ARTICLE>THE INDYMEDIA REVOLUTION
A history of the globalocal media network in three movements by Ana Nogueria
Movement I: Prelude (from Chiapas)
Ironically, the first person to fully understand how new technology, in particular the Internet, would fuel the next generation of political activism was David Rondfelt, the most influential mind behind the right wing military think tank, RAND. As early as 1993, in an article titled "Cyberwar is Coming", he warned the military to prepare for the coming "netwar" with enemies that included activists fighting for "human rights, peace, environmental, consummer, labor, immigration, racial and gender-based issues."
"First, the information revolution is favoring and strengthening network forms of organization, while simultaneously making life difficult for old hierarchical forms. The rise of networks-especially "all-channel" networks, in which every node is connected to every other node-means that power is migrating to non-state actors, who are able to organize into sprawling multi-organizational networks more readily than traditional, hierarchical state actors can.... Second as the information revolution deepens, conflicts increasingly depend on information and communications matters. Conflicts will revolve less around the use of raw power than of "soft power"-that is, media oriented measures that aim to attract rather than coerce.... This may well turn out to be the next great frontier for ideological conflict, and netwar may be a prime characteristic."
In 1994, the netwar began. The indigenous people cried "enough is enough" to the North American Free Trade Agreement (or NAFTA) and to the continuation of 500 years of imperialism that has systematically stripped them of their cultural heritage, pride, land, and language. The Zapatista rebels took to the hills of Chiapas, Mexico and demanded a halt to the spread of this exploitation. Using the Internet as its most potent weapon, the Zapatistas sparked a movement that has spread across the globe at a speed unparalleled in recent memory.
"In the seven years since," writes author Naomi Klein, "the Zapatistas have come to represent two forces at once: first, rebels struggling against grinding poverty and humiliation in the mountains of Chiapas and, on top of this, theorists of a new movement, another way to think about power, resistance and globalization. This theory-Zapatismo-not only turns classic guerilla tactics inside out, but much of leftwing politics on its head."
In 1996, the Zapatistas held their first international "encuentro"-gathering-For Humanity and Against Neoliberalism. They were joined by thousands of people from all over the world in an effort to strategize for a war against the forces of globalization. As people returned to their respective corners of the planet, the ideas sparked at that encuentro began to take shape. More conferences were held which gave birth to projects such as Direct Action Media Network and TAO Communications. But it wasn't until the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle that an independent media network began to enter the public discourse, spreading like a virus that reverses the effects of a corporate culture once immune to free expression and self-determination.
"In breaking down barriers, and sharing ideas with friends and peers, we are creating a new front in the cultural war to decommodify information and our lives," says Shane Korytko, a Vancouver Independent Media Center volunteer. "I see this as an online front, working with jounalism and activism at its core, long-awaited by some, a beautiful surprise to others, the concept of a free and open exchange of ideas is now being built in earnest, thanks to a modestly concieved but paradigm-shattering open community called Indymedia."