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ESF Coverage - Mainstream & Indymedia

Non Partisan Attendee | 18.10.2004 15:32 | European Social Forum | Indymedia | London

The coverage of the ESF and Beyond ESF has been piss poor both mainstream and here on Indymedia

The mainstream media coverage was a joke, despite the ESF being bigger than the 3 main parties conferences put together and look at the coverage they get. Even the Guardian's coverage was poor, all it seemed to report apart from the odd opinion piece, (some of which were quite good to be fair), was the splits over the organisation process, interviews with Ken Livingston and that bloody stage invasion on saturday evening. This despite London hosting an extraordinary weekend of events from ESF and Beyond ESF covering anything n everything which could be of interest. As far as I've seen from the rest of the mainstream media all it covered was the briefest of mentions of the march on Sunday afternoon, basically dismissing it "Police said just 20,000".

The poor mainstream coverage can be expected but I'm shocked to see just how poor the Indymedia coverage has been. It's just full of bitching, mud slinging and rants about the "storming of the palace" and the splits re the organisation of the ESF - what a joke. I was there, unlike it seems a lot of the people posting stuff about it. There were hundreds of events from the large Plenaries with 2000 delegates to workshops with 12 people passionately discussing issues/problems/the way forward. Covering a multitude of issues. Yes, there were a lot of Socialist/Communist groups etc with stalls n that but there were also loads of non political party and community groups. To dismiss the ESF as the SWP and Ken's baby is bollocks. Most of the delegates were independants who can make up their own minds, we're not likely to think 'Wow Communism is the only way!' cause the SWP or Globalise Resistance are wondering around chanting about workers never being defeated.

When the 'storming' happened the 'Anarchists' made a couple of obvious points which everybody applauded, Yes, the ESF should be free, Yes, we need to protest the G8 next year, Yes, the stuff about the IMC servers is wrong, but why storm a Plenary about coming up with solutions to the rise of the Right in Europe? OK the ESF isn't perfect and I would have liked to have seen more Social Libertarian representatives (if there can be such a thing) and I would have liked to have seen more stuff regarding issues such as the attacks on our civil liberties and direct action. But Beyond ESF filled the gaps there which was brilliant, so for me and probably most people there wasn't a problem, just a brilliant opportunity for the 'movement' in the UK/Europe to get together share ideas, concerns and move forward.

I was pleased that the organisers never switched off the mikes even though after a few minutes it just seemed to collapse into a mostly inaudible rants, "the SWP stole our idea about fighting Globalisation" I think I heard at one point, come on, grow up! To the majority of people in there, alot of whom where from other countries, were just bemused. We had the SWP at the back shouting stuff n the 'Anarchists' at the front shouting stuff n most people in between left. How constructive was that? I was explaning how the 'Anarchists' n the SWP hate each other to bemused people around me n we came to the conclusion that this type of 'Judeans People's Front/People's Front of Judea (Spliters!!)' bollocks does not do the cause any good and confirms the cynics/do nothing brigade's views that the 'left'/'anti-establishment' will never get it's shit together and actually succeed in 'making another world possible'. We'll only do it with unity, activism and some positivity.

The purpose of the ESF is supposedly to bring together the anti-capitalist/anti globalisation/global justice movement to debate, co-ordinate and in unity move forward against the global threat of corporate power, US imperialism etc, whilst still celebrating our diversity. As such there are bound to be some tensions but the threat is grave and should unite us.

The ESF and Beyond ESF must have offered something for everyone. Where is all the coverage of it from Indymedia? But with so many seminars, workshops etc on your regular activist is only going to be able to take a fraction of it in. I was looking forward to getting home and seeing what I missed. Looking at Indymedia the only thing worth reporting as in the mainstream press we so rightly scorn, were squabbles n arrests. It's very sad. (Don't get me wrong these things need to be reported particularly the arrests and any police brutality etc, but what about the actual event? both ESF and Beyond ESF)

For example, I learnt a great deal about the Environmental Crisis and Green issues I was previously unaware of (George Monbiot was quite disturbing) and I will be getting more active in that area. But what came out of other discussions etc? There was a dedicated Indymedia centre, did the people there just plan the 'storming of the palace'(There was an IMC flag being waived about) n paint a couple of banners n then report about themselves??? If so it's PATHETIC.

