The Mutu Network have developed a successful new model for French radical media, with 15 websites across the country embedded in their communities, reporting on local struggles and fighting back against the monopolisation of activist news by social media corporations.
Last month, two of us from the libcom group were invited to take give a talk about our project to one of the Mutu Network's biannual gatherings. Set up in 2013, Mutu brings together fifteen radical news websites across France and Switzerland some of whom are longstanding and very well-established like RebelLyon.info, set up in 2005, and Paris Luttes, set up in 2013, while others are newer such as the website collectives in towns like Rouen, Grenoble, Dijon and Nancy which have all been set up in the last year or two. The conference itself lasted three days and saw locals from across the network come together to report on their activity, share various technical skills and infrastructural know-how as well as discuss how to take the network forward.
Though political differences exist between (and within) website collectives, they are all united by a broad set of common principles:
1. Participatory publishing: any person or local group sharing the goals of the website can submit articles.
2. Support: the group which runs the website can help contributors with the writing and editing of their articles through a collective interface.
3. Openness: the website isn’t the property of a particular group, it aims to reflects the diversity of ideas and practices that exist locally.
4. Anti-authoritarian ideas: all the websites within the network aim to push forward emancipatory ideas and practices, resistance to authority, and anti-capitalist ideals.
5. Dissemination: we take steps to ensure the content of the websites can be spread massively
6. Integration within a local context
7. Mutual aid between members of the network.
Radical media from the local to the (inter)national
As stated in its common principles, Mutu Network websites are set up to reflect the diversity of practices that exist locally, meaning sites will host articles on a range of topics from the diverse social movements in their cities: from workers' disputes to environmentalist actions, housing struggles to protests against police violence, with content generated (as much as possible) by site users themselves writing reports direct from picket lines or demonstrations.
This in part reflects the origins of many of the local Mutu websites, which came out of the demise of Indymedia and the need for local activists to have a central resource for publicising local struggles and political activity. However, in contrast to the Indymedia model, having editorial control over the website and supporting people who want to post articles is an important part of the project. So while Mutu websites have kept Indymedia's ‘open publishing’ model, allowing anybody to submit articles, unlike Indymedia they reject articles which aren't suitable and support contributors in the editing process. What makes Mutu's publishing model so interesting is that the whole editing process is completely transparent. Any registered user can log in to the back-end of the site and see which stories are being discussed, approved and rejected, which edits have been suggested and by which editors.
By combining open publishing with a transparent editorial process, this has helped Mutu to get past problems Indymedia experienced where their sites would be flooded with fantasist nonsense and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories; because Mutu sites support contributors in producing articles, people who would write things counter to the politics of the site are discouraged from contributing.
During the conference itself, we heard reports from delegates representing about a dozen collectives within the network. Some, like Paris Luttes, publish about ten articles a day with readership fluctuating between ten and twenty-five thousand readers a day; other sites are smaller, often reflecting smaller local populations or movements.
However, all the sites were firmly rooted in local social movements with significant local readerships. Many of the local Mutu websites are frequently quoted as sources by local newspapers (who they often beat to stories) while the Swiss-French collective even told the conference about seeing graffiti around Geneva promoting their site, though they still have no idea who actually did it! As evidence of the degree to which some of these radical news websites have penetrated into local life, a member of the RebelLyon collective told us, "When I speak to other parents at my child's school, I assume they already know our website. If they don't then I explain to them, but usually they already do."
Map of member websites of the Mutu Network. The network has fifteen local news sites across France and Switzerland.
Mutu Network members mentioned one negative of this local focus being that they are not able to cover international events as well as they would like due to there not always being a local reason to report on it1 . For instance, a local solidarity protest with Palestine can provide an opportunity to report recent events in the region, but it's less likely to be the case for the recent education strike wave in the US or the anti-regime protests in Iran.
However, as websites with strong local roots have spread across the country, efforts are now being made to create a national website aggregating content from all its member sites. Mutu comrades hope this will also allow space to develop their coverage of international struggles. Excitingly, in this respect, Barrikade, Mutu's Swiss-German collective, is currently in discussions with groups in Germany and Austria about the possibility of setting up a German-language network to exist alongside Mutu's Francophone one. This, also, will no doubt help in the coverage of international struggles and even points towards the possibility (one day) of a Europe-wide network of local anti-authoritarian news websites.
Social media vs. social movement media
One issue which came up throughout the conference was the negative effect of social media on radical publishing in France, with collectives lamenting the over-reliance on Facebook and Twitter for communication by student occupations or local union branches. Speaking to one comrade from the La Rotative collective in Tours, he described a situation with student occupations who "set up Facebook and Twitter accounts and considered their communication work with the outside world done.
"We also risk losing centuries' worth of tradition of collective anarchist publishing because people just prefer to post things on their personal Twitter accounts with no input from anyone else," they said.
