Revolutionary Journalist Hall of Fame

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Wellclose Square
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Jun 6 2010 21:05
Samotnaf wrote:
I don't think any of the revolutionary opposition to this society, at least since the 50s (Peter Fryer being the last one who had a truly radical effect), has been inspired by "radical" journos - the miners' strike? the poll tax riots? the '81 riots? May '68? the South African revolution? etc. etc. Nor have I or anyone else i know been influenced by journos to oppose this society - but a lot of people have been inspired by revelations about rio tinto zinc, torture in Iraq etc. into becoming good lefty liberals or whatever. But then good lefty liberalism is what you take for radicality.

The journalists who helped inspire me to identify myself as a 'revolutionary opponent' of this society were:

* The Daily Telegraph's Colin Welch - his impartial reportage of the 'No Housing, No Crowning' Amsterdam squatters' protests against Queen Beatrice's (or was it Juliana's?) coronation in 1980(?) went as far as cheering on and justifying the conspicuously over-the-top police violence.

* The Daily Mail's assorted hacks who reported the Persons Unknown Trial of 1979, particularly Judge Alan King Hamilton's summing up when he lambasted the jury who had acquitted most of the defendants.

Never underestimate the revolutionary potential of reactionary journalists.

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Hughes
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Jun 7 2010 00:03
Rob Ray wrote:
The best of the Deepwater Horizon information comes from... journalists. The investigations into torture in Iraq came from... journalists. The exposure of many of Rio Tinto's worst mining practices... journalists. I could go on almost indefinitely.

Thank you.

jura wrote:
Sure, why not ruin a potentially interesting thread in history and culture that I could have actually learned something new from with a rehash of the discussion on intellectuals?

I get similarly frustrated. I apologize if I contributed to the derailment of this thread.

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Steven.
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Jun 7 2010 10:44

a quick note: Sam and Rob have had this discussion elsewhere, please don't contribute anything further on this thread. If you wish to start a new discussion about the nature of journalism in the theory forum please do.

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oisleep
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Jun 7 2010 11:05

how can you have a thread discussing 'revolutionary journalists' that bars a discussion of what a 'revolutionary journalist' (is such a thing exists) is confused

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Jun 7 2010 11:12
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I don't think any of the revolutionary opposition to this society, at least since the 50s (Peter Fryer being the last one who had a truly radical effect), has been inspired by "radical" journos

The mere fact that you're performing such mental gymnastics as to try and argue some weird historic cutoff point for when journalism ceased to be able to be radical says a great deal here I think. Just out of interest, how did you find out about apartheid in South Africa?

Anyway, just thinking about Britain this year:

Ian Tomlinson - after a typical propagandistic start, hugely damning information was revealed by... journalists, inspiring plenty of people to really understand for the first time the true brutality of the Met police, including my own mother.

Expenses scandal - has led to the lowest levels of trust in our political masters in decades.

Gaza flotilla - Despite particularly awful editorialising by Sky, the information being put out was stark enough that the vast majority of people have been outraged, and it has led to a massive upsurge in interest for the solidarity movement there.

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Nor have I or anyone else i know been influenced by journos to oppose this society

Well now you know of at least one, though I'm sure you'll make some cringeworthy attempt to say "oh but you're a liberal." I first got angry enough to get involved in activism after reading reports on Iraq, and developed my revolutionary viewpoint from that catalyst. In fact many people I know did. I would be genuinely surprised if that wasn't the case for at least some of your peers (unless you've grown up in an anarchist commune or something).

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Chomsky has influenced me hardly at all, and I doubt if he could.

And yet your "analysis" is basically parroting his line in Manufacturing Consent. I suspect some of those different individuals you met were big fans, must be annoying to find out you're so close theoretically given how much you dislike him...

Quote:
the discussion about violence was as essential as reporting the facts about it, a position you are completely retrograde in defending.

How so? I've never said, in all my writings, that taxikipali didn't have a right to give his opinion or discuss his views. I said (for perhaps the fourth or fifth time, but don't let that stop you from repeating this tired old bullshit ad nauseam) that I liked the way his news reports were written without editorialising, and that he left such discussions for the comments/opinions section so I could get the basic information without having to wade through his opinions first - ie. good news writing practice.

