Saturday afternoon, volunteers with Portland indy media and community members concerned about the recent neo nazi posts to the Portland indy media site came together to discuss the concerns that have been raised and work towards anti-racist solutions. As a concerned community member, this is my perspective on what happened at the meeting, and what we decided.
Recently neo nazi individuals and racist groups such as the Volksfront have been posting to the indymedia website. Under the open publishing policy of indy media those posts have been allowed to remain up. Many members of the Portland community were (and are) outraged at this publishing and some viewed indy media's decision to leave those posts up as granting neo nazis a forum in Portland.
It has become clear to me from this meeting that it is not so much that Indy Media enjoys or supports having a neo nazi presence on the site, but rather there is no current policy in place to deal with it. Indy Media is currently devising processes to deal with the neo nazi posts, and this meeting was a part of this process.
There was a sharp divide at the meeting between those who felt open publishing should not allow neo nazi content, and those who felt that censoring those opinions would violate indy media principles of free speech.
So, instead we decided to focus on how indy media could be anti-racist without changing the editorial policy for open publishing. We created several proposals that we will bring to the next general meeting of Portland indy media. We view these proposals as a first step in creating a process to deal with posts such as the neo nazi ones.
1) The creation of an on-going anti-racist permanent feature page, much like the labor, forest activism, and protest feature pages (links at the top of the features section)
2) The adoption by indymedia of a statement that Portland Indy Media does not condone sexist, racist, or homophobic statements. This statement would not affect the open publishing policy, but would be a statement from the indy media community that would be located somewhere on the web site.
Other concerns discussed having up to date features countering Neo Nazi posts and having clear articulate responses in the open publishing section to the posts that are made. We also felt there was a significant amount of miscommunication between members of the indy media editorial committee, anti racist organizers, and others upset by the neo nazi posts.
It was stated that someone at Indy Media is currently working on an anti-racist feature. We felt we should all take it upon ourselves to counter the neo nazi posts that do occur in open publishing.
Although there are still some strong differences in opinion regarding Indymedia's open publishing editorial policy and where exactly to draw the line (both on the sides of concerned community members and indymedia volunteers), I feel the proposals we created at the meeting are good first step to addressing the problems.
DISCUSSION REGARDING CHANGING THE EDITORIAL POLICY OF OPEN PUBLISHING:
Some of the concerns regarding the open publishing policy allowing neo nazi posts:
a) "Free Speech" is not an open playing field. If there is a strong presence of neo nazi posts on indy media, some folks who indy media is supposed to give a space to speak, may not feel comfortable coming to the site or posting to the site.
b) Nazis can post on their own sites. Allowing them to publish (particuarly frequently)on portland indy media is giving them a forum in which to spout their b.s. We should be opposing them on all fronts, instead of allowing them in our on-line ( or actual) communities.
d) If folks are not using the indy media web site because of the nazi posts, then the nazi posts are interfering with the functioning of the indy media website.
Some of the concerns regarding a change in the editorial policy:
* I feel it is important to state that this is not my stance, and although I am doing my best to fairly articulate it, I may be lacking.
a) The best way to debunk neo nazi posts is to let them post, and respond to them intelligently. Removing them only encourages them.
b) There are some folks who do not feel comfortable with some of the more radical posts on the indymedia newswire. How can we remove the neo nazi posts because they make some folks uncomforable, when other posts we might like to leave up, also make certain folks uncomfortable.