Saturday, December 17, 2011

The rise of Indymedia

Article by Mick Fuzz,Undercurrents circa 2000

John Swinton, former Chief of Staff for the New York Times toasting the inadequacy of his profession before New York press Club, 1953:

"...If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of journalists is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks and they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

Speak for yourself, Matey!!

Inspired by the Video web stream coming out of London on June 18th 1999, independent journalists bonded together to form www.indymedia.org. The concept of a web site that allowed users to post text, pictures, audio and even video was one that caught on like mad, wild fire in a tinder barn.

The chain has wheeled full circle and uk.indymedia.org is now one of many Indymedia sites - a dynamic news forum with a focus on areas where corporate controlled media lets its readers down most. Progressive protest and news and commentary on the growing movement against global economic exploitation.

In a lot of ways the website concept speaks for itself, but you know, in a way I'm paid to promote this kind of thing seeing as how it should be beneficial to the human race, so let's go into a bit more depth.

Who will use Indymedia?
Why is it so different?
Why hasn't it happened before?
Why do we need it?
Why does Indymedia suit Pro-Change protes?
What are the other Implications and Opportunities?

So, Roll the Drums and on with the program.

Who will use it?

The most obvious candidates are independent journalists. Squall, Corporate Watch, Schnews and similar publications nationwide are taking advantage of the news posting system. It's a way of reaching readers that may not have been aware of that organisation previously.

Protesters and activists are the real target group to be motivated to use Indymedia. In the same way that Undercurrents encourages campaigners to use Video if traditional means of protest failed, the Internet is a perfect forum for advancing ideas and interpretations that corporate media won't touch. It's also the most realistic and time/cost effective way of trying to redress the balance towards establishment interests that occurs most noticeably in media coverage of Street Protest and Direct action. We reexamine this aspect later.

Freelance journalists are for the most part constrained by their editors as to what is considered fit to print. How many times have we heard about the long investigatory research undertaken by freelancers which comes to nothing because it is deemed unsuitable. Some of the reasons given in such circumstances are indeed laughable [if you're a freelancer then send yours in]. The predominant reason however is that a lot of the more interesting articles that aren't published remain floating in electronic hard drive limbo because they don't fit in with the magasine/channel's remit to advertisers.

Researchers in NGO's. It must be frustrating to have a paid position in a do-gooding NGO and yet not really feel that your work is reaching out beyond the scope of your subscribers. Undoubtabley NGOs have their own press strategy which plays an essential role in the battle to get Environmental and social justice issues in the media. However for the individual working within such a large organisation, Indymedia is a perfect outlet for research that should be transmitted freely.

Why is it so different? and
Why hasn't it happened before now?

Essentially the services offered by www.indymedia.org are no different from the one offered by news lists and bulletin boards where stories could be posted and pictures and files could be uploaded to share with others.

However, we live in an internet age where not many people use news lists or bulletin boards, everyone uses the Web. Technically speaking Database Web technology has made itpossible to replicate the functionality seen on newslists.

The technology behind it all wouldn't be possible if it weren't for underground techno-geek systems, software and support. The whole of the Internet and Information Technology in general would be under the Satanistic control of corporations like Microsoft, and all noncommercial information services and creativity would be up stoney broke creek. If you don't really know about the UNIX spanner-geek philosophy and hacking culture it's all really interesting. For a round up of it >>click here for the inside IT. story.

What it means for the contributors is that this much needed, open-posting web service can come together quickly and in a process of constant ad-hoc development. Which is exactly what was needed for the IMC in Seattle and Washington. It also means that anyone who want to set up a similar posting service anywhere in the world can do so without having to shell out huge quantities of cash to some Masonic-death cult Consultancy-Software company.

But why is this all happening now?

Well there's nothing particularly new about Independent media. In written form there have always been pamphlet and printed distribution. The internet makes it easier to reach people that would never think of reaching into the realms of [horrors] an alternative/radical bookshop. But the internet has also enabled an increased connectivity between groups that is causing a coming together of ideas and a more focused approach to protest. The interconnectivity seems to be pushing groups to address the root causes of "the Big Sickness", not just the symptoms. Economic and unaccountable institutions are rightly being called to face up their actions.

Why is it so Needed?

Indymedia and Web sites like it are the Antidote to the money controlled media virus. How can you really expect media controlled by corporate influence to report accurately on events, campaigns and a whole social movements whose aims are to restrict the power of corporations and challenge such money driven ideals?

It's also aimed at lazy journalists who quite often will rehash press releases, and other reports instead of going for better source material. If everyone does this you get a situation like Mayday where Police and Establishment communication with the press through well worn channels was used instead of source material and interviews from those actually present.

Have a look at this extract from the forthcoming Video Activist Handbook. It's relevant here in that Indymedia gives a perfect forum to activities like this that might otherwise be too much effort for the amount of views you actually get. We can get a picture of the desirability of a connected community of Web Independents.



Recent Internet Activities:

Mayday London and Weekly News casts with www.piratetv.net

Here are two examples of events which Undercurrents has streamed over the net.

Perhaps the best illustration of how Independent media can present a totally different picture to that of mainstream media was on Mayday 2000.

