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A Radical Idea: a bloggers solidarity?

A Radical Idea: a bloggers solidarity? Posted on 13 October 201110 Comments

“We’ve got to radicalise the mainstream media,” piped up one of the attendees, “That’s where every other revolution failed.”I tried to hide my scoffing, but I’ve never been able to hide my feelings. Around me people nodded – one even suggested that the Guardian was the solution. On another side, people seemed to be praising Indymedia or other dull “citizen” news platforms. Overall everyone wanted to talk about the internet, but none of the organisers knew anything about it – except those from visionOntv and us, the Open Rights Group.

It was the “radical/rebellious media conference” – the conference that wasn’t radical enough to try and stand up to the “radical media” corporation that has currently trademarked all conference use of the term. And attending were 1200 devoted fans of Chomsky. All in all, I wasn’t there for most of it – but for the parts that I was, alternative media was discussed but none of it given the People. In room after room – myself guilty of it – we had hundreds of people listening to panels and not much more. All the rhetoric was accurate, but no solutions were presented.

My heart broke a little as someone mentioned in the feminist session that forums were the future. Had she missed Age of Wikis that had killed them (except those well-established and been running for ages)?

Toolkit for Radicals

People spoke ad-hoc on various solutions to changing the world – an old (white and middle class) man gave us a classic monologue of pseudo-Marxism. Religion is dead, he told us. The internet is it’s replacement – we all believe it’ll create our salvation. On the panel, a response came from the positivist end of the science vs religion debate – the Internet was as real as an electron. I sighed, trying to highlight that the Internet was a tool, not a faith and not a science. It can be used for good. Look at the way that FrontlineSMS has been used to connect people in many parts of East Africa, where the average person is more likely to have a phone than to have electricity in their home. Or the way that Ushahidi has been used in Haiti for crowdsourcing where people were still needing rescuing. Or even the how Global Voices had used blogging as a tool for grassroots advocacy throughout the Arab Spring.

The debates raged on – more endless discussions on the hope of Twitter, Facebook and other oppressors of Net Neutrality. The wizened older generations spoke of  how they didn’t understand why you would want everyone to know what you were having for breakfast. People didn’t even seem aware that a digital age had been born,boomed, and broken – now insipidly infiltrated with corporate whore-age. Technology has become “cheap” because everything is sponsored. Liberation tools were hardly spoken of, except for Becky Hogge‘s comments on the FreedomBox. Practical Tools to liberate you from being stalked (such as ghostery, adblock plus, etc) were not mentioned.

We need tools to truly liberate us – tools that carried with them opportunities for direct democracy, independence and most importantly, collaboration. We need people who know the system so well that they know exactly how to subvert them. We need insiders: journalists, tech hacks, policy wonks, designers, etc to leak poison and create havoc. We needed an all-accessible (and more mature) LulzSec.

Community News, Direct

French Poster for La Commune

Throughout the conference, my thoughts kept meandering back to Peter Watkins‘ excellent documentary La Commune. Not only did it tell the tale of the Paris Commune of 1817 by using immigrant non-actors, it also was a harsh critique of mainstream media. Interwoven throughout the tale of the Commune is the role of information – the way in which our lives and problems are shared, and in which our lives and problems are recorded. In the heart of the media critique was collaboration; the Commune’s newspaper became the voice of the People, the actual concerns that people were facing, their real life issues and worries. Instead of churnalism, spewed out spin stories, and the desperate need to “Sell! Sell! Sell!” and thus to retain the current hegemony, this newspaper aimed to truly provide News. News that would represent everyone and help bring a sense of community in amongst those who had dared to rebel.

It was the solution, or at least a solution. Start small – in a community where people are genuinely repressed and want their voices heard. Engage those willing to take part. Exchange a press & its team and its costs for food/clothing/housing through a system of barter. Perhaps start in a co-op. Talk to everyone involved. Report what they say, not what you think. Print the truth, even when it’s ugly. Would it work? Could we grow from there? My cynicism led me to think “no”. I wanted a community paper in a country where community was no longer anything but political rhetoric. Interims are needed.

Bloggers Solidarity

It was Hamish who led me to think about this and nod. And Laurence who first thought of it. Hamish felt strongly that the left “community” was lacking. We have spent so much time infighting, we have forgotten that our real battle was outside our petty squabbles. Hamish suggested we need to link to each other, have a collected RSS feed, try and build proper ties. Laurence suggested we have a shared server, where all the left can work together. But I have a much more radical proposal. We work together on the same platform.

You want to win back those swing voters, the radical politics and the real voice of the people? You need to become exactly what you represent. Workers did this back in the early days of Unions – to have a leader who actually works in your workplace and takes on the responsibility of leadership because they believed in their rights for fair pay, fair conditions. No hierarchy, just passionate and driven workers, all working the same job and gaining the same wages.

We need to have a Bloggers Solidarity – a shared platform for all our views – Social Democratic to Anarchist. That union should have the powers to become advocates for digital rights, the left view, the collective action against right-wing censorship and mostly – a voice against the mainstream media. The costs of the server and any maintenance work should be funded through crowdsourcing. The failings of Capitalist competition would end. If Global Voices can do it internationally, we can certainly do it here.

Please note: This blog is written in an entirely personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views of any particular organisation in any shape or form.

10 thoughts on “A Radical Idea: a bloggers solidarity?

