“Shut Off the Raging Dialogue of the Story of the Week”

By Al Giordano

Al Giordano & Noha Atef - Citizen Journalism and Digital Resistance (FSI 2010)

Late last month, Egyptian authentic journalist Noha Atef and I led a workshop at Tufts University’s Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict near Boston for seventy community organizers and civil resistance leaders from 41 countries. This video shows the first hour of that ninety-minute session. We were invited by our friends at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict to host the plenary session.

Careful readers of The Field will have heard some – but not all – of the points we made on journalism as civil resistance. We talked from our own experience at the School of Authentic Journalism and as journalists and communicators. It probably wasn’t a “normal” session for such an esteemed academic institution: I did part of my talk in darkness after shutting off the lights in the hall, and later led participants outdoors through what I called a “discipline building exercise” into the preferable set and setting of a perfect New England summer day, where everyone who had something to say had a chance to say it. My intervention was essentially designed to kill the Power Point method of education-as-spectator-sport and unleash more of the innate imagination in each individual so that we could think and speak creatively together.

Noha Atef is, simply, a force of nature. Even if you only have time to watch her part of the presentation, do that: You really want to meet the 25-year-old soft-spoken warrior who through persistent journalism, a lot of guts, and a significant sense of humor, tore down the curtain on torture by Egyptian police and hear about how she did it. The presentation she gave at Tufts was an encore of one she gave last February in Mérida, Yucatán at the Narco News J-School, but we didn't videotape that one at her request. In Boston - in what was her US premier - she was ready to bring her story to a global audience.

You’ll also get a taste, from this hour, of what the School of Authentic Journalism is like and of how we do things, in case you’re thinking of applying to the 2011 session or know someone who should.

At the six-day session we met organizers who are from or work in Argentina, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burma, Camaroon, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Guinea, India, Kenya, Mexico, Morroco, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, the US, Vietnam, the West Bank, West Papua-Indonesia, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

We broke bread and conversed late into the nights with each other, and also with veteran social fighters like Mary Elizabeth King and Jim Lawson. We found some excellent recruits for the School of Authentic Journalism from the continents of the earth and made some new friendships, which are sure to last.

The point of it all was that nonviolent struggle is not a question about whether one considers oneself a pacifist or not (I certainly don’t, and regardless, the group was a serious enough collection of free thinkers and doers that we didn’t waste our time having that stupid “debate” that some “activists” like to have on a perpetual hamster wheel in which nothing ever gets resolved except to displace the real work of organizing) but that nonviolent resistance is really about how we, as aspiring change agents, learn to plan and act strategically.

I wouldn’t quite call it a “science,” although it does resemble certain laws of physics. It is more of an art, even a martial art, in which every circumstance in every struggle is unique but also shares common dynamics with all struggles. And so it is very helpful to listen to the experiences of others in lands we’ve never visited. We see our own struggles in theirs, and solutions for how to win ours in the strategies and tactics developed locally by each one.

And, of course, the matter of media is now central to all struggles. Our workshop began with a premise:

“A movement that makes its own media has considerable advantages and better chances of success than those that must depend on commercial media to tell their story and define their narrative.”

And that’s the story Noha and I tell in this video. If you spend the hour to watch it and don’t find it worthwhile, I’ll personally give you your money back... Oh. Wait. It’s free!


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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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