Other problems mentioned about the over-reliance on social media where things like the inability to create an archive or collate articles, meaning reports from different places (or even just developments at the same place) were often isolated from each other in separate tweets or Facebook posts.
So, for example, in struggles like the current one of students and rail workers in France, or even the 2018 UCU strikes and wave of student solidarity occupations, it can be difficult to keep up with what's happening unless you're following all the right Twitter handles or Facebook groups (which even if some are, most won't be). This, of course, is without mentioning the issue that many people don't use these platforms at all, let alone with the necessary depth and expertise to be able to collate information from disparate social media posts to get an overall picture of often complex social movements.
Added to this are issues with security on social media websites and the fact that, should the multinational corporation which runs the site decide to kick you off for whatever reason (such as 'inciting' the 'wrong' kind of action), all the reports and information you've produced over the years will disappear with your account.
Over-relying on such highly centralised corporate monopolies not just to spread our content but to actually host and archive it puts all the content we create at risk. Or, rather, it remains safe as long as we remain ineffectual and irrelevant, but whether such monopolies would let us use their platforms if our movements begin to pose a serious political challenge is another question entirely. We only have to think of the arbitrary ways in which some people have been suspended from Twitter or look at how readily Facebook blocked videos of the Thai king at the Thai government to see how potentially damaging it can be to over-rely on such platforms.
Reflecting on radical media in the UK
In contrast to the situation in France, the British situation is far more ambiguous. Numerous publications have disappeared in recent years. Journals with decades-long histories like Black Flag, Do or Die and Direct Action have ceased publication while many local papers and newsletters like Schnews (Brighton), Hackney Independent (East London) and Now or Never (Norwich) have suffered similar fates.
Moreover, the demise of Indymedia UK meant that there no longer exists a central place to publish radical news, events and reports, which now remain spread across a variety of individual blogs and websites. Meanwhile, the issues with social media mentioned by French comrades is also true for UK, with many preferring the immediacy of individual Facebook or Twitter accounts over publishing on radical news websites.
That said, it isn't all doom and gloom. Freedom, since shifting to being an online news website, has prospered, publishing with increasing regularity as well as putting out a paper edition twice a year. After we put out a call for news contributions, we've also experienced an increase in news reports as well as some new bloggers.
There are also some good new radical publications, the foremost among them being Base Publication, who produce some superb analysis of current events. Other newsletters, like Rebel City in London, and a host of industry-specific ones like Plan C's Rebel Roo (for Deliveroo riders), and the IWW Courier Network Cymru (also for Deliveroo and similar food delivery app couriers in Wales), have sprung up recently and are doing excellent work.
When we started libcom.org, our aim was that our news coverage would be something like the Mutu Network (as well as maintaining a library of historical and theoretical texts, introductions to political tendencies we felt close to or concepts we thought were useful for people new to our politics... we may have spread ourselves too thin!). But rather than start with local sites networking into a bigger national/international structure (as Mutu have) we thought we could create the structure with our tight-knit collective and local groups would then fill in the gaps. This hasn't happened and perhaps never will.
Yet it seems without doubt that something like the Mutu Network would be a huge boost for radical politics in the UK: local websites where people can share information and reports on the various struggles and movements going on in their area, rooted in local communities, yet could, like Mutu, gradually create a network from the bottom up that covers significant parts of the country. It feels like a pipedream; but then, perhaps they said the same in France five years ago as well.
- 1Other issues mentioned was a lack of local knowledge and the need for more translations from local activists in other languages, something which at the moment they do not have the capacity for.
Never heard of mutu because I
Never heard of mutu because I am not french but their model seems to be quite a good one! I also find it similarly depressing how much political discussion goes on on twitter and facebook. Not only because these platforms are huge corporations that could take all of it at their own will instantly, but I think there is also something about it always being mediated by personal accounts of people that exacerbate the heated and often futile nature of the "discussion" that goes on there. Psychologically there must be something about it coming from personal accounts that make people more prone to being really mean to each other, and more likely to launch personal attacks or bring up random personal stuff in the midst of these discussions as a way to shut people up.
Also, I wrote a piece for freedom when it was still in press years ago very early on in my political awakening about how I found out about anarchist ideas. It was for this reason and also the massive legacy of it historically that made me quite sad when I found out they were stopping it. I never knew that they had started using their website to do news regularly, will definitely be checking that out.
P.s how do you get rebel city. Also not heard of this and live in london so would be interested
Question: Would it be a good
Question: Would it be a good idea to have some sort of anarchist media get-together (possibly invite only to avoid having it derailed) to look at a strategy for coherently growing our presence?
Rob Ray wrote: Question:
Brilliant idea. I would very much be up for something like this.
Hmm so assuming geographical
Hmm so assuming geographical focus is pretty much just Britain for now, there's three main media genres which are probably key for discussion:
- Library and archive
- Analysis and theory
- News and journalism
And there's four types of platform (Print, online, audio, video).
