Independent Media Tribes

Bypassing the Old Gatekeepers

Last year, when the Washington Post’s Michael Kelly was killed in Iraq, an anonymous contributor to the leftist web network Indymedia announced the sad news with the tasteless headline “WP Nazi columnist bites the Iraqi dust.”  Word spread quickly, especially after Glenn Reynolds, the hawkish proprietor of the widely read InstaPundit.com, declared that “the Indymedia folks” were calling the late reporter a Nazi.  Many angry comments soon appeared below the offending post, but Reynolds did not attribute them to “the Indymedia folks,” despite the fact that they, too, were published on Indy-media.com and with just as much sanction from the site’s keepers.

The Independent Media Center, as Indymedia is officially known, is one of the most successful publishing projects online, a sprawling network of radical amateur journalists that is open to virtually anyone with a keyboard.  There are at least 135 local Independent Media Centers in over 40 countries; most are in the United States and Europe, but they have also appeared everywhere from Beirut to Bolivia, Nigeria to Jakarta, Chiapas to Thunder Bay.  (As I write, the lead story on the IMC’s main site announces that its African affiliates just met in Senegal.)  Its admirers often ignore its faults, while its enemies love to tar the whole network with the most galling activities...

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