. Indymedia: It’s time to move on | Ceasefire Magazine

Indymedia: It’s time to move on Analysis

Launched in 1999 at the dawn of the anti-globalisation movement, the Indymedia publishing model represented a revolutionary step forward in democratic, non-corporate media production. And yet, a decade on, it seems the moment has arrived to ask whether it is still useful and necessary to the social movements that it grew from.

Ideas, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Sunday, February 17, 2013 13:18 - 19 Comments


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Two weeks ago, on 31st January, the Nottingham Indymedia collective disabled the ability to publish new newswire items. This drastic action was taken in order to demonstrate what will be lost if the collective folds, in the hope that those who use the site will step up to keep it going. A meeting will be held at the Sumac Centre tomorrow, on Monday 18th Feb, to discuss the future of the project and all those with an interest in being involved are invited to attend.

Indymedia is the name given to a particular network with a rather uneven global reach, to which many hundreds of local independent media projects, mostly web-based, have been affiliated at one time or another. It is also the name for a particular approach to news media – one that attempts to avoid hierarchal production and hence promote grassroots reports on events.

It seems to me that the moment has arrived to examine the Indymedia model and ask whether it is still useful and necessary to the social movements that it grew from. After all, a lot has changed since 1999, when the first Indymedia site was launched, both in terms of the online environment and the outside world.

On the web, we have seen the rise of corporate empires like Facebook and Twitter : monoliths with hundreds of millions of users and an apparent stranglehold on dissemination of information online. Pockets of resistance exist: open source enclaves that don’t seek property rights on everything you post and federate with others rather than seeking global dominion. However, these tiny anomalies are few and far between, pushed out to the margins of a web that is increasingly enclosed by multi-million dollar businesses.

The rise of the giants has been propelled by massive investment in developing software. The resulting flexibility and capability of Facebook and friends makes these sites attractive to the user who wants to quickly and easily communicate their ideas and plans to hundreds and even thousands of others.

The undoubtedly dirty money that the corporate monsters get through stealth advertising, selling other people’s content and from ‘no strings attached’ venture capital is what makes this constant development possible. Volunteer coders who scrabble to find time for independent projects in between day jobs and political activism simply cannot compete, however ingenious their ideas. The result is that the anti-corporate web is often buggier, clunkier and more out-of-date than its capitalist rivals. Users who are often unaware or don’t care about the politics simply opt for the slicker sites.

Indymedia collectives in the UK are no strangers to this phenomenon. The UK Indmedia/Mayday collective site runs on a Content Management System (CMS) called Mir that was migrated to 10 years ago. This gives the site the look and feel of a 10-year old site: rather old in web development terms. London Indymedia decided enough was enough and one of their techs developed Hyperactive, a CMS that was meant to incorporate some of the features that had been developed as part of ‘Web 2.0’ and that are now commonplace on social media sites. It was taken up by a number of regional sites, including Nottingham in 2010. Unfortunately the usual time and energy constraints on the people involved conspired to thwart the project. Hyperactive is no longer under development and Indymedia seems to be unable to find a sustainable way of keeping up to date.

It is not just the online environment that has changed. I would question whether a coherent user community still exists in the same way that it did at the height of the anti-globalisation movement. The loose coalition of anti-capitalist, environmental and anti-war movements that protested the big summits of global power has evolved in many directions. Many of those involved took note of the diminishing returns of spectacular protests and looked for other avenues for their dissidence.

Those who chose to embed themselves in local struggles whilst ‘thinking global’ were amongst those who set up and nourished a proliferation of local Indymedia collectives in the early years of the 21st Century. This was certainly true of Nottingham Indymedia, which was launched soon after the Gleneagles anti-G8 protests of 2005 in an attempt to sustain the local activity that had been mobilised.

Fast forward to 2013 and it is clear that these movements have suffered many defeats, police spy infiltration and repression and many activists have burned out or moved on with their lives. Movements that came along in their absence, such as the anti-cuts movements, have seemed ephemeral and have not been able to sustain themselves. The younger generations that might have replaced them look to newer, amorphous brands, such as Anonymous and Occupy, which don’t have an obvious local manifestation. The result is that many activists no longer seem to have affinity with Indymedia, which has become associated with movements of the past that have run their course.

