Guerrilla Media Warfare.

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

I want to start off by stating something obvious.  The corporate media has a massive amount of power when it comes to information access.  Until the internet became popular, we had no effective alternative form of mass communication and information distribution.  But with widespread access to the internet (or at least widespread enough) came new tools for spreading information.  One of those tools is the blog, which has become one of the most popular methods of sharing information.

Unfortunately, the blog is a “pull” medium.  By that I mean the only people who read a blog are those who’ve heard about it elsewhere.  And even if you have heard about it, you have to go searching it out, which can be a chore for the less technically savvy.  The vast majority of blogs are small fish in an interstellar ocean.  Even the big blogs are not well known.  Furthermore, what you read (or hear or watch) on blogs (and other online news sources) often requires following links to further information sources to fully comprehend what was originally posted.  This requires the reader to be willing to take even more time, and so the original article must find a way to pique the interest of the reader.  In other words, the article has to “pull” the reader in and make them want to learn more.  No easy feat.

Traditional media is a “push” medium.  You sit and watch TV or listen to the radio.  The newspaper can be delivered direct to your doorstep.  And what you get is supposed to be trustworthy.  Unbiased.  Truthful.  So you shouldn’t have to think about it.  Just let them tell you what’s going on.  They push their memes into you.  Brainwashing.  (Don’t kid yourself thinking it’s not.)  Day after day after day.  Sometimes even hour after hour, if it’s cable news.  The only way to tune it out is to turn it all off.  But then you have no info at all.

A couple recent essays discuss the problem in more depth.  EENR for Progress: Corporate Media and the Progressive Movement and Wither the Fourth Estate?  I also wrote a diary along similar lines about a year ago.  (Not as well written, and rather rambling, but I think I still made the point.)  My original intent in this essay was to discuss these issues a little further before moving to the potential solution you’re about to read, but I think this is long enough as is.  So instead, I just recommend that you follow those links and read so that you have a clearer understanding of the issues I’m addressing here.  (See!  There’s that blog “pull” I was talking about.)

We cannot get anything changed until there are enough people pushing for it.  We are not enough.  We are too few with too little power compared to the entrenched interests.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We can get our message out to the public.  We have the technology.  (We can be better, faster, stronger.  Woops!  Wrong show.)  What we need are the people willing to make it happen.  Our goal should be to gather the public; rally them to our cause.

I mentioned this idea in a comment a week ago, but since it came at the tail end of an essay and toward the end of the day, it probably didn’t get a lot of views.  Despite that, it garnered a few ponies from people I respect here, so I decided to write this essay and expand upon the idea to see if there’s any real interest or if all you want to do is pat me on the head.  Don’t take what I’ve written as the definitive word on how it should be.  Rather, this is where I think it needs to start.

I’m willing to work on it.  Hell, I’m willing to lead the project if that’s what’s needed.  But I can’t do it all myself.  If this is going to work, I need help.  That means if you’re serious about getting our voices heard, it’s time to step up to the plate.  I’m just not going to bother if I can’t get that help.  I’ll try to find something else to focus on, instead.  But I think this is our best means given the situation we’re in right now.

The Basic Premise

Guerrilla news.  We’ll bypass the media and go directly to the people.  We do this by using email and having subscribers print off copies of our newsletter for local distribution.  Stories are short and to the point.  Opinion is fine — in fact, encouraged — so long as there’s fact to back it up.  We’re not going to do “we report and you decide.”  We’re going to tell them in simple terms what’s going on and why it’s wrong or right.  Advocacy.  Think KO’s Special Comments, only really short.  If it takes more than a couple minutes to read, it’s too long.

Specifics:

We’ll use pdf.  That will ensure consistency of layout, and there’s software to view it on the big three OS’s.  It will be four to six pages long.  More than that, and people might not be willing to print out every issue.  We are relying on them to print and distribute.  If we make it difficult or too expensive, our message doesn’t get out, and we fail.  Less than that, and we won’t have enough space to cover issues.  People are going to want more than just one story.  Otherwise, they won’t take us seriously.  It’s a very fine line we’re walking, but we can do it.

Each article should be about half a page in length.  Yes, when I said short, I meant short.  Punch it.  That’s a sentence or two of intro at most.  No long, drawn out analysis.  More like a summary.  You say this is what’s going on; this is how it affects you.  Make it emotional.  Make it personal.  If we don’t do that, we fail.  Get people angry.  Get people excited.  But stay positive.  Because that’s what gets people to act.  And then give them a way to focus that energy.  Give them something they can do to release it.  Make it easy.  Provide resources.  It’s going to take a while to build up.  There’s a lot of inertia to overcome.  But we can do it.

