The long, drawn out, and unlamented death of Indymedia

Discussion in 'protest, direct action and demos' started by Tom A, Nov 24, 2016.

  1. Tom A

    Tom A Goat among sheep

    As someone who was once heavily involved in Indymedia before burnout took its toll and it started going really weird, I occasionally have taken looks at the site to see how further downhill it has come. I knew the rot had set in when comments calling bullshit on conspiraloons were being continuously being censored hidden and stopped considering it a useful source about five years ago, and I am aware of all the coups and the issues surrounding one particular individual.

    Anyway, at the time of writing, there has not been a promoted article on the UK newswire since May 23, no open newswire articles since July 16, and no middle column features since last September (and only three since September 2014) - and it is now impossible to post any new articles to the newswire, but there is nothing to say that it has closed, it just died and no one has noticed, only one blog that is highly critical of Indymedia due to issues of anti-Semtism and conspiraloons, something that dogged Indymedia throughout its life, has bothered to mention anything (which is the reason why I am posting this now). It is like just like IMC-UK became so obscure that its death became unnoticed - and in its later years it had become totally irrelevant, what content that wasn't from the cranks was regarding the same issues it had reported on ten years previously, with little from issues that are now pertaining to now (although to give it kudos, it did report on Maximus and the protests against the Work Capability Assessment as a middle-column feature last year).

    But it seems Indymedia UK is finally dead (although the much-maligned "Mayday Collective" half of the 2011 'fork' outlived the BeTheMedia half by several years if only though sheer bloody-mindedness), succumbing to infighting, power struggles, and failing to keep any relevance when movements and campaigns found they could reach many more people by promoting themselves on corporate social media (for better or worse). In a way I am glad, it had become a broken, empty shell of its former self and had long become an embarrassment to itself and anyone wanting an outlet for campaigns that were overlooked or deliberately ignored by the mainstream media. However it seems the whole IMC movement is in decline, the open newswire on the global site is no longer taking any new posts, and on the aggregator wire there is little that is about issues that affect people today, for their faults Facebook and Twitter reach out to far more people than Indymedia did, and these sites, as "evil corporate capitalist" as they are, do not have to deal with editorial collectives bickering on what should and should not be allowed on there, since it is not trying to push any political or ideological agenda, it is not solely for hardcore activists.

    In a way it's a shame, everyone knows the downsides of corporate social media and it can be argued there is still room for an online space that is by and for activists. However such a space needs to be a lot more open ideologically (Indymedia tended to biased towards anarchism and movements organising along anarchist lines, indeed one of their editorial guidelines expressly excluded "hierarchical" groups in a ham-fisted way to keep out the SWP et al), and encompass the diversity of views held among all those who have a legitimate grievance against the system whilst still excluding those that want to promote hate and oppression. But such a space would have to supplement Facebook, Twitter, etc rather than be run as a complete alternative to it, otherwise its outreach will be limited to preaching to the converted. It would also have to avoid falling into the trap of pushing sensationalist clickbait, which is the bane of many other "alternative media" websites today.
    phillm and Cakes like this.
  2. editor

    editor Forked with electrons

    It is a real shame because for a while Indymedia was shaping up to be a really useful alternative news source, but they seemed to lose thei rway years ago and the loon stuff was seriously off putting.

    I doubt if the seriously outdated design (*much like a large chunk of the old pages, to be fair) helps either.
    paolo, CNT36, Kaka Tim and 4 others like this.
  3. Tom A

    Tom A Goat among sheep

    Indymedia never really cottoned onto "Web 2.0", and to implement integration to Twitter, Facebook, etc would have been seen as "selling out" to the anti-corporate and "free and open source" evangelists that tended to be predominant in the editorial collective, although it would have been very difficult to do without having to make major alterations to its outdated content management system - something that as you pointed out made it look dated and was vulnerable to hacking, indeed I wonder if that is why the open publishing is broke (though I tend to think that it got broke and no one bothered to fix it, or it's deliberately disabled, either way no one seems to care) - indeed the hacking of Bristol Indymedia lead to it's demise about two years ago.
    editor likes this.
  4. SpookyFrank

    SpookyFrank We kill the flame

    Apart from occasionally looking up archived stuff from way back when, I stopped looking at Indymedia long ago. I suspect the consipraloon probem mirrors the more general conspiraloon infestation of various activist groups in the last five years or so, and probably has a simillar cause ie if you put in lots of work on something you will gain status within a group even if you're a dangerous idiot.

    There was always a lack of transparency with indymedia, and clearly a lot of politics behind what got promoted or bumped up to the main news feed.

