Press

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Mike Harman
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Jun 7 2005 13:02
Press

Should we, as a federation, have a press-policy for either federation-wide communication, or to restrict the interactions of members on an individual basis?

knightrose
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Jun 7 2005 14:50

Yes we should have a policy.

It should recognise that journos are basically agents of the state and business. They are not neutral and they don't exist to deliver our agenda to the public.

If asked for an interview we should always decline.

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pingtiao
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Jun 7 2005 15:12

To contribute to this debate, here are some posts from JoeBlack2 (on here- JoeBlack on U75, where these quotes are from).

Quote:
I may have missed it but where did someone suggest trusting the media?

Actually I think the best thing to go for is

1. Live media (radios best)

2. Interviews with sympatheic journalists (but not just the Gunaird)

Best not to do interviews with anyone who

a. has a record of dodgy articles (ALWAYS research this)

b. is a crime correspondant (they depend on the cops feeding them stories for a living and you don't bite the hand that feeds you).

Being a revolutionary suggests taking some risks and talking to selected journalists is a minor risk as they go. But be aware of the downside - in particular that scum journalists will dig into your past and may go after you employers. The articles at http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=508 really are worth reading

Quote:

Say 80 % of the media coverage is crap, 18% is fair but irrelevant and about 2% includes some reasonable description of what anarchism is. That 2% will probably mean 100,000 - 2,000,000 - depending on print run - copies of that article getting into peoples hands. Now unless your group is a lot better resourced than the WSM there is no way you can hope for that sort of distribution for some time to come. I've done live interviews on RTE (equivalent of BBC) prime time news shows on anarchism - I've also done pirate radio broadcasts out of an attic. One reached one million plus, the other maybe 500. Every major chance we've had to explain anarchism on the mass media has been triggered by a summit protest we have been involved in.

Now Monte would of course disagree with the value of the above but my approach to the media has always been based on the idea that at least a significant minority of 'consumers' are quite cynical about the truthfulness of the media. That's one reason why tabloids outsell broadsheets in many countries, if you reckon the news is filtered it might as well be entertaining.

So in that context the 2% or 0.1% or .001% good coverage in the mountain of 'anarchists plan gas attack to kill 10,000 Dubliners' (real front page from last year BTW) matters because it can reach huge numbers of people we do not have the resources to yet reach by any other means.

Anyway I don't know how you came to anarchism - maybe it was by picking up a book with a perfect description. But in a lot of cases, including my own, you hear it mentioned somewhere and go 'I wonder what that is' and then go and seek out more information. With the advent of the WWW this is a lot easier than it used to be the best the libraries had here was Woodcock. In that context even a nuts story can lead to people saying 'I wonder what that is really about'. Us primates are curious animals, we don't need a lot of incentive to go sticking sticks in holes in the ground to see what crawls out.

Anyway reducing the summit protests to media spectacles is overly reductive they are also a good chance to meet up and trade experiences to take home with you. Oh and actually expressing your disagreement with the state side by side knocks a lot of the silly sectarian edges off what passes for political discussion. It's easier to see that you are more or less on the same side after such events.

Mike Harman
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Jun 7 2005 16:07

And here's John.'s and Colin's interview on BBC London from a few months ago, which was excellent. Balanced, good responses from callers etc. etc.

http://libcom.org/lib/BrianHayesonAnarchism.mp3

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Steven.
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Jun 7 2005 16:59
knightrose wrote:
Yes we should have a policy.

It should recognise that journos are basically agents of the state and business. They are not neutral and they don't exist to deliver our agenda to the public.

If asked for an interview we should always decline.

Knightrose I wouldn't have put you down as one of the activist paranoiacs!

Sure sometimes the media have an agenda, but sometimes they don't, they just want an interesting story/angle on something.

knightrose
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Jun 7 2005 17:21
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Knightrose I wouldn't have put you down as one of the activist paranoiacs!

Sure sometimes the media have an agenda, but sometimes they don't, they just want an interesting story/angle on something.

I'm not. It's just that I don't trust them! It's one thing to give a press release, or to speak to them on an issue we decide in advance we want to. It's another when they set the agenda.

I remember once being interviewed on a work related issue. What I was quoted as saying bore no relation to what I'd actually said. If it's to do with anything political they are liable to be even less trustworthy.

