Power politics In activist organizing prioritizes self interest over outcomes

Published Date 10/1/11 11:50 AM

The is a lot of self destructive behavior in left/progressive organising, an old example the Monty Python sketch

Am looking at concepts that describe this. Power politics is a state of international relations in which sovereigns protect their own interests by threatening one another with militaryeconomic, or political aggression. 

Power politics is essentially a way of understanding the world of international relations: nations compete for the world’s resources and it is to a nation’s advantage to be manifestly able to harm others. It prioritizes national self-interest over the interest of other nations or the international community.

Techniques of power politics include, but are not limited to, conspicuous nuclear development, pre-emptive strikeblackmail, the massing of military units on a border, the imposition of tariffs or economic sanctionsbait and bleed and bloodletting, hard and soft balancingbuck passingcovert operationsshock and awe and asymmetric warfare.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_politics

Can people think of examples of how this manifests in smaller world of activist organising?

Trust and control and the role of gatekeepers in blocking

Published Date 9/30/11 10:43 AM

Everyone understands the role of “gatekeepers” in traditional media. I want to look at how there are very similar issues with radical and progressive media. Most blocking and authoritarianism in activist organising is not conscious, rather its roots lie in psychological traits rather than ideological thinking. Everyone might be a professed horizontalist, but some are clearly not acting in the accordance with the way they think/speak.

An example of this is when the are two clear points of view, both valid and valuable, in a group. Typically, the horizontalist view is blocked procedurally until there is no time left in the process. Then the more vertical view is pushed through at the last moment to “save the process”. The outcome is very bad feeling between the groups/indiviuals and the more (dysfunctional) authoritarian view is implemented. This is problematic as it gives a clear signal to everyone involved that progressive ways of working cannot work, which feedbacks to the next process and left/progressive project stagnates. 

In general, building radical media needs to have no gatekeepers to the overall structure (just like that hugely successful progressive, horizontalist project, the internet). We need ideas of how we can work our way out of this progressive cul-de-sac and we need them soon. It seems to me that progressive organising is based on trust, and authoritarian organising is based on a need for control (and the distrust that this breeds). So does the answer lie in leaving enough time for trust-building in progressive organising as a core part of the process?

Trust and control are real life issues in mainstream and radical media DRAFT

A river that needs crossing political and tech blogs – On the political side, there is arrogance and ignorance, on the geek side there is naivety and over- complexity

My videos are on these two youtube channels visionontv 3,832,876 views and undercurrents 22,689,976 views

Proposal for making the interactive site live

Published Date 9/28/11 10:06 AM

Richard’s Proposal for making the interactive site live

I’d like to thank everyone for their comments and suggestions on the site thus far, which we have either implemented or explained why not. I want to point up here a potential very serious problem with the process for the site going live. I’m sure that everyone is acting in the best will, so my fears over this will not be justified.

For this site to have any chance of success it needs to go live asap, now that there are only 4 weeks left until the RMC. (The original date for completion was September 1st, but there were delays over consensus to go ahead at all). In my considered and very strongly-held opinion, if it were to drag on, say, to Thursday of next week, the opportunity would be largely lost, and all our work wasted (work which has for instance kept me awake all of tonight). So I’m trying to predict obstacles to the site going live, and gently remove them.

*** has asked for an umpire of the process, and no one has volunteered. Is an umpire really necessary? What we need, surely, is a really simple and rapid process. *** asked for all the texts to be in for review. This will simply never be the case for a site such as this, as the expansion of the site will go on after the conference has finished. When I get the chance (I’m going to be on a plane for 12 hours) I will fill in what has been called “conference guidelines”, which is actually a necessary short statement on how off-topic posts will be deleted etc, trolls banned etc with a link to the static site mission statement.

I propose the following as a process: as the technical check is done and the site’s stability has been approved, I would propose the site goes live, as long as: 1. Unfinished pages are clearly labelled “under construction”, as I have begun to do. 2. There is no text on the site which is either misleading or nonsense.

The background to this proposal is my earlier opinion stated on the wiki that the risks to the RMC from this site have been greatly exaggerated, and its value seriously underestimated. ******** described this statement as the crux. I hope it is now clear from the version of the site online that the site presents minimal risks to the RMC’s reputation.

If the above proposal is not accepted, I think we have a very serious risk of the consequent delays destroying this project utterly, which I personally and professionally would be gutted by, and left wondering how on earth this happened. It really does hang in the balance right now.

After going live we would need two things: 1) the emails of all the speakers to invite them to post on the pages of their sessions. This should happen once the template for the workshop pages is completed and run by one member of the organising group who is neither of us and who has the time to do it. ****** and Hamish met yesterday to sort out this template. 2) The ticket holders’ details so that they can be signed up to the site and emailed with invitation to participate. This should only be done once the text of that email gas been reviewed, with its clear option for people to unsubscribe, for those who do not wish to partjcipate and for those activists who do not wish to be on the net at all. Once again, if an “opt in” rather than “Opt out” proposal is made, this is the equivalent of saying the site should not go ahead, because it would be completely stymied. I suggest that we pass this email text by at least one of the members from Peace News members of the organising group, who best understand activists’ concerns.

