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News :: Gender : Media : Organizing
Boston IMC Crumbles as Desperation for Action Takes Hold
19 Nov 2004
Modified: 05:53:31 PM
Recently I became a member of Boston Independent Media, the second Indymedia center established in the United States, and left it a mere two months later after being faced with internal strife, chauvinism, and a deep sense of frustration. This is what I learned.
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I first heard of Boston Indymedia at the Boston Social Forum (BSF) and my excitement could not be contained. I was an Amnesty International activist for three years, begun a career as a freelance writer in early January of this year, and the thought of being able to combine activism with my writing skills was inspiring.

My first impression of Boston Indymedia was not very positive, particularly for its lack of diversity in gender and race, but with what I though was a great potential for growth. I came to realize too soon that such was not the case.

Members of Boston Indymedia have surrendered to a couple of people who turn healthy disagreements into a diatribe of veiled insults and the power of the pigheaded, not to be confused with the steadfast. They have done so because they are confusing intimidation and self-centeredness with leadership and initiative. They have done so because they hope the end product will be worth it, even if the internal guiding principles fail.

Unfortunately, by doing so, they are betraying the very basic tenets of a collective, as stated in their mission, “We are a community-based organization using media to facilitate political and cultural self-representation.” A few white males cannot, however honorable their intentions might be, embody the voices of a diverse society.

Many grassroots organizations struggle with the balancing act between action and organizing in their struggle for power. It is not easy. Organizing takes communal effort and leadership, a drive that is characteristic of some people to be able to: inspire, listen, empower others to become leaders themselves, bring the best in all of us and therefore, in the community.

Action is much easier. One person can produce amazing amounts of work and do so with little help. However, the basic mission of Independent Media is to give a voice to the voiceless by “addressing issues that profit-driven media often neglect and hopes to empower people to become the media by providing democratic access to available technologies and information.” Empowering people in a diverse world means, seeking diversity.

One person taking action alone threatens the community to shift towards despotism. Take for example Fidel Castro, who unable to bring his people together created a dictatorship and a repressive society, in the name of social revolution. Cuba is symbolic for standing against imperialism, but it is a dictatorship nevertheless.

Che Guevara understood this conundrum better when in Bolivia he realized he would not be able to create a revolutionary uprising without the participation of the indigenous people. And Subcomandante Marcos accomplished the impossible by adapting to a communal society and striping himself of the leadership role, becoming merely a humble voice for the oppressed and an inspiration to us all.

Yet the greatest danger of one or a few people taking action is the loss of continuity, a sense of disorientation for the next generation. How does a struggling society recover when someone like Martin Luther King is assassinated? I myself think the Buddha to be the greatest example of leadership when he said that each of us has a Buddha within and that the greatest conquest is the conquest of the self.

My own failure to not be able to stand up to those at Boston Indymedia who left me powerless, is depressing. In the past two months, at least two active female members at Boston Indymedia resolved to leave, one of them after two years of volunteer work. “I felt that it was more productive to the group to remove myself from the Collective rather than face more aggressive personality disputes,” she said.

A smaller, less diverse Boston Indymedia cannot dare to say that it represents us all.

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Re: Boston IMC Crumbles as Desperation for Action Takes Hold
19 Nov 2004
The heart of Sofia's allegations aside -- though most certainly not ignored in the slightest as Boston IMC takes a long hard look at itself now to address and examine this most serious problem -- I would simply like to address her sweeping generalizations. As a long standing, active volunteer within Boston IMC, *I* have not surrendered to anyone for any reason. And when Sofia uses "they" in her statement, she should be reminded such a context is all inclusive, including me, and again while I am most concerned about the subject of her article I whole-heartedly disagree that all of our active volunteers have given in to these couple of controlling volunteers, if that even is the case.

I quote from a recent post I made to the Boston Discuss email list:

"I would like to remind people reading this list that the discussion over the past couple weeks -- although it may very well have roots in a very very very very serious underlining issue of sexism that we will not ignore -- it began as a series of disagreements between two individuals that took place on a public list. Whether it should have happened on a public list or not, I would like to come out and say that this unfortunate matter is NOT the whole of Boston IMC.

