Sunday, December 02, 2007



Let's call these three the 'Holy Trinity'(HT) . What they are is an anarchist attempt to provide at least an internet alternative to the daily barrage of news and pseudo-news that everyone is exposed to. How do they stack up ? While the dream of an 'anarchist daily' in the world of print seems long ago and far away there are numerous internet efforts that attempt to fill the same need. How successful are they ? let's look at the three which Molly feels are the best of the bunch:
Not that these are the only anarchist news feeds around. It is just that they are the most prolific and consistent of those which stand in the "social anarchist" description. At least one other newsfeed is on the internet that can equal at least one or two of the above for sheer volume, but it too often shades off into the "anarcho-insanity" so prevalent in the USA and is thus not worthy of presentation to ordinary people who might want to see what anarchism is all about. "Social anarchist" means that the site is consistently "anarchist" without any bows to either so-called right wing anarchism nor social democracy masquerading as "anti-authoritarianism" that promotes little but "guilt politics" . It also means that they are "social" ie they do not stumble into cultism nor glorification of mindless attempts at juvenile terrorism. it means that they see anarchism as the creation of a majority of ordinary people and not that of self-appointed "saviors".
The general layout of the three feeds varies tremendously. A-Infos presents its stories as a simple text list each day. Only titles are given to alert the reader about the context of the stories so linked. The site is void of graphics or any other "bells and whistles". Anarkismo is quite different, being laid out in the usual Indymedia format with a newsfeed on the right, navigation aids and special features on the left, bracketing a main story section in the centre. The newsfeed articles are presented as title-only links, but the main stories have at least a short leader so the reader can get the feel of the bulk of the rest of an article. There is a limited but well designed use of graphic content on the main page and in a few of the newsfeed articles.
Anarkismo's left sidebar contains search, comments, a photo gallery, archives, events, links to articles in the 'Other Libertarian Press', and links to what is somewhat inaccurately called 'The Non-Anarchist Press' (all of them articles reprinted from said sources in the pages of Anarkismo). The layout of LibCom is the most complex of all, perhaps far too complex. The main page is divided up into a number of boxes that are hardly straightforward-library, organize, history, news, new articles, sectors, thought, forums and, of course, an almost useless "navigation". The organization is about as clear as the manual for a piece of imported electronics. The categories overlap, to put it mildly. The "tags" section differs from that found on other pages of the site. Five out of eleven items in the buttons on the top don't work except as invitations to search. The bottom row of the upper buttons draws down menus that are partially obscured by the main boxes on the page.
The LibCom site is certainly the largest and most comprehensive, and, if you want to explore, holds a wealth of hidden treasure that is great fun to discover. This is the best site for those who like to screw around and press mouse buttons to follow links. For quick and easy reference, however, Anarkismo is the best, being the easiest to navigate with the fewest hidden subworlds. Navigation around A-Infos is pretty Spartan. You can sort by language or chronology. The search function of A-Infos is similarly sparse, using a simple Google function. Perhaps that is all that is needed in the vast majority of cases.
Speaking of 'language(s)' LibCom is entirely in English. This contrasts with A-Infos and Anarkismo. Both are multilingual in all the major European languages, including Turkish. The difference is that A-Infos has a few posts in Russian while Anarkismo has a large number in Greek. It takes a bit of effort to make a website present posts in a script other than the usual Roman one. A-Infos is probably more consistent in their multilingual policy, but Anarkismo sometimes goes down some interesting roads with stories in Hebrew or Arabic script and even some in scripts I cannot recognize (Korean?, Japanese ?). I await with bated breath stories in Hindi or Thai script or perhaps Ethiopian. Fun indeed, but not of much use unless one has serious expansion plans in the future.
In terms of timeliness A-Infos is the best, followed by LibCom and then Anarkismo. This may be because of the longer history and better establishment of A-Infos , with more contributors to draw from. It may also, however, be due to the choice of subject matter. All these sites are social anarchist ("class struggle" in the present fashionable idiom) so a lot of 'fashion anarchism'(let alone "anarcho-insanity") is off the table. LibCom's coverage is the broadest, taking in a lot of class struggle that has little obvious anarchist content. Both A-Infos and Anarkismo contain a lot of what be termed "anarcho-trivia" , and it may be that ignoring this (or including other sections of LibCom outside of the "news" section) would change the perceived picture and make LibCom the most timely site.
The depth of coverage is perhaps best on LibCom, and their library section is a true joy. The coverage on A-Infos is deliberately brief as its avowed purpose is to be simply a current events newswire. Anarkismo is somewhere in between, but it is the newest of the three and may become more comprehensive in the future. they should perhaps consider a library section such as LibCom has.
The interactivity of the sites also varies. A-Infos has no public comments. Anarkismo allows comments, but with heavy moderation. At LibCom you have to register as an user, but then the comments are pretty free wheeling. The forum section of LibCom is one of its great hidden secrets. The offerings range from the truly intelligent to the truly amusing with far less of the usual lefty/movement cant than is usual in such an online forum. What has happened there is that there is an online forum where ordinary people who have sympathy for the ideals of anarchism are allowed to speak their mind and actually say what they feel in response to the leftoids. This can lead to some interesting exchanges that have pissed off many amongst the conservative"paleolithic left" who have gone to LibCom and been offput by the fact that the people there don't speak in politically correct rhetoric. All the more reason to recommend such a site.
Summing up, each of the sites has its own strengths and weaknesses. For the "daily anarchist news" the place to be is, of course, A-Infos. For following such things over time, for greater depth of coverage and for a broader look at class struggle outside of the limited anarchist scene LibCom is the place. While all three sites are committed to a social anarchist viewpoint only Anarkismo is committed to a specific form of organization-platformism. This focus is marred by the fact that they have no obvious list of links and contacts, something that should be de rigeur for organization builders. Neither LibCom nor A-Infos has this level of specific commitment. Only A-Infos, out of the three, has a real links section, and that is in grievous need of updating.
So how do you choose the best site ? The answer is that you don't. My favourite is LibCom, but it is hardly the site that I look at on a day to day basis. Only when I am in the mood to explore. The other two I consult pretty well every day. This probably reflects their simplicity and straightforward presentation. Are any of the three the great outlet to the "general population" ? Obviously not. They are all much too much self-referential even if they are far from the childish cheerleading of some feeds . There is a difference between adult and not being offensive and actually being popular. The actual formula for such a site has yet to be discovered. The minute that you see a (non-vegan) cooking section on an anarchist site you will know that such a site is being constructed.
Waiting for Mr. Goodsite:

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