I also feel that a blanket refusal to co-operate is a good idea. They help the cops with pictures and info from demos. We should respond by refusing to speak to them.

Mike Harman
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Jun 7 2005 17:30

Do you think the BBC London interview I posted above should have been refused? I've neither heard nor seen anything like that in mainstream media ever.

Quote:

I remember once being interviewed on a work related issue. What I was quoted as saying bore no relation to what I'd actually said. If it's to do with anything political they are liable to be even less trustworthy.

Work is political isn't it?

Quote:

They help the cops with pictures and info from demos.

Radio stations do this? BBC4 does this? You could say the same thing about indymedia.

What about when they report on police brutality, sweatshop labour, state corruption etc. etc.? As far as I can tell the police, employers and the state still do interviews (although not necessarily about the issue that was exposed).

knightrose
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Jun 7 2005 18:33
Quote:
Work is political isn't it?

yes. but I don't think taking a bunch of students to visit a local railway station is on the same liones as the G8 summit

wink

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888
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Jun 8 2005 07:12

We must avoid falling into ultra-left irrelevance/impracticality (sorry knightrose and others but my view is that some of the "principled" positions of certain council communist and other groups who influence the AF are just that)... and seize what opportunities we can get away with, while bearing in mind the dangers you've mentioned above.

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pingtiao
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Jun 8 2005 08:44

I agree with catch, john and 888 here (well I would, given that I did the interview).

The first thing we must struggle against in all our analyses is the tendency towards presenting anything homogeneously. Media workrs are workers, and the class struggle isn't absent from that domain. The media isn't in somewhere hived off from the rest of capitalism, subject to different rules and laws. All media workers are not the same, and to assume they are is to descend into simplicity and reduce our understanding of the world. There are occasions when we can use the media to spread our propaganda, to articulate a critique that isn't normally available (like the interview between Colin, John and the BBC above). To shun these opportunites, when we spend practically all our time as a Fed trying to do "outreach" work, is self-defeating.

A healthy skepticism is one thing- a paranoid rejection of all media other than that controled by people we know is quite another.

nastyned
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Jun 8 2005 20:10

I'd never talk to the press myelf so I can't recommend it to others. You're far more likely to end up looking like a twat than having any good come out of it. There are other risks as has been mentioned. I also think anarcho groups that have courted the media have got themselves in a right mess so if some AFs do for some strange reason talk to journos occasionally I hope it sticks at that.

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cantdocartwheels
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Jun 8 2005 20:49

i think i'd differentiate between local press, who while they are owned by larger companies, do not tend to put forward much of a ''line'' about anything, and national press who failry obvioulsy have a far greater political line to hold to.

Saying the guys who write for your local paper are ''agents of the state and big business'' is not only complete nonsesne but also just sounds utterly insane.

knightrose
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Jun 8 2005 21:52
cantdocartwheels wrote:
i think i'd differentiate between local press, who while they are owned by larger companies, do not tend to put forward much of a ''line'' about anything, and national press who failry obvioulsy have a far greater political line to hold to.

Saying the guys who write for your local paper are ''agents of the state and big business'' is not only complete nonsesne but also just sounds utterly insane.

I said "basically agents" - its the effect of what they do, not their personal preferences.

However, to keep their jobs they have to toe the editorial line. Headlines and sub - headings are written by others. Articles are sub-edited.

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madashell
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Jun 9 2005 10:19

IMO, there's no reason we shouldn't be able to talk to the press as individuals, but in the context of somebody asking someone to talk for the AF I don't think we should go ahead without proper discussion, which is, obviously, very difficult on a national scale. I haven't had time to read all the posts on the e-mail list, but somebody mentioned the idea of a press officer, seems like a good idea to me.

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pingtiao
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Jun 9 2005 10:37

I assume you mean "no reaosn why people shouldn't talk to the press as individuals"...?

I agree with the post, and it miught be a good idea to have a press officer (although there must not be many requests for interviews or statements surely? One a year?)

On the other bit, someone speaking on behalf of the AF without being asked to- has that ever happened?

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oisleep
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Jun 9 2005 10:40

is this the same kinda problem that class war has with a certain individual?

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madashell
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Jun 9 2005 12:08
pingtiao wrote:
I assume you mean "no reaosn why people shouldn't talk to the press as individuals"...?

