Through the process of "video scratching," the sampling of different audio and video clips to create a uniform speech, song, or visual, the Emergency Broadcast Network (EBN) creates Get Down, an electronic, video performance that re-contextualizes media clips of the time. The video features clips of public riots, police brutality, and the moments before politician R. Budd Dwyer's suicide, all laid across a sample of Mariah Carey's Someday and Kool and the Gang's Jungle Boogie and video women in bikinis firing assault rifles. Over and over it repeats the "scratched" phrases "Get down, keep your mouth shut" and "get the hell out of here. Immediately."
The vast majority of EBN's work is heavily political and, in particular, critical of the US media. Get Down specifically focuses on graphic and violent television and the militarization of entertainment. The fact that it pairs extremely graphic, violent, real life scenarios with samples of pop culture provides a clear comparison in the way media seeks to advertise itself. Someday is an upbeat, dance-able song, police brutality is terrifying. Kool and the Gang is the same band that recorded the ever popular party song Celebration, and a public suicide is one of the most graphic things to ever be shown on television. It is particularly evident in the video of the women with guns as both sex and violence are constantly marketed to the public without much thought for the societal repercussions.
"Get Down by the Emergency Broadcast Network articulates in its form and function the right-wing fantasy of a population forcibly subdued, commanded by livid men in suits to 'get down and keep yer mouth shut'. This is the actual world we live in distilled, the military-entertainment complex boiled down to its most ugly naked essence: pure media terror." Cox, Davis. (2005). Sign Wars: The Culture Jammers Strike Back.
One of the more interesting parts of the video you may not recognize if you do not know the source of the video. That is the footage of R. Budd Dwyer's Press conference right before his suicide. He was a politician that had been found guilty of 11 counts of conspiracy, perjury, racketeering and mail fraud and was to be sentenced to 55 years in prison. However, during what was to be a press conference announcing his resignation, he shot himself and the footage was captured on many news cameras. What transpired over the next few hours was the various channels deciding how much of the footage to air. Some showed none, some only still images, some the video before and after but not the shot itself, and a few showed he entire uncensored clip. This brings us back the EBN's discussion on violence in television. Some outlets argued that everyone already knew what had happened and there were now children at home watching television and thus did not show any of the clip. Indeed, it is a harrowing visual, as are many of the clips used in the video, and it begs the question-- at what point are we no longer trying to inform but to entertain?
This theme is used throughout their works, through the albums Commercial Entertainment Product and Telecommunication Breakdown. But where the theme is spoken most clearly is in another "scratched" music video Don't Back Down. Here, the first lines come from a speaker on a political news network made to say, "In politics as in television: pull no punches, play no favorites, don't back down, don't back away, get it right, get it first, and get it out." Once again they are talking about politics and television and the philosophy that in both you must not compromise or seem weak or hesitant, but you must be the first and the best. Again, it is that powerful, self-centered rich man who controls his people. How? Though television. It repeats how everyone, the poor, the rich, the middle class, all watch television and how "Television is our greatest truth. Television is our greatest strength. You should know that."
But a lot has changed in terms of news media since the release of these videos in 1995. However, it is not necessarily in the way the news media operates and influences the system. The same issue that circled Dwyer's death happened during 911 surrounding the discussion of how much graphic video should be shown to a nation that was already terrified. But what has changed is the availability of video and its easily modified digital format so that video scratching is now outdated and difficult to do compared to a more modern alternative. Breaking apart and re-assembling videos is a common practice for making usually humorous videos on YouTube. No doubt the most famous of these is the Gregory Brothers, more commonly known as Shmoyoho, who have created some of the most watched videos in the history of the site. However, these videos are rarely critical of the political figures the videos feature and usually attempt to make them humorous and light-hearted.
But back before Get Down and Don't Back Down were published anti-establishment group Negativland released their first video No Other Possibility, a near hour long video collage of clips of all sorts gathered from popular television.
"It typically explores the debris of American pop culture, dealing with automobile fetishism, televised preaching, halloween traditions, Marlboro masculinity, soft drinks and MTV. Featuring such iconic culture-jam figures as Reverend Dick, The Weatherman, Dick Vaughn or Crosley Bendix, it expands on the visionary concept of Universal Media Netweb and seamlessly jams live footage, TV excerpts, street interviews and home-recorded theatrical performances in a zapping collage that could well have inspired EBN's ZooTV show." The Sound of Eye. (2010). Negativland: No Other Possibility.
All of these works act as a patchwork made from fragments of media sewn together to create a coherent picture that represents the times. They take the times when film captured the barest, rawest, and most uncensored looks at american life as shown on television and display them together, free of the false ideas and lies that same media would have you believe.