    Having a lot of different sources on various different platforms has advantages over a single site used by lots of people, not least in terms of redundancy in case of fuckery like the seizure of those servers in Bristol. Dependency on corporate platforms is problematic though.
    paolo, muscovyduck, kenny g and 2 others like this.
  5. Tom A

    Tom A Goat among sheep

    What little 'activism' I do these days is thankfully relatively conspiraloon-free apart from the occasional oddball individual. However I do not have to go far to see them in action, Occupy and the anti-fracking movement both have their issues with them, and it seems that the groups based on "non-hierarchical" organisation seem the most vulnerable to being overrun by conspiraloons, it seems that those movements that eschew authority tend to attract those who see "authority" as some sinister Illuminanti/New World Order/etc. Also I have witnessed certain individuals come to high prominence in campaigns against homelessness (deliberately not naming names to avoid attracting unwanted attention) who turn out to be on a power trip and screw over those that want to help the campaign.

    Some campaigns were more equal than others for sure when it came to the middle column. Barring that one feature towards the final year of Indymedia UK's life, I rarely saw anything about fighting benefit sanctions, or attacks on social security, and plenty about animal rights (including promotion of some quite dodgy actions), Climate Camp, Faslane peace camp, Israel/Palestine (again at times going beyond legitimate criticism of Israel into dodgy anti-Semitic tropes), the Zapatistas (who seemed to be the model of living all should follow) and the anti-war movement. Shamefully there were more than a few cases of troother events and articles being put into the promoted newswire later on, whilst the collective used to attempt to ensure such nonsense was hidden, although they never really had an official line on the issue. Anarchists and allied movements always got a free pass, whilst it was difficult for anything with a even a hint of 'hierarchical' influence to get a snifter of support (note that this doesn't mean that I would have been comfortable with Indymedia being co-opted by the SWP etc). Local grassroots community action, something I thought the "Kollectives" should have considered at the forefront of their mission, often had very limited reporting, particularly outside of the major cities and activist hubs.

    Indymedia was hobbled by server seizures (in the UK at least) as far back as 2004 with the FBI seizure of servers hosted by Rackspace. This herein is the problem of self-hosting, and illustrates the importance of having a backup somewhere outside the jurisdiction of where ever your main server is based. No government can seek the seizing of Facebook's servers since Facebook doesn't exist primarily to promote protesting. However Facebook and Twitter can easily be leaned on to pass on personal information and to shut down accounts, and it is never a good idea to use it to promote actions that are reliant on not being instantly shut down by the police. That being said, as global businesses, and businesses that helped facilitate communication among protesters, particularly those struggling against authoritarian regimes, they have to watch out for backlash and outcry should say, DPAC find out that all their Facebook accounts are shut down.
  6. Red Sky

    Red Sky It was like that when I got here.

    There are some very specific allegations on one of the links above , that a long standing member of the Mayday collective was a paid police informant. Was there ever an investigation into this?
    Pickman's model likes this.
  7. Tom A

    Tom A Goat among sheep

    Indymedia itself was very quick to dismiss the allegations (or at least articles on there about the issue were quickly hidden, but anything critical of how Indymedia was being run was swiftly hidden - it didn't help that for ages the only other recourse to them was to e-mail a mailing list where the archive was accessible to the pubilc). RationalWiki also mentions the issue but has no link to any evidence of it. To me it seems very plausible considering how many times Indymedia kept shooting itself in the foot and how the editorial collective became a fixed clique that was a law unto itself, but then only a few sources have "outed" him, and unlike higher profile cases he hasn't been widely shunned by the wider activist community. Regardless of the faults of Indymedia there WAS a concerted campaign of disinformation - whether it was mostly the work of state agencies or a bunch of sad trolls with too much time on their hands is up for debate, though I consider it to be mostly the latter.
  8. eoin_k

    eoin_k Lawyer's fees, beetroot and music

    To be fair it was, along with websites like this one, a DIY precursor to web 2.0. At the time there was something exciting about being able to contribute content as a site user. Even before the decline, though, there was an issue with the quality of the content. At times of heightened protest/direct-action activity it could be exceptionally good, but in between there were lulls when there wasn't the... human resources... to generate enough engaging content to keep the site fresh as a 'news' site.
    CNT36, Miss-Shelf, IC3D and 1 other person like this.
  9. taffboy gwyrdd

    taffboy gwyrdd Embrace the confusion!

    Tom A and SpookyFrank like this.
  10. Red Sky

    Red Sky It was like that when I got here.

