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Three letters from Ben to
the Portland Indymedia collective


1. Would it be possibler to add a topic page for Seattle? (March 6)
2. reply to x from Ben Seattle (March 10)
3. the long-term view on building an alternative news network (March 11)

Hi folks,

I wrote to the Portland Indymedia collective about what was happening here in Seattle and asked for their assistance. They allowed my first post, which was critical of the Seattle Indymedia editors, to go through to the newswire -- but decided against allowing me to post my follow-ups.

The main reason for this is that they did not believe it was, on balance, useful to post these kinds of disagreements and criticisms to their newswire -- since to do so would make it easier for others to inflame conflict and sow discord.

I was unable to get permission from the pdximc people to make their half
of this exchange public. So I can only post excerpts of what I wrote to them.

Ben Seattle, March 16. 2006

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1. Would it be possibler to add a topic page for Seattle?
From: Ben Seattle [] 
Sent: Monday, March 06, 2006 10:13 PM
To: imc-portland
Subject: Would it be possibler to add a topic page for Seattle?

Hi folks,

The Seattle Indymedia editorial board at present appears to
consist of two people who have been allowing neo-nazi posts to
the newswire and who have refused (for ten days now, and in spite
of numerous posts and emails) to discuss this or explain why.

There are also barriers that make it difficult for others to join
the editorial board and correct the present course.

It is possible that this situation may improve -- but it is also
possible that it may not.

You guys do a reasonably good job of filtering out right-wing
insults and clueless crap.

Would Portland imc be able to add a topic page for Seattle?  I
was thinking of it as being a kind of experiment -- and also a
reminder to the seattle editorial group that if they continue on
their present, undemocratic path, that activists will eventually
find another way around their bullshit.

My recent post to Seattle Indymedia (which explains much of this)
is below.

Ben Seattle

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2. reply to x from Ben Seattle
From:    Ben Seattle 
Sent:    Friday, March 10, 2006 2:23 AM
To:      (member of pdximc)
Subject: reply to x from Ben Seattle

hi there x,

Thanks for your email.  I can appreciate that you folks 
must be quite busy and questions like this must be 
discussed from many angles and that it takes time 
simply to email me and sum up the situation for me.

You guys are activists.  Your site serves the movement. 
The decisions that you make (both technical and political) 
are made with consideration concerning what best serves 
the movement.  That is why, I would imagine, the Portland 
site is becoming one of the most popular indymedia sites 
in the country.

You guys appear to be going about this in the right way. 
You are discussing it collectively and making an effort 
to base your actions on solid principles -- which can 
only be discovered as you go.

We are all learning.

The best thing, from my point of view, is that the 
Portland Indymedia group has decided that the questions 
which have come up are deserving of careful thought and 
discussion.  Quite often, in the press of events, the 
more important questions fail to attract attention and 
are shunted aside.

It is good that someone is going to write to the Seattle 
editorial group.  I believe it consists, at present, of 
two people, Y and Z, although I could be mistaken.  
Unfortunately, I have been unable to get a response from 
either of them as to why they have taken the action 
which they have, although, of course, I can guess.

Z appears to be a decent enough fellow.  When I met him 
he appeared to want to do the right thing although he 
did not appear to be very assertive.  If you folks hear 
back from Seattle it may be Y who replies.  I will leave 
you folks to form your own conclusions concerning her
character, integrity and motivations.

We live in a class society.

I wish that Seattle had a group of people like you folks 
to run the indymedia here.  I am not sure if the issue is 
simply that the movement in Portland, for whatever reason, 
is a bit deeper and there are more serious activists in 
Portland.  Or, if for some other reason, fewer activists
here have a very clear understanding of the kinds of 
activity that are most necessary and useful.

If, as you folks discuss this, you have any questions you 
would like to ask -- I am here.  Building a movement that 
can confront the decisive issues of our time requires that 
serious activists recognize one another.  I met some of 
you guys at a demo here in Seattle.  I like your attitude 
and I like your site.

I will add one more comment and then I will let you get 
back to your other work.

The present situation with the Indymedia network is going 
to change.  Everything about it is going to be torn apart 
and reassembled in various ways in the coming storm.  
Everything, everyone and every principle is going to be 
tested and tested again.