Doh! Yep, will edit.

Quote:
I agree with the post, and it miught be a good idea to have a press officer (although there must not be many requests for interviews or statements surely? One a year?)

Fair point, though IMO its still best to have some kind of arrangement in advance when, occaisionally, requests do come in, since so few members have access to the e-list.

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madashell
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Jun 9 2005 12:28
oisleep wrote:
is this the same kinda problem that class war has with a certain individual?

Beg pardon? confused

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pingtiao
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Jun 9 2005 13:03
oisleep wrote:
is this the same kinda problem that class war has with a certain individual?

no, oisleep (at least I hope not!).

This is a debate that is going on due to me having had lunch with a BBC guy last week. He has been sending emails around to different groups, goign to meetings etc to try and get an anarchit group to allow him to follow them to the G8 and make an hour-long docu on it for BBC4.

He sent this email to the AF, of which i am the email sec so dealt with and passed to the internal list. I told him that the AF don't have a collective position on the demo's, and aren't part of Dissent as an organisation (information readily available in the public domain). He asked why not, and I gave him a slimmed-down explanation of the summit-protest critique vs. influencing those likely to be interested positions.

He asked if he could call me to ask me more about it (he clearly isn't too familiar with communist ideas, but found them interesting), but I said I was going home. He offered lunch paid for by the BBC- to which I accepted (in a personal capacity). This was not an interview, but a discussion, where I explained why i'm not going and why no 'radical' group is likely to take him up on his offer. no information about other people was divulged.

this spawned this discussion.

knightrose
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Jun 9 2005 15:45

A couple of thoughts:

1. I find it quite alienating posting on here. I don't know who I'm talking to. I've just realised who ping is, but others?

2. I'm worried it creates fun for gossip mongers. There is no problem over this issue, nobody thinks anyone did anything wrong, just we want to thrash out the general issue.

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oisleep
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Jun 9 2005 17:37
pingtiao wrote:
I accepted (in a personal capacity)

grin

sounds like a flyer for a respect/stop the war meet

thanks for the background by the way, didn't mean to but in on an internal matter, well i did but you know what i mean......

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pingtiao
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Jun 9 2005 18:21

No,it's fine.

I think openness is a good thing. as knightrose says, there is a tendency towards rumours and the like, and I think having things in the open is a good way to combat that. There is no problem here, it has just highlighted an issue some feel we need to have a federation-wide policy on.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Jun 10 2005 09:23
cantdocartwheels wrote:
i think i'd differentiate between local press, who while they are owned by larger companies, do not tend to put forward much of a ''line'' about anything, and national press who failry obvioulsy have a far greater political line to hold to.

This is not correct. In the UK, USA and Australia the 'local' papers are, almost without exception, owned by huge media conglomerates, usually ones that also run a national paper as well (e.g. manchester evening news=Guardian; Nottingham post=Mail; Oxford Mail=Newsquest. I've found local papers to differ slightly by region, but to generally employ the same reporting styles and agendas as the nationals.

knightrose
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Jun 10 2005 15:40
Quote:
This is not correct. In the UK, USA and Australia the 'local' papers are, almost without exception, owned by huge media conglomerates, usually ones that also run a national paper as well (e.g. manchester evening news=Guardian; Nottingham post=Mail; Oxford Mail=Newsquest. I've found local papers to differ slightly by region, but to generally employ the same reporting styles and agendas as the nationals.

I couldn't agree more. Here in Oldham the local rag is independent. It still doesn't stop it being a reactionary bag of shite, only worth reading to find out how the mighty Latiocs are doing.

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Rob Ray
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Jun 11 2005 22:07

Tbh everyone here who has made generalisations about the press is wildly missing the mark.

The point made very early on about researching your journalist before you talk is a very important one. For example, I'm not going to write a pointlessly nasty critique about an anarchist for a paper, despite being a journalist, because I am one. Hence i'm at least one figure who it would simply be stupid not to speak to.

I'm only one example, but there are various lefty journalists on any rag if you know where to find them and make sure you read the bylines carefully. If they are a unionised workplace they will almost certainly be TUC members, so simply ask your union branch rep to rfind out who the organisers/militants are. The all you have to do is go to them first if you have a story you want published. I know of at least one journalist on my local (pro-hunt) rag who is highly sympathetic to anti-hunt stories for example. Unsurprisingly, he gets a rich vein of stories given to him by huntsabs, which makes him look good, and gives them more sympathetic coverage.