    Just had a quick look at the UK site. Newswire is full of error messages. Can't someone just put it out of its misery?
    Pickman's model likes this.
  11. flickerx

    flickerx Well-Known Member

    Are there any decent functioning IMC sites left anywhere, at all? I mean ones with a proper collective still involved, with regular, diverse updates. Indybay looks reasonably healthy.
  12. Tom A

    Tom A Goat among sheep

    Indymedia finally issue a statement to say they are shutting down for good - it only took them the best part of a year to admit it. It's a pretty sad ending for the UK IMC, it may have not survived the era of social media anyway (as stated previously, many other IMCs have fallen by the wayside in the past few years), but very bad decisions were made and there was a huge deficiency of democracy in regards to decision making and editorial policy, especially in the later years.

    Portland is still going fairly strong with frequent middle-column features, although the open newswire and comments are still as full of the same cranks that plagued many other IMCs and it's still an ideological echo chamber for a certain type of anarchist politics - but it's no worse than on the UK newswire circa 2003. Good to get news on various protests and campaigns in the area I guess but still too one-sided for me. It seems the US newswires seem to be the ones most like to survive, although sadly that's not true of the very place that gave birth to the IMC movement in the first place, Seattle.

    Indybay still seems to be as good as any IMC was in its heyday - which is pretty good considering how there some bitter disputes regarding Indymedia in the San Francisco area in the past with three separate collectives there at one point, although all seem to have merged into Indybay.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
    crossthebreeze likes this.
  13. flickerx

    flickerx Well-Known Member

    The Urbana Champaign IMC in the US is also healthy, reportedly.
  14. JasonFelcham

    JasonFelcham Banned Banned

    do you think it's maybe because it's shit?
    mrs quoad likes this.
  15. likesfish

    likesfish officaly hardest and most tooled up urbanite:)

    non hierarchy's only really work if everybody is coming from the same place otherwise its a recipe for disaster as you get somebody who wont or can't play nicely and nobody wants to be the bad guy and tell them NO.
    thats when it folds.
    what you want is clear leadership thats responsible to the group difficult act to get right
  16. Tom A

    Tom A Goat among sheep

    Such organisations are incredibly vulnerable to "wreckers", who will rather see the group disintegrate rather than not get his or her way. That's of course assuming the wrecker isn't a state infiltrator who is deliberately provoking the group and sowing discord in order to undermine the effectiveness of the group. As time goes by I see a lot of value in having an elected committee that oversees decision making, and decisions being put to a vote, and if a vote doesn't go in favour of what certain individuals want they just have to live with it.
  17. 8den

    8den No I'm pretty sure that was 8ball...

    My final straw with the Indymedia Ireland collective was after a succession of court dates involving police prosecutions involving me and Indymedia Ireland left me completely burnout. I noticed a story on our wire making anonymous allegations of police corruption involving a murder. And while the details were obfuscated within a couple of seconds on google I'd worked out who it was. While it was an important story I was really worried about the site's liability and because of the recent court appearances my exposure. I felt that if the editors wanted to proactively fact the story (which is something I was pushing for site to do more off, move to a more a wikipedia editorial model than IMC which was far less proactive), we should, but until then we should hide the story, in case it wasn't true. I was voted down, and between the court cases and everything else I was shot, and resigned.

    Funnily enough, in my resignation I specifically posted a warning about a user who was angling for editorial status, I thought he was a bully and troll and he'd be a liability to the site. He was accepted anyway and a few years later Indymedia Statement Concerning the Former Editor Pat C - Indymedia Ireland

    That was, in my opinion, the final nail in the coffin for indymedia ireland. Particularly letting Corcoran resign and not be expelled. There's been no news features since 2016 and barely any newswire posts in the last month.

    In many ways to understand indymedia is to look at it as a web 1.0 start up that never adapted to web 2.0. During the start of the rise of antiglobalisation, there was no twitter, no youtube, no facebook and no myspace. There was nowhere to host your video, or radio, or a centralised node for discussion outside of mailing lists. As the web adapted users did to, and they no longer needed indymedia for hosting (which was a huge deal). If the Arab Spring had occurred in 2001 or 2002 I suspect local indymedias would have been activist hubs but by 2010 people had moved to twitter and facebook.
  18. Tom A

