GMC Organizers update: progress in Austin

Grassroots Media Network (
Wed, 20 Oct 1999 18:36:22 -0500

Only slightly off-topic.......

An update on the conference October 7-11th.

Austin Update: network building

This e-mail is going out to people who attended the recent Grassroots Media
Conference in Austin, as well as to folks who were unable to attend, but
have expressed an interest in continuing the work of:

  building a decentralized intercontinental
  network for alternative communications
  - making media for change and changing
  the media - as acts of education, imagination,
  resistance, creativity, and movement building

This outline will attempt to get folks who could not attend up to speed on
some of what happened, and open the door to new actions and strategies
necessary for this work.

This update is also a call to action.  For example, in section #4 below,
you will find a ready made letter that will help you outreach to
communities of action as well as independent media outfits, encouraging
them to participate in the growing network envisioned above. 

As you know, this network is needed now perhaps more than ever before.  The
hopes rising from the meetings in Austin are that concrete steps will be
taken by all who want this network to happen.  It can become real no other

There has been some consensus that the focus of this work should not be to
build a new group or construct a meta-network.  Instead, it has been
suggested that we find ways to connect existing groups and networks, so as
to maximize the efforts of everyone involved.

What I hope to relay here, as concisely as possible, will stick to the
following points:

1.  Zapatista process discussed in Austin, and 
    the need for connecting existing groups and networks
2.  Groups who participated in Austin network
    building work
3.  Proposed test run set for November's World
    Trade Organization protests in Seattle
4.  Actions to take for plugging in and
    extending impact
5.  A call for ongoing work and feedback,
    defining what groups need, and what they
    can contribute

As in all posts of this nature, this one is a subjective summary of events.
Others will tell different tales, and include important details that I will
no doubt forget here.  If I slander anyone or event too severely, please
chime in with corrections.

1.  Zapatista process and the need for
   connecting existing groups and networks

Much can be said, and deserves to be said, on this topic.  At the risk of
simplifying a sophisticated and meaningful process, I will attempt a brief
overview.  Below are some of the connections discussed in Austin between the
process for self-determination as illuminated by the Zapatistas, and the
decentralized network growing out of grassroots media activism.

The Governor of Pennsylvania has signed Mumia's death warrant.  Over 1.5
million Iraqis have been killed through sanctions.  The people of East Timor
are still under attack.  La Realidad is surrounded by the Mexican military,
who could close in at any time.  This is just the short list, as you know.

At both Zapatista intercontinental encuentros, in Chiapas and in Barcelona,
a call for a
decentralized intercontinental network for alternative communication was
called for. This network would mobilize during times of crisis, by telling
the truth about situations like the ones listed above, truths that go untold
by media organizations who serve the dominating societies.

These situations are a part of what the Zapatistas have called our
lived reality.

The process for self-determination begins with the word.  Words help us to
enunciate our lived reality, to see and communicate our own context, to
educate ourselves and others through story.  When we see our own stories
clearly, we are able to work toward creating a future that we choose.

When stories are shared, we are able to encounter the lived realities of
others, and connect them with our own.  These connections also help us
locate similar systems of domination operating within the lived realities of
people all over the globe.  Through these encuentros, we can begin to link
together struggles.

When lived realities are spoken and meet, we are presented with the
opportunity to enrich ourselves through our differences, and organize
pockets of resistance.

The metaphor for an alternative communications system, a network, or a web,
has been discarded by some, who do not wish to embrace anything that seeks
to entrap or capture.

An alternative metaphor is that of the hammock.  The knots of the hammock
are centers of resistance, and these knots are connected to other centers.
When this is accomplished, during times of crisis our hammock can wrap
around us, give support, and hold us up.

The list of those who are in need of this hammock is long.  And as it
happens, those in need are also integral to ongoing centers of resistance.
It is incumbent upon us to find ways to weave these knots together.

     "Zapatismo is not an ideology,
      it is not a bought and paid for doctrine.
      It is...  an intuition.
      Something so open and flexible that
      it really occurs in all places.
      Zapatismo poses the question:
      "What is it that has excluded me?"
      "What is it that has isolated me?"
       ...In each place the response is different.
      Zapatismo simply states the question
      and stipulates that the response is plural,
      that the response is inclusive..."