However, I don’t just want to look at the cultural peculiarities of Indymedia as it has manifested itself in this time and place. What of the underlying model of media production and dissemination that underpins these particular individual instances?

To my mind, Indymedia has three major strengths: eradicating hierarchy, protecting privacy and enabling collective media production.

Firstly, Indymedia seeks to undermine the traditional media model of editorial hierarchies which filter out the vast majority of content and viewpoints according to the whims of the gatekeepers. Indymedia encourages a proliferation of voices and stories, often through open publishing on the web.

Whilst open publishing has become commonplace on web forums and mailing lists, the idea of open publishing for news remains controversial, largely because many are still in thrall to the idea that certain viewpoints are more important and more accurate than others.

The idea behind overthrowing this hierarchy was to allow the previously voiceless and marginalised the opportunity to speak. In practice, this is hard to achieve. Few Indymedia sites allow totally open publishing because soon they would be overrun with bullying, abusive behaviour, used as a platform for authoritarian and discriminatory viewpoints and to spread malicious lies.

Indymedia sites tend to have a set of guidelines and moderators to remove posts that infringe them. The problem with this is that it can reinstate hierarchy by the backdoor. The moderators can easily slip into an editorial role, making decisions that, subconsciously or not, influence the character and environment of the site and consequently the user community.

For this reason, Indymedia collectives strive to ensure that moderation is transparent and accountable to the wider community. Again, this is the principle but the reality often fails to live up to it. Few individuals have the time and energy to scrutinise every moderation decision or go to collective meetings unless they are already a member of the collective (and therefore part of the in-group). Indeed, the recent history of Indymedia in the UK has largely been one of schisms between different in-groups hostile to what they perceive as external ideas about how to run their site.

These limitations aside, I firmly believe that the principle of access to the creation of media for all has revolutionary implications and is needed to break the hold of the media empires. A grassroots media from below is needed to challenge the narrative of the powerful and assert the viewpoint of those excluded from mainstream discourses. Whether the open publishing model is the best way to achieve that goal or not is open to debate.

The second major strength of Indymedia has been its promotion of anonymity in a world of state and corporate monitoring and control. Whilst mainstream sites track IP addresses and every mouse click you make, many Indymedia sites have been robust in not logging user data and allowing the powerless the possibility of not being scrutinised by the powerful.

The dangers of complying with the statist aim of controlling the internet are clear. There are numerous examples of sites giving up user data to the authorities to enable prosecutions and repression. Indymedia sites publishing reports of interest to the police and other security agencies have been raided and had servers seized. Thanks to the security measures in place, these police state measures have not led to personally identifiable data being grabbed. Protecting the identities of users who choose not to disclose is essential, in order to give confidence to those who take direct action against the powers that be.

As with all of these principles, however, anonymity has a dark side. When no one knows who is speaking, it is easy to maliciously impersonate other people, to infiltrate discussions and derail them. But perhaps this also encourages the reader to question what s/he is being told and to try to dig deeper in an attempt to find the truth.

The final key ingredient to Indymedia, and probably most often neglected, is the aim of collective creation of media. More than just a resource, Indymedia should be a community greater than the sum of individual contributions. When I first got involved in the network, there was intense collaborative activity on mailing lists in order to craft feature articles, set up media stations at major actions and share knowledge and expertise. Over time, differences of opinion and infighting have set in and the UK network has irreversibly broken down. There is no longer much of a meaningful Indymedia community and very little collaboration outside of a few small groups of Indymedia ‘professionals’.

The result is that a lot of the energy and excitement has gone and more than a few collectives seem to continue out of duty rather than a positive commitment to the project. Providing a platform and the motivation for the collective creation of media were essential in making Indymedia a rewarding network to be in and in taking its output much further than a collection of isolated individual viewpoints ever could.

So, given all of the above, is Indymedia still important? Yes, absolutely, as an idea. Unlike some, I am not particularly fussed about the Indymedia name and brand; what is important is that a media from below continues to flourish and challenge the media imposed from above. I have tried to outline what I see as the major challenges and obstacles that will inevitably crop up – the struggle to keep up technologically, the necessity of avoiding hierarchical organisation and exclusion and the need to support community and collaboration as well as giving voice to dissent.

