Center (IMC) Network
essay 1 of the series
Building the Global Grassroots Infrastructure
April 21, 2001
this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Grass/Infra/Infra-1.htm
Summary: From one Independent Media Center in Seattle in Nov-Dec '99, we now have, on March 22, 2001, less than 1 year and 4 months later, 55 Indymedia centers, on every continent except Antarctica and the Arctic ice cap, but very unevenly distributed. First in a series of essays on how to replace capitalism, with reference to the struggle in Mexico.
The recent spurt in the growing worldwide grassroots communications network marks the dramatic start of a new stage in the ongoing struggle of many millions of people to establish true, participatory democratic forms of structuring our social lives. Along with the unprecedented massive protests in Seattle in Nov-Dec '99 against the world Trade Organization conference, the concept of an integrated Independent Media Center was first implemented. Free of all corporate control, a loose coalition formed with the goal of providing honest coverage of events in Seattle. It proved to be an amazingly effective effort, resulting in the dissemination of news that the corporate media was dedicated to ignoring altogether, or, if that was not possible, downplaying and distorting their coverage, making the protests appear to be the capers of "a bunch of crazys" with no claim to social legitimacy. The battle was launched; the first Indymedia Center (IMC) was established. Photographers, radio journalists, videographers, freelance journalists, filmmakers, internet experts - no communication media was excluded - got together spontaneously. without advertising subsidies, without corporate logos, without foundation support influencing the content of their output, running supercharged on only enormous surges of adrenaline and their convictions that honest news coverage was a must for the kind of world they wanted, they completely eclipsed the lame, indeed deliberately lamed, mainstream media. A true first for us, for a society built on cooperation instead of competition, on the concept of "mutual aid" rather than on capitalism's "commodification of everything."
That first independent media center maintains a website at http://seattle.indymedia.org. Check it out, if you haven't already done so. That initial site, set up not even a year and four months ago, was just the start. By today (March 22, 2001) the Global Indymedia site, http://www.indymedia.org, lists 53. They are on every continent except Antarctica and the Arctic ice cap, but the distribution is badly skewed in favor of the rich parts of the world. In addition to the two South American sites listed, Brasil and Colombia, there's also one in Bolivia, http://bolivia.indymedia.org. And there's one in India, http://india.indymedia.org that's not listed. Altogether then, there are 55 Indymedia Center websites!
This vast skeletal backbone of our coming integrated global communication network has yet to penetrate China, Pakistan, Southeast Asia, and the great reaches of the Pacific (where there are only 3 IMC's; 2 in Australia and 1 in Hawaii, all English language sites). For the most part the websites are open, that is to say, anyone with internet access anywhere in the world, can immediately post articles, videos, photographs, audio material, or comments on any of the sites (with one or two exceptions), without prior editorial control. There is essentially no prior censorship. A far cry from what we in the U.S. are doused with daily by so-called mainstream media! Of course there are all the attendant problems, irresponsible postings of all sorts, which dilute the value of the sites. These problems are being addressed by the enormous core of dedicated volunteers who, together, make up the non-hierarchical staff structure. I'm confident we will find ways to make the sites so good, so valuable, so comprehensive and reliable that our network will come to supplant mainstream media for an ever-growing part of the world's population. we are building our grassroots communication infrastructure within the shell of the capitalist system.
In his insightful essay Getting Free, Jared James begins Section 7 with the brief paragraph, "It is time to try to describe, at first abstractly and later concretely, a new strategy for destroying capitalism. The new strategy, at its most basic, calls for pulling time, energy, and resources out of capitalist civilization and putting them into building a new civilization. The image then is one of emptying out capitalist structures, hollowing them out, by draining wealth, power, and meaning out of them until there is nothing left but shells." The essay is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g//Strate/GetFre/index.htm. The most wonderful example of this process of "hollowing out" with which I'm familiar is the one going on right now in southern Mexico. It is fueled largely by the struggles of indigenous peoples and the vast impoverished population, a great "human resource" intent on transforming itself from being what global capitalism sees as only cheap hand labor, into the culturally rich diverse group it really is, embodying the best traditions of México Profundo, Deep Mexico, the Mexico that stretches back in time to before the Conquest. (to be continued in Building the Global Grassroots Infrastructure-2)