Of those, an initial list of potential outlets to approach off the top of my head might include (please add or challenge:
- Libcom [web][also some analysis/news]
- Sparrow's Nest [web]
- KSL [web, print]
- Bristol Radical History Group [web]
- Anarchist Studies [web, print]
- Strike [print]
- Dog Section Press [print]
- base [print]
- Organise! [print]
- Plan C [web]
- Corporate Watch [web, print]
- The Meteor [web]
- Lousy Badger [web, video]
- Reel News [video]
- Freedom [web][also analysis, particularly in print version]
- The Bristolian [web]
- Winter Oak [web]
- Anti-fascist News Network (maybe a bit vague?) [web]
- Squatnet [web]
- Reclaim The Power [web - though specific to green stuff]
- Dissident Island [audio]
- Peace News (not v anarchist?)[web, print][also does some analysis/feature work]
- SLAP [print][London squatter freesheet]
Plus there's Rebel London which doesn't really fit into most as it's a straightforward agitation sheet, a bit of comment, a bit of hyping up anarchist projects. Print only.
The above (some are pretty tiny, like I think Winter Oak is mostly one person) would be a start in terms of outlets to ask, plus no doubt there's a bunch I've not thought of particularly those which are mostly present on Facebook - which should be picked out as a priority.
There's also a bundle of folks who'd be useful from the old crews such as Indymedia (some I think became Real Media), Schnews and the like, basically individuals with experience that could be useful. I've left out basically all of the bigger wadical names like Novaramedia/Canary/Pride's Purge/Evolve etc from this list because I think it'd probably just bog things down in anarcho-Corbynist chicanery, though there's some good individuals even there.
That's if covering media in a relatively comprehensive way, including talking about things like archiving and keeping hold of work and info in the longer term. A more condensed one could talk more specifically about producing news and analysis in a way that covers more ground, more comprehensively with an aim of expanding our ability to catch and publicise important and useful goings on.
Yeah I think something like
Yeah I think something like this could be a good idea, although I think we would need to have a pretty clear idea beforehand of what the purpose of such a meeting would be.
I know that anarchists tend to have a lot of conferences/meetings where there is not a clearly defined purpose beforehand, so people expend loads of energy organising something, then people just get together and chat and then nothing comes from it
Rob Ray wrote: Of those, an
I'd probably add 2-3 categories:
1. local activist groups like Brighton Solfed and HASL, which have websites where they publish reports, and which sometimes feed into Freedom or libcom, but not necessarily in a structured way.
2. The anti-deportation/detention groups like Unity Centre Glasgow or SOAS Detainee support. Again, they have websites, publish stories, but there's not a direct route to more general sites.
3. IWW, IWGB and UVW for similar reasons. The UVW mainly publishes on facebook at the moment iirc.
They might not want to attend a physical meeting, since anarchist media isn't their focus, but 1. they might 2. if they don't it would still be useful to have feedback from some or more of those groups.
To Steven's comment, I think a good starting point would be for groups who are interested in this to produce statements/proposals in advance first, publish them online, and allow for a round of responses. If that's productive there's a better chance of an in-person meeting being useful. If we're not trying to invite international comrades, then it would allow them to follow if they want to easier too.
Off the top of my head, I'd
Off the top of my head, I'd add Notes from Below, Angry Workers, Spirit of Revolt in Glasgow, the South Essex people who change the name of their project every few months, the ghost of Black Flag, maybe Revolt Against Plenty. Thinking of other library/archive/history projects, Past Tense comes to mind, if that's not too controversial a suggestion?
R Totale wrote: Off the top
Past Tense have tweeted openly transphobic posts unfortunately, and the South Essex lot are at least accepting of transphobia in their ranks. So any kind of joint working would explode on that issue. If this is going to work it would have to be amongst groups which explicitly reject all kinds of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia et cetera.
God, it's depressing how hard
God, it's depressing how hard it is to think of still-functioning current projects as opposed to ones that've gone by the wayside... there's still Datacide and Mute, and then Active, AK Press UK have publication/distribution experience that might be useful. Does anyone know if Now or Never is still going?
I heard that Now or Never has
I heard that Now or Never has gone
Thanks to Rob Ray for putting
Thanks to Rob Ray for putting all that together. Very useful. Just quickly though, when you say "Rebel London", did you mean Rebel City? They should be included anyway
Rob, do you think maybe you could say a bit more about how you envisage the history/archival aspect of the get together? I personally feel that any media get-together should be focused primarily on the latter two - analysis and news - rather than the archival stuff as I think they're the areas that are more future/outward facing and show the existence of an active movement providing a political alternative to Labour, Trots, fash or whatever. Not against it but just feel like all the people doing historical/archive stuff are doing a pretty good job of it already, no?
