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Electricity, Power & the Politics of Listening
Without wishing to have any reader of this website jump to conclusions about this author’s ideological predispositions (or lack of them), Lenin is often quoted as having defined Communism as “Socialism plus electrification” (in fact The Guardian cites “The Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations” as clarifying that Lenin stated “Communism equals Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country”). Similarly, despite being the work of Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, the Act of Parliament which inaugurated the UK’s National Grid in 1926 was described as “the most Socialist piece of legislation ever known”. So, in addition to the artist Ai Weiwei’s appropriation of the Chinese anti-government Cào Nǐ Mā mishearing (see earlier posts), and the “Rorschach Audio” project’s long-standing treatments of the politics of listening (of the ethics of EVP research, the Judas Priest trial, right-wing Evangelical campaigns around so-called Satanic Back-masking, and more important issues such as the influence the Craig & Bentley case had on the abolition of the death penalty for murder, and the politics of the Obama-Osama mishearings etc), if readers wish to relate the politics of listening to the politics of electrification (as referred to in texts accompanying Disinformation’s “National Grid” sound installations, etc), of electrical and political power contested in the field of sound and protest, look no further than the spoken dialogue from soul-punk band The Redskins on the Channel 4 music TV show “The Tube” in 1984 (0:20 to 1:00 into the video).
In terms of the kinds of subject-matter discussed on this website, and in context of the pitched-battle that was (at that time) being fought between organised labour and Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, for what amounted to political control of the UK’s electrical infrastructure, the dialogue wasn’t so much ambiguous, the voice was almost totally inaudible (thanks to a highly political intervention by the Channel 4 producers). “On tambourine, on additional percussion, and on strike for 35 weeks, a Durham Miner…” (the voice of miner Norman Strike, from Westoe Colliery, South Shields). The “redacted” voice was subsequently re-recorded by Norman (for a cover-version of the original Redskins track by the band The Che Men). Play the audio file…
There’s been “Six miners killed in this strike, five miners on life-support machines, three miners with fractured skulls, over 2,500 serious injuries, and more than 7,500 arrests. We’re told we’re out on a limb, we’re on our own, that no-one supports us, yet hundreds of thousands of pounds have been collected for us by ordinary working-class people. Miners’ support groups have sprung up all over the country – in towns, factories offices and colleges. They’re supporting us. You should be supporting them. Victory to the miners!”
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