Meanwhile we look forward today to the rest of *** and all of ******* feedback, which we will again rapidly implement or explain why not / suggest an alternative. And also feedback from anyone else who has the time.

Very best wishes to all.


The Proposal an interactive website which genuinely builds radical media

Published Date 9/28/11 9:28 AM

Hi Everyone

I’m writing to reflect a bit on the process we currently have for making a website appropriate for the RMC, an interactive website which genuinely builds radical media. This proposal also reflects, to be honest, my great anxiety about it. My position comes from the fact I really care that this conference produces concrete and measurable results in building radical media. My passionate position for proposing an interactive website comes from the following:

1) I have been to an awful lot of conferences where interaction between participants relies on the happenstance of meeting someone in the corridor and exchanging a business card. The first problem with this is the individualistic and random nature of it, which is surely inadequate for those of us that believe in collective ways of working. The second is that it favours existing power structures, where one person’s contribution automatically counts for more than another’s because of their pre-existing status. Thirdly, it doesn’t achieve measurable outcomes.

2) It would be absolutely futile to set up a conference on that basis, where subscribers were unable to organize themselves before, during and after the conference, in a horizontal way. Modern media conferences do not organize themselves in that way. See this important conference in New York: http://contactcon.com/

3) That therefore the current site http://radicalmediaconference.org was to be a pro-tem site which would allow time for the development of a proper interactive site.

4) We have worked very hard to produce an exemplar of a such an interactive site, which is here:http://live.rebelliousmediaconference.org/

This website replicates the functionality and look & feel of the current wordpress site, and adds interactivity

This interactivity is grouped into three simple categories:

1. Ask a Question (Give an Answer / Join a Discussion)

This is for participants to ask questions and give answers to EACH OTHER, not to “organizers” of the conference! The text accompanying this page will make this very obvious (it doesn’t yet!). This uses the standard web community called a forum.

Sample question:

“Is anyone willing to subtitle videos? I know French and Portuguese.

Response: I speak Arabic, and have some time to do that, yes.

Response: OK I have set up a wiki page for people to leave their details (linked), and booked a time and space for us to talk about it at the conference (linked).”

2. Get Organized

This uses wiki pages for people to introduce themselves to each other, to organize meetups at the conference, to book an open space, and to work on radical media projects.

3. Radical Media Projects

Links to all radical media projects which sign up. This info is then an automatically-updating resource, easily embeddable on radical media projects’ websites.

There will be comprehensive help files for people to be able to organize this themselves.

Technical aspects

There are a number of things that need to be sorted out before launch – see here: http://visionon.tv/web/rebelliousmediaconference/wiki/-/wiki/Main/Website These changes are important, and all of them will be achieved before a deadline of 27th August. Please read the link above, and tell us what else should be improved.

5) The timetable for the development of this site has long been established: it would be discussed at the meeting on 17th August with a view to full implementation on 1st September. We remain absolutely committed to the completion of that schedule, which we see as both necessary and practical. The demonstration of this mock-up is to allow discussion and feedback before the 17th August meeting. Subject to its acceptance, the site will be visible as fully functioning by 27th August, ready for review before going live on 1st September.

After going live, the forums will need moderating, the wikis will need a “fairy”, and participants will need help and guidance. Richard, Hamish and Marc Barto are committed to this work. I propose that administrators of the site should be all members of the organising group plus visionOntv’s Marc Barto, so that he can moderate and offer help, a role he already carries out for visionOntv. Other administrators should only be proposed and consensed. Content on the front page should be drafted, emailed out then posted after “a period of time” for amendments. Maybe we should have “super-admins” of the site – I would propose Mil and Gabriel – who can post immediately to the frontpage, for urgent announcements. Feedback welcome.

6) Budget


There is £200 left out of the original £500 of the RMC website budget. This would be spent on design / css work. Then the matching £200 funding from visionOntv pays for the server costs for 3 months, over the busiest part of the conference, when it is needed. Traffic will carry on beyond that, but not at critical levels, so this will be enough.

7) There is a debate between substitution of the current site against merely adding interactivity to it. I would like to say that, in my opinion, the development of the current site was useful, in that it looked nice, and we only had to copy its content and its functionality. There is no sense in which this work is wasted. The vital point is this: if the current site remains as the portal to information on the RMC, it will be extremely prejudicial to the essential new functionality. If we did this we would lose a massive amount of interactive functionality (comments on blog posts going elsewhere, activity streams not functioning, division of the google juice = less visibility of the conference on the web). To achieve our goal we simply must have a switch-over to the new site on September 1st. I am very interested to hear any comments, and any counter-proposals, and the reasons for them.

Best wishes

Richard Hering, Hamish Campbell