How the Internet is redefining the way people work together
November 30, 1999, was an historic day, and not only because it marked the largest active civil disobedience in the United States since the 1960s. Indeed, it showed the level of brutality that defenders of capitalism are willing to use to preserve that system. But amidst the tear gas and the brutality and the jailed protesters during the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, a revolution was underway — a media paradigm revolution — and it was happening a few blocks from the Convention Center at the Independent Media Center. It was the culmination of an effort that began a few months earlier with a handful of media activists who wanted to break the corporate information blockade.
The Independent Media Center (IMC) exemplifies this new media paradigm. It’s not only a matter of the way you present content and communicate with your audience — which is much more lateral than I’ve seen in any US Leftist or independent media projects in a long time. This is also a much more inclusive process, producing media that isn’t professionalized.
"Anyone can become a journalist" — that’s been the slogan at the various independent media centers. This is changing the way media organizations produce content, making it much more inclusive and democratic. In this sense, the IMC has been able to show the faults of the existing media paradigm.
During the Washington DC protests, a CNN anchor reporting on the Independent Media Center there said that the corporate media — in fact, all media — has a bias. Indeed, corporate media has a corporate bias. But I think there’s a problem in using the word "independent," because we also have a bias.
On the other hand, the following question was posed to me once: Why don’t you present the view of the delegates from the World Trade Organization? Why don’t you present the views of corporations? It’s an absurd question, like asking a journalist under fascism, why don’t you present the views of a fascist government? Independent media journalists ought to be extremely critical of corporations and the way they’re dominating the landscape.
Another important aspect of this new media paradigm is internationalism and the fight against globalization. Indeed, this is a most eminent worldwide phenomenon, with massive battles happening everywhere. It began decades ago in the Third World, and only now is appearing in the developed countries, connecting communities of action. We need to know what’s happening in other countries in their fight against imperialism and globalized capitalism. Thus, the communication itself is a product. Being able to know what activists are doing in Paris, for example, is of immense value, and Internet technology enables us to do that. So, we should think about the Internet not just as a mass medium, but as a communication or an organizing medium.
The structure for the IMC Website was organized by people communicating and working outside of Seattle. One was in Australia, I was in Colorado, and there were others in Seattle itself. Through the telecommunication network, we were able to produce something extremely exciting. In short, the Internet is redefining the way people can work together and collaborate on projects.
Manse Jacobi was formerly co-editor for Free Speech Internet Television (www.freespeech.org) and a founding member of the Independent Media Center (indymedia.org). He writes regularly on Middle Eastern affairs, globalization, and new media technologies, and is active with several student-based groups and democracy movements.