"This conflict is one thing we're dealing with in a range of new projects and endeavors and issues. We're working on a brand new website that will improve user accounts and give more community feeling to people visiting. We're starting a web radio group to work on continuing the streaming radio we had during the DNC and it's really coming along. The print group is still actively pursuing fundraising parties and getting the newspaper going. There's a lot of cool shit going down and with that in mind I would invite people to come to our monthly meeting, 7pm, first Sunday of the month at the Lucy Parson's Center. I'll say that if you want to get seriously involved in Boston IMC it takes a lot of personal desire and independence, an ability to pursue goals for yourself while working with a team of people. But we never, ever, ever, ever turn people away. We're a small group of a handful of core people. Trust me, we could use your help.

"I can totally dig if people have a bad taste in their mouth having followed what's been going down on the list as of recent. I have it, too. But please know that it's not all we're about, it's not all we're doing, and we hope you can help us fix these problems and better our local IMC by getting involved past reading the lists. Whether we see you at the meeting or not though, always many thanks for the public support. Take care and we'll catch ya in the streets."

Again I admit that Boston IMC is not without serious fault, and moreover I thank Sofia for unabashedly bringing these concerns to the forefront of our group. Something must be done to promote a diversity of volunteers, as it always should be in any collective of any purpose. I can only hope that those reading this article will be moved to help us do so not by taking these remarks at face value and dismissing our organization as a lost cause, but by coming to our meeting, joining our mailing list, banding together as a community and addressing this problem by getting involved with independent media.
Re: Boston IMC Crumbles as Desperation for Action Takes Hold
19 Nov 2004
Just visiting, but I would ask my Boston friends to think seriously about whether this is the kind of discussion that they should be having on an open newswire.

I would say hash this out in your collective meeting.

My reasons for concern should be obvious.
Boston IMC should close up shop.
19 Nov 2004
I do not write this jokingly. Boston is one of the most politically active cities in the United State and yet it has the most irresponsible, poorly run and least trusted IMC on the East Coast. As a local activist I know first hand that many Bostonians things something is "very fucked up" with Boston IMC.

We've seen Boston IMC pander to rightwing harassers, allow its newswire to be used to harass activitists, their families, the businesses of their family, to host defamatory doctored images and as a communications channel between rightwing bigots and the Boston police.

Boston IMC is not worth calling an IMC. All of the other IMC's in New England, now matter how small, are a fuck of a lot better than Boston IMC.

I'd also like to add that fuckhead ROBERT has been at the wheel when much of this abused happened, so personally, Robert, if I ever meet you face to face, you're going to wish you were never born.
"West Coast IMCer", are you NESSIE?
19 Nov 2004
And if you are, are there any "under the surface" connections between you and the assholes at Boston IMC?
Re: Boston IMC Crumbles as Desperation for Action Takes Hold
19 Nov 2004
Riiiiiiight. Thanks, chief. Meet you at the flagpole by the playground after school. My diplomatic message four posts up really reflects how much I've at the head of these problems.

But seriously, as stupid as Local's threats are, I'm not going to disagree. I'm not. I honor those remarks, I can see where people who think like that might be coming from. I really can. But to those who feel like Boston IMC is worthless in our community I remind you that our organization is open, our meetings are open, are mailing lists are open... through any of these means you're more than welcome to just unload on us if you want, granted there's a modicum of constructive criticism involved.

West Coast IMCer: You're right, this is bad form to vent personal matters on a public newswire. I'd much rather do this 'in-house' at meeting so to speak, but the fact is this conversation was moved to the public lists and the newswire by Sofia. At this point it is public, so instead of looking away or underplaying her very valid concerns I would wish to make the best of this opportunity, inviting the public to help us out. Help us find way to combat not just this issue but to do so in a way that it never comes up again. Of course, if lots of people just come to meetings, I believe the diversity of activists who care about independent media in this city alone, well, the problem is halfway solved.
Why don't you post your full name, Robert.
19 Nov 2004
I'd like to have a lawyer speak with you.
Come on, your full name ROBERT!
19 Nov 2004
You don't have any problem with rightwing online terrorists publishing altered resumes of activists on the newswire, along with their names. Why shouldn't you mind being held accountable for not deleting obvious harassment? I tell you Robert, you should not only be removed from the entire IMC network, you should be held in a public stockade for ridicule.
Re: Boston IMC Crumbles as Desperation for Action Takes Hold
19 Nov 2004
ive never seen anything good come out of Boston IMC. Its only useful for the calendar. I think something new has to happen with this group
Re: Boston IMC Crumbles as Desperation for Action Takes Hold
19 Nov 2004
What a bunch of petty crybabies!!

