Civic Media Center celebrated 10th Anniversary with Chomsky talk
November/December 2003

The Civic Media Center was founded in October 1993, to coincide with a Noam Chomsky speech in Gainesville. A speech?

During the first Gulf War, in 1991, the Middle East Peace Group had contacted Chomsky to invite him to speak in Gainesville and were told there was a multi-year waiting period-they signed up anyway. Although the group no longer existed when Chomsky's scheduler got back in touch, a new project was brewing, growing from the Gainesville Alternative Press group, the idea of having a storefront reading room and library of the alternative press. Charles Willett pushed (and donated money) to have the grand opening coincide with Chomsky's visit.

Although UF speakers bureau people were skeptical, "Norm who?"--Chomsky drew a crowd that overflowed the Reitz Union Ballroom. Not able to get a seat, most crowds would leave. This crowd stayed, seated on the floor and halls of the Reitz Union throughout the talk, which was amplified into the hallway and floor outside the event.

So when Civic Media Center volunteers started to plan for Chomsky to come for the 10th anniversary celebration, they strongly suggested to the University of Florida Accent speakers bureau that they reserve the O'Connell Center.

Even the O'Dome was filled for his talk--O'Dome officials had to open up bleacher sections that had been closed. The count was around 6,000, based on the turnstyles.

And this is without some huge ad budget, without relentless TV and radio coverage, without billboards or banners or newspaper inserts or mass mailings or any of the other things that get people to less significant events. (How many would have come if we had all that? Are people really not interested or are they kept from this information most of the time?)

Most of the crowd, we suspect, learned of the talk through word of mouth.

Which means that we need to talk to everyone we know, about politics. Break through that worry that it might cause a conflict--let them tell their stories and tell them yours. Break through that idea that engaging in the public world is something that some people do and some people don't, and the myth that those who don't can't become those who do.

Tell them about the Civic Media Center, about the documentary films at the Hippodrome, about the alternative press in Gainesville, about talks and meetings and poetry jams and protests and projects.

Tell them about Chomsky's talk, which they can listen to on the radio-it will be broadcast Saturday, Nov. 22, noon-1:30 on WUFT-FM 89.1

A transcript of a portion of Chomsky's speech appears elsewhere in this issue.

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