Quote:
You are clearly upset by my comments. Good - you should be.

No just irritated, it's the difference between being attacked by someone I respect and being drawn into an argument with some blockheaded fool who appears to think that anyone who disagrees with them is an 'arrogant liberal'.

With apologies to jura.

Edit: Sorry Steven wrote that before I saw your post.

Samotnaf
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Jun 7 2010 11:38

Tomlinson, Gaza flotilla etc. were revealed by "radical journos"? Apart from the fact that it was the use of the internet, of unpaid "reporters", in revealing these things, what exactly was 'radical' about the journos of Sky etc? Wellclose Square is right -

Quote:
Never underestimate the revolutionary potential of reactionary journalists

or of liberal-lefty ones either.

Quote:
Just out of interest,how did you find out about apartheid in South Africa?

Just out of interest, not through journalists - but through my ex-CP lefty-liberal parents and their CP friends (if i find out something from a semi-Stalinist does that mean I should shut up and not critique them?). In fact we are influenced and informed by lots of different people, the majority of whom do not at all contribute to a radical opposition to this world. You mix up 2 things - influence by journalists and the idea that if they influence you to try to struggle against this society, they are somehow radical; as Wellclose Square points out, they needn't be at all.

I'm late - so I'll leave it at that; besides discussing things with a brick wall is no fun and no point.

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Jun 7 2010 11:57

K I'll avoid getting too aggro here but just to reply quickly...

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Apart from the fact that it was the use of the internet, of unpaid "reporters", in revealing these things

The Tomlinson video was published by the Guardian, which also did most of the secondary reporting, while the Gaza flotilla story came out through Al Jazeera.

And not to complain about straw men or anything, but I actively said Sky's reporting was terrible and haven't at any point argued that revolutionary journalism is always carried out by revolutionary journalists.

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if i find out something from a semi-Stalinist does that mean I should shut up and not critique them?

Absolutely not but in that vein, should I refuse to accept that journalists can do useful and revolutionary work, indeed BE revolutionaries, simply because they're journalists?

NB// simply because you say I'm a brick wall doesn't make it so, particularly given the way I've been replying to all your points with examples to back my case, rather than simply throwing around invective.

ernie
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Jun 7 2010 11:55

Am I wrong or was not Orwell recently exposed as working for MI5? That aside claiming him as a revolutionary is streching things rather far: given his support for the imperialist slaughter of WW2.

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Jun 7 2010 12:01
ernie wrote:
the imperialist slaughter of WW2.

The nature of World War 2: another thread derailment waiting to happen.

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Jun 7 2010 12:12
ernie wrote:
Am I wrong or was not Orwell recently exposed as working for MI5?

Pretty sure you have that backwards. MI5 spied on him.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/sep/04/booksnews.nationalarchives

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Jun 7 2010 12:15

Both, he gave a list of names to the government consisting of people he believed to have sympathies with the communists but was certainly under observation.

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Hughes
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Jun 7 2010 12:26

Oh God, he just fell pretty far in my eyes. I had no idea he was a stooge.

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Jun 7 2010 12:31

It actually ties in quite well with his views as a Social Democrat in some ways - he hated the idea of a totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship more than he did the existing capitalist regime and thus backed one over the other. That's not to say it wasn't shit behaviour mind, just that it wasn't out of the blue.

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Jun 7 2010 12:46
Rob Ray wrote:
he hated the idea of a totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship more than he did the existing capitalist regime

Well I would most certainly share that sentiment. If that represents my position of "class privilege," so be it.

After actually reading over the Wikipedia page, its not as bad as I thought. "All" he was doing was naming writers he believed unsuitable for a specific job that entailed creating anti-Soviet propaganda. I thought he was reporting them to some kind of McCarthy-ite witch hunt.