I think it is high time for those involved in Indymedia and other similar projects to examine the new political and social terrain, to evolve and adapt in order to continue what Indymedia has set in motion. I am not content to keep banging my head against the same limiting brick walls forever; I want to find ways of moving over them, avoiding them or undermining them. Now seems as good a time as any to start looking for fellow travellers.

Our decision to curtail publishing on the Nottingham Indymedia site and call a meeting is an attempt to create a space for new ideas. We are not interested in continuing along the slow but certain path to total irrelevance but want to draw in new people and start off in new directions whilst remaining faithful to the underlying principles of Indymedia.

The mainstream media has recently been exposed once again as utterly corrupt, devoid of ethics and manipulative. However, few independent media outlets can come up with a sustainable alternative which gives a voice to those who have been spoken over for so long. This article has been written in the hope that others will reflect on the successes and failures of the Indymedia movement and that new independent media models can be developed from its legacy.

Behindthemask is a writer and activist who has been involved in Nottingham Indymedia and the UK Indymedia network for the past 8 years.


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Paul pablito Bame
Feb 17, 2013 15:54

As a long-time indymedia tech and occasional journalist, and being a little involved at the Philly IMC web site, as a person who cared and cares for the values Indymedia promotes, I very much appreciated this analysis. It is both well informed and not as emotional as when I try to talk about this!

I wish I could come to the meetings!

I add two more to “To my mind, Indymedia has three major strengths: eradicating hierarchy, protecting privacy and enabling collective media production” — the strength which comes from owning and controlling one’s own servers and infrastructure. With clouds and Tor and other modern refinements, a server and a wire are old fashioned, but the principle of being free from easy corporate control remains. Also at once time, the-big-protest-city.INDYMEDIA.ORG was a reliable place to get info from a perspective more like mine. This has faded as corporate media ascends and Indymedia declines, but this aspect of the brand, a word I really hate, was and is still somewhat valuable.

I am wondering if Indymedias might benefit from surveying their local media scene and figuring out how to get important Indymedia values into those scenes rather than or in addition to trying foremost to run an Indymedia web site or collective space. I am asking questions like: is xxxx.org local media willing to accept anonymous posting? Can they afford the tech and/or can we add it? Are they willing to have transparent editing and open posting (and how can we be sure they’re honest)? Do they want or need help with hosting which can survive corporate failure and meddling? Who is offering inexpensive or free media creation classes and spaces and can we make them more inclusive and radical?

This would essentially add something new to Indymedia — something we’ve done occasionally and informally here and there — a media justice focus through analysis, support of good things (carrot), and working around or applying pressure to (the stick) bad things, in the local media landscape. I’m not sure if I’d be interested in that like I am in the grassroots activist side of Indymedia, but there are lots of people out there who might be, and that could help with our dwindling capacity.

robert w gehl
Feb 17, 2013 17:11

Excellent article. What saddens me, though, is that online discussion of this will probably be limited to retweets and Facebook recommends.

What’s also disappointing is the primacy of slick aesthetics in the production of ‘truth.’ The WWWs beginning as largely a text medium leveled the playing field a bit – writing could be viewed for what it said, not its CSS. Now if an argument appears without an iStockPhoto image underneath a well-crafted banner with just the right typography, then it’s discounted. A century’s worth of advertising and message-crafting production skills are migrating online, fusing with interface design and complex software backends, effectively undermining (and producing) the rest of the Web as “amateurs.” Indymedia gives way to the Facebook Newsfeed. The constant pressure to keep up with design and software engineering saps the energy that could go into reporting what’s not being reported.

Feb 18, 2013 1:24

Great piece. I generally echo the sentiments of the comment above, however I would argue that often the left’s limited understanding of design and creativity is quite disheartening. Remember that Facebook was built on open-source platforms (and then engineered to its current state). Good design principles don’t always correlate with the evils of corporations and brainwashing — it can be as simple as understanding that people will not engage with things that look terrible. The sides may be unequal but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least pseudo compete.

Feb 18, 2013 16:17

I think some of the Indymedia principles are themselves a little outdated. I would like left media activists to figure out how to move to more professional production processes and expand the reach and appeal of their ideas.

