In order to simplify my life and give the company that pays me the full value of my work and energy, I will now be posting to my blog on the People’s Production House website. RSS feed coming soon.
Archive for Indymedia
Back in January, I described the blog explosion coming out of Southeast Michigan. Now the region’s social justice newspaper, Critical Moment, has launched a new group blog syndicating local, radical blogs.
Check out, bookmark, and alert others to Critical Bloggers.
In media reform as in most political endeavors, direct action gets the goods. You don’t like the questions the corporate media are asking the decisionmakers? Ask ‘em your own questions.
The big news in the DC news biz every week is who will be appearing on the Sunday talk shows – Face The Nation (CBS), This Week (ABC), and Meet The Press (NBC). Those shows send out a press release with the lineups every Thursday.
Competing news agencies send interns or other rookies to sit outside of the corporate media studios in case the guests want to make any statements after the interview. There’s a microphone stand set up outside; sometimes the guests stop there on their way out of the interview and take some questions.
Those other news agencies don’t send more seasoned reporters because they don’t expect to get any of what they consider useful footage there. Also, this all takes place on a Sunday morning when many of their employees would rather be in bed.
A couple of months ago, some enterprising media activists joined the post-talk show gaggle in order to ask the questions no one else is asking. The project is called The Washington Stakeout and is the work of DC Indymedia veterans and Sam Husseini, best known for his work with the Insititute for Public Accuracy.
If you check the site, you can see the Stakeout asking questions about Israel’s nuclear weapons of John Edwards and about pre-Iraq war intelligence of Colin Powell.
Washington DC is basically a series of concentric boxes, each one designed to keep you from thinking outside of its borders. It’s refreshing to see this kind of imaginative yet straightforward media activism in this town.
WireTap graciously accepted an article I wrote about the National Conference for Media Reform. In it, I survey the relationships between Free Press and some of the groups that have been marginalized at past conferences. This year’s conference was different. Sort of.
I also recommend reading DeeDee Halleck’s assessment:
To achieve media justice we need to raise our level of commitment. Next Media “Reform” Conference needs to speak of strategies that go beyond internet petitions to Congress. An authentic movement needs to march and to encourage the sort of non-violent civil disobedience that helped to open the airwaves for low power FM.
DeeDee’s labels and mine – who or what is media justice or media democracy – don’t exactly match up. This might be because she is discussing the history of the movement up to early 2003, where I cover the media reform conferences that started in November 2003.Perhaps the divisions I describe came about later, after Indymedia simplified the path to one type of media organizing and Free Press co-opted the grassroots energy that fought off media ownership deregulation.
Under the heading “Media Justice History,” DeeDee describes a multiracial network of organizers using civil disobedience and direct action to fight corporate media, resisting pressure from reformist white men to use more mundane tactics.
There are important successes to learn there, ones I admit I am still fairly ignorant of. (I wasn’t even doing the movies on a roof in Brooklyn thing when they were “marching against the moguls” in 1996.)
As I wrote after the 2005 NCMR, however, I think we need to recognize more subtle divisions in our community. Seeing merely a distinction between media revolution and media reform, at least at this point, gives too much credit to the revolutionaries. It creates connections among them that don’t exist in reality, but that should – that must if we are to win.
It also locates the division at the level of tactics. There is a good side to that: by highlighting the absense of certain ones and advocating for their increased presence, you can promote a greater diversity of tactics, which this movement sorely needs right now. On the other hand, the antiglobalization movement was filled with examples of people who thought that more radical tactics equalled more radical politics. They don’t.
So I ask you to take the time to read my piece on WireTap (it’s kind of long, I know) and I encourage you to read DeeDee’s post (we’re all so lucky she’s started blogging) and then to work through these and related ideas on your own or with your friends and colleagues. And then publish them online.
I’m very excited to see Reclaim the Media hosting a conference reportback and discussion with Andrea Quijada in Seattle on January 29, for example. I look forward to hearing what comes of it.
If you know, then you know. But if you don’t know, Southeast Michigan is witnessing an explosion of thoughtful, radical, wonderful blogging.
They are personal without being insular, political without being didactic, and readable without being chatty. Each is everything a blog should be and their numbers are growing.
This post is my meager attempt to thank them for sharing and preserving their brilliant thoughts and inspiring experiences.
For starters, Jenny just launched Greater Detroit and Rachel recently started For Lack of Better Words. Their initial posts about staying and leaving are really poignant. (Very much set my mood for a post last week.)
