The Gatling-o-phone Manifesto
The Gatlingophone is a large device resembling a Gatling gun constructed from PVC pipes with a phono record turntable attached in place of a cylinder ammunition clip. An acoustic playback tone arm and reproducer are attached in order to playback a phono record. When the Gatling gun handle is turned, it plays the record, the sound from which is acoustically amplified through the barrel of the gun, which has a horn attached to the tip.
The Gatlingophone is an artistic representation of the ideas outlined in Avital Ronell’s essay “Haunted TV”, symbolizing the saturating power of corporate network news in mass media, delivering story after story in mind-numbing, rapid-fire succession. The Gatlingophone is representative of the centralized control of the mass media that was enabled in part by the US government’s policies on mass media regulation. News agencies deliver information originating from centralized corporate news networks, aimed at the eyes and ears of the American public, who are conceived as consumers.
I have created a lathe-cut phonograph record, as the “ammo” for the Gatlingophone, comprised of audio clips from breaking news stories in the mass media. The audio clips I have purposely chosen represent the top news stories dating from 1996 to 2014. I chose the year 1996 because it was the year that the US Government, under President Bill Clinton, passed the 1996 Telecommunications Act that essentially deregulated media ownership in the USA. At the time in 1996, the Telecom Act was celebrated as a way to encourage competition within the mass communications industry, thereby increasing diversity and quality, both technologically and in content. However, in 2014 it is apparent that the result has actually been the opposite, as mass media has become unacceptably homogenized, lacking in diversity at its very core.
Within the United States, listeners hear the same news, hear the same music, watch the same television programs on the same television stations, and read many of the same newspapers, magazines, and books as every other city within the country. Local radio has nearly completely vanished. Regional news companies are affiliates of national news networks. National newspaper corporations largely own regional newspapers. Cable television stations often produce their own programming, which is viewed simultaneously by viewers across the country. Never before has the control over the American mass communications industry been so severely centralized.
The television, film, radio, music, newspaper, magazine, and book industries share a commonality; they each represent a form of non-interactive, one-way, centrally controlled mass media. It has steadily progressed to the point that these mass media companies have developed an amazingly effective and powerful tool to sculpt public opinion. Mass Media doesn’t always blatantly tell its consumers what to think, but instead, it tells them what to think about. Mass Media has the power to divert attention away from certain topics by providing distractions with other topics.
When President Bill Clinton signed the 1996 Telecommunications Act that deregulated the mass communications industry, he essentially allowed the formation of giant mega conglomerate media corporations, which have taken control of the entire communications industry. The Gatlingophone is an artistic protest (in the form of satire) against the centralized control of the mass communications industry. The Gatlingophone shoots you in the ears with news headlines like a machine gun fires bullets, with little hope of escaping unscathed.
The Gatlingophone’s line of fire can be directed at specific individuals, just as the mass media can create programming directed at a specific demographic of consumers in order to sell the attention of that specific demographic of consumers to advertising agencies, or the Gatlingophone can be used to spray down an entire room full of listeners in the same manner in which consumers making up audiences in movie theaters, music festivals, or even classrooms in public schools and universities can be sold to advertisers.
To quote Pacino’s character Tony Montana in the film Scarface:
“Say Hello To My Little Friend!”