally, there was a man whose name I did not catch, who said that his parents had immigrated to the United States many years ago, from Czechoslovakia. He described the country they had fled from as being a place where political prisoners were routinely tortured, where people who were innocent of any crime could be "disappeared" into cells in secret prisons, and where the government spied on people. People all around me grew silent with recognition. And, said the man, it was a place where all of these abuses of power were buttressed by a cold, calculating, and monolithic media. How horrified his parents would be, he said, to learn that their beloved America has become the very nightmare from which they had fled so many years before. He paused, and then reminded the commission that "A plurality of voices is the very definition of democracy."
Although the hearings were supposed to conclude at 11pm, when that hour came there were still more than a hundred people on the list, still waiting to testify. The moderator announced that we would press on till midnight, and when midnight came, there were *still* people waiting to speak. In the end, I am told, the bleary-eyed speakers did not stop making their case until 1:00 in the morning. (I left somewhere around midnight, too tired to stay any longer, and satisfied that we had all made a very powerful showing.) Although I had been present for 4 and a half hours of testimony, that represented less than half of the full 9-hour marathon hearings. Holy shit. May all of that energy be used for good.
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