Writers will need to use good grammar (suitable for the style of writing) and no cursing or calling people names.  Bush is not “The Shrub.”  Republicans are not “Rethugs.”  And no acronyms unless you explain what they are.  Don’t assume anyone knows what you’re talking about.  The average person knows as much about politics as I know about sports (which is to say next to nothing).  If you’re having trouble with any of this, that’s fine.  You’re not in this alone.  We’ll be helping each other.  So don’t be intimidated.  If you’ve got something to say, say it as best you can.  We’ll let you know what needs cleaning up.  We can do this.

We’ll need at least one person to act as editor.  The more writers who can also do editing, the better, but the primary editor will have the responsibility of ensuring all writing meets the above requirements, as well as ensuring the entire newsletter is formatted correctly.  We absolutely must look like we’re at least trying to be professional if we’re going to be taken seriously.  If we work together, we can succeed.

We’ll need someone to do layout and design.  You may think it’s frills, but looks are important, and layout will determine ease of reading.  When people see this, they need to be instantly intrigued, and the layout needs to make it easy to just start reading right away.  We also need to place the name of our newsletter and put our website address on there somewhere.  And I’m sure there’s things I’m not familiar with or just forgetting.  I cannot emphasize enough how important this all is, so we need someone willing to work on it.  And whoever takes it up, don’t worry if you feel like you’re in over your head.  We all are.  But we’re going to be working together, so don’t hesitate to ask for help.  We can get this done.

At four to six pages, that’s eight to twelve stories.  How many can we write a day?  Enough to put out an issue?  That would be ideal.  The stories are short, and we need to keep pounding away.  That means we need a lot of writers, because we can’t expect each of us to write a story every day.  If you can, great!  Please do.  But let’s plan for the less than optimal.  So we need a place where writers (anyone) can submit their stories.  It’ll be up to the editor, designer, and whoever else is on the managing team to figure out which ones to use for the newsletter.  And doing this daily helps us stay current.  A week is a long time in politics, now.  We need to stay on top of things if we’re going to be relevant.  It’s not going to be easy, but if we’re willing to put in the effort, we can do this.

Our primary distribution model is through email.  Preferably early in the morning so they have it before they go to work.  Those receiving the email then print off at least one copy and place it somewhere accessible for others to read.  Someplace like a work breakroom or public bulletin board.  This is why the stories need to be short.  Because we’re going to be catching people in the middle of doing other things.  Don’t waste their time.  If the stories are short, they’ll be more willing to pause for a moment to read.

We can set up a way for people to make donations to help with costs.  (I know I can’t afford to do this on my own, and I’m not sure if I can even help pay for anything.  I’m not exactly financially secure.)  However, the primary contribution we’re looking for is local distributors.  People willing to spread the news.  It’ll start slow, of that I have no doubt.  Don’t expect to see much uptake the first few months.  But if we are doing our part right to encourage subscribers to print and distribute, it’ll pick up.

It’s actually pretty simple.  The complexity comes with all the little details that need to be addressed.  I’m sure there are issues I’ve completely missed or just forgot.  I know I’ve left out any mention of a website, and that’s something that needs to be taken care of.  As much as I love DD, I don’t think we can work on this project here.  (Nor should we.  I think it would be a horrible imposition and would essentially be taking over the site.  That’s not cool.)

Recap:

The biggest problem we have with getting anything to change in this country is getting enough people to help support that change.  That requires that they know something needs to be changed in the first place, and then it requires that they be motivated enough to do something to bring about that change.  We have to provide that for them.  We have to tell them what needs fixing and give them the motivation to do their part to fix it.  We can make it easier for them.  This newsletter is how we start doing that.  It’s how we engage people who don’t normally pay attention to politics.  By getting our message out of cyberspace and into meat-space.  It has to be done if we’re to have a chance of success.  We lack the funds to get noticed in traditional media.  We cannot rely on politicians to fix things for us.  It’s up to us.  You and me.  Together.

We can do this.  I’m willing.  Are you?

101 comments

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    • Gabriel D on February 20, 2008 at 2:58 am
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    • pfiore8 on February 20, 2008 at 3:38 am

    great ideas. and the best thing about this? doing it. would like to help with editing.

    one major disagreement though. we can NOT tell people what is right or wrong. we have to incite people to find it important enough to make a fucking judgement and be willing to acknowledge the truth of their own judgement AND they will own whatever action ensues…

    but this will not work by telling people anything.

    we are giving them information. facts. the story will tell itself.

    and i do believe the truth has its own way of settling over things.