Wellclose Square
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Jun 7 2010 12:41
Rob Ray wrote:
It actually ties in quite well with his views as a Social Democrat in some ways - he hated the idea of a totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship more than he did the existing capitalist regime and thus backed one over the other. That's not to say it wasn't shit behaviour mind, just that it wasn't out of the blue.

Orwell wasn't the only one to follow this trajectory, and other contemporaries - some of them Stalinists - went further. Just as Spain '36-39 and Hungary '56 generated critiques of Stalinism from the left (e.g. Orwell), others moved to the right. Alfred Sherman was an ex-Stalinist who ended up as one of Maggie Thatcher's henchmen.

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Jun 7 2010 12:52
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All he was doing was naming writers he believed unsuitable for a specific job

Bear in mind though that list was absolutely certain to end up in the hands of the secret service, and that it was only his judgement - I mean I'd certainly fall into the communist bracket, albeit a libertarian one, there's no guarantee that if I'd been a casual mate of his that I'd get left out.

In any case, the last thing any communist, libertarian or otherwise, should be doing is betraying confidences to the state and doing its job for it - otherwise how can anyone know what you might or might not decide is "okay" to gob off about in future?

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Hughes
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Jun 7 2010 13:06

True that. All I meant was that it was a significant degree less traitorous than I thought it was originally.

petey
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Jun 7 2010 13:20
Samotnaf wrote:
Tomlinson, Gaza flotilla etc. were revealed by "radical journos"?

he didn't say that, he said they were exposed by journalists at all:

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Ian Tomlinson - after a typical propagandistic start, hugely damning information was revealed by... journalists
Boris Badenov
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Jun 7 2010 16:20
Hughes wrote:
"All" he was doing was naming writers he believed unsuitable for a specific job that entailed creating anti-Soviet propaganda. I thought he was reporting them to some kind of McCarthy-ite witch hunt.

That doesn't exonerate him at all. As the wiki article you mention states: "Typical comments were Stephen Spender “Sentimental sympathiser... Tendency towards homosexuality."
Orwell was not just selflessly outing Stalinists; many of the people he mentioned were obviously "cryptos" - people like E.H. Carr - but many weren't, and as Orwell himself admitted "one ought not hurriedly to assume that they all hold the same opinions." The comment on Spender was particularly vicious and bigoted, but he was wrong about others as well (Randall Swingler for example left the CPGB shortly after Orwell's death because of the Hungarian Revolution and joined E.P. Thompson's camp).
I really am an admirer of Orwell's writings, especially his essays (which are far better than 1984 and Animal Farm combined), but what he did in his last years is truly unexcusable. He was a very sick man, and struggling to maintain even a glimmer of hope/optimism that genuine socialism would one day have a future in England (and Europe), so one can perhaps blame it on his condition, but it cannot be forgiven simply because he wasn't working for a MacCarthyite witch-hunt.

Caiman del Barrio
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Jun 7 2010 16:50

I think Satmonaf's analysis borders on a thoroughly anti-Situ verbatim regurgitation of "Situationism" personally. wink

Does he seriously believe that the drones unquestioningly accept what they're fed by the news media? There is some kinda filter which most folk operate in order to consider the role of the messenger's affiliations and motivations. I'd agree that it's far weaker than it should be - my Facebook page essentially reads like a Guardian Twitter feed sometimes, with the Grauniad's trash being reproduced uncritically by the Goldsmiths handwringer brigade (paradoxically, I browse the site most days...for teaching material, obviously wink). However, I think the "pinch of salt" tendency does exist, even amongst the much-maligned Sun reader.

Similarly, some individuals will attempt to manipulate the media machine in order to report and cover worthy stories. Some will achieve partial, compromised success. Rob Ray's also right to underline the centrality of journalism to creating radicals (after all, not all of us come CP families...I was heavily reliant on the media in my political formation, that and wink).

That said (thinking aloud post FTW), I think the term "revolutionary journalist" is probably something of a misnomer.