Not sure what I think about Mike's suggestion about inviting non-media-based activist groups at the initial stage. Def see potential benefits, but also a potential to take focus away from the media aspect. What do you reckon?
Ed wrote: Not sure what I
I'm not sure how useful it would be for those groups to go to an in-person meeting, but I think it would be worth asking them to contribute in the sense of answering questions like this:
- what technology are they using for websites, what social media do they use?
- do they repost stuff to any other sites, or tell them when they've posted articles?
- do they get (positive, sympathetic) mainstream media coverage?
- how do they think radical media could help their projects?
On the archiving thing, I'm also not sure about that, it seems like a different meeting.
Sorry yes Rebel City. Well as
Sorry yes Rebel City.
Well as I say the archival side is one that may not be something to focus on depending on what structure/time is available, but my main reason for including it is to do with the problem of redundancy when smaller collectives break down or drop out. Maybe worth a workshop or two in any case.
Schnews for example is no longer available as a website, which means one of the most influential news outlets of the 1990s/early 2000s, with a huge archive of anarchist direct action running through one of the most active periods the movement had seen since the second world war, is basically limited to a trawl through archive.org (ie. 2007 onwards), their anthology books and whatever print archives happened to be rescued.
That's a whacking loss, and sadly the tip of the iceberg - Indymedia's only going to last as long as its old editors keep paying, there's blogs and Facebook Groups which are putting out stories which are absolutely certain to disappear etc. Hell even Freedom lost its pre-2014 stuff after the then-editor left in an argument and no-one backed it up. Today's sites are doing a good job in slowly catching up/digitising older stuff (especially printed matter), but there's just too much digital content disappearing before anyone can get to it atm, and getting ahead of that process would save a lot of trouble.
Yeah I'd tend to agree about inviting activist groups, I think it'd be a useful thing but maybe more as a follow-up, once an actual strategy can be outlined
Rob Ray wrote: Hell even
Yes this is true. There are articles on here referencing the commune website iirc, from less than 6-7 years ago, and the links are dead.
Mike Harman wrote: Yes this
Are you referring to 'the commune - for workers' power from below' blog (now defunct)? I believe they had a different, older website which they closed and removed from the web. And they moved most, but not all, posts to that blog I linked to.
Or I could be confusing two different 'the commune' websites.
I find it quite telling that
I find it quite telling that despite Rob having listed video as a format no one is talking about it. I think this is the far left burying its head in the sand because no one wants to do what is necessary to reach people, especially young people, nowadays i.e be a pretty good youtuber, therefore having a watchable personality etc. If we continue to shun this our irrelevance is only ever going to increase.
There was a thread in the forums recently about anarchist youtubers. I think something like libertarian socialist rants but with short form additional news/current events analysis that would be very sharable on social media would be the most sensible ways to think about disseminating anarchist ideas to normal people in 2018
Yes we do have a bit of a
Yes we do have a bit of a problem in terms of people being willing to get in front of a camera, there's a couple of projects/vloggers but nothing comes to mind in terms of punchy, short takes for news. Reel News is pretty good for reports on ongoing stuff but it's not really regular enough to make a dent and is more a broad activism thing.
I don't get the impression anarchists are shunning video so much as not wanting to put their heads up in public for reasons of shyness/lack of confidence/fear of potential consequences. Also it's a big job to keep up the pace of daily vlogging, and while the far-right is quite effective at begging for money to pay egomaniacs for continual poorly-researched (but voluble) hot-takes the left is generally pretty reluctant to enable similar.
Question is where people confident/energetic enough to take that plunge (or who already have and we just don't know about them) might be found, then how to amplify them. Also getting people off fucking Facebook/Twitter with their pain-in-the-arse embedding systems.
We do have relatively established sites with a decentish reach, so tie-ins would be very doable. Essentially I guess that'd be part of drawing up a general cross-platform strategy.
There is this big list
There is this big list compiling left wing YouTube channels - a lot of which are anarchist - which have been shared to quite a number of subreddits.
I'm not really interested in
I'm not really interested in just trying to grow the presence of everything we currently have, although I'd still be up for networking/collaborating etc. What I am really interested in is trying to set up something like the Mutu network in the UK. I think the model they have is amazing, it's essentially fixed all the problems there were with Indymedia, which at it's height was probably better than anything we currently have. If we could get something like that set up over here I think it would give a strong boost to our movement (and as a result, everything people are currently involved in).
There is a picture of the map
There is a picture of the map in the article, here is the actual map.
There are also guides in French on how to write articles.
I think that it would be worth putting the style guides, article writing stuff etc together on a permanent links page "Get involved" or something similar, along with other ways to help (like a summary of this and similar threads) We could also put in perhaps some kind of 'Idiot's guide to formatting'. I also think it would be a good idea to have a practise article (or just pick an article that has examples of all the formatting) because someone who is learning can use the quote button to see the formatting and just copy it when they are getting started. Also the advice about how to do quotes on a recent thread etc. Basically, change the name of the content guidelines page and make it more immediately useful as well as adding to it.