– With the advent of personal blog sites, everyone with Internet access is able to share their ideas with the world. There’s no specific reason that a left site should invest huge amounts of its resources into duplicating this feature. In fact, it just creates a massive overhead of work in policing the content and making sure the site isn’t used for propagation of right-wing crap or just ramblings.

– Citizen journalism is a laudable and important aspect of contemporary media production, but it is not the end of the story. The aim of leftwing publishing is to help socialist and progressive ideas to become the dominant ideas in society. As with software production, information production takes resources, especially time. The best way to have time is to have staff and a celebration of amateurism cannot compensate for the necessity of full-time journos.

NB to eds – I hear captcha are very hard for blind people to use as the audio versions are of such poor quality.

Feb 18, 2013 17:20

Dara I think what you’re missing with regards to “personal blog sites” is that often these sites are hosted by people who have next to no vested interest in keeping any particular content online. The concern I have that keeps me from closing my mind’s book on Indymedia is that when these sites are hosted by people who aren’t willing to fight for them, that they could easily be controlled and shut down if they ever became too threatening.

Had facebook been headquartered in Egypt and not the US, Mubarak would have been easily able to, by way of court order or police action, get all anti-regime content removed.

That said, when the content is hosted by people who are willing to resist, history teaches us that they’ll go after their ISPs or providers instead, and/or bring seizure force to bear. The more of the infrastructure we control, the easier it is for us to guarantee the security of even unpopular content in times of change.

Of course, this change – the “other world” that we believe is possible – seemed a lot closer to me in 1999 and 2000 than it does in 2013, but that’s *perhaps* another discussion.

Thankfully we do have new technology that helps us better continue to run and defend sites, but Indymedia hasn’t yet migrated to it, with good reason. I cosign pablito’s concerns about tor not freeing us from corporate control, but I think it is easy to make a case that Indymedia servers and services should migrate to provide tor hidden services instead. Our servers cannot be seized if they cannot be located, and if they ever are located through technical analysis (and not cooperating witnesses) then it speaks to the extent to which tor may be monitored or compromised. I don’t think it’s particularly likely that the branches of the US government that concern themselves with pursuing even vaguely legal (as opposed to extralegal) recourse against their enemies have the ability to effectively monitor tor and tor hidden services at the moment, and as long as there are many people engaged in building and protecting the tor network that may remain the case for years into the future.

It also seems related to mention that advances in deep packet inspection as well as statistical analysis of network traffic have made our lack of IP logs on our machines less practically meaningful.

I think we should continue to work on archiving and preserving indymedia sites; that we should migrate these archive sites to tor hidden services, and that when we’ve gotten both of those down we should see about creating more media sites and networks via tor hidden services. Hopefully if we build it, people will come, but given the relatively low proportion of tor-enabled devices (e.g. where are the tor enabled smartphones? Few and far between, to say the least) there’s no guarantee.

Just my two cents, as another volunteer.

Feb 18, 2013 17:54

I think the problem is that there are two different aims here. One is to provide leftwing media to expand the sway and influence of socialist ideas. The other is to develop and provide a technical infrastructure that is resistant to State repression. I think it’s worth being clear that these are different things and conflating the two in the same project will cause problems. For instance, if you want to provide an open-publishing platform that enables people to post anonymously, it will mean that the usefulness of the site as a news resource is lessened.

Paul pablito Bame
Feb 18, 2013 18:18

I think on-line blogs (and local newspaper forum web sites) are great food for thought and possible activism.

I agree with Dana that “free” corporate blogs enable anyone to publish, theoretically. However they are usually subject to pressure, if not shut-down, from advertisers, corporate owners, and governments, regardless of the just-ness of the messages being posted. Indymedia attempts to work around this by controlling its own infrastructure (see dannyp’s excellent post) and has a life-long history of “legal” government attacks (and extra-legal attacks by parties often unknown).

The on-line blogs also record IP addresses and cookies and all sorts of shit to sell into the corporate/government/marketing intelligence world. There are 6 corporate tracking cookies on this page, which imperils anonymity and in the worst cases, lives.