    Tom A Goat among sheep

    I left Indymedia UK in 2005 initially because I had become so burnt out (especially when having to work towards my university finals), but even then I was getting disillusioned about how cranks and conspiracy theorists were getting freer reign instead of being immediately hidden, something that by 2007 had deteriorated to the point where comments calling bullshit on conspiracy articles (especially 9/11 troofers and even chemtrails) were being hidden whilst the article itself remained intact. Then there was the apologism for all kinds of unpleasant groups and people just because they were antagonistic towards the US/"the West" (which to be fair, is not just an issue that affected Indymedia), where any challenge would lead to a wall of personal attacks, with very little intervention from the mods - in some ways Indymedia were promoting "alternative facts" before it was cool. Finally even in the good times it seemed to mostly cater for a certain type of anarchist, and I had dreams of Indymedia being a proper community news source where all kinds of campaigners - not just the activist ghetto - could promote their message, but any attempt to do something like that would get lost in a tide of "liberal bashing" (why bother saving your local library when you can be out helping the Zapatistas?) and people getting put off by seeing yet another flurry of crank conspiracy articles in the newswire.

    I'm just glad I had long gone from there when the Atzmon affair kicked off, and especially after the 2011 "fork" which became a de facto takeover of the Indymedia name by the Mayday collective. But by then social media's ascendancy had come, and Indymedia had become a lot less relevant to the cause of the time.

    That's pretty much my take on why Indymedia generally is in decline, and even where an IMC is still managing to be in rude health it's no longer the main go-to point for activists. Indymedia could have tried to adapt to Web 2.0, realise that campaigners were going to start using Facebook and Twitter to promote events and try and contemplate that rather than go against it - I feel that Indymedia's opposition to anything with a hint of corporate influence rendered it inflexible in that regard, alongside its inability to reach beyond the activist ghetto. Also with Facebook you don't have to deal with the whims of an editorial collective (or rather, predominant individuals in the collective) hiding something that goes against their agenda, or having a thread about a local campaign getting hijacked by those wanting to go on about chemtrails or 9/11 being an inside job.
    muscovyduck and 8den like this.
  19. Brainaddict

    Brainaddict chief propagandist (provisional)

    Yes, the stance against corporate platforms was understandable but at the same time the purism of it was a failure to read the way things were going. You can imagine it might have survived if they had allowed indymedia-twitter-facebook integration. As well as sharing buttons and so on, they could have had curated twitter/fb feeds, promoting the better articles on there.

    But the feeling against the corporate platforms was too strong. I recently did a radio interview with some of the people who used to be involved in indymedia and I suggested people look up an event or group on facebook. They actually bleeped out 'facebook' in the edit, and at the time asked me if there was anywhere else people could get the information (there was, but in fact facebook had the most info). I thought it was pretty silly, when facebook has, for all its massive flaws, been a better organising tool than anything activists have come up with.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
    muscovyduck, UnderAnOpenSky and Tom A like this.
  20. 8den

    8den No I'm pretty sure that was 8ball...

    Agreed, and sort of the point that I was trying to get. With Social Media filling the void that Indymedia "exploited" in the first place (to wit an open source, semi-social media platform, with the ability to share video audio and photos). Indeed indymedia fell to the battle that social media is now supposedly battling, the rise of fake news). Spammers would publish CTers across various Indymedias with varying degrees of editorial control, and the signal to noise ratio combined with personal infighting made the site unreadable.

    Again it might have been against the Indymedia ethos, but I always pushed for strong editorial controls. That editors should fact check stories that were unverified, and hide them until the author published supporting evidence. I'm happy to say Indymedia Ireland was on of the better IMCs with, for a while, an active editorial list with discussion and arguments over an article's or story's merit.

    And man if you ever wanted to see the futility in action you should have joined any of the global imc mailing lists. Without a rigorous decision-making process discussions and moving forward on any global direction for Indymedia was next to impossible.
    Tom A likes this.
  21. Tom A

    Tom A Goat among sheep

    At the end of day, if a group wants to promote their cause, they need to get the word out to as many people as possible, and in this day and age the best way is via social media. Shunning Facebook is just allowing dogma to override reality, and hence result in a retreat into an activist ghetto, relying on obscure sites which are by and for lifestylists, and the only way that most ordinary people will be exposed to their message is if the links are shared on the very social media they are so eager to shun. It goes back a long way, for example 15 years ago when I was first starting to use Linux, I asked the IMC-UK IRC how I could get Windows Media to be set up (as some news sites did use this, this of course was way before YouTube, and of course the BBC relied on RealPlayer back then). The response I got was along the lines of "Windows Media is shite, don't use it". At the time it was difficult to get MP3s to work as well (proprietary codecs being the main issue), and at some workshop on Linux I asked about this and was told to just use Ogg Vorbis. This bashing of propitiatory software for the sake of bashing propitiatory software I found to be quite a holier-than-thou attitude, especially since back then a lot of free-and-open-source software was still significantly inferior to corporate products.