Despite the 'storming' incident and the piss poor media coverage the ESF as a whole was a massive success. Of course it wasn't perfect and the organisation of it does need to be more transparent but what it actually covered and the opportunity it provided for activists to exchange ideas and get involved was brilliant.

Non Partisan Attendee


Hide the following 15 comments

fair comment

18.10.2004 15:52

At last an intelligent contribution to the ESF debate. The question all those people who disrupted debates and the demo should ask themselves:

1. It costs money to put on events, that money must come from somewhere, I wish Ken and trade unions had given more, but you wish they had given nothing, how on earth do you expect to stage such events without forging alliances across the left backing?
2. All boarder controls should be lifted but is an ESF meeting against fascism to blame. You will probably say you stormed the stage because Ken was speaking and he is the member of a racist party. What silly logic… is everyone in labour party racist then? Some Labour lefties like Ken oppose the leaderships racist policies.
3. Of course the SWP and Ken had an input into the ESF. The SWP is the biggest party of the far left and Ken put up most of the money. But they did not dominate it as anyone there would have known. I went to only one meeting with an SWP speaker. As for Ken he appeared once.

red tom

take it back re Guardian

18.10.2004 16:17

I take it back re the Guardian's coverage. It's been piss poor in the print media but Guardian Unlimited has some good coverage. More informative than Indymedia. Suggest you look there.

non partisan attendee

where's your report?

18.10.2004 18:00

Non partisan attendee: you are free to report on any of the workshops you attended. Please post here. We'd love to read it. Its what indymedia is for. Or perhaps you'd like to wait for the anarchists to contribute, then complain about media bias? 'Intelligent contribution' my arse.


no public com puter access at esf and other spaces possible

18.10.2004 18:47

guess a lot of reports could not be written because of no public open and free comoputer access being available neither at the official nor many other spaces.
The Indymedia Centre at Camden Hall was brilliantly set up though and a very friendly, welcoming and warm place with Veggies and volunteers catering for the crowd.
However, the Indymedia centre was quite logistically isolated from many other events and spaces happening.
In addition the Guardian is at least right in the opinion that the ESF is mostly just a big huge talking shop. However, this does not justify the neglect of reporting by mainstream media, but as they also did not report on the Indymedia server seizures, what more could we expect of them anyway? They are not part of our movement neither do they support it.


ok rich

18.10.2004 19:03

Ok Rich, I'll put something together on the Environmental Crisis re Oil Consumption. It was a very good Plenary and I learnt stuff I didn't know previously. What the ESF is supposed to be about.

By the way I'm not just having a go at the 'Anarchists' if you read my posting you should be able see that. The Indymedia coverage and the amount of coverage just given over to the 'storming' is my gripe. The 'storming' would have been something to shout about if it had been of the American Embassy, Bank of England or Labour Conference for example but this? No great victory for anyone I'm afraid. Surely something more constructive could have been attempted. I realise Indymedia is as strong as it's contributions but what did the IMC do all weekend? Where there only two or three activists there? In which case why wasn't an activist call put out for volunteers to cover the ESF & Beyond ESF? Is there anything in my accusation that they spent saturday planning the 'storming of palace' just to go and report heroically about themselves? If so they are indeed PATHETIC and contributing to the death of the Social Forums and IMCs. What hope then?

non partisan attendee

Increasing Coverage Depends on Activists Becoming Reporters - Not IM

18.10.2004 19:26

Suprisingly, todays leader in the Guardian seemed a reasonable summary of the ESF. It had some appreciation of 'the anarchists' concerns. see below.

I would have liked more reports on seminar/workshops but it's up to user's to provide reports, not IM who maintain the infrastructure.

In my experience, at large gatherings it's often difficult to find the time to post copy, often activists write it up at a later date to report back their groups/collectives/organisations. Perhaps stuff will come through later.