In addition, wsoft.heart has exploded out of the gate, posting every couple of days since starting a couple of months ago, offering great analysis of prop 2 and updates on the work of the DAY Project.
Kate doesn’t blog about the local very much, but she can (and does) go toe-to-toe on Irish politics with anyone.
With all this, Brownfemipower still takes the cake.
Many of these folks read early then-Michigan blogger Rob Goodspeed. And you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of the Michigan IMC experience on at least some (myself included) of these bloggers (just, as Chris Anderson argues – thank you, Chris – you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of Indymedia in general on blogging in general).
But I think you can trace the SEMI blog explosion directly to BFP and the community she has helped build up with the Women of Color blog ring. Without her analysis and advocacy, many of these folks would probably have remained convinced that blogging was a medium exclusively for white men with inflated egos (like yours truly). Thanks to her work and it’s constantly expanding ripples, that presumption seems to get less true every day.
The incredible and beautiful part of reading all of these blogs is how they are all so personal without a hint of the self-obsession that pervades the blogosphere. Everything is seen in context and the context is Detroit.
They are also in conversation with each other, linking and commenting, in such a way that a real sense of the city emerges. I hear there are plans for a PhillyFuture-style project, aggregating blogs from the region, hosted by Critical Moment.
I can’t wait.
Registration opens today for the fourth annual New York City Grassroots Media Conference, which will be held Saturday February 24, 2007, at New School University.
This is the best example I know of a local media conference and one of the most vibrant days in the whole media activism calendar. While appealing to people from throughout the northeast, it does an excellent job bringing the city’s diverse independent media together and framing our work in the context of a global movement for justice.
Here’s more from the website:
This Year’s Theme: Media and Movements Beyond Borders
Grassroots struggles for justice are usually rooted in their geographic locations. Yet—from police brutality on the streets of Queens to government repression in the plazas of Oaxaca; from homelessness and displacement in the Bronx to the rise of slums in Lagos; from hunger and poverty in East New York to famine in Kenya; from wiretapping and police surveillance in our communities and military occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan—there are apparent connections in the ways people all over the world negotiate and counter similar forms of oppression and injustice.
This year, the NYC Grassroots Media Conference seeks to ask: What are the common threads inherent in our global struggles for social change and how does the media contribute to our understanding of the root causes of injustices faced by world communities? From educating ourselves and our government leaders to spreading our messages and recruiting broader and more diverse constituencies into our campaigns, media is central to the struggle for social justice. Therefore, the fight for better access to and representation in the media is essential for advancing peace and justice both at home and abroad.
Join us for the 4th Annual NYC Grassroots Media Conference as we explore these connections and strategies and work together to demand a media system that will link ourdiverse communities, connect local and international struggles, and fight for social justice across boundaries and beyond borders.
You can get involved by submitting workshop proposals (deadline 1/15 and adherence to the political framework of the conference is very important), submitting film or artwork (deadline 2/2), advertising in the program (by 2/2), reserving a table (by 2/2), volunteering, or simply attending (early registration until 2/22). The conference is Saturday, February 24.
If you are a subscriber to Clamor Magazine, you will receive a letter this week announcing that it is going out of business. The letter says, in part:
We’re writing to you today because we’ve decided to stop publishing Clamor. We set out to create an independent magazine that would bulldoze borders, defy dogma, and inspire instigation. We wanted to create a magazine that extended the vibrancy of the underground zine community to a larger general audience and share the enthusiasm and energy we saw in our fellow do-it-yourselfers. We intended to redefine the progressive magazine. And while we feel like we accomplished those goals at various stages, one goal we never fully realized is that of making Clamor economically sustainable.
… The obstacle of servicing old debt on an otherwise sustainable project while also negotiating major shifts in the magazine industry have proven too burdensome for us to continue publishing. But effective movement media doesn’t need to last indefinitely to be successful. We’re confident that many people have been inspired to do great things after reading about others doing the same in Clamor. We know this because we’ve been consistently inspired by the stories of struggle and triumph in Clamor. And while we’ll miss that, we’re also confident that there are independent media projects being born at this very moment with even greater promise.
Always respectful of the people who have made the enterprise possible, the publishers – Jen Angel, Jason Kucsma, Nomy Lamm, and Mandy Van Deven – told the editors, then the current writers, then the subscribers, before offering a statement to the public on the website, which should come next week. The next step is to start talking to their creditors.
