Monday, April 6, 2009


Recollections by Becky Johnson from her experiences when she attended the monthly "open" community meeting held at the Resource Center for Nonviolence for Santa Cruz Indymedia Center on October 9, 2005

FORWARD: I initially became a member of the Los Angeles Indymedia when Robert Norse and I attended the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in 2000. In the fall of 2000, we were approached by Vangelis who said that he and some others were setting up a Santa Cruz Indymedia Center and he wanted to know if we wanted to be part of it. We both agreed enthusiastically and attended some early meetings held at Café Pergolisi. It was clear that Robert and I were to be on the news gathering and article writing end of the site while others who were more technically competent were going to handle the internet interfaces and technical glitches as they arose.

I began to contribute to the SC IMC site as soon as it became active in the Spring of 2000. This is why I claim to be one of the founding members of SC IMC. Robert Norse and I were involved BEFORE the site became active. Apparently this part of SC IMC history has already been conveniently erased in the minds of current monitors.

Beginning in August of 2001, I began to write on the Mideast. My first article was entitled "Did you know that..." and was a collection of facts in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which I knew many of my fellow activists were unaware. September 11th happened a month later and suddenly the repercussions of that conflict seemed very serious. I continued to post and have my articles featured on the SC IMC site. But around the beginning of the Iraq War in March of 2003, I was becoming very divided from my fellow activists in Santa Cruz, at Indymedia, and
at the Free Radio Santa Cruz collective. Despite my anti-war position, my support for the democratic State of Israel proved to be too much.

After debunking the Rachel Corrie myth (that she died defending a house and that she was "murdered') my critics at SC IMC became very extreme. I received a death threat and my posts began to be censored. Smear articles about Lee Kaplan and I began to appear. Then my IP address was blocked without a word from anyone at SC IMC. When my e-mailed questions were ignored, I decided to attend their general meeting. Below are the notes I took the day after the meeting. --- Becky Johnson, April 6, 2009