Setting up a mutu network is a worthwhile project. But where are these local publishers to bring together? A few have been suggested here, but we are far from 15 local networks (although to be fair not all of them publish regularly) as a non-local site would libcom be an aggregator of the news? I don't think it would be esy for libcom to be a direct participant, as it is already a media site in itself, I don't think libcom would be able to be one of the partners in a network like this so it would be an aggregator or perhaps a duplicator of the network. 5which leads to its own problems as the network would have it's own aggregator site, like mutu, and duplication may or may not be welcomed. On the other hand a lot of people have posted on libcom, so there is no reason why libcom, supported by a network, could not try to continue using it's wide geographic reach to bring in potential contributors and the networks could help to support some of the contributors. It seems like the admin group is smaller than ever and I don't know how much support they can realistically offer. From looking at the stats, alkthough I may have them wrong, it does seem like conributors often disappear, whether they could have been encouraged or supported and retained is not something I could give an answer to, but I do think that the libcom collective could, for example, send emails to former contributors to tell them about a new network, and if some kind of support meeting was offered that would be helpful I think. We might even be able to keep journos out if we stick toi previous contributors. There are contributors like C Hélène for example, who shows up every so often, she has posted links to articles, she has translated article and posted accounts and library articles. She is connected to this site, which I am unfamiliar with, so probably not the best example of someone who sin't publishing, but I thhink there was a possibility for communication (supported by a quick look at a few threads) that probably wasn't followed up.
jef costello wrote: Setting
Yeah, I think part of the aim of any meeting (from my POV anyway) would be a realignment/reevaluation of the various collectives' functions and trying to find a way we could work together to minimise duplication of effort while maximising the effectiveness of our media. It will also mean identifying what gaps there are (Croydonian has already mentioned video, I'd suggest consistent local reporting, I'm sure there are others) and seeing how/if we can plug them. If that means the nature of libcom has to change then so be it, imo.. like, maybe we could become more of a libertarian marxists.org while Freedom becomes the main news publisher/aggregator; these are obviously all things that need to be discussed both within and between collectives.
Yes, this is a problem that we have and which I've been thinking about a lot since encountering Mutu. I think a major problem we have is that the lack of a local focus means the site is detached from the social movements in any given area (we are, basically, a site that tries to have a libertarian communist analysis of everything happening everywhere in the world!). So, for instance, someone might start posting about struggles in Greece or workplace disputes in Britain and people read it and really appreciate it. But then that person gets tired and stops doing it so it stops happening entirely.
With Mutu sites, however, it seems that because they're so locally based, they become important information centres within local activist scenes (and for people on the peripheries of them). As such, people post there because that is where you post things to get the word out about your local activity and people go there to read what's happening locally. The news websites aren't just about 'spreading' 'ideas' or 'information' but become practical tools for local radical movements, something I'm not sure we could say of any of our media endeavours in Britain, and it's that practical function which provides the incentive for people to keep posting.
Obviously, this isn't to say that individual burnout doesn't happen in France/Mutu, but it seems to be offset by practical necessity that local groups/campaigns have to keep publishing. Maybe it would be interesting to get some Mutu to give their thoughts on their network's strengths and how they've kept people contributing? If nothing else I'd like to know if my impressions are bollocks or not.
Finally, not wanting to bang on about this local stuff too much, but just as something which I feel demonstrates what's lacking atm: in London there are at least six activist media collectives (Freedom, Rebel City, base, SLAP, Reel News and obviously a chunk of the libcom admins), not to mention countless group and individual blogs/social media accounts, yet there is no activist news resource covering all of that in the same way Paris Lutte or Rebel Lyon do. That seems unbelievable to me, especially given what a great contribution both PL and RL make to their cities' activist communities.
Apologies. That got really
Apologies. That got really long and rambly (various domestic duties had to be done between the beginning and end of writing that post). Another important thing we need to discuss is: what do we do next? Should we organise a meet up of some interested groups at some point soon?
I still don't think there's
I still don't think there's any point in an in-person meeting without doing this:
"good starting point would be for groups who are interested in this to produce statements/proposals in advance first, publish them online, and allow for a round of responses. If that's productive there's a better chance of an in-person meeting being useful."
So drawing up a proposal, and sending it to groups, asking for responses to publish publicly. Review those: then that's the agenda for an in-person meeting. If there's a meeting first I can't see anything coming out of it.
I don't think this is the only problem. We've only in the past year tried any method at all of supporting writers.