The possibility of closing the magazine was discussed back even before I became a consulting editor in late 2001. Jen and Jason would have had to close up shop after just the first few issues had they not gotten the line of credit from Sky Bank (which is still Clamor’s biggest creditor besides the founders themselves).
It was one of those next few issues that I saw on the rack outside the entrance to the Clovis Press, a bookshop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that no longer exists (replaced by a cheese shop). I was so taken with it that the first thing I did when I moved to the midwest a couple of months later was call Clamor HQ and ask if I could help.
Michael Simmons, in telling The Nation in 2001 about his favorite media sources, called it “the best periodical to come out of the antiauthoritarian Battle of Seattle generation.” That sounds like a good way to start describing Clamor’s place in the annals of independent publishing.
Clamor Magazine was also a fine, collective accomplishments of the zine world and, more generally, of those who believe in participatory media. Clamor published over 1000 writers and artists in its 7-year, 38-issue run. Some historian should check to see if that’s some kind of record.
Clamor spread the word about a lot of important stories and to a lot of people who wouldn’t have otherwise heard those stories. The Internet notwithstanding, chain store newsstands and those one or two channels on satellite TV are pretty much the only way to broadcast challenging political ideas into unfriendly territory.
In my view, the challenge of serving as a point of entry for both new writers and new readers while also speaking to a devoted base of supporters proved too much for the project.
That is not to detract at all from the business challenges described in the letter to subscribers. Publishing a magazine is an expensive operation and almost impossible to sustain without an external funding source. For Clamor, whose publishers never had personal wealth or ready access to rich folks like many on the coasts do, the only external funding source they could find were small business loans and credit cards.
Independent publishing gets even harder when your primary advocate, the Independent Press Association, is failing to pay you what it owes and failing to keep your magazine on the newsstand. Clamor’s closure is a black eye for the IPA.
(I don’t think it really compares to the recent closure of the irreverent LiP magazine since that publication never got past being a vanity project, Jenn Whitney’s article on Indymedia notwithstanding. The NewStandard, which is also facing major financial challenges, is an online outlet with a completely different business model.)
My hope is that emerging media projects, as the letter suggests, will step up to take on more of the three very important tasks Clamor took on: providing an outlet for new writers; politicizing new readers; serving as a forum for established activists.
Wiretap, for example, is an ideal place for new writers. As it grows increasingly independent from Alternet, I think it is becoming a great place for anyone to publish. It’s online and not in print, but the world wide web is probably the right place for first-time writers. And it pays.
From my admittedly limited perspective, Left Turn is currently the premier printed forum for inter-activist reporting. Reborn for the global justice movement (the rebranded and renewed antiglobalization movement), it has a more specific politic than Clamor did and cultivates writers more intentionally. That makes it more limited in some ways, more focused in others.
The editors of Left Turn maintain strong and principled alliances with the people, organizations, and campaigns reported in its pages. It’s less likely than Clamor has been, however, to have those stories of small or unsung victories. It’s those stories, the ones that seem random until you get them all on a page together, that gave Clamor its voice-in-the-wilderness quality for so many people – that, the consistent DIY-you-can-do-it tone, and the serious midwest pride.
That’s the thing we’ll be losing most dramatically with the closure of Clamor: the ability to reach new people with an honest, accessible voice. As far as I know, no one is really doing that for young potential activists now that Clamor is gone. (I sometimes call this the NCOR problem: what to do with the thousands of eager, young, and – in the NCOR case – white folks now that you can’t just tell them to go to the next big protest.)
Clamor didn’t do it perfectly, but that’s a critical task that someone needs to do. Maybe The Ave, assuming it’s still going, could do more of that, or Punk Planet – it’s useful in some ways to divide the task into hip hop and punk, though that combination may have been what gave Clamor some of its threat potential. Still, giving people information in a palatable format is different from plugging them into ways to take action.
In an organized movement, entry point organizations like Indyvoter, Movement Strategy Center, and Students for a Democratic Society would take responsibility for publishing a magazine to attract new people. They might not see it that way and publishing is resource-intensive no matter who does it, so I don’t expect they’ll be taking it up anytime soon. But without some coordination and a shared sense of obligation, no one will be able to sustain such a project.
Movement media rarely emerges from such a process, of course. Indymedia is the rare exception. Usually, a small group starts a publication, people take to it or don’t, it lives for a while, then dies when the money runs out (which usually happens in the first year), or when the political situation changes, or when the publishers’ life situations change.