Quit you whining, get off your ass and help fix the IMC.

The IMC could be very influential and effective in helping provide an independant source for news and info. But this kind of in-fighting in a public forum is immature and destructive.

Stop it!
Boston needs a new IMC.
19 Nov 2004
You flush shit, you don't repair it.

I propose using Worcester's IMC until some sane people put up a new IMC for Boston.

Why don't I do it myself? I've got my own websites with my own projects and I'm up to my neck in work. Does that mean I have no right to complain? No, it doesn't. Boston IMC has hurt the activist community in the Boston area repeatedly. I'm one of their victims.

Now, I suggest that someone who REALLY is an anarchist or a socialist put up a real IMC. I also suggest that anyone who cannot handle power without it going to their head not become part of such a project.

Boston IMC has sucked for several years.
Re: Boston IMC Crumbles as Desperation for Action Takes Hold
19 Nov 2004
The cheesy photoshop logo ads the perfect touch.
A Solution!
19 Nov 2004
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/newboston_movement
Sign up if you are interested in creating a serious movement. This group was started because the current voice of dissent in Boston is too unorganized, and is embarassing to those who want to take part. Boston is full of great minds and it is time that we organized ourselves into a group that is respected and spreads the truth. We are here to show the world that we are not sitting back and letting our country go to hell and bringing everyone else with it. The goal of this email group is to provide a place for serious discussion about organizing a new Boston anti-war/anti-capitalist movement. We were once the birthplace of Democracy and it is our responsibility to make the voice of the people heard again.

Subscribe here: newboston_movement-subscribe (at) yahoogroups.com

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/newboston_movement
Hooray! Truth IS A Step To Change!
20 Nov 2004
I too, agree with the writer. Change is need at Boston's IMC. Viewpoints ARE important. When Boston's IMC starts editing or hiding views? Time to change its staff.
Freedom of Speech is the only right we have left. Right? Boston's IMC?
Re: Boston IMC Crumbles as Desperation for Action Takes Hold
20 Nov 2004
Yay! Divisions! That's what I like to see people. Keep them coming. We can't have anything succeeding in, you know, waking up the people or anything. No sir! And don't believe thenm when they say you can just join up and create change in indymedia. It's a big lie, no need to check it out! I was assigned to break up things in Boston but I see citizens have taken it upon themselves to do the FBI's dirty work. Let's have a few more new groups on here, how bout a second IMC like in SF, boy that was a fun job. Nice town, San Fran.

By the way- its true! Boston IMC really is sexist! and racist too! And you name it! Looking for a Nazi, look no further! You can tell just by reading some of these articles they've chosen to publish. Yep, yep, yep.
Re: Boston IMC Crumbles as Desperation for Action Takes Hold
20 Nov 2004
Boston IMC is better than many. Too many, in fact, have degenerated into what appears to be a bunch of stoned high school boys fantasizing about conspiracy theories, violent protests, anti-Semitism, and now ridiculous secession fantasies.
Dump Boston IMC!
20 Nov 2004
There is nothing to fix. Why bail out a bunch of cyberharassers and idiots?

Create a new IMC completely disconnected from the old IMC. In fact, ban all current IMC members from joining.

COINTELPRO? Boston IMC has done as much damage as COINTELPRO could, figure that out.
Re: Boston IMC Crumbles as Desperation for Action Takes Hold
20 Nov 2004
You said that you first heard of Boston Indymedia at the Boston Social Forum and that your first Indymedia experience was not very positive. Apologies, because my girlfriend and I were the ones tabling and flyering for Boston IMC for a good portion of the event. I didn't realize a teenage couple could be so unwelcoming.
That was an ageist remark, Eric.
20 Nov 2004
"I didn't realize a teenage couple could be so unwelcoming."

