Worker Owned Media as Strategy

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Anonymous
May 25 2018 19:33
Worker Owned Media as Strategy

Shouldn't a push for worker owned media be a top priority for anarchists? Media owned and controlled by a small number of wealthy people seems to be one of the greatest barriers to getting people to understand the problems within the system and work to get rid of them.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
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Nov 1 2016 11:17

What do you think libcom is?
Interms of competing with capitalist media sites we can't really expect to compete on their scale and in their way, although the internet does make mass communication easier.

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boozemonarchy
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Nov 1 2016 12:43

I'm actually convinced that there is already adequate anarchist / worker owned media already operating. The internet provides a fairly easy platform to get news from a huge variety of sources outside the regular shitshow.

I'm also convinced that relying on media to do the educating (about social problems / solutions) is putting the cart before the horse. Most people who use that media are already involved in some activist (barf) capacity in the first place. The problem (or top priority) then is to get people involved in the struggle where they are at, through interpersonal communication / organizing. Only by organizing directly can we bring enough people in to have / justify a more robust media.

In short, a robust anarchist press / media follows the struggle but does not create it.

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Rob Ray
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Nov 1 2016 13:23

It's a bit of a red herring to talk about media following or creating struggle tbh, it's all part of the same ongoing process. Only organising precisely where we are restricts potential influence to places where anarchists are already active, which essentially writes off the possibility of changing minds across 99% of the country. But bollocking on with nothing practical to point to is a waste of time. The key is what kinds of media are produced, for whom and in what context.

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patient Insurgency
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Nov 1 2016 20:35

Face to face conversations are much more effective I think.

Scheuerf (not verified)
Nov 2 2016 00:21

I'm not even talking about anarchist or socialist media. Worker cooperatives don't necessarily have to be opposed to capitalism. That's why I think it might be possible to create popular news sources owned and managed by workers. I think this would solve a lot of the problems associated with privately owned media, and make it easier to spread the idea of worker ownership.

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patient Insurgency
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Nov 2 2016 03:40

They're loads already. tbh i don't think they are a good model. The propaganda model still operates on a worker, or consumer coop, as they still need assess to sources of news with more resources then they do, there are still barriers of entry to the market, which is dominated by a few big monopolies with a lot of skills experience, funding, connections, ect, which would be hard to compete with, and they are still going to struggle to find funds, which would have to come from other business which would want nothing to do with anything radical. so i don't see how this would be a viable model really.

Here are a few anyway, you can find more on google (that's how i found these ultimately).

https://thebristolcable.org/

https://www.positive.news/2016/society/23385/freedom-from-speech/

http://alternativaseconomicas.coop/

https://wcmcoop.com/

I wish these projects good luck but I have my doubts as to whether these would actually be a great success.

One of the links goes directly to an interesting article about platforms for speech.

People conflate freedom of speech with freedom of platform for that speech.everyone can have freedom of speech, not everyone can have a megaphone for that speech.

I am, i suppose, in favor of absolute freedom of speech, but how to distribute the platform is another matter. Ultimately i believe that the platform should be controlled by the exposed to it and the people contributing to it. So in the case of the BBC for example, it should be up to the public to decide what to expose themselves too. idk maybe in some future society we can have an anarchist bbc!

This platform issue is important because we as anarchist in particular, have virtually no platform. idk maybe we could take some action to get a well read and reasonably charismatic anarchist on question time or something. I might be daydreaming a bit but i would love to see those fuckers get totally trashed in a fair discussion in front of the whole country.

So basically, when it comes to the press, and actually even speaking events, i think denial of platform is a good idea, and that we should strive push for our assess to existing platforms.

I don't have all the answers myself on the issue, i think there needs to be a big discussion about what kind of use of platform is fair, and in keeping our, and the wider public principles.

Other than the issue of platforms, face to face conversation is the best way to ultimately get our message across to the wider public, especially a polite, reasonable, civilized discussion.

