York IndyMedia is a project I love dearly, and yet I’ve been finding it really very difficult to communicate the need for such a website, let alone the need for activists and community-spirited individuals alike to use the site to record and promote what they are doing. Either people just don’t get around to posting or they just don’t see why they should and at times, its hard to tell which is the real reason.
On the one hand, IndyMedia sites are no where near as easy to publish to as Facebook, and there is less perception that people will read these websites. Sadly, people think that because they have friends on Facebook, those friends must be reading. In reality, those friends probably aren’t that bothered, some will have been there anyway, and the whole thing simply won’t be news. This does present a challenge to creators of IndyMedia sites to make them more accessible for contributors, but it also raises another key issue.
Then there’s simply the fact that Facebook has 70+ million users and IndyMedia neither knows how many users it has nor probably does have that many users (or readers, if one is to divide between those who post and those who don’t). Facebook wants to celebrate its own success by announcing user-signup milestones in the press, while IndyMedia provides anonymity to those who seek it.
There does seem to be a war going on, though some might say it has already been won. On the one hand, community websites hosting community contributed information, and on the other, corporate megaliths holding this information in a space which is (perceived to be) more easily accessible. And the simple fact that a member of some kind of elite controls that information seems completely fine to most people.
I have been aware for some time that less and less people are being critical of mass-media sources. As activists, we take for granted that we will be misrepresented, and yet do nothing about it (often to the point when only a handful of people complain when a protest they were at is reported as a tenth its real size). From the readership point of view there is an assumption that news must be served up for us, pre-prepared for quick consumption.
So I guess what I’m trying to say, and this might have to be developed a bit later, is that activists in this country are becoming more and more subservient to the media. Its not that they shouldn’t be getting their message across through it, but to end up basically taking action on the basis that it will look good for the papers is not a valid reason for acting.
We have also become lazy and rather heavily dependant on others for the infrastructure we use, instead of building our own outside of the state/corporate dominated world. Using modern media, especially Web2.0 media, to communicate aims is one thing, but being unable to support ourselves when the media and the web can’t is a huge problem, as is the current situation where many Direct Action groups have become acceptable and thus rather heavily compromised, often confusing arrestable symbolic action with direct action.
OK, I give in. I was going to end this with some wonderful piece of wisdom, and in the end all I can think of is a Rovics quote:
“And CNN will spread the lies
This is just how it’s gotta be
Well they can have their CNN
‘Cause we got our IMC
And we will tell the truth quite clearly
Though they don’t want to hear it
And they’ll try to stop our broadcasts
‘Cause the truth is that they fear it”
(Shut them Down, 1998)