      -- Marcos

2.  Groups who participated in network
   building work

Individuals and groups sometimes overlap, and for clarity, it should be
noted that institutional representation does not necessarily imply
institutional endorsement.  Some participated outside of the conference as
well.  Having said all that, here is a quick look at our growing hammock of
corroborating networks and groups coming from the recent encounters in Austin.

Pre-Austin organizing: (those amazing tao connectors)
Accion Zapatista,
New York Free Media Alliance,
Seattle Independent Media Coalition,
Bay Area Alternative Media Network,
Los Angeles Alternative Media Network,
Direct Action Media Network,
Direct Action Radio Network,
Grassroots News Network,
Free Speech Tv,
Microradio Empowerment Coalition,
Paper Tiger Television

Austin organizing:
Women's International Newsgathering Service,
Homeless People's Network,
Reclaim the Streets/Australia,
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation,
Big Noise Films,
Asheville Global Report,
National Commission for Democracy in Mexico,
Houston Radio Collective,
KOOP Radio Austin,
Paul Robeson Fund,
People's Tribune Radio,
Free Radio Austin,
Citizen Vagrom,
Direct Action Radio Network,
Accion Zapatista,
New York Free Media Alliance,
Seattle Independent Media Coalition,
Direct Action Media Network,
Grassroots News Network,
Free Speech Tv,
Asheville Global Report,
Paper Tiger Television

3.  Proposed test run set for November's World
   Trade Organization protests in Seattle

Noting past obstacles to solidify connections between existing networks, a
concrete test run has been proposed as a way of experiment, to find out
what will work and what won't.  Since resistance to neoliberalism connects
many who are interested in building this decentralized network (or hammock
if you prefer), the upcoming World Trade Organization protests may be a
good place to start, set to take place in Seattle, November 29th through
December 3rd (possibly beyond).

So some time in Austin was dedicated to coordinating how the news coming
from the Anti-WTO Indy Media Center in Seattle can be amplified and reach
other knots, other centers of resistance.  And how those centers can speak
back, exchange information about events and protests happening simultaneous
with the anti-capital protests in Seattle.

This process seems to break down into two basic categories, outreach and
technical logistics.

*** Outreach

Much discussion in Austin centered around the need to reach out to
communities who are directly impacted by the actions of the WTO.  These
groups include labor, immigrant communities, environmentalists, prisoners,
human rights groups, communities of color, homeless and poor people,
indigenous communities, and in the U.S., support networks for people
suffering in Iraq, East Timor, Chiapas, along with many others not listed

The idea for outreach is essentially this.  How can media activists get
information into communities, particularly communities of action?  But
also, how can activists help develop the capacity for these communities to
speak for themselves, tell their own stories?

It was decided that all working group participants in Austin would take up
the task of outreach to 15 groups, including media activists, community
media outlets, alternative media networks, and give particular attention to
reaching out to communities of action directly impacted by neoliberal
economic policies.

*** Logistics

A working session was also conducted to determine the needs of media
activists and other centers of resistance, so that the Indy Media Center in
Seattle would be able to organize its work to achieve maximum impact.

Technically, the news of actions coming out of the Indy Media Center in
Seattle will be abstractly converted into print, audio, video, qraphics and
photography.  The available methods for distributing these media include
web, e-mail, list-serve, realaudio, realvideo, MP3, satellite, audio and
video tape, disk, paper, mail, phone, fax, events and gatherings, and word
of mouth.

A one-stop-shopping web site, to be mirrored on decentralized URLs and
servers, was proposed to connect people outside of Seattle with the
available news.  The site would allow media activists on the ground in
Seattle to upload their particular offerings through a web based interface,
and also allow any community or media group outside of Seattle to download
whatever they would like to pass on.

The rough version of this site is available for preview at, and will also combine with efforts of the Direct
Action Media Network, as well as select Tao list-serves, to be as effective
and exhaustive a resource as possible.  The final web site will be
available from the rewire address above beginning at least a couple of
weeks prior to the WTO events, and will also have its own domain URL
connected directly with the Indy Media Center in Seattle.  Stay tuned for
these new URLs, and for mirror sites.

