Commentary

Sideswipes: Content Is Our Greatest Asset

This week over in literature, a group of writers withdrew from the PEN American Center's annual gala in protest over giving an award to French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. I find that interesting in its own right when one considers that PEN American is a group dedicated to protecting writers' freedom of expression. One would think that considering the attempt in January to silence Hebdo through a brutal murder, PEN American writers would be on board. And yet some are not.

What I find interesting is why some writers at PEN are not supporting the award. This is from writer Deborah Esienberg, and is a beautiful summary of the why here:

"Anything at all can be expressed, and just because something is expressed doesn't ensure that it has either virtue or meaning."

So what Eisenberg is playing with is the concept of expression as value. Which drives a second question, especially for content creators, which may be something like, "How can I bring virtue or meaning to what I express?"

The psychologist Carl Jung believed that much virtue and meaning lay in symbols. As we dream, symbols appear and request our contribution to decode them. Symbols represent basic human experiences and behaviors -- birth, death, love, being a jackass, or being a mother or father. To decode them requires our participation. Quite the opposite of media spin, symbols can't be "messaged" by an external force.

To me the PEN American writers' withdrawal has much to do with the interplay between media spin and decoding symbols today, and the blurry way the two intersect. Media spin is the superficial story -- Hebdo was spun as a violation of free speech. Decoding the symbols is the personal story -- The PEN writers are withdrawing because after decoding the symbols in work produced by Hebdo, the writers weren't able to find much virtue or meaning there. 

All of this to say it occurred to me while reading about the PEN American writers' withdrawal that content is our greatest asset - when it is laden with symbols that have virtue and meaning once audiences get through the spin.

Je suis Charlie from MarkFiore on Vimeo.

Je suis Charlie from MarkFiore on Vimeo.

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