What's more, even non-lefty journalists, particularly as Cantdo said, on local papers, are usually incredibly short of strong news and actually aren't particularly political. They often won't do a hatchet job because it's in their interests to have you as a potential news source. I know this may sound crazy to you but the lack of political interest we come up against in everyday life doesn't suddenly get replaced by rampant toryism when you get to the workplace. Most (particularly young) journalists couldn't give a flying fuck what stripe of politics you are as long as you can give a snappy quote and don't mind posing for a photo beside an interesting backdrop.

The point was well made that subs may mess about with the text, but they are only one gateway. They can move quotes and writing around but they will generally find it difficult to significantly change the meaning of an article, mainly due to time restrictions (subs have to work very quickly on deadline). The headline may read 'Anarchists ruin party', but if the rest of the piece is generally positive that's a favour for you.

Speaking of which, find out when the deadline for copy is, down to the hour. You are far more likely to get time and a chance to make them get your story right if you put something in early in the news cycle when nothing's happening than if you ring up the editor when they're in the middle of trying to put together an 80-page supplemented paper in the space of a few hours.

I'd agree that in the main the press are going to have a bias against anarchist groups, but if you research your local and national papers and just generally do your PR homework there is no reason why you can't manipulate media sources as well as any druggie celeb, and to your net benefit.

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Jun 12 2005 19:24

NB// One other thing... journos are all egomaniacs, so if you mention a couple of articles of theirs that you've read recently and say how much you liked them it goes a surprisingly long way - most people don't even check who writes an article unless it's to complain so it's kind of like surprising someone with their favourite meal when they've been starving for a while wink.

knightrose
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Jun 12 2005 19:54

We have a friend whose sister is a journalist on our local paper. About 10 years ago there was a protest campaign against the building of a factory in the middle of a housing area. It would have involved the use of dangerous chemicals sand the company concerned had a poor record of safety.

This journo covered the campaign and its public meeting. Her report was very sympathetic - it should have been given who she was - the headline? Local Residents Refuse New Jobs!!

I'm sure she was very cross about it. She's a good person. She meant well. She had no control over what was printed. That's capitalism for you. And that's why we shouldn't trust journalists - it's not personal, it's the role they play in society. Just like cops.

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Jun 13 2005 08:25

Did you not read my specific explanation of the limitations of poor subbing? The headline is one thing, but if the explanatory article is the exact opposite it just makes the headline look silly and supports the cause overall.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Jun 13 2005 10:03

Chomsky and Herman's *Manufacturing Consent* does a good job of why the media are insitutionally pro-capitalist, individual journalists' inclinations mean little compared to pressure from advertisers, etc. Likewise the Glasgow University Media Group.has done a lot of content analysis of stories, showing blatant bias against strikes, against left regimes, in favour of Israel, etc.

Having said that, the little space and publicity for anarchist ideas that the media gives should be exploited, and I think Saii gives some very good tips on how to do that. As an attempted member of the AF wink I think that mainstream press work should be one think such a group should do.

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Rob Ray
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Jun 13 2005 10:18

Yeah I'm about halfway through reading it atm. It's a good analysis, but it has limitations.

For example, as it is based on outcome and not process it fails to take into account the massive, overarching scarcity of time most journalists have, which almost always contributes more to biased/inaccurate/cliched writing in the local press and often at national level too than corporate bias. As I said earlier, there are various ways around this.

From what I've read so far manufacturing consent also deals in the main with international news, which has for years been acknowledged to be heavily infiltrated by the secret services, and with good reason. While it is next to impossible to control every journalist on every local newspaper, it is very easy to get at individual correspondent positions which are the sole gateway for an entire nation.

It is also very important to do so, to prevent international solidarity building up against your allies, wheras in local contexts, particularly in powerful, stable countries in the west, that kind of direct influence and control is far less needed because dissent is a) not subject to that kind of underdog support b) already heavily controlled.

knightrose
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Jun 13 2005 10:33
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
As an attempted member of the AF wink I think that mainstream press work should be one think such a group should do.

What do you mean? Has our wonderful breaucracy screwed up again?