All three of those things seemed to happen to Clamor at the same time. It’s sad, but fine. It was a good run. The Allied Media Conference and the online infoSHOP direct, two projects born from Clamor that actively support other media projects, will continue.
So when the letter to subscribers says, “there are independent media projects being born at this very moment with even greater promise,” that is in no small way thanks to the infrastructure, inspiration, and advice Clamor’s publishers have provided us over the last seven years.
Please see this Emergency Message from Clamor Magazine.
Our country is focused on the civil war in Iraq; we are failing to notice the one emerging on our doorstep.
Sarah Ferguson has posted an extensive article addressing the question, “Who shot Brad Will?” The NYC IMC statement on the Caña Cadeza Investigation still stands.
Since Brad’s murder on October 27, three other journalists have been killed in Mexico: Roberto Marcos García, José Manuel Nava Sánchez, and Misael Tamayo Hernández. They were not working in Oaxaca, where many other reporters have been attacked by government forces, but those deaths compound Mexico’s standing as the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists.
Jaime Arturo Olvera Bravo, Enrique Perea Quintanilla, and Ramiro Téllez Contreras were killed earlier this year and Rafael Ortiz Martínez and Alfredo Jiménez Mota are missing.
Over 100 journalists and media activists have signed the letter for press freedom in response to Brad’s death. It states, in part,
When the members of the press are subjected to physical attack, it is our values of freedom and of democracy which suffer… Hoodlums and political operatives who wish to operate under cover of darkness often feel safe in silencing independent reporters through acts of violence and intimidation. Violence against reporters on the edge is harbinger to destruction of press freedom in the middle.
The attacks on journalists in Mexico are symptoms of a much, much bigger problem: a new dirty war has begun in response to widespread political unrest.
From Oaxaca, the country’s poorest state, to the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas, to the capitol Mexico City where López Obrador continues to reject the legitimacy of incoming president Felipe Calderón, the country is growing increasingly unstable. Drug traffickers control or terrorize much of the north and there is severe corruption at all levels of the government. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is militarizing the US-Mexico border.
“We are on the eve of either a great uprising or a civil war,” Subcomandante Marcos stated at a press conference on the day of our Thanksgiving. And then things got even worse…
Why you should sign the letter for press freedom in response to the death of Indymedia journalist Brad Will
This post is meant to encourage you to read and sign this letter for press freedom.
Brad Will’s death has been used as an excuse by Mexican President Vicente Fox to send thousands of federal troops to repress the political uprising in Oaxaca. US Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza signalled his support for that move when he called for a return to “lawfulness and order.”
This is a very ugly precedent. As Al Giordano from Narco News told the Village Voice, “Anytime the local forces of repression can’t contain a rebellion in Mexico and want the feds to storm in, the recipe now exists: Kill a foreign journalist.”
Mexico was already ranked as the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists by Reporters Without Borders. Since Brad’s death, violent attacks on journalists have greatly increased, especially in Oaxaca.
“Press freedom” is not my primary focus in media activism. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve mostly heard me talk about new wireless technologies and digital expansion. Before October 27, I hadn’t been much involved with Indymedia for quite some time, and even then I was pretty focused on IMCs within the US.
But it is important that we protect the wing of our movement that makes personal sacrifices to tell vital stories. Without the courage to speak truth to power, our efforts to build open lines of communication – no matter how successful – will never set us free.
Anthony Riddle of the Alliance for Community Media has written an eloquent letter to Ambassador Garza emphasizing precisely this point:
All American citizens must be protected by the full power of our government wherever they travel in the world. This is especially the case when that citizen is a journalist attempting to report the truth in a dangerous situation. When the members of the press are subjected to physical attack, it is our values of freedom and of democracy which suffer…
Our government and mainstream press should feel the same outrage over this killing as over the death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. If anything, reporters who give of their own resources and work under such dangerous circumstances are even more deserving of our respect and protection because of the great personal sacrifice they endure in the quest for the information we need to exist as a free people.
Many already have, including Free Press, New America Media, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Prometheus Radio Project, People’s Production House, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Media Alliance, as well as DeeDee Halleck (Deep Dish), Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist), Lisa Rudman (National Radio Project), Noelle Hanrahan (Prison Radio) and seven separate Indymedia centers (NYC, LA, AZ, Philly, Santa Cruz, Indybay, US).
It’s already a broad and powerful effort, but it needs to grow further to ensure our right to report.