While the intrepid camera people were out catching the action north of the river, us internet geeks were behind locked doors somewhere in London Bridge, sitting on a high bandwidth connection, safe behind an internet firewall. Essentially, we able to drop out the IP's of any interested parties that were paying us too much attention, to prevent them from getting in the way of legitmate inquirers.

We were running two operations; Downstairs, clips of significant moment of the rushes were encoded and put on-line for views to watch on request. Other internet sites, including the Guardian on-line, were able to link directly to these shorts.
Longer extracts were then roughly mixed together for the the next operation upstairs where we were running a live stream. As tapes came in from the cycle couriers we were able to mix from the edited stuff straight into the fresh footage. We were able to contact a worldwide audience through the Indymedia network. Once the stream was functional we used the open posting news service to inform viewers where to check the stream from.

The end effect when mixed with music and commentary over the top was impressive. It managed to convey the cautious carnival atmosphere that marked this almost overwhelmingly peaceful event. The majority of what was transmitted consisted of interviews conducted with the concerned and coherent gardening protesters in Parliament Sq. Of course, we didn't miss out on the stripping of Mc Donald's but the balance of what was streamed - if only due to the fact that there was no time for extensive editing - was indeed representative of the peaceful mood and the intentions of the protesters there. The same cannot be said for what was to follow in Television and press coverage.

The audience for the live stream came from links from the Mayday and UK Indymedia sites.

Undercurrents streams a newscast weekly in partnership with www.piratetv.net

Pirate TV is a ColdCut/ Ninja tunes project. We have no objection to using showbiz-popstar connections to broaden our appeal. It seems that cross-pollination can help avoid stagnation and the sensation of existing in an activist ghetto culture, and the kids love it. PirateTv.net is an internet television channel. Undercurrents streams our programming on this channel on Tuesday evenings. This is now to be archived and posted to the UK Indymedia site, significantly increasing the potential number of viewers we can reach.

As well as past Undercurrents features from the alternative news videos, we stream the recent footage shot by members of the Video Activists Network and any International features that have been sent in to the office. We read out news reports from alternative news publications, e.g. Schnews and Squall. We also stream audio reports of news that activists have uploaded to the internet in Mp3 or Real Audio format. Any exclusive information that we read out is also archived and uploaded to the Web on uk.indymedia.org for other alternative information channels to use.

As you can see the Internet is making collaborations between alternative media groups increasingly easy and advantageous. Certainly, at Undercurrents we are keen to continue this trend and are keen to train other groups to use the techniques we've been using. Please contact us for details of future collaborations or Training.

If you really want to know why we need Indymedia.org. It's because we need more Independent Media! We've got to reach those people out there and we gotta save the planet. This isn't going to happen by clicking away in front of a VDU but it does help to get the message of street protest across.

Why Independent Media suits Pro-change Protests:

Until recently no-one would have argued with the democratic right of citizens to protest on the street. However the mainstream media is demonising even this and proving itself increasingly unsuited to covering such events. Why?

Let's sidestep the obvious reason outlined in the opening quote as no-one likes to think of themselves as a cog in someone else's machine and take a more charitable view of the problems they face.

Editors seemingly find the leaderless structure of such gatherings impossible to deal with. There are rarely press conferences or handy soundbites from established spokespeople. The end result is that the aims of the protesters as a whole are typically grossly misrepresented. Again the coverage of Mayday by Undercurrents, Indymedia compared to that mainstream media enforces this.

Surely the best way to find out the motivations of the protesters is to hear it from them directly. On Mayday the uk.indymedia people printed leaflets encouraging protester on the scene to upload their comments, photos, audio etc. Public access terminals allowed the public to add text to the site directly from the street. Phone lines where messages left were transposed to the Site as audio files were also a hit. It's all part of the next logical step for global survival.

If protesters concerned with environmental and social justice issues cannot find a voice elsewhere, they should be encouraged to use Independent media channels to communicate. In turn readers should be encouraged to tune into Independent media channels to hear these uncensored voices.

What are the other Implications and Opportunities?

As previously mentioned Independent press has been around for a while. However the Internet offers several advantages.

1) Increase in readership and scope of readership: The independent jounalist- video activist is no longer restricted by the geographical and social restrictions imposed by the physical limitations of getting a hardcopy to the audience. Now, there ain't nothing to it but to do it.

2) Increased scope of authors: The increased range of Contributors to such a forum should appeal to an increasingly Media literate population. You have to hope that as people get more twisted and cynical, that this is going to work to the advantage of groups spreading a not-for-profit message. Contributors to the site are working from the heart, rather than for money. Readers are going to respect that.

3) The umbrella structure of a loose knit group and open posting contributors facilitates widespread publicity.

4) The format of the Indymedia web pages allows groups to post relevant web addresses in addition to their news story. The implications for the reader are significant. After reading the news story the reader can then follow the link to find out more about the relevant campaign and how to get involved. This breaks the passive nature of traditional newscasting. You can refute what you read for others to see and if moved you are only a few mouse clicks away from getting involved.

The conclusion? The people set to benefit from the proliferation of Indymedia network of sites are not just independent journalists, activists and commentators, the spread of such news networks, should benefit communities world -wide who are voiceless under the current sensational news system and hopefully bring it on for the human race in general.



Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions. http://www.undercurrents.org

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