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Jun 7 2010 17:45
Rob Ray wrote:
Quote:
Nor have I or anyone else i know been influenced by journos to oppose this society

Well now you know of at least one, though I'm sure you'll make some cringeworthy attempt to say "oh but you're a liberal." I first got angry enough to get involved in activism after reading reports on Iraq, and developed my revolutionary viewpoint from that catalyst. In fact many people I know did. I would be genuinely surprised if that wasn't the case for at least some of your peers (unless you've grown up in an anarchist commune or something).

Yeah, Samotnaf's position here seems to be based on a weird idea that either you're perfectly consistent in your opposition to society or you're a hopeless liberal/leftist, as if no-one ever becomes a liberal/leftie then becomes a communist through realising the contradictions in their position.

ernie wrote:
Am I wrong or was not Orwell recently exposed as working for MI5? That aside claiming him as a revolutionary is streching things rather far: given his support for the imperialist slaughter of WW2.

By those standards (well, the second one anyway), claiming Kropotkin and Sylvia Pankhurst as revolutionaries would also be far-fetched. I don't see why it's so difficult to accept the idea that he was either a revolutionary or something very close to one at one point in his career, and then ceased to be one later in life.

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Jun 7 2010 18:43
Quote:
That said (thinking aloud post FTW), I think the term "revolutionary journalist" is probably something of a misnomer.

I think it's a pretty vague term yeah, I mean there are revolutionaries who are journalists, and journalism which can perform a revolutionary function, but it's not exactly a job description wink.

ernie
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Jun 7 2010 19:02

Farce

I certainly should have been clearer in what I was trying to say. I do not know much about Orwell's political trejectory up until the war, but once he supported the war he crossed a class line and became a defender of the ruling class, no matter how critical he was. Kropotkin was certainly a revolutionary until he too supported his bourgeoisie. though this did not necessarily mean that he was permanently condemned, he could have realized the mistake he made, others did. Sylvia Pankhurst as far as I know was not a revolutionary before the war and may well have initially supported it but she certainly began to oppose it during the war and did become a revolutionary due to this experience.

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Jun 7 2010 21:44

Has anyone mentioned John Ross? He crafted his reporting of the Zapatista uprising into three books, Rebellion from the Roots (1995,) The War Against Oblivion (2002,) ¡ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible (2007.)

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Jun 8 2010 04:52

A hero for our times

I’d like to nominate someone from our own times: the Siberian anarcho-syndicalist Igor Podshivalov, whose bio appears elsewhere on this website (http://libcom.org/forums/history/igor-podshivalov). Not a household name, but his untimely end was widely mourned in Russia.

Podshivalov belongs to that group of anti-establishment Russian journalists who have suffered sudden death. Unfortunately his writings are not widely available although there are a few essays on the internet. He did some valuable work on the Kuzbass industrial experiment of the 1920’s, an anarcho-syndicalism project which was tolerated by the Bolsheviks for a few years. He also conducted an interview with Anna Geraseva, one of two anarchist sisters who survived the whole Soviet era.

Caiman del Barrio
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Jun 8 2010 15:53
x359594 wrote:
Has anyone mentioned John Ross? He crafted his reporting of the Zapatista uprising into three books, Rebellion from the Roots (1995,) The War Against Oblivion (2002,) ¡ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible (2007.)

I read some of him for my dissertation and seem to remember it was vague, Orientalist, uncritical wank, like most Yank jackoff bullshit about the Zapatistas is.

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Jun 10 2010 00:21
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
...seem to remember it was vague, Orientalist, uncritical wank, like most Yank jackoff bullshit about the Zapatistas is.

The books are largely straight forward reportage written in a New Journalism prose style informed by critical irony.

In the context of the dominant media in the US those initial reports from which the books were crafted (published in a few mainstream newspapers and the alternative press) were important in providing talking points for those who wanted to counter US involvement with and support for repression of the upraising.

slothjabber
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Jun 10 2010 16:37

I vote for all the journos at the Morning Star that will be going on strike.

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playinghob
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Jun 10 2010 20:23

How about Karl Marx who wrote for the New York Daily Tribune

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Jun 10 2010 22:35
playinghob wrote:
How about Karl Marx who wrote for the New York Daily Tribune

And for the Sheffield Free Press, but then he stopped because they didn't pay him the wages they owed him.