A common counter-argument, appealing to many in the global north, is that people doing nothing wrong have nothing to be afraid of, so privacy be damned, however this POV is not historically supportable even inside the US (and interestingly, even the US State Dept invests in protecting “pro-democracy activists” from such harms — in other countries only of course). Therefore Indymedia does not log IP addresses or use tracking cookies. While technology has improved such that omitting IP addresses is only a small bit of today’s required privacy measures, at least Indymedia doesn’t essentially aid the authorities who attempt to prohibit and punish free speech.

On-line blogs, as Dana pointed out, invest in countermeasures and labor to control spam, and that is a tiresome capability to duplicate. But how do we know what they are removing and prohibiting? There are persistent stories about major vendors like FB and Yahoo censoring political things. Indymedia (mostly) keeps available and viewable everything which was removed from the primary view — an imperfect but superior attempt at transparency and accountability.

As Dana points out regarding Captchas, the countermeasures used to detect spam posts impede some people from posting, and futhermore are usually based on capabilities found in the latest web browsers, and often require additional bandwidth, impeding people with older computers and slower connnections, in addition to disability. Indymedia has no good alternative solution to this of which I’m aware.

A question of interest to me is how can Indymedia values exist while re-using free blogs? One easy way to correct most of the problems I mentioned above is for an activist organization to host its own blog server with the right security, privacy (see dannyp’s note) and transparency etc. That describes pretty well most indymedia web sites.

But trying harder not to duplicate the free blogs, what might that look like? We could build an anonoymizing portal for posting to, for example, blogspot. If posts via the portal were saved, then it would also be possible to determine which posts were censored. We could also keep keep a mirror of the blogspot posts on a separate server, so that content would not be lost to corporate failure or removal. After creating all of that, what we’d essentially have is an Indymedia-style site which copied its content to a blogspot site too, which might be a good idea from a visibility, web gloss, and redundancy perspective, but it hasn’t reduced the Indymedia workload much if at all.

I don’t yet see solutions in the “middle”. But I also think that knowing the problems, related to Indymedia values, of the free blogs (and local newspaper forum web sites etc), is also a good early step to mounting activist campaigns to get some improvements from them.

Paul pablito Bame
Feb 18, 2013 19:43

I think that all journalists would be well served to demand that their work be posted on sites resistant to government repression AND corporate politics (never happen) and “memory hole-ing”, if for no other reason than stories/news which have the power to change the status quo are likely to be repressed sooner or later.

Sites which assure anonymity do not require it — an author can still sign their work, with hard-core digital signatures if necessary.

Web systems which support citizen journalists as their highest aim, also support professional journalists, however the reverse is not true.

Once reliable citizen journalism posting is accomplished, collecting (aggregation and curation) certain posts for certain audiences to support different people’s idea of “news” is relatively easy and already happening — they can even be automatically dressed up in the latest web-fashion trends to appear “competitive”.

So I think we can have open-publishing, repression-resistant, anonymous infrastructure and any model of “news” we want at the same time.

(My apologies for writing Dana instead of Dara)

Feb 19, 2013 7:11

I’m really interested in the expression and outcomes of the Nottingham IMC community meeting. Please keep us informed about the ideas proposed and next steps for your local indymedia.

We’ve been having a similar conversation in San Diego, California. SD indymedia started in 2001 and had a good number of volunteers from different activist circles. It was a good time for alternative media here, there was even two pirate FM broadcasts. Now alt media is centralized around social media posts and a few blogs.

In 2010 SD indymedia migrated to the Drupal cms, but were hit by a lot of glitches, problems and eventually server crash. Notably, during the time it was online the Occupy San Diego movement was in full swing. While our crew reported and kept up with the ongoings of OccupySD and tried to support when possible, the local occupy activists themselves chose not to use indymedia. Opting instead for facebook, twitter and livestream. While the movement as a whole was overwhelmingly using new media, at present, very little of it is archived and easily accessible now.

The problem SD indymedia had with Drupal is the same problem indymedias are having globally. Technology. In SD were lucky to have a few geeky tech people that are willing to donate their geeky knowledge to help keep web servers functioning. Having control of a web server is a security privilege compared to “the cloud”. But many people dont have the technological knowhow to setup a web server in their home or community center. In the early 00’s it was more common to own a desktop computer, and if geeky enough, start exploring the open source range of software. Mobile devices are more common now and almost half of all web users are browsing from the palm of their hand. Using corporate/commercial services activists are able to record and disseminate information in real time without having an apache, php, mysql headache. Even Ubuntu, who made it more enjoyable for non-tech folks to enjoy Linux, is abandoning desktops to focus on mobiles.