    I endured a lot of abuse for openly calling for a tougher line on editorial policy, especially when it came to dealing with conspiraloons - and had to deal with articles about chemtrails being unhidden "for the sake of debate" - although things weren't helped by my immature self slinging abuse at the conspiraloons whenever they raised their ugly heads. My take on it was simple - such people, if allowed to post any old garbage without being subject to quality control, will discredit Indymedia as a source, and lo and behold, they allowed Indymedia to become discredited. A move to a more Wikipedia-esque model of editorial policy would have done wonders for ensuring a high quality of output and maybe had made IMCs a force to be reckoned with into the Web 2.0 era. Indymedia was certainly woefully lacking when it came to fact-checking (at least in the case of IMC-UK), and any subjective nonsense was allowed on the newswire as long as it didn't seem to flout any of the guidelines, which were often very loosely applied, and later on, applied selectively as well.
    It's a shame that Indymedia Ireland also has gone the way of many other IMCs, I didn't check it that much but it I used to be impressed by the quality of content on there compared to the UK newswire. Also I wasn't that involved in the global mailing lists, but the inertia of the decision making collectives was part of the cause behind the "Mayday coup", since Mayday had to start as a fresh IMC and it all got snarled up in "New IMC process" red tape, so when the time came to implement the fork Mayday took matters into their own hands - and when BeTheMedia cried foul the global decision makers basically just sat on their hands and did nothing. However, Mayday's version of Indymedia did outlast BeTheMedia by several years, although it was certainly no longer an Indymedia I would have wanted to be part of. A lot of critics targeted IMC-UK for being a particularly bad case, but it's fair to say the problems with Indymedia ran throughout the movement.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
    paolo and phillm like this.
  22. Tom A

    Tom A Goat among sheep

    Now this could be an interesting development: Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales creates news service Wikitribune - BBC News

    Strange how we are discussing the benefits of Wikipedia's approach to editorial policy in this thread and Wikipedia's founder decides to get involved in starting a news service. I hope it really does remain grounded in fact, and manage to piss off ideological hacks on both left and right alike by putting the truth above certain political agendas.
  23. butchersapron

    butchersapron blood on the walls

    Thank god for the non-ideological entrepreneur rabid follower of Ayn Rand and promoter of the forceful imposition of extreme free markets and destruction of social safety nets Jimmy Wales. Let truth speak.
  24. Tom A

    Tom A Goat among sheep

    As I was saying...

    Anyway, I'd choose Jimmy Wales and friends over the bunch of anarchists that mismanaged IMC sites into oblivion any day.
    toblerone3 likes this.
  25. butchersapron

    butchersapron blood on the walls

    That's the choices is it? Top down Ayn Rand worshipping rich people curating the truth or well meaning from below types who allowed themselves to hollowed out by conspiraloons? That's the only options - and if you don't support the first one you're an ideological hack.
    muscovyduck and Pickman's model like this.
  26. Tom A

    Tom A Goat among sheep

    Compare the credibility of Wikipedia with that of Indymedia today. Both have some kind of 'open publishing' ethos but the former is far more respected as a resource, even if its entries are only as good as the people who create and edit them. Besides, many of the people involved in IMCs were not all that "well meaning", several were downright toxic, especially with regards to the UK newswire.
    toblerone3 likes this.
  27. butchersapron

    butchersapron blood on the walls

    I don't have to compare the credibility of wikimedia to indymedia to make a point about the fake-ness of the idea of news-truth being objectively non-ideologically presented to a viewing or reading public - esp when it's being offered by an extreme ideologist. That's BBC guff from the 30s - at best.
    TopCat, Riklet, muscovyduck and 3 others like this.
  28. Tom A

    Tom A Goat among sheep

    The facts remain the facts, regardless of how awkward they present themselves to those who's ideology is contradicted by said facts.
  29. butchersapron

    butchersapron blood on the walls

    Okey dokey Mr Cholmondley Warner.
  30. Tom A

    Tom A Goat among sheep

    Insult me all you like, but the left is just as bad when it comes to denial of facts as the right. For example, when a certain political leader did a video about having to sit in the corridor of a "ram-packed" train whilst he actually walked past several rows of empty seats. Or when a certain dictator decides to use nerve gas against his own citizens. Or when those wonderful "resistance" groups fighting "Western imperialists" turn out to be religious fanatics who slaughter anyone who gets in their way. Or when environmentalists still lecture about the evil of GM crops whilst the scientific consensus is they are safe, and this has been the case for years. The facts are the facts, whether you like them or not.

    But by all means carry on believing that two plus two equals five if that makes you happy.

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