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LOCAL Commentary :: Media Criticism : Resistance & Tactics

To: the PROJECT

To: theproject@studentmedia.ucsc.edu
From: Samantha Hodges
Subject: letter

I’m writing to you out of confusion and frustration. I know that I share similar critiques of this world with many of you, and I appreciate the level of energy and motivation that I assume many of y’all have. My confusion and frustration stem from my lack of understanding with how y’all are spending your time.

I don’t understand why many of you seem to have an obsession with organizing and organizations. I take particular concern with the article about the new anti-war organization on campus. I tend to agree with the analysis of why SUP ended in 2003; it came from a feeling of disempowerment. It also seemed to come from a general lack of commonality between people in the anti-war scene (although it is assumed that those individuals were all against the war, when it comes to how they relate to others and to the world there are vast differences between peace activists, socialists and other authoritarian-leftists, anarchists, and vague liberal scenesters). It also came from the reality that there is nothing that a small group of students can do to change the policy of any government. And mostly it came from the fact that tactics such as rallies, speak-outs, teach-ins, and other such things are irrelevant to people because they are absolutely ineffective. No one cares if you hold up placards proclaiming your earnest desires for a just and peaceful world. There is no reason to believe that “demanding? that the government do anything will have any effect other than making you feel jaded, disempowered, and intensely tired. THIS IS AN INHERENTLY DISEMPOWERING ACTION. This is why there were so few people who came to meetings of the coalition to end the occupation.

I also don’t understand the fascination with independent media. Media necessitates representation and representation necessitates distance: distance from the person speaking and distance from the subject at hand. This perpetuates alienation and inaction. It means that we are not talking to each other face to face, that we are not sharing our stories with each other while listening to the sound of each other’s voices, to the rhythm of our breath, while seeing the worlds form in each other’s eyes and tumble from our mouths. It means that we have not yet figured out how to converse, how to share information in informal ways, without relying upon the structures or institutions of media, no matter how independent they may be.

I hope that you all find your own ways out of the dizzying maze of leftist ideology.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Dearest “Samantha,?

We really appreciate your feedback, although that last line could use a bit in the way of diplomacy. I’d like to first respond to your questions about our enthusiasm for independent media, which I think will segue nicely into the joy of “organizing and organizations? in general.

As a collective of amateur journalists trying very hard to put together a meaningful publication despite our busy lives, we think very hard about what we include in our paper and how it affects the reader. Although we do try to provide a forum for ideological rants and raves, we focus especially hard on publishing articles that focus on community issues and highlighting local resistance. In addition, each issue has a DIY section where we share skills that we think are both practical and empowering. The same is true of all the wonderful organizations emerging on campus: they’re finding local and effective ways to make a difference, and if you had read the rest of that article, you’d know that. UCSC’s Students Against War is working on local issues that are directly related to the war in Iraq (see the center spread of this issue). Sure, it may not seem like much to you, but not everyone gets to be a Subcommandante Marcos.

Our goal is certainly not to simply burden our readers with a checklist of what’s wrong with the world. That’s something we try to avoid, although I admit it can be difficult when trying to raise awareness.

You’re correct, media puts distance between the author and the reader, and gives the author unfair hegemony on the dialogue. The beauty about independent media, by and for the same community, is that it facilitates this dialogue. Look at a Santa Cruz Indymedia article (www.santacruz.indymedia.org); after a controversial article, there will be pages upon pages of responses. Some are just a few sentences of appreciation or outrage, others are whole other articles disputing the facts of the previous one.

Likewise, the Project accepts submissions from absolutely anyone, and our staff consists of anybody who is willing to come to some of our Monday meetings. If you feel unduly distanced from us, it is because you are not doing anything to bridge that gap.

The alternative you seem to advocate is no media, no news, no information, just ignorance and gossip. Independent media keeps its journalists accountable to their readers by giving anyone the potential to write back. This is far more reliable than both corporate news and the kind of bullshit you hear through the grapevine.

Because you offer us no alternatives, I get the impression that you’re one of many people (including some of us depending on when you ask) who at one point was passionate about organizing but then became jaded. I can understand that. Eating that red pill and deciding to give a fuck can be frustrating. You expect to be jumped into some beautiful underground where all the answers will be provided by fascinating people who will all be your friends just because you’re “allies? in the struggle.

Then you realize that you still feel uncertain, alienated, or powerless, that the awkwardness of social interaction remains, or you feel that your individuality is in jeopardy by uniting over a common cause, and immediately cease all ties with anyone who has the nerve to care about anything. You want to talk about an “inherently disempowering action?? How about giving up. Most of us at the Project would agree with you that, although they can be very effective when used appropriately, protests have become over-used, monotonous, and boring, as well as a vain way of “speaking truth to power? rather than taking direct action to secure what’s rightfully ours. That is why, as collectives and individuals (call us “scenesters? if you like; we’re still a bunch of alienated individuals just like yourself), those of us involved in the struggle for social justice are actively looking for creative and effective new means and mediums. The radical left has always been a diverse group (you’re probably sneering at this comment but it’s true) and that’s our greatest strength. We may not be great at organizing like the Communists, but we base our struggle on creativity, not a party line, which makes the struggle that much more fun. If being politically conscious and active is a burden for you, you’re not doing it right. Organizing may be alienating at times, but we promise that the alternative is so tenfold. “We,? the anonymous mass of organizers out there in the world, need people like yourself to help us engage people and create a beautiful, diverse community who dare to give a fuck.

It’s like it says on the bumper sticker:
DON’T HATE THE MEDIA. BECOME THE MEDIA!
 
 


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