ANARCHIST MEDIA WORKSHOP – Live from the Peoples Social Forum 2014, Ottawa, #Day 2

le Devoir

“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.

MEdiaWhat 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….

Blogged from the Peoples Social Forum’s Media Center, 24/08/14.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Read part 1 and part 2 of this Awestruck Wanderer’s special coverage.

The Birth of Fanzine Culture in 1970’s British Punk

Punk Rock history

THE BIRTH OF FANZINE CULTURE

It’s well known that Punk transcends music and embraces social activism, political protest, independent media, and alternative lifestyle. Punk included revolutions in the fields of dancing and body expression (I mean  stuff like pogo and stage diving), contestation of prevailing ideals of beauty (I mean mohawks and torn-up clothes which spell “Fuck the Fashion!”), as well as innovations in rock’n’roll aesthetics (I mean, speedy 3-chord screamalongs). Jello Biafra, shouter and growler at The Dead Kennedys hardcore factory, gives good piece of advice for youngsters who are willing to keep the Punk legacy alive-and-kicking when he recommends: “Don’t hate the media, become the media!” That’s sort of what happened with the rise of fanzine culture inside the Punk movement circa 1976 / 1977. One of the most important of the zines born-out out the Punk Scene was Sniffin’ Glue, whose 8th edition cover is reproduced above. Pamphlets in black-and-white, reproduced in cheap Xerox machines, where absolute freedom of expression was practised, were flooding England around the time of The Sex Pistols’s attack against the rotten British Monarchy. While the Pistols were being brats against the Queen and EMI and square society in general, and The Clash was shouting about how bored they were with the U.S.A. and calling for a White Riot, fanzine culture also made its loud statement of dissent and status-quo criticism. Here are some details more – quoted from The British Library and The Guardian – about how fanzine culture got started and ended-up inspiring many people to stop merely hating the bourgeois media crap and to start becoming themselves a rioting media of their own.

“There was no comfortable position for punk in mainstream culture when it exploded in England in 1976. The mainstream media could not accurately speak for punk, and punk could not represent itself through the mainstream media without radically compromising its own nature. Misrepresentation was inevitable because of the particular nature of the movement. Punk declared: ‘Stop consuming the culture that is made for you. Make your own culture’. It rebelled against established forms of expression and consumption; it was mainly expressed and experienced live… Sniffin Glue, the first punk fanzine, was produced by Mark Perry in July 1976 a few days after seeing US punk band The Ramones for the first time at the Roundhouse in London. He took the title from a Ramones song ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’.

Perry’s fanzine was the perfect punk form. It reported the moment immediately as it happened, reporting it from an insider’s point of view. Because Perry used everyday tools that were immediately to hand, Sniffin’ Glue fit with the do-it-yourself ethos which was already an important part of punk culture. A flood of punk zines followed with identifiable cut and paste graphics, typewritten or felt tip text, misspellings and crossings out. Photocopying also contributed to punk zine look by limiting graphic experimentation to black and white tones and imagery based on collage, enlargement and reduction. Sniffin’ Glue demonstrated that anyone could easily, cheaply and quickly produce a fanzine.” –BRITISH LIBRARY.UK 

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PUNK
“Sniffin’ Glue wasn’t the first fanzine – Punk (which famously coined the genre’s moniker) started self-publishing in New York six months earlier – but its primitive Xerox’n’Sellotape aesthetic was the perfect medium to capture British punk’s early energy, and to inspire a generation of copyists.

Founded by bank clerk Mark Perry, aided by friends Danny Baker and Steve Micalef, its first cover boasted (in felt-tip scrawl) stories on the Ramones and Blue Öyster Cult. Soon, however, Sniffin’ Glue was offering grass-roots reportage on British punk’s first flowering, while also lambasting the Clash for signing to the major label CBS. Sniffin’ Glue was primitive but opinionated, offering a crucial alternative voice to the mainstream music papers (most of which were late to cover punk’s rise) at a time when none was available.

Though Sniffin’ Glue never actually printed the legendary instructions often ascribed to it – “This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. Now form a band” – (that was Sideburns, another punk zine from 1977), its example spawned a slew of followers – including Jamming!, Burnt Offering and Chainsaw (which featured ribald cartoons from a young Andrew Marr) – and established a culture of DIY underground rock criticism that thrives to this day, both in print and online. Perry, meanwhile, ended Sniffin’ Glue in 1977 after 12 issues, concentrating on his own punk group, Alternative TV.” – THE GUARDIAN

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Remember some classics: