March 25, 2012

Dying cultural phenomenon alert.

Whatever happened to "mic check"? Why, only last fall it was a burgeoning new cultural phenomenon. Look at Richard Kim burbling in The Nation last October:
We Are All Human Microphones Now

... [T]he protesters [have] adopted an ingeniously simple people-powered method of sound amplification. After the mic check, the meeting proceeds:

with every few words / WITH EVERY FEW WORDS!

repeated and amplified out loud / REPEATED AND AMPLIFIED OUT LOUD!

by what has been dubbed / BY WHAT HAS BEEN DUBBED!

the human microphone / THE HUMAN MICROPHONE!!! (jazz hands here).
Jazz hands here, indeed.
The overall effect can be hypnotic, comic or exhilarating—often all at once. As with every media technology, to some degree the medium is the message....
Oh, yes it is. And that particular message lost its appeal. Am I wrong?

[I]t’s Occupy Wall Streets’ raw anger and simple resistance to being beat down (sentiments well suited for the human mic) that have captured the public’s imagination....
The public's imagination seems to have escaped from that captivity. It's hard to find any recent enthusiasm for the old mic check game. And by "old," I mean: last fall. In the past week, I see some pathetic "mic check" activity in D.C.:
[M]embers of Occupy D.C. clustered in the middle of R Street NW for an impromptu general assembly as police were hoping to reopen the roadway to oncoming traffic. They resolved to relocate to the Black Cat, where the City Paper debate was about to begin....

"Mic check!" a loud voice in the back of the room exclaimed. A rabble of occupiers—not more than 20—started to issue their demands that the debate cover issues such as Walmart and corporate campaign contributions, and their apparent frustration that all three moderators... were white men.
And a "mic check" call was used at a recent Santorum rally:
As Santorum addressed the crowd, two men in the back stood up and started yelling, "Mic Check!" Then, when they had everyone's attention, embraced in a prolonged kiss.... The crowd responded by chanting, "USA! USA!," as security escorted the men out of the room. Patch Local identified the men as Timothy Tross and Ben Clifford. The pair told the Patch that Santorum's stance against gay rights is what prompted their protest kiss.
So now "mic check" = "look at us." No mic checking actually occurs. Just some kissing. Speaking of a very old medium with a well known message.

22 comments:

Quayle said...

It always sounded too much like the swearing in ceremony at the Animal House fraternity.

madAsHell said...

It only works on Sheeple.

Bob Ellison said...

Professor, you have it right. I remember a parade in college in roughly 1988 shouting "Hey hey! Ho ho! This racist stuff has got to go!" That was in response to the Reagan administration's position on "disinvestment" in South Africa. Even then, the "let's shout, and everyone will be infused with a 60s vibe, and we'll politicize the whole world, and we'll win!" thinking seemed gray and hoary.

Today, with the Internet, "Mic check!" is pathetic.

edutcher said...

It was funny in "Blazing Saddles":

Hedley: "I"

Gunfighters: "I"

Hedley: "Your name"

Gunfighters: "Your name"

Hedley: "(schmucks)"

Now, like everything else about the Occupation, it's just annoying.

garage mahal said...

The crowd responded by chanting, "USA! USA!," as security escorted the men out of the room

Awesome.

rhhardin said...

The Pope hasn't approved mic check for the mass, either.

EDH said...

Has anyone addressed what the proper protocol is if you disagree with what you are being asked to repeat during a "mic check"?

Alan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan said...

One of my co-workers is a nice, intelligent, and open minded lady in her early fifties. She's generous to a fault when someone's public behavior is questionable. When she saw the trust fund kids doing the human microphone shtick to John Lewis all she could think was that these people were deranged and dangerous cultists of the Manson family variety. I think they're more of the Scooby Doo villain variety cultists myself but I lack her charitable spirit.

Phil 3:14 said...

I guess I missed this phenomenon...

Thank God!

Petunia said...

Good. It was stupid when it started and it never got any less stupid. Now if only the idiots who used it would go away as well.

dbp said...

Back in the Fall, when I first heard about "Mic check", my reaction was mixed: Is this creepy or pathetic.

There is certainly an aspect of Manson family/cultish vibe given off. This is partially cancelled out by the 1970's-ish naivete which is cringe-worthy.

It is kind of like seeing the commercial with the "Native American" paddling his canoe through garbage. It was so moving back when it first aired, but now looks like it was an intentional parody.

Penny said...

If you have *enough* people on the streets, you surely don't need a "mic check".

Face it. Crowds like that are said to ROAR!

purplepenquin said...

I think the mic-check came about due to most cities requiring a special permit (complete with special fees) if the crowd is going to use any sort of amplification. (An ol' buddy of mine ended up taking the City of Madison to the Supreme Court on that exact case and the City prevailed)

Rob said...

As far as I can tell it seemed truly creepy to anyone who was not a true believer. To me, is said 3rd world dictatorship. It was not the voice of the people, it was brainwashing by the person holding the microphone.

In addition, it seemed childish, like a junior high sports event.

Rob said...

"it" said

Jess said...

with every few words / WITH EVERY FEW WORDS!

repeated and amplified out loud / REPEATED AND AMPLIFIED OUT LOUD!


I can't help thinking of Weekend Update in the early days of SNL:

Our top story tonight / OUR TOP STORY TONIGHT...

JAL said...

It's called "lining out" and has been used for centuries. Google / bing / dogpile it/

The particular (and often inane, sometimes uncivil) OWS use of "mic check" was not their invention, discovery, whatever.

For sure their message, whatever it was, has already made it to the landfill.

Penny said...

To the landfill? Perhaps, but only to be rediscovered and "repurposed" now that it's spring... and then summer... of an election year.

It's that last little bit that will make this ever so interesting, and shall I say, pungent?

John Lynch said...

Always reminds me of "Fight Club."

JAL said...

Well since garbage dumps have gone the way of the dodo bird ....

It has to be a lnad fill.

A "sanitary" one of course. They bulldoze them over in hours.

walter said...

We will always have the traditional Rock and Roll roadie's version/antidote: "Testes. 1, 2 3. Testes."