    • pfiore8 on February 20, 2008 at 4:25 am

    and that can’t be helped, even when you just relay the facts

    sometimes it’s the order, the intro… tone. and all that is fair

    but reporting, in order to gain credibility imo, needs to be shy of editorializing.

    but how do we structure the words? like shakespeare or rap music… like chants

    earth. i just don’t know.

    but when i read it or hear it, i’ll know.

  1. … with a link to the newsletter online in the cover sheet that acts as the video kinda protector.

    A lot of people will watch a ten minute “program” of two to three minute clips who will not read a newsletter.

    And of course, a big “Be Kind to the Environment – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Pass this On” prominently displayed, to add a little extra prod to hand it on to someone else.

    And also a pile of the newsletter in printed form, with “also available online at” prominently displayed on the newsletter.

    • kj on February 20, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    here, Gabriel, is basically a daily newspaper. I’ve worked in several capacities at several newspapers… this is going to take real work, every single day, by at least three people:

    * designer

    * editor

    * overall decision-maker and advocate

    plus, daily interactions with writers who won’t want their work cut or edited.  😉

    I applaud you! This is quite an undertaking!  And if it means anything at all, I support your efforts to keep the articles short. That is a fortunate, or unfortunate, reality in the over-information age we find ourselves in today. Three, maybe four paragraphs, tops, with a link or “go-to” for further depth.

    Good luck! I’m not at a place in my life where I can offer much more than that.  🙂

    • documel on February 20, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    All writings would be secondhand–at best.  Basically, we’re talking op/ed since there are no reporters, only re-reporters.  Therefore, we’d be relying on some media–someplace–that has internet links–and our information immediately becomes suspect.  Most won’t link to Foxnews for verification, but linking to the XYZ Press might be better, worse, or the same.

    We’re all searching for true “fair and balanced” “news that’s fit to print.”  Not going to happen unless the NY Times, or some other large news gatherer, finds a way to make it economically feasible to hire so many quality reporters and editors.  Free access to print media will destroy that media–or already has.  The internet is a revolution that’s far more progressed than is the evolution required to keep up.

    In short, why would anyone believe your rag?  We don’t need to reinvent the press, we have to find a way to support good reporting from that press.  The information void is destroying America–democracy can only succeed with an educated voter.

    • Edger on February 20, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Jason, as most of you know, has been a reporter and editor for Truthout for some time, and is now moving on.

    And moving in the direction Gabriel is talking about, I think.

    I know he won’t mind me reproducing his email here.

    Dear Friends,

    I have decided to leave Truthout after three years in the trenches to start my own web-based, non-profit political magazine to be called BackgroundBriefing.org. The website is currently in production and I hope to launch a beta version in mid-March with a full rollout in June.

    I have been committed to independent journalism for nearly a decade and will continue to report on the most pressing issues this country faces and will continue to face long after Bush is out of office.

    In the meantime, I will continue to dig for the truth and will report sporadically on the issues while setting up my new venture. I greatly appreciate the support you all have given me over the years and hope you will all become readers of BackgroundBriefing.org

    Please feel free to contact me at [email protected]

    Stay tuned.

    Jason Leopold

    Editor-in-Chief

    BackgroundBriefing.org

    10100 Santa Monica Blvd.

    Suite 950

    Los Angeles, CA 90067

    (213) 270-4334

    IM: JasLeopold

    Jason Leopold is the author of the bestselling memoir NEWS JUNKIE. Visit http://www.newsjunkiebook.com for a preview.

    He has registered the name BackgroundBriefing.org, and has a placeholder online now. Watch it grow over the next month or so… I may help him build it and may contribute to it if I can as well.

  2. Subverting existing media is always fun.

    My recent exploit was the change all the Rambo posters in the subways here in nyc. Across his black bandana on the movie poster, which was a bad che rip off, i put:

    You Shop! I’ll Fight!

    Millions of people go threw the subway everyday.

    As for printed media, good luck. My advise is never print a story that takes longer to read than to have your constitutional in the bathroom.

    • documel on February 21, 2008 at 1:33 am

    “And how do you know the government has different aims than we do?  What spies are you relying upon?  What brain-scopes are you using?  Whose reports are you relying upon to tell you that?”

    I do know where the budget money gets allocated, I do know where the tax cuts are given.  In both cases, not my idea of just moves.  The federal budget could be deliberately misleading, but the IRS form is too precise, too real.  Yes, mainstream media is not doing the job, but we lonely keyboarders are not going to do the legwork to make up the slack.  We need to fund them because without them doing an adequate job, we are blind mice.  Your ideas and ideals are lofty, it’s the details that come up short.

    If your leaflets are distributed, why would anyone have confidence in their accuracy?  If they are for “us,” well, we’re already reading the stuff on TPM and Mediamatters.

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