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Workshop: Counterspin/(Re)Presenting and Remembering 'the Movement' (facilitated by isa and emma)

In this session we chose not to have presentations, because we felt that although presentations have their time and their place, we wanted to allow much more time to ‘zoom in’ on certain problems posed as questions to the group and really try and focus, whilst at the same time igniting discussion and facilitating the thoughts and engagements of the group. For this reason, each of the two presenters posed a question to the group and then together, took on the role of facilitators. Participants were asked to introduce themselves and say something about what had attracted them to come to the session and what they hoped to get out of it before launching into discussions of substance. Rather than having a go-around, where each person introduces themselves in turn, a suggestion was made to let people take turns on introducing themselves in a ‘zig-zag’ form across the room. Furthermore, we mixed discussion of the questions posed (which was done right at the beginning) with introductions, so that again, the group dynamic could enfold in a more lively and convivial way.

Question 1: The so-called ‘Movement of Movements’ is trying to offer counter narratives, in many different forms, for example through Popular Education; instead of going to people and telling them “This” is the truth, you go to them and co-produce a truth together. In what ways in which the movement can produce these counter-narratives.

Question 2: At the G8 summit protests in Gleneagles, working with corporate/mainstream media was a contested activity, with people being completely against engaging with the media because it represents both a sphere which is inherently bound up with capitalism, therefore reproducing its logic and working against us as anti-capitalist activists (a favourite argument here being that hence, the media always distorts a mobilization or protest to focus on the violence of it or ‘lie’ about activist’s). Furthermore, it raises the question of what exactly ‘it’ (singular and plural) is we are trying to do with our activism, are we trying to get a message across or something else? Is it useful to understand the media itself as a site of struggle?

Below are some of the discussion points – these are quotes from people, apologies from the note-takers if what’s written down reflects something slightly different from what you meant;

• ‘I’m very interested in different, more radical forms in the ways that we communicate these things. Lets create new forms of communicating—not just alternative publishers , but new and different ways of writing books’

• ‘We have a squat, we give people space to show movies, etc, but they tend to not be very good, or innovative. We don’t get good or contextualized materials on Indymedia, I am yearning for people to tell their stories in a different way, but I also worried about the use of new technologies, especially when it comes to telling traditional stories. I am worried about the absence of song and poetry, and festival’

• ‘How do we get out of the activist ‘ghetto’?’

• ‘I’m interested in the media as a site of struggle, at Gleneagles BBC was more accurate in keeping up with events than Indymedia was’

• ‘ we need to problematise the problem of ‘novelty’ versus ‘radicalism’: we can do things in a different way without using “new” things! No need to to equate new with radical’

• ‘what model of communication should we be thinking about? Do we want to persuade people? Or do we want to make beautiful things that people want?

• ‘people need to feel empowered to tell their own stories’

• ‘we don’t have our heads around the whole media thing. ‘Gleneagles thing was a huge success, but because of the bombing, media attention was diminished. Punk is a good example of how an idea can catch on and spread, also through the media. Granted, a lot of what punk was about was flattened out, but in turn, the phenomenon was also inflated and travelled’

• ‘I don’t want to write stories when I come back from an action’

• ‘But writing can be action and visceral and intoxicating …. In terms of counternarrative its not about the best most rational story, its about what resonates’

• ‘you always get stories from narratives—whether oral or written—first always oral, and an organic form of communication. I really love the way things traveled in the camps—but how those narratives travel into the media is another question’

• ‘On the streets during the Gleneagles summit protest, the BBC journalists were often as helpful as activists’

• ‘The moment of editing or writing—is really difficult’

• ‘we need different forms of story-telling. Move away from journalism—we need different forms of writing’

• ‘I work for the BBC sometimes. It’s really stupid to get into the mindset where BBC reporters might not have been genuinely interested in what was happening. In Scotland, there were also stupid rumors about what was happening --- like when the story about bad reports about activists happening on the local radio station was blown out of proportion’

• ‘It’s also strange how different groups or entities take on different meanings in different parts of our activism; for example, when we talk about precarity, then we see media workers as precarious workers to whom we should show solidarity, yet when we’re mobilizing for a summit protest, then they’re all tainted with the ‘enemy’ brush’

• ‘we have to differentiate between MEDIA and the human beings that comprise the media—relationships with people’

• ‘It helps to think more schematically about what it is we want to do with our activism’

• ‘interesting to oppose the rational argument versus beautiful stories, obviously we need both, but the beautiful stories are more emergent, harder to plan. BBC represented Gleneagles not as a spectrum of dissent—but as full of opposed blocks. At the same time Black Block might also perform a mobilizing role if it looks “cool” to young people’

• ‘The most amazing thing we did in Scotland was build an eco-village and we didn’t tell anyone’ [because the media weren’t allowed on site?]

• ‘There was the problem of the self-declared censorship committee at the ecovillage, where one journalist was actually told she had to delete any bits of film she had shot at the camp’

• ‘There seemed to be a tyrrany of the minority—who decided we cannot film it?!’ [someone else mentioned at this point that there had been considerable amounts of discussion and an overall consensus reached within the dissent! network on the rules regarding filming inside the eco-village, which is what the 'no-filming' rule reflected]

• ‘Its not completely illogical that people don’t want to be filmed or taken pictures of—Since the G8 a lot of film –from activists as well--have been used in court cases against people’

• ‘Maybe there needs to be a safe space— should we have a press space?’

• ‘Interesting thing the obsession with images when many of our beautiful stories can be conveyed in stories and other medium’

• ‘We so romanticize clandestinity; which is weird when our politics is about openness and transparency’

• ‘fear of repression can be real’

• someone told a story about a group in the States who continued to organise completely openly despite repression and threats to their lives

• What kinds of stories do we want to tell to whom?! There are different audiences out there: the ‘public’, other activists…

• ‘Do we want to tell our stories ourselves? Or someone else for us?’

• ‘The presumption that we know who the people out there are is really upsetting’

• ‘the role of alternative/emancipatory media is to make the stories of people whose stories are always excluded heard’

• ‘we need to distinguish between radicalism as a brand, and radicalism as really trying to about change in society. sometimes it is useful to make brands, but not to stop at the branding’

• ‘We need to keep the plurality and multiplicity and proliferation of differences—with respect to brand’

• ‘We have to be more proud about what we are doing--- we are obsessed with the margins, the subculture’

• ‘Concern about the rest of the movement, the people who are critical of neoliberalism, of development, how do we speak to them’

• ‘Possible expansion of the use of the oral to bypass mainstream media • Radio is very powerful’

• ‘Making connections between local alternative practices and the anti/alternative globalization movement’

• ‘Do at Public Space—not necessarily at your social center. Creative things –more theatrical ways of engaging with people’

• ‘How do we create spaces that are not simply prosletyzing?’

• had i been at the session, my question would have been something like: ‘Some pp say that the bbc had better reporting than indymedia. Would it be possible to engage in "counterspinning the corporates" AND including indymedia in the info-feed?’ (ionnek)