“Wealthy anarchists are just like unicorns!” Such outbursts of spontaneous poetry, my friends, you are only likely to hear in a Social Forum Anarchist Workshop.
After spending a terrible night of almost no-sleep-at-all at the Jail Hostel, a former prison turned into a gloomy night repose for youngsters, I decided to drop by, early in the morning, to exchange ideas with radical indie-media and gonzo-writers brothers & sisters from all around Canada.
The event was organized by Hallifax anarchists who publish a black-and-white and punk-spirited pamphlet called The Worst of Times. With a high dose of caffeine in my brain, I was about to start my 2nd day at the Peoples Social Forum diving deeper into the “How-and-Why of An Uncompromising Anarchist Broadsheet”.
I certainly wasn’t expecting to be lectured by anarchists, posing as authorities on this subject, but rather to engage in conversation with other freaks, such as myself, who cherish the struggle to build pathways and networks for a journalism who gives voice to the voiceless and speaks truth to power. As Mr. Jello from the Dead Kennedys puts it: “Don’t hate the media, become the media!”
It was an intense and totally horizontal exchange of ideas and dreams, filled with tiny acts of heroism celebrated with great collective cheering: I got to know those who work in public libraries and secretly “hack” the xerox machines in order to make copies of their home-made anarchist newspapers; those who come up with innovative ways to raise funds on their communities so that they can publish un-censored manifestos and flyers; those who write protest songs with themes taken from left-wing zines (like this guy, Byron, who I saw playing in Sparks Street the previous day with his project Folk The System and then re-met at the workshop).
In the Social Forum’s official program, this gathering was described as “an exploration of the who / what / where / when and, most crucially, the why / how of building an autonomous forum for uncensored raw news, analysis and opinion that does not depend on unions, NGOs or business for financial or moral / ideological support”.
Our debate revolved around such themes: why does corporate media do such a lousy job when it comes to its coverage of marginalized peoples? What skills should an anarchist media organization possess and master, in order to truly be of service to the community, especially those who are victims of racism, sexism, xenophobia and other forms of exclusion?
Everyone of us have its chance to voice an opinion – “prendre la parole”, as our dear Québecois comrades put it – and my humble colaboration to the talk had to do with our recent experience in Brazil. Especially after the mass demonstrations of July 2013, a month in which more than 1 million Brazilians reclaimed the streets of dozens of towns after an increase in public transport fares, our corporate media once again took off its mask and revealed its fascist face.
Most of our mainstream TV networks (such as Globo, that has been for 21 years a friend of our Military Dictatorship [1964-1985]) and weekly magazines (such as shitty crappy Veja, who deserves only to be used as toilet paper) treated this massive outburst of democratic participation from Brazilian civil society with utter jornalistic incompetence.
Corporate media, in Brazil, portrayed activists only as potencial terrorists, threats to public safety; the media of big bosses sided with the reppression forces, and applauded police brutality and tear-gas bombing; these wealthy media corporations focused on relatively tiny episodes of violence and vandalism by Black Bloc groups (and maybe des agent provocateurs), who were breaking glasses of junk-food stores or trashing ATM machines and banks; but mainly this mainstream media showed an absolute incapacity to understand the social causes of this phenomenon.
What I perceive to be lacking in corporate media, I told my comrades, is empathy and in-depth understanding for those who are behind the gas masks or the Black Blac “costumes”; what is lacking is simply the hability to portray the human beings who participate with large-scale social movements in Brazil such as MST (Landless Workers Movements) and Passe Livre (Free Pass Movement); what is lacking, of course, is a media that instead of sucking the cocks of wealthy advertisers, serves the true needs of the national community – especially those who need the most to have their voices heard and amplified by the media apparatus.
June 2013 also had some good news: the upsurge of Ninja Media and A Nova Democracia (The New Democracy), for example, truly independent projects of mass-communication which did an excellent job during the demonstrations; they broadcasted live from the streets and filmed great documentaries about the social movements efervescence in Brazil; they denounced the State’s repressive forces as disproportionate and authoritarian, defended the human rights of protesting citizens, shouted truth to power in their increasingly popular social media (Ninja has reached more than 300.000 fans in its Facebook page, for example).
Unfortunately, most of the Brazilian population is still under the spell of the brainwashing machine called Mass Media. Our indigenous peoples, for example, are suffering terribly from the construction of big dams; from massive deforestation at the behest of cattle ranchers and agribusiness corporations; from the onslaught of the bulldozers courtesy of the doctrine of Development and Economic Growth.
In the Brazilian province of Mato Grosso – which one of Brazil’s most influential anthropologists, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, deems our own Gaza Strip – the indigenous populations are being treated like trash, to be swept to the slums (or simply out of existence). They have been kicked out of their ancient and cherished lands in order for money to be made in complete disregard to environmental destruction. Nowadays, one of the hugest suicide rates in Latin America is among Mato Grosso’s native populations. The corporate media, in general, is an accomplice to this genocide.
Many people had lots of interesting things to say about their own experiences as publishers of alternative media experiments. One problem that seems to plague us all is this: we try to write in order to give voice to the voiceless, provide visibility to the invisible, speak truth to power, and so forth and so on. I love this ideas and ideals. But the problem is: if you’re tiny anarchist newspaper who gives voice to voiceless is only read by 100 readers, isn’t this newspaper itself voiceless? Isn’t it devoid of broad social impact?
So, the main focus of our discussion ended up being this: how can we break the confines of a small reading audience? How can we reach a wider audience for our messages which are so dissonant in comparison with mass media crap? How to avoid falling into the trap of “preaching to the converted”? Can an anarchist media experiment go beyond the “inner communication” amongst the tribe of anarchists and socialists and sympathizers, and actually get its messages across to all society? And, last but not least, how can we use most effectively the high-tech tools – WWW and Social Media – in order to transcend the individual medias isolation and create big networks of resistance?
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TO BE CONTINUED….