Radical Realities, LA-IMC Members Interviewed
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M: John, you once said, "I
think opinion and gossip are as real as anythingelse. The IMC
is a relatively small agent of change in the short term butit
matters more in the long term." When I think about it,
that statement is aware of the insularity of a moment which
is also a part of to a long-term project. TheIMC as a fixed
singular site, it is only hooked into a few people. Yet you
areassuming a larger historical role. Where does this idea come
J: Ohh, ahhh, I said
that? That sound really good!Everything starts with a small
thing, whether it is a social organization ora business, a club,
or even the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party relieson
small $200 donations in a big way.LAs got a lot of papers.
Im not sure how many papers its got, its in thehundreds.
The vast majority of them are small community and ethnic papers.When
I was working at the LA Times, a marketing person said
that the LATimes- despite the fact that its the
big paper in the city- has only fiftypercent of the newspaper
market. The other half is dominated by smallnewspapers, local
papers that are a quarter or for free; ethnic papers thatpeople
just pick up. The typical person in LA reads two papers. These
aresmall papers but they are very significant because they shape
peoplesworldviews. The LA Times is very worried
about this.I also get this idea from knowing that at any newspaper,
about a quarter to a third of the revenue comes from classified
ads. Classified adsaccount for a huge amount of the circulation
numbers; a lot of people pickup the newspaper strictly for classifieds.
Classifieds are strictly forperson-to-person networking. Theyre
not news. Theyre just information.We have some of that
quality as well in the IMC newswire. Its like "600
peopleshowed up for a demo." Its not news in the traditional
sense, its just information that people find very useful. Information
that is useful, that helps us find out how the public feels
about something.An other thing is those people- Chantel, John
Martinez, Otter Works- people who read and pass around news
stories sharing information with each other. Theyre kind
of like a small press too. They make a kind of community of
understanding for a certain worldview that they create. Theyre
only individuals with a list of 40 or 50 email address and a
further reach of like a thousand people total, but they have
an effect. If you read their stuff, theyre going to have
M: John, when you are working with
the website, what guides youreditorial decisions? Cayce talked
about exploration, what is it for you?
J: I dont think
that hard when Im editing. I think more in terms of the
people involved. Sometimes Ill put something up thats
just an excellent story. If I think theres an issue thats
a national story but somehow involves local people, I will put
it up because it will help them.
M: Do you configure central column
stories so that people will learn about issue?
J: Kind of. Ideally,
I think IMC readers are people who are going to do something
about issues- even if its just writing a letter to some
politician somewhere. I have this desire for the news to lead
to action, a demonstration is just a symbolic action, but activists
demonstrate to get some press- so we should give them press.
The point of the action raises some knowledge so that people
in-turn can take action again.
M: This brings up the question of
symbolic action, I wonder if our background news is symbolic
as well. Is the non-local "news" a symbolic act, a
playing at journalism? Does the IMC community know about most
of the issues already?
J: I disagree with that. Theres a lot of stuff
written in the mainstream media, but it is never brought together
in one place, tailored for the people of Los Angeles to act
on. You can find things about the Three Strikes Law in the NY
Times or the LA Times that might be well written.
But youd have to be reading the LA Times a lot
to get the full picture- and thats just not reality.
C: There are the Michael
Novicks of the world who are at all the demos. They can contextualize
exactly whats going on with FACTs and relate it with what
went on the day before at the Womens March. And relate
it with whats going on with the Pacifica National Board
Meeting or with what went on with the Palestine March. But these
people are rare. Most people hone in to one area and dont
know much about other areas.
J: Stories do get reported in the mainstream news. Then
they just kind ofvanish. Mainstream news doesnt have this
hypertext kind of linking thing where you can explore the issue
in depth if you want to. The big news doesnt giveyou information
to act on. They just want to give you a product that you read.
Its like most any story you read. You enjoy it and feel
enlightened, but it usually doesnt lead you to any personal
C: The IMC can move
you to act.
J: This is important. When you start taking personal
actions, youjust dont "feel" like you are taking
control of your own reality, youactually are.