So, what is that supposed to mean? Only older couples are unwelcoming?

Nothing against you Eric, but Boston IMC is full of immaturity.
Re: Boston IMC Crumbles as Desperation for Action Takes Hold
20 Nov 2004
Sofia--

Who do you mean when you say "a couple of people"?

"Members of Boston Indymedia have surrendered to a couple of people who turn healthy disagreements into a diatribe of veiled insults and the power of the pigheaded, not to be confused with the steadfast."
Re: Boston IMC Crumbles as Desperation for Action Takes Hold
21 Nov 2004
Where to start . . . I agree with West Coast IMCer that these issues are best dealt with internally, and we still intend to, even though Sofia has left the group. But since a public matter has been made of it . . .

Speaking only from my own perspective: Sofia certainly did have very real difficulties working with one long-time member of the IMC. Another woman who was once part of the Boston IMC collective certainly did voice similar complaints (though unfortunately not till Sofia raised them). From my perspective, those of us in the Boston IMC took these issues very seriously. We did not try to run away from the problem, as I have seen another group I was once a part of do. We did not simply back up the long-time member against Sofia. Instead, we tried to set up a meeting between them with a couple of mediators to see if this conflict could not be resolved. All of us (including the person Sofia was in conflict with) certainly are open to the idea that we have problems with gender dynamics and--even though Sofia has left--are actively talking about how to address these issues. I don't think this is anything to be ashamed of--we live in a society that is still deeply sexist, racist, homophobic, etc., into which we have all been socialized, and it would be a miracle if these issues did not affect us in some way. Most of the groups I have been involved in had to face up to these issues at some point. Some failed to do so, which is where the problem comes in--not in having these issues, but in refusing to acknowledge and deal with them. I feel like we are in the process of acknowledging them and dealing with them. It seems to me that Sofia, while raising important issues that definitely needed to be addressed, simply did not have the patience to see this process out. She is making broad judgments about the group when she has only been to a handful of meetings and barely knows most of us. This is a bit frustrating for those of us who were committed to trying work this thing out, even though we didn't know her very well. If she feels like she can't work with the Boston IMC, fine, but I wish she would give us the chance to deal with these issues before judging us so harshly.

I don't think raising issues of internal sexism, racism, etc. are just a matter of COINTELPRO tactics. These are real issues that all groups need to deal with. The problem when it becomes a matter of personal accusations and guilt-tripping instead of constructively dealing with what is a systemic, not an individual, problem.

As for some of the other complaints voiced about the Boston IMC in response to this post--I would like to reiteratre Rob's invitation to come to a Boston IMC general meeting if you have specific issues you'd like to raise. We are open to constructive criticism. And, while I think we generally do a good job of editing the newswire, I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge that occasionally we make mistakes--we're only human. It seems like some of you are intent on making a mountain out of a molehill though.

As for Kris, who seems to want us not to edit the newswire at all, as we've explained to you before, through the process of maintaining the site over the years, we've found ourt editorial policies to be necessary to maintain this site as a usable forum. Most IMCs in the US have similar editorial policies to ours, which I would think would indicate that our thinking on this matter is not completely out there.

As for the complaint that we are insufficiently radical--well, the IMC points of unity require that local IMCs follow what are more or less anarchist organizational principles, but they do not require local IMCs to follow any party line. My impression from several years editing this site is that the bulk of our users are about evenly split between anarchists and liberals, with some Marxist-Leninists, democratic socialists, and the occasional conservative thrown in for good measure. For us to only cater to the anarchists would shut out a good portion of that readership. Moreover, though I am an anarchist myself, I am not the sort of radical who simply dismisses liberals--I think they can make interesting points some times and I've learned from them. We want to encourage dialogue here, not tow some sectarian line and dismiss people simply because they aren't radical enough.
Re: Boston IMC Crumbles as Desperation for Action Takes Hold
23 Nov 2004
Wait a minute. There really is a Sofia? Ok, then what is the dispute here? She said IMC was a sausagefest of white boys. Pete himself said the very same thing in the IMC meeting I audited. What exactly is the nature of the disagreement?