Essentially, if you write for libcom, you write a post, then you have no indication if anyone's read it unless someone comments on it (or unless you follow us on social media and see that we've shared it). Often the only way we edit posts is to do sub-editing things like fix formatting/tags/images or to unpublish things that we think are too bad to have on the site. We usually don't know that people are working on articles until they've been posted. It's hard to collaboratively write things unless you self-organise it with someone else. Also it's not mobile-friendly so it looks a bit crap.
Following https://libcom.org/blog/help-us-report-class-struggle-08082017 we set up a chat and invited respondees to it, but while it's worked a little bit, it's not doing what it should. This goes for both news and blog posts really - some people just want a hosted blog that's not on medium or something, but some like to write drafts and get feedback before publishing.
Mutu didn't start with 15 local groups:
So really what you'd be looking at is setting up somethingradicalsoundingsomecity.info and 1.reposting everything from existing local groups. 2. trying to get people to write for it directly. There might be a couple of other cities that could follow the same model if enough people were interested early on. And if there's re-usable software/hosting, it makes it easier for other local groups to set up a similar thing as well.
But to start with that, you'd need to have a locally-based collective in London, Brighton, Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol or wherever else to get things going in the first place.
Mike Harman wrote: But to
Yeah, I think the starting point should be launching a London collective and website along the lines of the Mutu network collectives and sites. If that works well then hopefully it would inspire people in other places to launch their own similiar projects. We're nowhere near being able to start a Mutu-esque network in the UK, but we've got everything we need to launch a similar site for London.
Mm some of theese
Mm some of theese groups/individuals probably do exist, but are currently posting more on Facebook/Twitter than on external networks (eg. Lousy Badger) or just haven't been worked with/encouraged yet because we haven't made the contacts.
I agree that producing a draft proposal/strategy would be a good start point, and if folks are interested enough then a meeting to work that out would be the obvious step. I'm less convinced about launching a whole new website as yet, but depends what it would be able to specifically offer people.
Mike Harman wrote: I still
Ok, if you and Rob both think this is a good way to start then maybe that's what we should do. I wonder if it might be worth writing a joint Libcom-Freedom call for contributions that we could send to various UK radical media folks? Like 'Building radical media in the UK: a call for ideas' or something similar? And did you plan on having all the proposals and all the responses public?
This is also true and I think that, whatever happens, jef's suggestions for helping new contributors all sound fantastic and we should definitely make them happen.
Rob Ray wrote: Mm some of
Never heard of Lousy Badger before. Just checked out their facebook page and they have reposted some jonathan pie material...
They're heavily into and very
They're heavily into and very knowledgeable about the squatting/homeless self-organising scene in Manchester.
Your note about reposting Jonathan Pie though raises a particular point - people who are not already part of the anarcho/libcom scene, especially outside London, are not going to have exactly the same politics (or in this case, necessarily know what we know about him, or care overly - it's just a repost of something they agree with). Getting a broad spectrum of people to involve themselves in a network covering what's happening will necessarily involve incorporating that. Not having spoken to the Mutu network, but reading between the lines of their aims and principles statement, they likely kept things vague for precisely that reason.
This does sort of feed into a) what a British Mutu-style thing would be offering people, b) what it'd be expecting, certainly politically. What would differentiate it from say, the Media Fund?
My gut feeling would be that it'd focus on providing a more directly radical libertarian take, with additional focus on direct and self-organised action, possibly also on improving regional media (the Media Fund doesn't really have this as a function atm, though it has incorporated groups like the Manchester Meteor and Commonspace). But in order for that to be plausible it'd need to accept a broader array of political activism than y'know, libcom or Freedom. I'm not talking about accepting Red Pepper, but maybe respecting that say, anti-fracking activists who are otherwise great reporters may also have some funny ideas about the Green Man.
Hi, a few personal comments
Hi, a few personal comments from a Mutu member (ex-Rebellyon / Paris-luttes) in a very poor english ! Hope I will not be too much misunderstood.
First, big thanks to Libcom for the interest to our work, it's really encouraging, and the amazing quality of the comments !
I'm not sure Mutu brings so much clear answers about participation. I'd like to be optimistic but that's not so easy. People are really tied to Twitter and Facebook nowadays, it's sometimes hard to bring people to publish on a radical platform, however radical they would be. The difference with Indymedia (articles are moderated and edited with the author agreement before publishing) makes it may be harder also.
The project brought by Mutu is local empowerment, with local strong common structures, supported by people who know each other (or would easily meet). A lot depends about wether local groups want to build something strong and durable together or not.
We do try to experiment lots of stuff about participation. Some solutions work (like the local agenda with the local groups communication), others are quite different between cities. There may be something to look for between the different types of articles possibles. It's not the same to encourage deep analysis, quick report from the street, workers struggles reports, sharing local radical events, transmitting local struggles memory, or to fight politicians and cops propaganda.
The idea is to start trying and find local solutions. It's often related to individualities, the local history… What Mutu brings is very modest : some technical solutions and reflexions about publishing, and a place to think about practices, to share what's working or not, with the assumption that struggles, movements, insurrections always need strong local roots.