However, many ativists need to be encoraged to aquire skills to become reporters (incl myself), and, to my knowledge, IM tries to spread those skills through workshops.

Sorry for copying huge chuncks of the text instead of using a link but I think it will be out of date in a few hours.

----- Guardian Leader 18/10/04

Monday October 18, 2004, The Guardian

Social Forum: New politics takes a bow

The caravan of the European Social Forum moves on and London can reflect on having hosted a successful if sometimes internally fractious three days of intense debates, discussions, protests and cultural events, culminating in yesterday's peace march. The event was remarkable on several levels: it attracted to a wet city on the very edge of Europe nearly 25,000 mainly young people from more than 70 countries; it addressed legitimate issues and causes that are below the radar of mainstream political parties; and it brought under one metaphorical roof unions, a myriad of passionate non-government organisations, social movements, artists, academics and fringe political parties from all over Europe. Saturday night's storming of the stage by several hundred people denouncing mayor of London Ken Livingstone for hijacking the event reflected genuine anger about the way the event had been organised, but was marginal to the impact of the project.
Notable by their absence from this often chaotic salon de refusés were all but a very few members of parliament and the entire British political elite. This lack of curiosity about what is energising young people at the European grassroots suggests that mainstream politicians are out of touch with both the spirit, content and the style of the inclusive non-party politics now emerging under the ESF umbrella. Any professional politician observing the audiences of 1,000 or more people raptly listening to debates on globalisation, the power of corporations, racism, food or the environment would do well to reflect on the narrowness of their own political agenda and the genuine transnationalism now clearly informing European youth.

It is too early to say whether the ESF can refresh mainstream British politics and influence the European left. It is only three years old, is politically immature and each meeting tends to reflect the prevailing politics and tensions of the host country. It is possible that the event will disappear from the calendar and be remembered only as a European trade fair for political ideas.

But it is equally possible that mayors of major European cities will now compete with each other to host the event as a kind of political Olympics. Clearly, the ESF's strength is its passion and diversity, which encourages participants to feel part of something greater than themselves. Out of the connections being made between radically different groups, it is possible to see in years to come the emergence of a genuine new politics of the European left.


It matters

18.10.2004 20:14

How we organise does matter, We won't cultivate alternatives to capitalism, war, death of the planet if power remains in the hands of 'leaders'.
There were no pictures and only a small audience for the SWP's hijacking of the official ESF, doesn't mean it can be brushed aside.
Another world is possible; we don't want just another set of bosses.
Look how great the autonomous ESF was; now THAT was a different way of doing things, that yields hope for self organising, taking back power.


I wonder

18.10.2004 21:28

I wonder how you would have reacted if a group from the SWP stormed the stage of your event demanding apologies for the constant smears and insults they have had to endure ever since the ESF was announced.

Perhaps they could have made up some banners "Autonomy=Intimidation" or "Fight the bosses not the left"




to non-partisan

18.10.2004 22:03

Hi there non-partisan attendee. I'll try to answer a few of your questions.

"The Indymedia coverage and the amount of coverage just given over to the 'storming' is my gripe."

I was at the misnamed 'storming': if people are making a lot of noise about it in the IMC newswire it is largely because there are a lot of rather angry people from the authoritarian left stirring things up. In reality, it wasn't that big a deal; there was no confrontation at the door, as far as I saw there was some minor shoving *from the Big Cleancut Men* and at one point a panel speaker tried to shut down the proceedings by shoving the woman from the Babels translation network and grabbing the microphone from her (unsuccessful). The whole thing lasted about half an hour, and no one I talk to afterwards felt that it had been a heroic blow against capitalism, it was a necessary intervention in a process that many people saw as deeply flawed.

"The 'storming' would have been something to shout about if it had been of the American Embassy, Bank of England or Labour Conference for example but this? No great victory for anyone I'm afraid. Surely something more constructive could have been attempted. "

I share this concern, but I do think that the 'great victory' of the weekend was the great programs put on at Middlesex University and in the Camden Centre - I thought that they were really great in comparison to the "official" ESF, and that people were able to put their politics in practice in a much more sustained way than was possible at the heavily corporatized ESF. I agree though, it would have been great to see a daring and creative anti-corporate / anti-war action take place, and it didn't.