Santa Cruz, Ca. -- I attended the general meeting of Santa Cruz Indymedia October 9, 2005. Of the four people who I know were involved in my IP address being blocked, only Bradley Allen (a.k.a. Bradley Stuart) attended.
Leading the meeting was Kristin S. Nine people, including myself attended, with four being first time attendees. There was no agenda available. Bradley began the meeting by announcing the first item on the agenda was introductions. I asked that he read the entire agenda for the meeting at the outset of the meeting. He complied.
I asked Kristin if minutes of meetings were kept. She answered in the negative. I asked how the resolutions and the decisions made at one meeting were communicated to members at any subsequent meeting. She said "that's a good question. I'll have to check into that."
So there were no minutes of the meeting where my IP address was blocked.
I asked if SC IMC keeps a formal membership list. They don't. So if I say I was a founding member (when Van approached me in the fall of 2000) I am completely within my rights to say so.
Kristin and Bradley postponed the Question and Answer period until 9:50PM for a meeting that began at 7PM. There was no discussion among the group for the order of the agenda, nor was there a request from Kristin or Bradley to the attendees if they wanted to add anything to the agenda. I said I wanted to discuss the editorial policy. Kristin suggested waiting until the Q & A to do so.
During the intro and the "history of SC IMC" where neither Bradley nor Kristin knew when SC IMC was officially launched..."I think it was 2001", I shared my long involvement with SC IMC and listed dozens of articles on multiple topics which I have posted or had featured over the years at SC IMC. Kristin acknowledged my extensive contribution to the website.
Kristin spoke of how "the people's views have been silenced in the Sentinel." And that SC IMC was "a great tool for geting the word out." She praised the "solidarity" she has seen worldwide. She emphasized how wonderful it is when "the people take media into their own hands." She shared with us that she had recently returned from the Sept 24th ANSWER rally in Washington, D.C.
Bradley spoke of how his goal was to make the site full of "really vibrant, fun, and interesting media."
A UCSC student with "the Project" also complained that the Sentinel was not a good vehicle for news about our events. She emphasized the value of SC IMC because "ordinary people" can get their viewpoint out.
A young man from UCSC, who's interest was photography had been contributing for almost a year. He joked that he wasn't "into text." He seemed quite energized and enthused. He said this was his first meeting and had only recently joined SC IMC.
He said he was "always trying to get more people involved" with SC IMC. He praised the "diversity of voices" which we can get by increasing our numbers. He volunteered that he belongs to two organizations: "Students Against War" and the "Student Coaliton for Justice."
The woman from "The Project" said that she had some questions about "the editing process." She said she had read the guidelines and found them "clear but unclear."
Bradley shared that the whole concept of Indymedia was "inspired by the Zapatistas."
Kristin attempted to list the number of topics SC IMC has covered. She mentioned the bus strike and labor issues. A longtime activist with the Human Rights Organization who attended, listed several topics including the Sleeping Ban, homeless civil rights and police brutality. I added the drug war and medical marijuana. Bradley said that SC IMC had thoroughly covered the FCC raid on Free Radio Santa Cruz. I discussed welfare rights, the Coast Hotel project, Tent University, and City Council. I failed to mention our struggle over the planter fence, the move-along law, or our protest at Border's against the sales of the Bum Fights videos.
Then Kristin talked about the mailing list where "we announce to each other" different messages. I noted that I have never been on that list. She said there is also an outreach list and a need for a coverage list.
"The Project comes out twice a quarter," the UCSC woman shared. In response to a question she said that some of their fundraising is done at College Senate meetings where they solicit grant money.
A young student from Cabrillo arrived late. He announced that he was SC IMC's first intern. As an intern he would work 8 - 10 hours a week and get college credit for it.
Josh from Cabrillo said that we (SC IMC members) "need to pay attention to what the other media are saying." I thought, how can we do that when the SC IMC monitors censor links to other media if they determine it is "right-wing" "corporate" or "racist." I kept my opinions to myself in this instance.
He said that he saw someone taking photos of the young Republicans where they staged the shot and got everyone to smile for the photo. I didn't see the great conspiracy in this, though I too, try to take a candid shot over a staged shot, but sometimes its not the best choice. If you want to take a photo with everyone of a certain group in it, you need to ask them to pose for you. I don't find this to be unethical. Only if the photo is represented as a candid photo when it was actually staged, raises a red flag for me.
Kristin reported that there were many "tech issues" and that all my articles for the past five years which have been disappearing was not intentional, or so she thought. Kristn then chose unilaterally to break into working groups rather than go into the Q & A. She said she "wanted to make sure we had enough time for them."
I joined Kristin and Josh for the outreach group. I began by asking if we wanted to outreach to the entire community or just to those people who already believed the way we do. She dodged the question as being "off topic." I said it was a philosophical question that would guide how we conduct outreach. "If you keep censoring and blocking people who have a different point of view, your base will shrink and not grow." Kristin used a super nice attitude, urging "respect" and kept accusing me of interrupting her or shouting at her. I DID interrupt since I considered it a dialogue where each of us had as much authority to speak as she did. She considered it a control issue, and kept accusing me of speaking "off topic." Josh begged ignorance, and said it was "his first meeting" and that he "didn't want to get involved in the controversy." Eventually Josh joined the other group allowing Kristin and me to have a one on one conversation.
I told her that I was the injured party. That she was urging me to respect her and the group, but that by calling me a racist, a murderer of Arab girls, a paid agent for a foreign government, a right-winger, and "dumber than metamorphic rocks" in articles such as "Becky's Brain" which the SC IMC monitors DIDN'T take down for violating their editorial policy, while accusing me of "too many racist postings" without ever officially communicating me about any problem or without providing a SINGLE EXAMPLE of any so-called "racist" post of mine, was bad process, inherently unfair, and didn't even follow the form which was posted on their website.
I told Kirstin that she was being very nice, but that it was like "the Stepford Wives" where a horrible injustice was going on and she was playing nice-nice while participating in supporting both the censorship and the personal attacks on myself.
"Why was my IP address blocked?" I demanded. "You threatened people." I was astounded. After having received death threats, being called names, and people saying I should "go away and don't come back," --- which Kristin was either blissfully ignorant about or felt it was perfectly fine--- to be the one accused of making threats. I demanded she explain how I had threatened anyone. "You sent them a bunch of e-mails and filled up their inbox." She could not relate a single threatening comment in any of those e-mails.