Hope I was not too long, some Mutu members may think in a different way. I guess we'll do our best to answer other possible questions.
I read there was some
I read there was some questions about how organizing a website in London, or other places. What we usually advise to people interested in launching a new local website is :
- gather some people who may represent the local diversity of radical antiauthoritarian groups and opinions. If possible, a small dozen of people interested in publishing and / or the moderation of content and help for publication (which can be very different between collectives or individuals, from adding tags to complete reviewing and editing, also depending on how much you know the author, or the crucial importance of the article, etc.) ;
- try to meet the different groups that you wish they'd publish, and present the project before launching it ;
- when the website is launched, and you stard explaining publicly the project, try to motivate other people in publishing or join your collective (that can be a not so easy part !)
I have personal doubts about the size of a city / territory that such a website should cover, or be the common tool. As it is based primarily on trust on the one hand, and on proximity to information, mutual acquaintance on the other hand, it's pretty hard in megacities like Paris or London. No perfect solution has been found for the moment in Paris, even if the website is doing great stuff. But even the idea of "local" is complicated in a city of a population as big as the whole Belgium, or three times Croatia.
It may be pretty easier to launch websites in smaller regional capitals. In Paris there is a big issue with time transport (sometimes more than 2 hours between two places). So when you have a problem with publishing, which can happens, it's hard to say "Let's just have a drink and talk about it". Same with meeting every week or two with people in the collective. The larger and more populated the territory is, the more difficult it is to be relevant and exhaustive of the situation or to make unexpected connections. It also guarantees more audience and people participating ! Just to say London would be great, but cities like Edinburg or Bristol, to mention cities that have been quoted, would also be great places for organizing such initiatives.
Hope I was not too long and confused / confusing.
That's great, Ari, really
That's great, Ari, really helpful input, thanks!
I think a problem with the UK is that there is a much smaller pool of "antiauthoritarian"/libertarian/anarchist types to work from in the first place.
And on top of that rather than collaborate with others, in addition to social media individuals can just set up their own WordPress/Tumblr/medium to put out their own content, so I think it's hard to get people to come together to work on collective media projects at all, let alone set up multiple groups in different cities. Especially seeing as so many local media groups which did exist have now fallen apart
Quote: I think a problem with
I don't have a clue about the situation in UK. Just,
- doing stuff locally also permits to meet new persons, some you wouldn't have guessed.
- you share a territory with persons, and also struggles, demonstrations, parties, and anger at local newspapers and politicians. So it's often easier than you thought to build something at this scale. ;
- the main issue in France is not with blogs (you can copy them, they'd usually agree if they're comrades). You can also tell them that it is interesting for them to be republished on your website (politically, or sharing pubicly the visits number, which is at try on Rebellyon's articles). The main issue is with data gathering networks like Twitter and Facebook, which provide easier interfaces, with total personal (or collective) control, and many more feedbacks (but do not participate to building a local collective force, contribute to the surveillance and sometimes inquiries, don't easily permit to read old archives… you have to explain the project, it's not 1999 and the beginning of Internet for sure) ;
- building a network allows to share experiences with other collectives, which will understand your reality (from France, I'm not, or in a very blurry way) and provide some reflexions, even if every local situation is different. That's why we thought it was important that all the collectives in our network should at least speak the same tongue.
Hi Ari, thanks for your
Hi Ari, thanks for your comments. One part of your post that got me thinking in particular was this one:
While what you say is partly true, from my experience sharing a locality with people often results in people hating each other and each other's projects! Similar stuff has been brought up in this discussion about who to invite or whose politics are shit or whatever which kind of made me think of some questions about your experience in Mutu:
1) What's the range of politics on individual websites like (both in terms of people/groups posting news and the collectives themselves)? Like, when you say the websites aim "to reflect the diversity of ideas and practices that exist locally", does that mean everyone from anarcho-communists to individualists to anti-speciesist animal rights people? Or is it focused more around activity rather than theoretical traditions (like migrant support, environmentalism, unions, etc)?
2) How do you manage political disagreements within collectives? Have there been big clashes on particular issues within the movement that have come into Mutu collectives? Which kind of disagreements did people feel they could still continue to work within the same collective? And have their been any disagreements where people felt they had to split?
These are issues which I can definitely see as coming up from a 'broad church' project and is something we tried to solve with libcom by becoming a very politically close collective (though perhaps we ended up being too close) so I'm interested in how these issues were resolved with Mutu
Rob Ray wrote: Your note
My impression of the Mutu sites and network was that it was politically broad, but only within the anti-authoritarian milieu, which I think is a bit ideologically tighter than you're imagining. It felt like the people involved included libertarian communists, green anarchists, Platformists, Appelistes, insurrectionists etc. It didn't seem to include social democrats or any other kind of authoritarian.
