By Ulli Diemer
1. Rather than speak of a radical or socialist newspaper,
it would be more precise to speak of a radicalizing newspaper.
2. Radicalizing refers to two dialectically
related processes: radicalization of the community (or workplace,
etc.) which the paper serves, and the radicalization of the newspaper
itself. Neither of them can be radical, because radicalism
is not a state of being (a state of Grace) but a state of becoming.
3. Since the newspaper is a medium of communication, a radical
newspaper must embody a radical approach to communication. This
means challenging the conception of a newspaper itself, challenging
it in two different aspects: the content of what is communicated,
and the way in which the communicating is done.
4. To begin with the word: newspaper. A newspaper supposedly
relates news; events which have newly happened. But which
of the countless events happening are news, which arent? Event
is itself a concept that is tied to one world-view: for some, for
example, the rise of the capitalism is one of the major events of
world history, for others, there was no such event. Many newspapers
restrict themselves to isolated, sensational events and thereby
ignore most of the really important events, which are not daily
hard-news occurrences. What is selected, what is passed
over? Why? Who decides?
5. Selection implicitly involves interpretation of what
is important and why, and therefore fractures the myth of objectivity,
since events are not objectively important. (How could
they be, on a planet which is itself unimportant?) One cannot say
an event is important without saying to whom it is so, and why.
6. Interpretation goes beyond selection. It involves the
presentation and interpretation of selected events in some kind
of a structure of meaning. Different world-views will see the same
events in very different ways.
7. We are generally aware of how capitalist newspapers approach
news, and what interests are served by their selection
and analysis of it. The common mistake on the left is to assume
that it is necessary only to reverse the bias, to select and interpret
from a socialist viewpoint rather than a capitalist one.
8. The result is a left press that is a little more than
a mirror image of the capitalist press. Readers are lectured and
harangued; lessons are pointed out in the best manner
of authoritarian pedagogy; and fantastic tasks are barked out as
orders: Bring INCO to it knees! Oust the generals
Workers to power!, Stop the Oil grab!,
9. What is ignored is the way communication occurs. Real
communication should be dialectical, both in the sense of being
a dialogue, and in the sense of leading to the transformation
of those participating or listening.
10. Capitalist communication naturally is not intended to
be of this kind. The fundamental content of capitalism, and thus
the basic message of the capitalist media, is the apparently inevitable
alienation of social life. We are and can be nothing but passive
spectators as forces and events beyond our control unfold. The media
may tell us that events are unfolding as they should, or they may
be critical in matters of detail, but in no case do they allow us
to view ourselves as subjects rather than objects. Their own structure
as well as their content is part of the same message of passive
acceptance in which freedom evaporates because the existing world
is the only possible one. We can relate to newspapers only as consumers
because (so we are told) that is the inevitable, technologically
given nature of modern mass media. The actual content it reports,
whether it be truth or lies, is thus in a very real sense secondary:
Within a world really on its head, the true is a moment of
11. Left papers that approach communication
in the same way largely negate their content through their form.
The readers do not participate in the communication. The message
of powerlessness is ironically also conveyed: the setting of impossible
tasks is not very different from saying that change is impossible.
12. A radical newspaper can only be truly radical to the
extent that it succeeds in involving its base actively in the paper,
and to the extent that it actually (not rhetorically) become
a part of the fabric of the community (workplace, etc.) and its
13. A radical newspaper is not something that exists, therefore,
but something that is always in the making, always becoming. A newspaper
will become more radical, in its structures and relationships, as
well as its content, as the community become more radical. Its radicalism
is always partial, never complete.
14. This is not to say that it cannot be ahead of much of
the community, but it is to say that one is not leading if no one
15. A newspaper succeeds in being radical to the extent
that it succeeds in going to the roots of alienation, to the extent
that its base moves from passivity to activity.
16. The condition of both radicalism and freedom is activity,
and the condition of free or radical activity is critical thought.
17. A radical newspaper therefore has two primary tasks:
to encourage critical thinking, and to encourage self-activity.
18. These in turn require access to information.
19. Critical thought and self-activity cannot be encouraged
by telling people what to think or what to do. It occurs only when
people think for themselves and decide on their action themselves.
If a newspaper is to have a role, it must therefore be a means of
communication, organizing, and action for people, not the
vehicle through which radicalscommunicate their
message to the people.
20. A radical newspaper must seek to involve people in the
newspaper itself, not necessarily as journalists but
in selecting and creating the content. Only in this can it respond
to the needs of the people.
21. A radical newspaper must become part of the more general
self-activity of the people. The people must see it as their own
paper, and must consider it as one of the weapons they use in their
own struggles. Whether this happens is not primarily a matter of
how radical the paper is (i.e. whether it is too far left)
but of the quality of its radicalism (i.e. whether it succeeds
in involving the community in itself, and itself in the community.)
What Might a Radical Newspaper be Like?
1. Well designed, well-written, interesting. Important not
only to make the paper appealing in itself, but indicative of its
politics. If a message cant be interesting or well-written,
there is something wrong with the message or the person giving it.
2. Honest. We have to tell the truth, even when it hurts.
This means not only that we dont lie, but also that we dont
3. Critical. We dont just repeat the old dogmas, we
think and write critically
4. Specific. We cannot deal in abstract theoretical fulminations.
Certainly we will analyze and theorize, but the basis of the paper,
and our analysis, must be specific events.
5. Concerned with daily life, not just with political
6. Balanced in content, catering to the whole person and
a whole range of interests.
7. Willing to admit mistakes.
8. A sense of humour.
Published in The
Red Menace, Volume 3, Number 1, Winter 1979
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