Media’s New Born: Call it Alternative ! (Week 3)

I have read an article on alternative media entitled; The “Alternative Media” Challenges Officialdom’s Views, which you can find at: What caught my eye is that the author claims that mainstream media is under threat and challenge, and that threat is “alternative media”. Very welcoming for a new born!

The reason they have been called alternative, is because they are seen as a second option or a substitute. And the definition of substitute lies in replacing, giving place or changing something by something else, usually if the former is not satisfying and convenient. People, readers and media consumers think that media is failing to tell people the truth and is more or less working to deceive them. Let’s take the social networks for instance; Twitter or Facebook display or create news stories and try as much as possible to share them with the populace, which can sometimes, or most of the time create a direct passive understanding of these news stories. That is to say, social networks are another type of alternative media that challenge the system.

 Critiquing “mainstream” vs. “alternative” media is pursuing a dead-end paradigm, and analyzing media in general is a complex endeavor. Media has many forms and structural dynamics and quite often they overlap. There is print vs. radio vs. TV vs. internet, all of which use different mechanisms to tell a story. And within each there are also various dynamics. There is news vs. commentary vs. entertainment. While it is true that the general public has been somewhat dumbed down, they are also quite aware. Those who love the tabloids don’t pretend they are something they are not. People know the tabloids are sensationalized trash, they just happen to enjoy them. 

A mainstream media institution (public or private) most often aims to maximize profit or sells an elite audience to advertisers for its main source of revenue. It is virtually always structured in accord with and to help reinforce society’s defining hierarchical social relationships, and is generally controlled by and controlling of other major social institutions, particularly corporations.

In contrast, an alternative media institution (to the extent possible given its circumstances) doesn’t try to maximize profits, doesn’t primarily sell audience to advertisers for revenues (and so seeks broad and non-elite audience), is structured to subvert society’s defining hierarchical social relationships, and is structurally profoundly different from and as independent of other major social institutions, particularly corporations, as it can be. An alternative media institution sees itself as part of a project to establish new ways of organizing media and social activity and it is committed to furthering these as a whole, and not just its own preservation.

Street Art: Alternative form of media

Street art is an alternative media that uses many different performances to spread an idea of an individual or a group of people. An example is Kenya’s people who use street performance to talk about the severity of their impoverishment. Another example is people from all over the world who make graffiti in order to show everyone else who they are. There is no one set truth for street art, it comes from people for all different situations, but all want their ideas heard by others who might understand. Another example of street art can be the street performances in Jemaa el Fnaa- main square in Marrakech- called Halqa/Storytelling, a traditional way of entertaining the masses, telling historical stories, as well as criticizing the system through jokes and stories. Many of the entertainers make a living out of it. The Halqa has emerged in the 1960s and 1970s in different parts of Morocco, mainly in Beni Mellal and Marrakech, which is still a famous destination for locals and foreigners.
This street performance is a form of art that grants the storytellers freedom of expression: it is a getaway from the mainstream. The Halqa gathers people around the storyteller/hlayqi, forming a circle. The stories told are usually about social problems or about some great figures in history and religion. The stories can be sang, told as jokes, or simply told as tales. Halqa resembles theater in its structure, knowing that both are spectacles offered to the public. During the holy month, Ramadan, people meet in the square, listen to stories meanwhile the Imam calls for prayer to break their fast. The crowd heads home, then comes back to finish the story.

Underground Press in Morocco

Underground press is a kind of press where one can represent their views, which are generally not accepted, in opposition to established ideas, rules and systems; such as magazines. “Nichane” – meaning straightforward in the Moroccan dialect – is or let’s say was a weekly moroccan magazine that used jokes to criticize the system, putting emphasis on taboos, political and social scandals, etc. The magazine has been censored in 2010, due to the use of offensive words towards the Moroccan King. However, Nichane had managed to come closer to the Moroccan readers and put all the barriers aside, using daily life language to uncover the reality of the society and be open about it; which the mainstream media fail to do. Despite of the language it used, I myself was a fan of this magazine, because it was the most concrete and realest thing to read and still believe. As I mentioned in a previous comment on alternative media, the latter are now considered as a threat to the mainstream ones and a weapon that kills every opportunity of being surreal, this is why the magazine has been officially censored from the public, but however, left its mark on the internet and on social networks, under