I think we're potentially years away from creating a British Mutu-style thing. But we could start the first website and see if that worked. For us to have an effective network I think we'd need sites in all the major cities with decent sized anarchist movements' (everywhere that hosts a bookfair?). Realistically, we can't create something like that just from scratch. We'd need to start with a site in London and then see if that inspires people in other cities/regions to copy the model and launch their own sites. Only once there's more than one site could we really start talking about creating a Mutu-style network over here. Tbh, it was the Mutu model of combining Indymedia-style participatory publishing with a transparent editorial process that really struck me as being worth replicating. Well that and the focus on local reporting and broad anti-authoritarian perspective. What the network actually does (helping with building plugins etc.) doesn't seem as immediately useful for us over here, although if we had a number of sites it would definitely make sense.
I thought The Media Fund was just about trying to pump money into various 'radical' media projects? Most of the sites they fund aren't anti-authoritarian and those which are to a degree aren't openly afaik. For a site in London I'd want to make sure all the various currents in the anti-authoritarian movement were represented in the collective, I wouldn't want to involve anybody who's backing Corbyn etc.
The way I'd see a London site
The way I'd see a London site working would be roughly like this:
- We'd get togther an editorial/tech collective to build and edit the website and in keeping with the way the Mutu sites operate, we'd try to ensure all the different anti-authoritarian tendencies within London were represented in this collective. So anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists, green anarchists, insurrectionary anarchists, autonomous Marxists, anarcha-feminists etc.
- While building the site we'd go around all the various groups/collectives we'd want to use the site, explaining what the project is and how we'd want to use it. So pretty much talk to people in all the groups from London you'd expect to be running stalls at an anarchist bookfair.
- When the site launched I'd want it to have articles ready to go about all the struggles going on in or around London at the moment. So stuff on housing, migrants rights, trans rights, grassroots union organising, anti-fascism, anti-fracking (particularly Leith Hill) and anti-police brutality campaigns. I imagine some of these would need to be written by the editorial collective but it'd be good if while go round groups involved in these struggles we found people up for writing them and the collective just edited them.
- Once the site is up and running, I'd hope the majority of the content was reporting on struggles happening in London, but I'd also hope it was able to cover political and social events in London, so articles on things like the pre-carnival police crackdown, what's happening at City Hall etc.
The idea would be that this site became a hub for anti-authoritarian organising in London. Basically, London Indymedia if it was good.
Swiss member of Mutu Renversé
Swiss member of Mutu Renversé has published a translation of this article.
I have been thinking about this quite a bit. The main mutu page gives a list of articles from all of the members chronologically on the left. On the left there is the article image with a direct link to the original site above it. Beside this there is a headline which is a link to the article and a summary. On the right-hand side there is a box with four articles explaining what mutu is and who is involved. Underneath that there are links to all of the member sites.
If libcom were to take on the publizshing role of the central mutu collective, then it would have no control over individual sites, but would run a news feed of all articles which it would link to. It might be that libcom would have two news feeds, one all-inclusive and one just containing articles from the mutu-equivalent. This sounds cumbersome but it might stop those articles being swamped at first. Usage statistics could be used to decided if it would be a good idea to combine them later on.
Using Ed's London site idea, libcom could repost all London articles to the new London site automatically as a show of good faith and support for the new site.
The sites themselves, as well as libcom, could archive all linked images and videos (obviously not host videos, but just make sure that they can be re-uploaded whenever needed.
At the moment there are belgian and swiss sites on mutu, so it seems that UK and Ireland is logical for a focus. If there is an Irish equivalent already then it could be just UK, and if Irish sites appear then there could be either a new collective, or options to focus on geographical areas.
The most important thing would be, like others have said, setting up the practical and editorial support to encourage publishing. Online, the content guidleines could be revampes and set up on a friendlier page, as well as perhaps a support forum. Then of course there need to be discussions to try to get other groups involved.
Also on libcom the Map tab under news is not very usable, might be better to have the map with a scroll of recent geographical tags underneatth to help people navigate better?
Sorry for the long post, hopefully it is helpful, I think that the project is potentially a very good one.
Jef, great comment no need to
Jef, great comment no need to apologise!
Yeah Ed's question is a good one.
In the UK, if anything the pool of people we actually feel like we can work with feels like it's shrinking… As other than political disagreements on things like nationalism (which for us I think is a red line, at least when it comes to libcom, although perhaps not a news project with a different remit), over the past few years large numbers of individuals and groups have come out of the woodwork as people who either don't care about sexual assault within the movement, or actively support abusers, while others have come out as people who are either actively transphobic, or feel the need to defend or support transphobes.
And these basically have to be red line issues as well…
Ari wrote: I have personal
Seems like most of the people keen on setting this up are in London, but I think this point is worth thinking about.