I don't think that means going door to door, like the Jehovah witnesses btw. there should be (imo) a role for door knocking, but it should probably be for specific reasons, like encouraging support for a local campaign, or anti fascist work, for example. I don't believe however, that we should go door to door, saying "hey, wanna become an anarchist?" not even the labour party do that. they only knock for a specific purpose like getting people to vote for them.

Actually, now that i've written about this i have started to think about the role of online media. But i'm really tired now so will come back later.

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Chilli Sauce
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Nov 2 2016 06:50

Lot to say, but the gist of it is that I'm not sure (a) lack of information is the problem and (b) cooperatives of any sort are particularly effective propaganda or modeling.

I mean, I can argue/provide information until I'm blue in the face with my family or friends, but until they experience real solidarity, I don't think most people will be swayed by those arguments. As for co-ops, they still operate within the logic of capitalism, are recuperated by capitalism and, for a lot of people, only serve to perpetuate that idea that some sort of ethical capitalism is achievable or realistic.

As other have said, class confidence springs from uniting around our material interests (against bosses, landlords, etc) not by somehow trying to short-circuit the reality of capitalism by creating worker-ownership within it.

Scheuerf (not verified)
May 25 2018 19:22

deleted

boozemonarchy's picture
boozemonarchy
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Nov 2 2016 13:03
Rob Ray wrote:
It's a bit of a red herring to talk about media following or creating struggle tbh, it's all part of the same ongoing process. Only organising precisely where we are restricts potential influence to places where anarchists are already active, which essentially writes off the possibility of changing minds across 99% of the country. But bollocking on with nothing practical to point to is a waste of time. The key is what kinds of media are produced, for whom and in what context.

To be clear I wasn't suggesting that we only organize where we are at, or at least I didn't intend to. I just feel that we have some good alternative media already and commend those efforts and I also support and participate / contribute to one. I think media and history are important.

To talk more about the OP - I think we should be careful putting too much stock into 'worker owned' enterprises within capitalism. I don't think there is much hope out competing the major outlets in any real way and the movement media will ultimately remain just that; media covering the movement from a rank and filer perspective.

And finally Rob, I agree with your final points, well put.

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Rob Ray
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Nov 2 2016 20:29
Quote:
I just feel that we have some good alternative media already

Tbh from experience our alternative media is a bit rubbish. Not because there's not a lot of good people doing it, but because it's totally uncoordinated, of extremely variable quality and focus, spread across hundreds of tiny platforms which are difficult to keep up with even if you're looking for them (most people aren't) and largely frozen out from hitting mass audiences outside the existing sympathetic left because search and social media algorithms don't promote fringe politics onto random people's feeds. Even libcom's contemporary writing, while often really good, barely touches on most of what's happening day to day, and that's probably the most prominent such project around.

Our total reliance on volunteer labour means the anarchist media landscape is basically a mashup of very good lone researchers/obsessives working in their own time and not getting enough exposure, people bouncing from cause to cause talking overexcited (sometimes woefully inaccurate) shite and a small selection of organised projects which tend to struggle over time because of a lack of resources/help/skills/continuity. We sometimes punch above our weight on certain topics, where our specialist interests dovetail with mainstream media looking for a crash course, but it's rare.

Our printed outreach media meanwhile is practically non-existent, even when it's free people don't generally get it out to punters in any great numbers and from bitter experience, no-one wants to pay for shit any more so lo and behold this year the only topical magazines were being produced by organised groups which could shoulder a cash loss, in relatively small batches.

Quote:
I think we should be careful putting too much stock into 'worker owned' enterprises within capitalism. I don't think there is much hope out competing the major outlets in any real way

Ish. Worker-owned media aiming to at least cover itself has a place I think (eg. Corporate Watch's long-form investigations couldn't happen without funding), but obv if you play the capitalist game you end up with capitalist pressures militating against, for example, activities which might prompt a crackdown. We can't compete on the same terrain - but we could be doing a hell of a lot better than we are.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 2 2016 21:06

I don't know about worker-owned media as a strategy, but media infrastructure has to be part of a wider 'movement' strategy imho. And if you're going to do more than small volunteer collectives, co-ops would seem the obvious way to go, though the problem even mainstream media is facing is funding which would hit co-ops too (maybe a subscriber/supporters model would be the only way to go).