What seems to happen is that with the ease of sending out all this information, theres a lack of quality and reflective media being produced. Theres also an absence of community organizing work happening. Its easy to pull together a good group of f*book responders through social media calls, but difficult to become significant beyond flash mobs. During a local biotech protest, punks from LA and Orange County (2-3 hours away) were the majority of the crowd while our neighbors had no clue.. because someone posted a “black block / reclaim the streets” flyer online. (Actually there were more cops that day than protestors.. they found the flyer too. That was just poor attempt at organizing in general.)

For Indymedia to persist and remain relevant we’ll need to figure out this technological divide. Places like San Francisco has a community of radical techies and indymedia still strives in SF. Smaller cities and especially rural areas has fewer, if any. How can we build an IMC network of solidarity to respond to the resource inequalities of communities and nation-states? Much of the problem with autonomous IMCs is the rotting of the backbone of our network. We don’t communicate very well and we don’t have solidarity, yet the IMC global online network is centralized and we’re at the mercy of few absent individuals when we need basic things done to function as a website, such as updating a webserver ip.

As for the future of SD indymedia, we are attempting to reduce the tech divide. Using a WordPress cms with some open source widget addons, we are having some success creating a basic open publishing webpage that is not resource intensive, but keeps security culture in mind/anonymity, is user friendly and non-techie admin friendly. Also able to take advantage of a wide variety of themes to make the design seem contemporary. The idea being that an indymedia collective should not be a collective of moderators. It should be a collective of media producers, activist networkers, resource publishers and free thinkers that moderate spam and oppression when needed. If you’re interested in sampling it you can visit the demo, currently on a commercial web server as we work out the bugs, before transferring it to a private server to go live, http://brianmyers.info/sdimc/

Does it make sense for Indymedia to start a centralized web server that hosts indymedia collectives in cities/locales without tech savvy members? Network23.org offers a similar service to activist projects. I know this has happened before my time with Indymedia, and led to problems (massive outages) when authorities seized servers. From a techie side, how can Indymedia embrace contemporary security technologies like Tor, Diaspora, Freenet and Wikis like the previous decade embraced ip log dumps, IRC and riseup email lists?

Let’s not reinvent. Let’s collaborate.

mark B.
Feb 20, 2013 20:53

I’m probably crazy, but I feel collectively-run media projects – even one using the indymedia brand – are just as relevant as ever. Twitter and FB I see mainly as a means to get the word out to a larger audience than was easily doable 13 years ago (when we ironically had to hold press conferences about indymedia to spread the word). As mentioned above, facebook is incredibly limited as a publishing platform – no privacy protections, filled with advertising, poor ability to search/browse archives, lack of tools for collaborative editing..

In SF we are trying to keep hope alive 🙂 Currently we are having weekly work sessions at a local hackerspace to redesign and redevelop our site for the first time in ~10 years, and pulling in some new volunteers from the community. We’re at an early wireframe stage for what will hopefully be a mobile- and tablet-friendly HTML5 responsive design. You can find some of us on irc.indymedia.org #indybay if you want to chat.

Our site considers all of northern california to be in our “local” area, and other indymedia collectives in the area ended up merging into ours. That is almost 15 million people, which might say something about the tiny percentage of people interested in maintaining an indymedia site long term..

I don’t have a solution for how to make sites + collectives spring up everywhere and be sustained. Barnraisings are a good model to get things launched, but in the end I don’t think anything can replace local people learning how to maintain and customize their site.. Presumably this is also how “old” media projects like underground newspapers or radio stations have managed to survive. Building and hosting 200 cookie-cutter sites could be easy, but in the real world, localities are very different in their preferred editorial process, ways of organizing content, design aesthetics etc. so the platform would have to accommodate that to get local buy-in.

Locally we found it important to break down the division between techies and media makers and just have one collective deciding how the site would look and function.