M: So then, how do you translate
your understanding about howpeople comprehend the world to your
actual IMC work?
C: I think in terms
of the large scale. When you look at corporate media, the idea
of globalization is so skewed. Look at the Thomas Friedmans
of the world who tell people that "globalization is helping
poor people and putting the internet in Zimbabwe, and why would
you people want to come along and protest that cause its really
really great. We are taking jobs to Guatemala, and there werent
jobs there before." So I think theres a lot of people
who take that in and think, "Oh yeah! Lexus and olive tree.
Yeah. We want both those things!" So, if news and readers
can be tied to the personal stories that people can understand
on an immediate personal level thats what we do.
Thats where we can come in with little personal stories.
C: Just take demonstrations
for example. Look at the DNC, which a lot of people in LA can
relate to. It was my first major experience with a big demo.
It was really frustrating for me to be there during the day
and night shooting photography- seeing what was going on with
my own eyes- then going home to see what was on the news. I
was having my friends, who werent down there, saying,
"Wow, those demonstrators are really running amok. Arent
they??!?" And then me saying to them, "Well, no. That
wasnt really my take on it. "At the FTAA demo being
in Quebec is another example. Out on the streets, seeing what
was going on, I was shooting photos through a friend for a corporate
newspaper. Having a pass to be inside the corporate journalist
place and walking in there to an enormous, double gymnasium
sized room and seeing all these journalists. And I was in there,
covered with teargas, gross beyond words. They looked at us
when we walked in like "who the fuck are you?" Because
you have to walk through a metal detector thing. And all these
journalists, sitting behind computers in this major room typing
off of little pieces of printed-paper. I mean, thats
who was covering the demo. They werent out in the
street; none of them were out in the street. And theyre
just writing what was written for them- that just blew me away!
Thats what filtered journalism is.
M: Seeing what you saw in
Quebec, what did you post to the IMC?
C: Well, I was shooting
photographs, so I posted those images to the newswire. What
I saw through my own eyes. In addition, I wrote a very non-journalistic,
personal account of what it was like to walk around- seeing
what I was seeing; walking into this big ass room, watching
all these people in control-top panty hose and shirts and ties
typing at these long desks that were all set up with T-1 lines,
and these pre-printed things that they were typing off of. Its
gonna' be filtered through me because its coming out of my own
fingers, but I tried to write what I saw. I think thats
what a lot of Indymedia people do. Were not, most of us
anyway, particularly good writers- were just writing what
J: Yeah, thats
very "web". When the World Trade Center thing happened
there were a lot of web pages that popped up, unrelated to the
IMC. A lot of web-logs, people were taking photos, writing how
they felt and what wasgoing on. All that stuff was, like, really
"it". It takes you right there. Right now with Palestine
its the same thing. Going to the chat rooms, just watch
the people. It almost always happens that an Israeli and a Palestinian
get in there and they start talking about stuff. Im just
like, "wow, this is the real thing." My first experience
with this was during the Northridge earthquake. I got in a chat
room and it was like, "Oh it just happened right now."
C: "My bookcase fell down. And
J: "O, this freeway
is blocked off. You cant reach people there.
C: IMC is like talking
to friends. Its just like how we do it in LA when an earthquake
happens, if you can get through, you call and talk to your friends
"What happened at house." Ya know. Its not a
matter of "do you believe them or not", theyre
just telling you whats going on on their side of town.
J: They have less motivation to lie
M: Its amazing that such little,
personal stories can end up creatingmeaning for a huge collection
of people. Im still trying to understand how onestory
can become a toy with which an entire community creates a meaning.
C: I think that theyre
probably isnt one consensual meaning for the entire community.
I dont think that the goal of the IMC is to create a black
and white meaning. I think we all look at the world in such
different ways, I dont think we could ever come to that.
So thats not the goal. Trying to make an awareness of
whats out there, what other people are going through,
of what is at least close to the truth, a digging away at whats
close to the truth so that people can cull together their own
meaning- as opposed to "OK, were all gonna hold hands
and have this meaning together."
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