1) “American television, sold the war (Iraq-USA) every single day, it rewarded and honored the people that were fighting it, but disregarded the people who were opposing. It’s not just the government or the president, it’s an institutional arrangement including our media system.” (NE United Anti War Conference) You believe we have to challenge and confront the media system, you also said that if you could infiltrate into the media you could have a big impact. Do you think one can change the way the media system operates, what can we do to challenge it? After all it’s either state monopoly or powerful companies who are in bed with the state, who own the media in general. Again, what can we do to challenge it? Is there any change at the end of the tunnel?
Very good question. I was doing some superficial stories. For example on Tina Turner’s come back. She was a Buddhist, so here we have a sexual goddess who is also a spiritual Buddhist. Who was also was an abused woman, she was beaten by her husband- just like one out of four women in Turkey are abused by their husbands. So the interview was with Tina Turner but I also brought up these issues, so the interview had a social content.
I did another story on hiphop and showed that hiphop was poetry of the streets. It was a form of expression of people outside of music industry and made a powerful critique of the society. It was a valid art form. It helped hiphop from being a black thing to become a white thing.
I did another story on Bruce Springsteen. He was involved in supporting workers, homeless people and food for poor people. Most of the stories up until then were on his records, his success as a celebrity. But I treated him as a citizen. And what he was doing fort he society.
It depends on what angle you bring to the story. I was successful to show a different angle. On the other hand it was frustrating to see that many people were uninterested in what was going on in the World or the truth. So, I became an independent journalist. I set up my own company.
The first story we did was on South Africa. We found out that the struggle in SOUTH Africa for freedom was not reported on America. That was being censored because the media companies wanted to be the first there when Nelson Mandela got out of prison. So we created a television Show called South afRİCA NOW to compete with them. Oprah, Winfrey and others supported it. When Nelson Mandela got out I ended up doing 6 films with him. It was a big honor.
It depends on your mentality, what you want to stand out for. We created mediachannel.org where media watches the World and we watch the media. We get to report on what was not reported and challenge the media. We had a lot of students come and intern. Internship is a way of learning. You do not get to learn fort he sake of Money. Big guys can take a fall, history can change, and you can help it change working for NGO or a media outlet that is willing to report on such issues.
My message to you guys is look for opportunities to participate such as in social media. Share information with others.
2) On September 12, 2011 in a global research you said that: “ Many of these were the ideas and issues that a more democratic media would highlight. If we lived in Europe, these events would have been covered. But here in USA, it was media business as usual— reflecting the view of the powerful, sympathizing with the victims, but never debating how things might be different. Events like these were considered a sideshow unworthy of attention. ” Do you still believe that there is a difference like that between the media of Europe and USA?
Yes there are differences among American complications. There are cowboy newspapers there is sensationalism. Newspapers just deal with entertainment issues. Pretty girls, passion, sports etc. what they are focused on. So, there are distinctions everywhere. I went to London School Economics. I lived in London for a few years and I learnt about European media, certain newspapers published in London. Some of them are rightwing some of them are leftwing and some of them no wing. As a result you see, I taught media at a school in Brixton in England which is an immigrant poor neighborhood and one of the things we did is we took a big march against the war in Vietnam which took place in England that I was part of. We just looked that how many people kepted this march. Every newspaper had a different number. Every newspaper reported it in a different way. So what really happens, you really don’t know. Because there was a lot of spin, by use in a loose. I was there, so I can give you my experience, but other people maybe had a different experience. So my point is you have to learn to read between the lines, you have to learn to say what do you find in the media that you admire, if anything. What would you recommend to others? If you want to be in the media, what would you like, what kind of media do you want to be in? Do you want to be in news covering fashion shows; do you want to be in news covering politics? You have to decide what do you think is most important and you have to try to prepare yourself and get into that kind of media. You perceive this somebody who has creativity, somebody who is knowledgeable. That’s constantly wising, changing situation. I would encourage you presume my experiences. You know, lot of European media not so great necessarily, but there is some much better cover subjects. I can’t find it in United States, that’s way I tried to read it nationally. For example I report in South Africa, I mean go to the South African newspaper, see what they say. I have never reported on Turkey, but I really want to read what the Turkish newspapers had said. Although, I only can write and read English, so I couldn’t get Turkish and read it. But, you know people tell me about it. So, I’m trying to learn that way too.
3) What was the biggest criticism to the media, which you had to defend your opinion most? In your opinion, which country has the most freedom of expression?
If you’re in a media company and you get the slightly different view, you’re going to have to really work hard to diginimise the fact that you even take that view. So, for example we took the view that The African National—-Organization. It was really representative of most of the people in South Africa. Well, other people said that no it was a terrorist organization. He admits it. How can you say this is a gentleman? This is a point of argument, point of attention. You have to be prepared to the fin, your position, understand that somebody has to see. One of the difficult issues to the — for me, lets say as a Jewish American, is Israel. Because many people who would say if you were critical of this Israel, you are self-aiding Jew, you don’t support your own people. Now, this is not true, but actually majority of American Jews are critical to Israel. But you would know that from reading the newspapers. You think all are unified, supporting this rightly government in Israel, so in attitude there is a lot of debating points and a lot of time politicians use what it called message points. They frame a subject so that, their point of view will see only reasonable. We are only defending our right to exist. Or in Turkey, we are only censuring or filtering the Internet because we want to protect the Turkish people and children in Turkey from being exposed to bad ideas and pornography. What is wrong with that? Then you have to say well, that maybe what you’re wanted to do but in fact you have censured thirty seven hundred web sites included ones that I like and if you want to protect children fine, but don’t protect them from me. Let me have an access as an adult. So there are lots of debating points about all these issues. You have to be aware of these controversies.