  1. Hi Nishma

    I’m not sure what you mean by a shared / same platform? Is it that there should be one blog with the diversity of ‘Social Democratic to Anarchist’ on it that anybody could contribute to? A bit like Indymedia’s model of open posting, but applied to opinions, not just news?

    I’m not convinced this would work in practice. For example, are people who have differing opinions on the role of violence in creating a better world going to be happy sharing the same platform?

    Who is going to control the platform and say who can and who cannot be on it? (I found it contradictory that in one sentence you mentioned leaders, and in the next you said there was no hierarchy – especially in the union movement).

    To me, one platform suggests centralisation. And with centralisation there will, de facto, always be hierarchy.

    I think an even more radical idea is to de-centralise and accept that people have different views, and therefore will use different platforms. But one or two platforms – such as VisionOn or BeTheMedia might bring all of these different voices together in one place.

    PS – to say that VisionOn and ORG where the only people at the conference that understood the internet is either an exaggeration, or you didn’t meet as many people as you might have. Tachanka, Aktivix, BeTheMedia, HacktionLab, and other radical collectives were there.

    1. Graham – I was speaking of ORGANISERS, not who was there at the conference. If it was about who was there, then yes, there was a diversity of people.

      One platform isn’t centralisation, but solidarity. We (as bloggers) may not always agree, but we will stand together in the face of adversity. Of course a discussion would need to be held on what our core principles are – but that is how any organisation works, socialist or anarchist.

      And having leadership doesn’t mean hierarchy – you can have ‘rotating’ leaders, or as I called them, representatives.

      Individualism has destroyed us with competition. Not working together is the process of alienation that we have accepted from our neoliberal friends. And I for one don’t want them to win.

  2. really like the idea of blogger solidarity, but was wondering if you could flesh it out a bit in terms of what it would be in a practical sense (for the only semi technologically competent). Do you mean a big joint blogging platform with a central organisation like a website or a wordpress wherebloggers write individually and there is some collective agreement like a code of content (don’t be a dick type stuff) would there be some collective/rotating management as well?

    I think you see this sort of solidarity a tiny little bit in feminist blogging and stuff like The F word helps (though I am not saying The F word is without it’s issues RE privilege,that there aren’t massive feminist rows,or that The F word is a mainstream media force)

    1. The F word is the perfect example of what I mean. There are divides in the feminist community (pornography being one of the big ones), but the reason why the blog works is because there are so many views and they are one big loud voice on everything.

      In terms of management, I would consider even seeing if we can find someone to employ to ensure the techie stuff behind the scenes can be done. I do think it should be a tad like Indymedia, but more like collected blog posts. Also – a clear political stance.

  3. RE; political stances, it seems fairly obvious that the main divides could be boiled down to

    a) do you think we need a revolution or not
    if yes then
    b) do you think we need a party/central committee type organisation
    or c) or not, because of heirarchy/power etc.

    would a clear political stance encompass all those things do you think?

    1. I don’t think it would even need to be that complex. The main thing would be along these lines:

      – Do you think that inequality is a bad things?
      – Do you believe that community is important?
      – Do you support neoliberal policies?
      – Do you believe in democracy or democratic processes?

      It doesn’t even have to be explicitly anti-capitalist, but about human rights, democracy (be that state-based on anarcho-communist), and anti-globalisation (economically).
      Do have a look at Global Voices to see what I mean.

  4. The first two paragraphs I thought were unfair and pessimistic.

    Peace News and co-organisers can hardly be blamed for not wanting to risk court action for the sake of a conference name. They were right not to embroil themselves for the sake of the conference. Also solutions come out of these discussions, panels are not necessarily expected to present the “solution” but proposals can and should be discussed. In the workshops I attended they were both solutions orientated.

    That aside, I agree with your proposals and suggestions. There are barriers though and trust is one of them. There are lots of small splinter groups on the Left, and serious distrust. A lot of social democrats in Labour hate Trotskyists, a lot of Anarchists hate both Social Democrats and Trotskyists and a lot of Trotskyists sneer at everyone else. Never mind the Stalinists, centrists and Libertarian Socialists like myself. Liberal Conspiracy works because there is a dedicated team who maintains it financially, editorially and technically. I think platforms as opposed to a central website is the way forward but we need a collective to take this on in a dedicated way.

    However the proposal for a community media ala The Commune sounds excellent and would back that. The blog that I run: The Multicultural Politic is an attempt to hear all voices from multicultural Britain. It was set up by a mixed race guy who is now the Labour MP for Streatham (Chuka Umunna). I took the Editor job before he was elected and despite not being a Labour Party member he has been supportive of my efforts.

    Hope these thoughts make sense!

  5. Justin – your points about the cynicism of this post are valid, but they reflect the cynicism I felt leaving the conference.

    However, on whether Peace News should have taken the case, I strongly disagree. Recently, ORG helped with another organisation called EcoLabs which had the same problem. We gave them legal advice and helped them fundraise the court fees. They won.

    The fact is that “radical media” is common parlance. And the company that claims to have trademarked it were using scare tactics to justify privatising the English language. And we scuppered to their will rather than what radicals should have done – stood up for our rights. If we don’t do it – who will?

    1. Completely agree with you on ‘radical media’ Nishma. It should have been fought, and it would most likely have been won. We can still have that fight, if needs be, in the future.

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