In the mid-nineties, the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation), a revolutionary indigenous people’s movement based in Chiapas, Mexico, began calling for an international network of independent media makers to combat the narrative being put forth by the major corporate media outlets. Specifically, the Zapatistas saw this as a tool to help win the fight against neoliberal globalization policies (what Subcomandante Marcos terms the Fourth World War) and to promote international solidarity. By far the most well known of the responses to this call are the Indymedia Centers (IMCs), a network of bloggers, journalists, radio stations, newsletters, video producers, etc. from cities all over the world.
The first IMC began in Seattle with the 1999 WTO protests, and quickly spread all over the US and the world. There is no doubt that the various IMCs operate outside of the corporate media structure, and that they take a political view very similar (at least on the surface) to the one expressed by Subcomandante Marcos in his message. However, there are serious questions about the power, relevance and usefulness of the IMCs to international movement building and the struggle against neoliberalism.
I plan on critically examining the ways in which the IMCs are using new media platforms like blogging, podcasts, and internet video distribution to try and build an alternative media infrastructure and evaluating the limits of the work that they’re doing. The IMC doesn’t make it’s connection to the EZLN explicit in its mission statement or other background materials, but I think it will still be useful to do this evaluation with respect to the vision laid out by Marcos in his message above. I’ll conduct this investigation by following the international center’s online presence as well as a number of local sites, and also through interviews with center leadership and radical organizers interested in media but not necessarily involved with the IMCs, like members of the Media Mobilizing Project in Philadelphia and The Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary in New York.