Feb 21, 2013 1:32

Snap. We’ve had the same problems / conversations on our IMC site
maybe the problem is not that indy websites are not slick enough, but that the systematic dumbing down of humanity has reached some sort of a critical mass. If so then no amount of pimping up of indymedia sites will make a difference. Thats the feeling I’m getting from moderating lately and looking on in despair at the whole hearted embracing of corporate websites like facebook by activists.

One of the unspoken premises of the left is that if the public only had all the information, they would act on it and do the right thing. But what if this premise is wrong and the process of turning the population into atomised consuming units that wholly embrace the vacant philosophies of “gordon gecko” has largely succeeded? well then no amount of web pimping will ever wake these willing zombies from their enslaved slumber. And we’re just the holdouts banging our collective heads against a wall in a lost battle. Still completely deluded in our optimism about humanity.

In a nutshell, Perhaps it’s the public that’s the problem, not our CSS

Paul pablito Bame
Feb 25, 2013 17:37

W – good argument about maybe it’s not the tech and flash, maybe it’s the lack of news-consumer interest. And this has been discussed in newsrooms and media critique circles for a long long time and is I think still not fully understood. A few of the big names I recall in this discussion are Bill McChesney, Bill Moyers, and Jay Rosen (who has an interesting if sometimes annoying blog at pressthink.org).

Also +1 to your point about activists thinking that the right information will change the world. Yeah information is an essential start, but how many people stop smoking just because they learn how harmful it is to one’s health? “The Transition Handbook” takes on this activist magical-thinking issue nicely I think.

In grassroots radio where the same polarization about the value of professional presentation has taken a horrible toll over decades, there is one piece of possibly-useful lore: that the best grassroots stations are staffed by activists in, and allied with, the movements they cover (including music as well as politics). The idea is that activist staff have a genuineness and a burning drive to share important (and yes, biased) information which energizes everyone, rather than staff who want to produce a professional product, which is usually a recipe for irrelevance. Organizations need to make a strong decision whether to prioritize content (mission, values) or presentation, and then find their balance within that decision.

With activists publishing all over the place, we don’t collect together in media organizations so easily as in the past when media access required sharing resources, and that probably is a contributor to the demise of radical media collectives like indymedias.

Paul pablito Bame
Mar 1, 2013 18:44

Apr 21, 2013 11:27

Comments on this subject of actavist media here http://hamishcampbell.com/process

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Mar 6, 2014 20:11

Indymedia is a highly unresponsible collective with questionable intent. Anyone can put any damn content to harass someone for lifetime. I have been writing to them for months now for a false piece of content and must have sent 100 mails. yet noone has ever responded nor any corrective action taken.
They dont even respond to BBB or Cyber police.
Is this what this self proclaimed activists do ? Freedom of Expression comes with Responsibility for fairness and accountability of accuracy. On indymedia, there id freedom of expression but zero fairness or accuracy.
If ever i have to harass anyone, i will author an imaginative piece against the person and put it on Indymedia.org.. The person will remain harassed for lifetime and these bunch of internet terrorists will never respond to the poor guy..

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Shayne from perth
Feb 4, 2021 10:26

Old article but still relevant. In my view the problem with Indymedia was simply the void sought to fill became filled anyway. Not necessarily by anything better , simply other things where more popular. Activists now share information on Facebook and Twitter, god help us, and those outside of that have access to blogging platforms that are often infinitely more capable than the crusty old home-brewed CMSs we used in the day. Its also worth noting that where I was based, a multi-year harrassment campaign from neo-nazis drove most of the collective and userbase away. It was just too hard work trying to work with a site constantly bombarded with people trying to do hate speech or making death threats at collective members (Many of whom had children and other pretty damn solid reasons to be adverse to negative attention)

In my view we should have taken stock and looked around and asked what was *really* missing, and in my view that thing is syndication. And I dont mean RSS feeds or whatever, I mean a way to connect citizen journalists with like minded publications around the world , something like the AP newswire, where a journalist can log in, upload text, media, and so on and then progressive blogs, papers, etc can subscribe (preferably free) to that wire and use it to lift articles and media for their own publications. You could also perhaps add basic paypal type facilities so that financially afloat publications can pay for those stories. Theres a degree of negotiating with the journalist unions that’d be needed to make that part work, but Im rather fond of the idea of people being able to make radical reporting into a way to put bread on the table.

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