4) What do you think about the future of Turkey’s economy? Do you think it is fair that companies such as Standard&Poor’s decide on the credit grades of countries and influence their economies by either encouraging or discouraging the investors to invest in this country?
What do I think about the future of Turkey’s economy? First of all I don’t really know much about Turkeys economy “from A little what I have read..” But it looks like the Turkish economy is very strong and is doing very well because Turkey is trading with the rest of the world. İt is reaching out to the Arab world. Trading in the Arab World, trading with China. It has a much more international view and it is attracting lots of investments. Lots of companies are here; American companies are here who want to increase their participation in Turkey. They are making money in turkey whereas in America they are loosing money. So I think one of the reasons the government is supported, the prime minister got almost 50% of the votes is because the people feel that the economy is going well. Now, are there poor people in Turkey? Are there people who are not working? Are there people living miserable lives? I would probably say yes. Do I know any of them personally? No. But I am sure that there are gaps in the economy and like in the American economy there is growing inequality, which means we now have not just rich and poor but poor and super rich. A massive gap. And the middle class shrinking instead of expanding. Here in turkey it seems to be its expanding which is good. Yesterday, Adam took me to this island on this ship and when you look across Bosporus and to the see, the whole development along the side here is gigantic. When I was here in 1998 that wasn’t there. All these gigantic construction projects, buildings I am sure there are problems with some of these you know buildings standards. You know there was an earthquake in Turkey and it turned out the buildings were not well constructed. So I don’t know about the regulation and all these things whether or not people, consumers, are being protected against abuses. I assume there are some problems there. But I am impressed by what I have seen its pretty amazing, don’t you think? The speed of growth, whole neighborhoods weren’t even here, giant buildings. Now, it is also true that the people who are at the top of those giant buildings are making a lot of more money than the people at the bottom. But I can’t comment on that more because I need to know more.
Absolutely not, I think rating companies are a form of financial terrorism. It is using, labeling, these are the very companies that rated these fortunate mortgages and said they were AAA investments and they all collapsed. In other words, I don’t trust them at all. I don’t know why everybody else does and I think they are creating tremendous harm in Greece and other places, which is frightening. Suddenly, they downgraded United States also. I mean they think that they are more powerful than… and they are being investigated in the United States because there are a lot of conflicts of interest in … So I agree with you there needs to be a real investigation (more of an investigation). In my film “Wonder” I have a form of vice president like Standard and Poor’s who is critiquing the economy saying that it is a predatory economy in America. Which means that it is basically taking advantage of people.
5) Which side do you enjoy more or would you recommend us to get involved in – film production or news reporting?
You know I think you can do both and I try to do both. İn an other words, I like reporting and like learning about things I don’t know. I like finding out about stuff and you know I’ve been very fortunate to be able to travel to like sixty countries to meet incredible people, to learn from them. I was trying to write in a way that’s more analytical, more critical, and I just like you know, I’m trying to offer a perspective on something. To me that sounds like making films is fun or candidate fun, but it’s very very difficult to make a living doing it. Because when you make films, you think how much does it costs to make a film, but what you don’t think about is this; more than half of themoney that goes into a film, goes into marketing, promoting, selling the film. My daughter, works at Warner Brothers, Hollywood. She is a big executive there now, okay as I go down, she goes up and she tells me about how much money is spreading to marketing. She was involved with Harry Potter. I was in South Africa this summer, there is a women there, who’s daughter was in London visiting her ex husband. The daughter was going to die unless she went to the Harry Potter premier. She had to go to there and there was no way; it was sold out, it had been sold out for almost a year. Luckily her mother met me, luckily I have a daughter in Hollywood, luckily my daughter in Hollywood was able to get this girl a ticket to the premier, and it was like she had gone to heaven . She has all the outfits that Harry Potter dress, you know everything. But in London, one of the tremendous centres, the trafalgar square ,the center of London there hole commotion there. You know our television show about Harry Potter, promoting it and spending a fortune on it, but then the movie came out and it earned a billion dollars. So you know that’s what it takes. So I’m saying that making a film can be a lot of fun but it is also very difficult. When I was working in this movie “Clunder”, about the financial crises, first of all a lot of people didn’t have any money to invest, to put into it. It was hard to raise money at all for this film, and it’s hard to sell it and get it out. When you’re up againts the Harry Potter’s of the world, for you it’s very frusturating. Being independent from them, working for a television company, you’re paying a reasonable money to make a film and sell the film, it’s a challenge. Lets put it that way, right now I am a very frusturated film maker because I’m on a topic which is very tiring to get out, and I swear I need help. So I think this class should become a marketing union and help me use such a media to promote it, because I can’t afford to buy an advertiser(laughing) .On the other hand, I really enjoy doing things like this.