I told her that I had first written the editors as the website instructed but that I had NEVER gotten any kind of response. It was then I contacted some SC IMC monitors who I knew were involved. I had tried to attend their "open" meeting that summer at Lulu Carpenters only to have them scatter like cockroaches when the light came on when I showed up for their meeting.
She said "we left because they didn't have a bathroom." I responded by saying "the reason you didnt see me when you first came in was that I was in the bathroom. You know, the one they didn't have."
She accused me of speaking harshly to other SC IMC members. This is where 5 men verbally assaulted me on the sidewalk having abandoned holding the meeting at Lu Lu Carpenters since I had shown up. How she could hold my behavior in isolation, not consider the context (of having been verbally attacked by five men) and how she had no comment on THEIR behavior showed her to be one biased soul.
She said " Lee Kaplan threatened people." "How did he do that?" She told me that Bradley had received a "threatening e-mail." I said "Did he threaten to sue Bradley?" She said "yes." I said "Well, you posted an article called "Dafka, Lee Kaplan: Exposed" in which false statements about him leaving a death threat on Alison Weir's answering machine were reported. "That is a libelous statement." She said "It's not libel if a retraction is printed." I said "that article was up for 40 days with both Lee and I writing demanding the information be corrected. Nothing was done until Kaplan's lawyer sent Bradley an e-mail threatening legal action. That day the retraction went up.
"What else were we supposed to do?" she asked.
"Don't you think you have a responsibility to check things out if you are going to make such a serious charge?" I responded.
She had no answer.
She said "He mentioned "Homeland Security" on your show.* That threatens activists." "It's an issue of trust." I said "Excuse me, where does it say in your guidelines that people who ASSOCIATE with people you don't like will be censored or have their IP address blocked?" She again had no answer.
Lee Kaplan is a member of a group in Northeast Intelligence Network and has an e-mail address there at
The NIN is an NGO think tank which has nothing to do with the Homeland Security department of the Federal government. It is concerned with the
threat of terrorism against the American people.
I stopped the subcommittee at this point because it was 9:45PM and I really wanted to get to the Q & A. I urged the group to meet to do the Q & A "before everyone goes home." We started the Q & A at 10:10PM, over THREE HOURS after the meeting began. But no one left.
I told the group that despite having been a founding member of SC IMC, and having contributed dozens of original articles which were featured on many subjects over the years including stills, and videos, I found my articles deleted without explanation. That character assassination's such as "Becky's Brain" which was a smear job and nothing else was allowed to stay up, but when I complained, I was met with complete silence.
Kristin said "Well you posted the same article 30 times in one day making a lot of extra work for our volunteers." I was astounded. I told her she was a liar. That she needed to apologise to me. That she had just accused me of a completely ficticious charge in front of everyone. I demanded that Bradley tell her whether I had ever posted the same article 30 times (or any other such large number of times) in one day EVER. He acted so mouse-like I could barely hear him. He said "I dont remember." The new people started to act very uncomfortable.
John T. from the HRO said that when he wrote a comment which compared my situation to "The Minority Report" where I was accused for a crime I had yet to commit, it had been hidden very quickly. He said this was a new experience for him.
I pointed out that the website says "Indymedia is not a conscious mouthpiece of any particular position..." so that why wasn't my, albeit minority position, allowed to be posted?
Chris said my charges "were disturbing" but that "he didnt want to take the time to get to the bottom of it." I felt like Chris and Josh were the three see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkeys who didn't want to deal with the censorship, personal attacks, smear jobs, and blocked IP addresses which were right in front of their noses.
Bradley (snidely) suggested I was welcome to post on other websites. What an ass!!
I said "Your webpage says that Indymedia's principles of unity profess that the open exchange of and open access to information is a prerequisite for the building of a more free and just society." I said the word "free" means that in a democracy, people have the right to free speech and a difference of opinion. You can't say you support diversity and then censor anyone who disagrees with you.
I read again ", participatory democratic process that is transparent to those involved" had been severely violated by their lack of process ( a closed meeting over the telephone banning someone is not transparent process). And that if it's democratic, then each person can voice a different opinion.
Kristin kind of gave up at this point. She said "What do you want?" I said "I want my IP address to be unblocked. IF the editorial committee insisted on taking the extreme step of having someone banished from any postings, they ought to be able to produce MANY examples of violations. So far they have not produced a single example.
I accused Bradley of being my chief censor. "And you took your witch hunt over to Free Radio and engineered getting me kicked out there too." I said. "What's going on is there is a small group of four or five people who feel they are so smart that they are the sole judges of what people in Santa Cruz can say, post, or read. It's the opposite of free speech."
Kristin suggested I meet with the editorial working group. "Sure. I'd be glad to. When and where do they meet?" She said "They don't have a meeting scheduled. I'm not holding my breath.
I said "I want to know why Matt Fitt, Bradley Allen, Vinny Lombardo, and Joe Williams all conspired to block my IP address. And I want to know why articles which include vicious and unsubstantiated personal attacks, information about my sexual partners, and comments like "Becky doesn't have a brain" are allowed to stay up. "You ask me to respect you, but how are you demonstrating any respect for me with these postings?"
Despite Kristin's promise that I could meet with the mysterious and nameless "editorial committee," they met again without me. They again came to the same conclusion that my IP address should be blocked from the site. I tried to attend the next scheduled meeting one month later, also held at the Resource Center for Nonviolence. This time, Bradley screamed and yelled and demanded I leave the meeting. I refused, and Kristin opted to cancel the meeting entirely. I never tried to attend any of their "open" meetings again.
Six months later, Santa Cruz Indymedia merged with in the San Francisco Bay Area. It became with, presumably, the same people monitoring the site. Robert Norse of HUFF lobbied some monitors privately and got an agreement from them to not censor any of my writings on homelessness. They complied. My writings on the Mideast are routinely censored on the rare occasions when I post at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment on any post. Comments that are slanderous, libelous, or are in other ways abusive may be removed by the moderator. Comments remaining posted do not necessarily reflect the point of view of the owner of this blog. Thank-you for reading.