I keep thinking about this passage from a piece on the brief moment in the wake of Aylan Kurdi's death, when even the viciously racist tabloids felt they had to feign sympathy for a few days:

It could be that no-one has actually changed their minds, but suddenly those who abhorred the demonisation of migrant have realised that they were not alone. This would fit with a fascinating literature which suggests that the media doesn’t so much influence what people think, but what those people think others think (meta-representations rather than representations). But this still matters because it affects what we are prepared to do. Once we feel that we are not alone, that ours is part of a collective voice, we are much more willing to act in public.

So mainstream media works partly by making us feel alone, and alternative media can maybe counter that. I mean look at the US far right - Trumpism would be impossible without the talk radio shows etc validating many of his supporters' (frankly batshit) views, which don't have much purchase in the mainstream. Obv we can't just copy that - there aren't multimillionaire media moguls queuing up to fund communist media (and being reliant on such funders would be a problem). But I think it demonstrates the point how media meta-representations enable collective action.

Mike Harman
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May 24 2018 21:59
Rob Ray wrote:
Not because there's not a lot of good people doing it, but because it's totally uncoordinated, of extremely variable quality and focus, spread across hundreds of tiny platforms which are difficult to keep up with even if you're looking for them (most people aren't) and largely frozen out from hitting mass audiences outside the existing sympathetic left because search and social media algorithms don't promote fringe politics onto random people's feeds. Even libcom's contemporary writing, while often really good, barely touches on most of what's happening day to day, and that's probably the most prominent such project around.

Yes I'd agree with all this, there are some things which I think contribute to it:

1. I quite regularly come across 'random' medium/wordpress posts which are excellent, but only posted on medium/wordpress blogs with very little reach. In some cases maybe people have looked at libcom, or IGD, or Freedom, and decided they hate us and just want to blog, but I think sometimes people just don't even think of submitting to collective projects - in part this is because our structures and submission processes aren't transparent in a lot of cases.

2. I think people underestimate how much is just not even covered at all. There has been a three month strike by miners in Zimbabwe, which got covered by local press and Bloomberg, nothing else, no left/anarchist outlets at all. libcom did a short twitter thread on it, but we haven't written it up yet: https://twitter.com/libcomorg/status/995575055651360768. You could pick almost any country, and almost any region of the UK or US, and collate news about it which would never see the light of day otherwise - there's just a huge gap between capacity to write about things and what's going on.

zugzwang
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May 25 2018 03:09

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Herman and Chomsky (aside from the allusion from patient). It's probably a bit dated now, but they wrote about the dilemmas working-class media face, as well as the decline of radical newspapers and such, in the first couple chapters of Manufacturing Consent. Here's an excerpt:

Quote:
In their analysis of the evolution of the media in Great Britain, James Curran and Jean Seaton describe how, in the first half of the nineteenth century, a radical press emerged that reached a national working-class audience. This alternative press was effective in reinforcing class consciousness: it unified the workers because it fostered an alternative value system and framework for looking at the world, and because it "promoted a greater collective confidence by repeatedly emphasizing the potential power of working people to effect social change through the force of 'combination' and organized action." This was deemed a major threat by the ruling elites. One MP asserted that the working class newspapers "inflame passions and awaken their selfishness, contrasting their current condition with what they contend to be their future condition - a condition incompatible with human nature, and those immutable laws which Providence has established for the regulation of civil society." The result was an attempt to squelch the working-class media by libel laws and prosecutions, by requiring an expensive security bond as a condition for publication, and by imposing various taxes designed to drive out radical media by raising their costs. These coercive efforts were not effective, and by mid-century they had been abandoned in favor of the liberal view that the market would enforce responsibility.

https://libcom.org/library/manufacturing-consent-propaganda-model-edward-s-herman-noam-chomsky