A suggestion was made to use e-mail and list-serves to direct media and
community groups to the interface web site.  These communiques would act as
an index of available content, in headline and short description format for
quick and easy viewing, with hyperlinks to the appropriate section of the
interface web site for quick and easy downloads.

It was also noted that as we outreach, efforts should be made to get
information from the online world into the offline world.  For example,
media and community groups outside of Seattle should be encouraged to hold
events, where news can be shared in person or by screening videos.
Particularly useful are Universities and other locations where high
bandwidth access is available.

4.  Actions to take for plugging in and
    extending impact

To get involved, it is suggested that you take the initiative to reach out
to 15 community and media groups.  Explain the process underway to build
alternative networks for information.  Ask them what they need to get their
stories out through such a network, and invite them to join in the WTO

Find out if they are taking concurrent action during the time of the WTO
summit, and offer ways for them to get that information onto the
centralized web site (currently at, but soon
available elsewhere as well).

And ask them to help get news from Seattle WTO protests into their
communities.  Offer concrete steps to take, screenings, use or create an
e-mail, phone or fax list, download and upload to the centralized web site,
and work with local media groups and encourage them to carry the feeds.

Here is a sample letter for you to use in your outreach efforts.  Amend and
edit as you see fit.

*** Sample Introductory Letter for WTO Media Feed Outreach
       (spread the word to spread the word!)

You may not know it, but the World Trade Organization (WTO) has an enormous
impact on your life.  It affects the food you eat today, and controls the
food you will eat tomorrow.  It determines what sort of air you breathe,
and the amount of money you take home each week.  But you're not alone.
The WTO is also dominating the lives of other people just like you on every
continent on the planet.  The WTO is not  accountable to any of us.  It's
only mandate is to increase profits for its true constituents, the biggest
transnational corporations in operation today, with complete disregard for
human and environmental costs.

In Seattle, beginning November 29th, these very corporations will roll out
the red carpet for leading trade and government officials, and hold a
summit on where to take the WTO in the 21st Century.  And the corporate
owned media will show us pictures of the progress being made, and explain
how everyone is a winner when the top 1% of the world's population dominate
the resources that belong to us all.

But for once, theirs won't be the only stories told.

Activists from all across the globe will be descending upon Seattle to
speak for issues that many feel are more important than quarterly returns
for the few.  In a symbolic gesture, on Tuesday, November 30th, thousands
will pour onto the highways, the avenues and the sidewalks for a street
party to end all street parties, and literally bring the economic gears of
Seattle to a grinding halt.  

This story will not be reported by the corporate media.  And that's where
you come in.

An Anti-WTO Independent Media Center has been established to allow media
activists coming to town to get these stories back out to the world.
Video, Audio, and every imaginable medium for storytelling will be
harnessed to carry news from WTO protests out to communities affected by
WTO policies everywhere.

For more information on what you can do to help spread the word, and to
tell the world your stories on how organizations like the WTO, the World
Bank, the IMF and others are impacting your life, plug into the Anti-WTO
Media Center newsfeeds:
     (mirror sites, main Indy Media Center URL to come)

Then, get together with members of your community and let others know what
is being done to resist WTO policies that affect your lives.  Use the web
site above to send out e-mail reports to your lists, or to get audio to
your local community and micro-radio stations; get your local cable access
center to downlink incoming satellite video and hold a screening; have a
potluck and show friends photos of the actions in Seattle.  There are many
ways to get involved!

For more information on how you can help, call (your name):  (your phone
Or, send e-mail to: (your e-mail address)

5.  A call for ongoing work and feedback,
   defining what folks need, and what they
   can contribute

This is a long document, so if you've made it this far, you probably have a
vested interest in responding, helping make this happen.

This network can only work if we can learn from each other.  What people
are doing is connected to what they need, and this is also connected to how
they can contribute.

To me, these are the keys for connecting centers of resistance, tying the
knots as it were.

Please respond to this post with your thoughts, your needs, your
recommendations, and most importantly, what you will do to advance the work
of building that critical hammock, the network that can help us toward self

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