"I realise Indymedia is as strong as it's contributions but what did the IMC do all weekend? Where there only two or three activists there? In which case why wasn't an activist call put out for volunteers to cover the ESF & Beyond ESF? "

There was trouble sorting out the computers for Beyond ESF (although I wasn't involved in that and am not sure what happened) so the second media centre there wasn't set up, is my understanding. We will do better next time, please feel free to lend a hand during the G8 - you can get involved by emailing

"Is there anything in my accusation that they spent saturday planning the 'storming of palace' just to go and report heroically about themselves? "


We were all working like crazy to support the Camden Centre venue, and when I was working the door we got a lot of people telling us things like "this is the real ESF, events like this." Obviously this is a self-selected group, but still; it went really, really well, people had a great time.

I hope we get more media about sessions in the newswire. Because of the server seizure and some unrelated technical problems, publishing is not working very well on the site right now, we are going to have to find the cash for a new server, and these technical problems may be preventing people from posting as well (I am noticing a lot of comments in the newswire like "this may show up twice because publishing is not working well on the site."

If you have some info to report re: sessions, by all means put it up in the wire, we are very happy when people use the site. That's what it's for.

Seize the media!

anit-partisan attendee

No platform

18.10.2004 23:07

Excellent banner, Sonic: "Fight the bosses not the left". If the SWP 'stormed' a platform to stop the bosses having a voice, if the other spaces had given them one, I'd be well pleased. Fighting fascism means not being in a party in government that implements fascist policies.

united front

Brilliant ESF

18.10.2004 23:57

For me at least, the ESF was brilliant. I only got to go to 4 seminars/workshops but I learnt a lot. The ones I went to were mainly on Colombia and Bolivia and it was fascinating to hear from trade unionists, lawyers and human rights activists from those countries.
As for the protest at the Alexandra Palace, what a joke. If they are so correct then people will vote with their feet and go to their Beyond ESF. I would have thought that in a city of capitalism like London they could have found a better target than the official ESF, it is Pythonesque.

Matthew Stiles

re imc reporting etc

19.10.2004 03:34

There was a media centre, but many media activists engaged in the several days of discussions around communication rights that were also held in the centre. They also ran facilities to enable people to make their own reporting for other alternative media projects.

There were many problems with the imc website as the servers is still very slow, which meant many pictures and articles were not uploaded. Most people didn't have a spare minute to write up reports of what they were doing, though I imagine a lot will be published in the coming weeks. Hundreds of events inside and outside of the ESF were all packed into a couple of days so time was pretty limited.

An imc call for participation did go out, but it is true that the server seizure effected the indymedia operations. Better archiving of such forums is a necessity however as the first poster says. Several imc activists worked inside the ESF for months to try and push for full and systematic archiving of all the seminars and planaries but this was not deemed a priority by the funding GLA and the project was cancelled. Some media activists set up a datatbase especially for reporting, others worked on audio archives. This area needs more development - many people are now working on it, but it needs to be taken seriously.

Also on a personal level, if I have a choice of typing up my notes from a discussion, or going out to cover the police harassing or arresting people I know which one I will choose. Later I will write up my notes.



19.10.2004 03:40

"Fighting fascism means not being in a party in government that implements fascist policies"

So you are saying that we should never ever have anything to do with any member of the Labour party because they are facists?

So much for the idea that you understand the ESF process, which is about getting all of the left together to discuss the way forward.


Guardian and Indymedia Server Seizures

19.10.2004 09:41

Just for the record, the Guardian did report on the Indymedia Server seizures - there was an article in their New Media section last week.


choice of plenary

20.10.2004 15:01

> but why storm a Plenary about coming up with solutions to the rise of
> the Right in Europe?

Simple. It was the one plenary at which Ken Livingstone was advertised as a speaker.