In signing the letter, the NYC IMC made the following statement:
The New York City Independent Media Center urges all US IMCs and US-based media organizations to join us in signing this letter calling for the US to press for a full investigation into the death of Brad Will, Indymedia reporter, and for freelance and community journalists to be given the same backing and protection given journalists employed by large corporations.
For an update on the investigations into Brad’s death, see Chris Anderson’s wrapup.
The sad fact is that there is no level of government, US or Mexican, with the credibility to conduct a full and fair investigation.
The Oaxaca Prosecutor General Lizbeth Caña Cadeza, under the supervision of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, is the least credible of all. I don’t trust it when police investigate themselves in Warren, Michigan, and I certainly do not believe it when it happens in Oaxaca.
So when a reporter for Milenio, whose photographer Oswaldo Ramirez was injured alongside Brad Will, asked the NYC IMC to comment on Cadeza’s accusation that APPO protesters shot Brad, we released this statement:
Here’s what we do know: the Governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, has a proven track record of sending plainclothes paramilitaries to commit murder and other human rights violations against the people of Oaxaca. We do not trust him or any of his underlings – underlings who include Oaxaca Prosecutor General Lizbeth Caña Cadeza. We have absolutely no confidence in the results of the “investigation” of Brad Will’s murder carried out by Prosecutor Cadeza.
I have no doubt that a Democrat-controlled House will mean good things for net neutrality and other policy issues over which extremist Republicans have held sway. But until we get rid of the biennial voluntary corporate media subsidy we call electoral campaigns, nothing is going to change.
So, for my 2006 election analysis, I refer you to the Michigan IMC’s special election coverage from 2004 (awesome PSA mp3) since that is the last time I can recall really kicking the corporate media’s ass at its own game.
Unfortunately, the 36 hours of live radio we produced were not recorded, but here are some of the articles we wrote:
• Power conceding nothing without demand, as usual, by Jenny
John Kerry’s concession speech was almost word-for-word the same speech given by Al Gore in 2000: “I just had a good conversation with President Bush… the most important thing now is for the country to be united… we should all just be proud that we’re American, blah, etc.” These are profoundly insulting words to anyone who went to the polls on November 2nd thinking that this man had even one or two vertebrae, that he would defend the voting rights of targeted communities or that he actually represented an alternative to George Bush…
The Democratic Party would do well to prioritize substance over “electability” in future elections in order to avoid repeating this shame and disappointment at having arrived in 2004 at the exact same place it was in 2000.
But liberals and semi-radicals shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for that to happen. If all the “get out the vote” energy that has been mobilized around this election is to have any lasting strength, it is going to have to start building power outside of, even in opposition to, the great farce of national electoral politics. Rather than having coalitions driven by young voters’ tepid support for a pathetic Democratic candidate, they should be driven by real campaigns to end U.S. imperialism at home and abroad.
• Election unresolved as Ohio residents fight disenfranchisement, by Joshua Breitbart
The final vote tally may require counting provisional and absentee ballots, which will take more than 11 days. Although races in New Mexico, Iowa, and others have not been called, Ohio’s 20 electoral votes appear to be decisive in determining the presidency…
Ohio activists are not waiting for the courts or the Democrats. Making good on a November 1 promise to take action if there was significant voter suppression and intimidation on election day, a coalition of groups has called for a statewide walkout and convergence on Columbus, the state capitol, as well as local actions in Toledo, Cincinatti, Cleveland, Oxford, and Athens…
“As with 2000, George Bush is trying to seize power after a disputed election made artificially close by widespread disenfranchisement,” said an anonymous post to Indymedia.us. “If there was ever a time to engage politically, to do more than just vote as a way of taking control of your life, it is right now.”
• No matter who wins, resistance will continue, by Mike
Everyday, from Iraq and Palestine to South Africa to Detroit and Highland Park, people are fighting an imperial system that seeks to obliterate them. We should be honest enough with ourselves to admit that the conditions which oppress so many in this country and throughout the world will not substantially change no matter which of the two leading candidates succeeds in capturing the US presidency…
Nevertheless, it is important that we watch these US presidential elections and participate in them in a manner that we find appropriate…
And its especially important to not devalue the importance voting on local ballot initiatives such as Proposal 2, which, if passed, would write anti-gay discrimination into the Michigan constitution, and Proposal E in Detroit, which would erode democratic control of Detroit’s school board.
But once these elections are over, we should look forward to channeling all that energy that has been put into electoral politics into larger movements for justice.
p.s. (People keep sending me alerts about Rumsfeld’s resignation. Big whoop. When he goes on trial for war crimes, call me.)