All the best,
Ben Seattle

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3. the long-term view on building an alternative news network
From:    Ben Seattle
Sent:    Saturday, March 11, 2006 3:50 PM
To:      (member of pdximc)
Subject: the long-term view on building an alternative news network
         with the ability to challenge the dominance of corporate news

    the long-term view

    Building an alternative news network with the ability
    to challenge the dominance of corporate news will 
    require political transparency in resolving conflicts

Hi x,

Thank you for your reply and the time that you and the other
pdximc activists have spent on this matter.


I appreciate that the problems that you describe are real.  I
understand how, from your point of view, the most practical
solution is to limit the use of your newswire to criticize other

I accept that this is the decision your group has made.


I also would like to encourage you, and others in your
collective, to give some thought to a more long-term perspective
on the nature of the problem and the nature of the solution.

We live in a class-divided society in which all institutions are
subject to corruption of various kinds.  Indymedia attracts
militant and independent movement activists -- but it also
attracts careerists, power-brokers and bureaucrats who see it as
a source of favors to be exchanged or as a stepping stone to
political office.  For indymedia (or for any organization which
aspires to serve the movement) to fulfill its mission -- there
will be a need for political transparency -- so that problems and
disagreements can be public and easily accessible to activists.

And that gets to the core of this knot: if the problems are in
the open where activists can know about them and organize
solutions -- then these problems are also known to those will
work energetically to undermine our collective effort and to get
us to fight one another.

It is the nature of political conflict and struggle that the
important issues will always be controversial -- will always
engender risk of conflict that becomes unproductive.  But if
these conflicts remain hidden then the majority of activists (ie:
the majority of the energy of any real solution) will be kept in
the dark.

Is this really what we want?

In the long term -- there must be some kind of open, public forum
where problems can be discussed and where activists can put
together solutions.  The problem of spam (either commercial spam
or political spam of various kinds) can be solved in democratic

I have done some work (see the links below) on how we can use a
system of democratic filters (ie: that readers could create and
choose) to filter out spam and hostile attacks and improve the
focus and signal-to-noise ratio of important discussion.

But there is also a need consider this from a political
perspective.  Why is it that conflict can be so easily inflamed
by those who wish us harm (or even by those who are ignorant and

Ultimately the political trends and individuals who are genuinely
interested in building a movement with the ability to challenge
the current system of corporate rule will learn to recognize one
another and to listen to one another (even if they do not always
agree).  Eventually an open community of such people will be
created.  And one of the bedrock principles of this community
will be political transparency: problems and disagreements will
be on the table in the light of the sun -- in full view of friend
and foe alike.

Keeping our "dirty laundry" hidden or out of view may seem like
an attractive short-term solution.  But sooner or later we must
ask ourselves how the laundry will be cleaned.  Private
negotiation and private confrontation may be able to solve many
problems -- but some problems are fundamental and cannot be
solved in secret -- cannot be solved until large numbers of
activists understand what is going one and recognize that
something needs to be changed.

I believe a change is needed in how Seattle indymedia is run.  In
the past, when the editorial committee was larger and more open,
activists could join it in order to change it.  Today this route
appears to have been effectively closed off along with the

So how can seaimc be "redeemed" when it appears to be under the
entrenched control of a single individual who has made clear that
she does not consider there to be any need to be responsive or
accountable to progressive readers?

What are the next steps forward?

I don't know what the next steps forward are.  I do believe,
however, that solutions will be found that involve the energy of
activists who want to see projects that are run in the spirit of
genuine democracy.  If this knot cannot be unraveled then, sooner
or later, it will be cut.

I understand that there is nothing more that pdximc can do to
assist the situation in Seattle at this time.  Your decision to
allow article #335005 onto your newswire has been helpful.
Activists here will find a way forward with time and

In the long run it is the working class and the oppressed who
will win the "information war".  We have the truth on our side
and our views correspond to the material interests of the
majority of society.  We will overcome barriers of all kinds and
build a politically conscious mass movement.

Ben Seattle

Democratic filters (where readers can create, 
share, select and combine filters) are the
solution to newswire spam on Indymedia