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(en) Serbia, Belgrad, Indy- or anti- media? Against ANY journalism... (a summary of discussion)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 17 Aug 2004 06:45:15 +0200 (CEST)

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A summary of discussion in Athenaeum of anarcho-syndicalists
in Belgrade Monday 25th of July 2004:
This was one of the discussions organised in Athenaeum of
anarcho-syndicalists, parallel but not as part of the PGA
conference. Some may have seen parallel program organised in
Athenaeum as a challenge against PGA, but obviously most of
the participators of parallel program were either neutral, or not
interested to choose their sides in local rivalries. I publish this in
conference website and PGA process list as well, because most
of the people who participated came there for the PGA at the first
place, and those who missed the event might be curious what
was the discussion about.

This turned out to be a succesfull event, perhaps the title was
provoking enough to lure curious indymedia activists from PGA
conference to hear what were anarchist hardliners planning for
their trouble. At some point I counted 27 participators at the
discussion, among them were activists from at least Norwegian,
UK and Russian indymedia (which has Ukrainian editors as
well), and German Kanal - B independent video project. So we
had also insider experience from pretty many countries.

Below, I will cite the original (slightly edited) concept of the
discussion, it was proposed in Alter-EE e-mail list in prior to
Belgrade conference, but propably few of the participators of the
discussion had read it:

"Indymedia project spread in last few years all over planet,
providing widest ever source of independent information.But
what is actually "independent"and what is"information" or "what
to do with this what we know" story.All recent hype and
popularity of so/called media activism has created inside of leftist,
autonomous but also anarchist movement new "workplaces"or
specialities for all these confused people, who somehow want to
be active but don't know how. Spreading radical emancipatory
message or analyse of events from antiauthoritarian point of view
should be done ONLY by direct actors and not mediatic
representatives. Doing media is often neccessery and important
yet clearly infrastructure of the struggle, tool and not goal
itself.There are very few positives examples ,where people are
active politically and are as part of their political expression doing
media stuff, yet in most of the cases huge ever growing gap
between indymedia and plain activists is being created.These
people think, behave and act like fucking journalists. On other
hand masses of idiots are swallowing indy stuff without
questioning, just as they used to do with any bourgeoise
press.Often indymedia become also gutter for all kind of
reactionary garbage, from nazis through Stalinist parties till
parliamentary left. All this is also turning message inside of our
own circle and not widening audience, subculturalizing it and not
moving outwards.For many groups it is already more important
to send their text on web (so to exist virtually and be seen by
others like them), than to print it and to distribute flyers on the
street.How anarchist message should be spread , how we see
media and if with speak to (any)camera, should we do it smiling
or with a hammer."

First people to talk about their practical experience were
anarchists from Poland. They commented effect which "franchised"
indymedia has had on Polish activist scene. Other activist newswires,
such as Poprostu are in decay because people have run to indymedia,
which actually is of secondary quality in comparaison with
older projects. Polish indymedia is full of outright carbage, such
as right wing interventions or even disinformation. In other hand
indymedia indeed succeeded in reaching new people, but still at
times there is an impression that anarchists are doing work of
liberals for liberals.

An activist from UK reminded about a case, when Undercurrents
had sold an action they did at British Chamber of Commerce to
Channel 4. Another similar case was a video made from
pre-Seattle US Caravan action being sold to CNN. Activist in
question had not heard about these plans until he saw his own
face at the prime time. Such practices of "alternative media"
compromise security of activists, since officials in various
countries aim to create as comprehensive video archive about
activists as possible. In Germany police is about to get
permission to do movement matrix database, where
mathematical parametres describing persons individual way of
movement would be saved. Armed with enough video footage,
police could this way made using masks in demonstrations

In another hand, independent media is under a constant attack.
In Brussels, undercover police targeted expecially independent
media. In Indonesia, taking a photograph in action landed a
person to jail, in FTAA police stopping indymedia activist
consulted other "is it one of ours or not?", in Thessaloniki
indymedia was banned alltogether....

There was a discussion on security policies of different
indymedias, for example in former Soviet Union many people
were extremely frustrated when Indyvideo announced that they
will refuse from hiding peoples faces in videos. Norwegian
indymedia activist commented, that they always protect peoples
identity by hiding faces. Cult of secrecy may also hurt
movements, but since there are plenty of things to picture during
summit protest, why should one photograph riot?

Indymedia also offers an excellent opportunity of manipulation -
for example some authoritarian communists in
Warsaw managed to present their action so that picket of 5
person seemed like a massive meeting. During Warsaw WEF
protests they were using similar practices widely. In Berlin,
sometimes form overrides content so much that in indymedia
one finds only photographs of the action, without a single leaflet
or press-release to explain what action was all about. An extreme
example was (CIA-financed) Zubra youth opposition movement
of Belarus - one anarchist read announcement of their upcoming
action in Warsaw from indymedia, made some leaflets and went
there well in time. But NO-ONE was there! And when she came
home, she found Zubra reporting in Polish indymedia about
success of the action... After all the criticism, another person
gave also credit to Polish indymedia for good organisation during
Warsaw anti-WEF demonstration in April of this year -
sometimes distribution of activist labour makes sense as well. It
was argued, that much of the complained problems in indymedia
raise because of laziness of people in exploiting this useful

Although indymedia got plenty of deserved baiting during the
debate, there was also a general consensus that
many indymedias are also truly anti-authoritarian and libertarian.
Each indymedia is different, and some of them have no such
diseases as right of free speech to rightwing nuts. For example,
Russian indymedia has a policy against promotion of any political
parties whatsoever. It was agreed that attempts of right-wingers
to exploit naive or moronic liberals in the future would be seen
even more often, for example in Romania right-wingers
managed to register indymedia.ro domain before real collective
was launched. International indymedia got credit for busting out
right-wingers who set up Russian indymedia, but it was
commented that this happened only after one year of angry
protests to their address.

As for solutions, proposed anarchist take-over of indymedia got
little support in the discussion. It was commented, that such
issues as escaping distribution of labour and creating elite of
media-activists may be escaped only by continuous critique and
introspection of the movements. Getting rid of journo habits is a
lenghty and painful process - there is a journalist inside all of us,
and it must be killed! And for sure there is a demand for open
publishing as well, it should not be substituted but
complemented with a focused, qualified but not un-partial

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