Beat the Dutch!

Netactivism in Amsterdam

Published in the Nettime reader, 1997

Guess you haven't heard a lot about Netactivism in the Netherlands, so I'm going to tell you some tales from the Lowlands: The Breaking of the State Publishers' monopoly, How to fight the Church of Scientology on Internet, and the Launch of McSpotlight (performed with some Dutch assistance). These inspiring examples explore the boundaries of what is possible on Internet. Netactivism requires creative use of any prospect Internet offers. On the other hand more content on the Net can not be provided without the human factor of fantasy...

1. Breaking the Information Monopoly of the State

First, let me tell you about a recent coup on Internet.
It takes some dwelling upon the Dutch situation, but once you get to grips with it, you'll love the story!

Let me introduce the players to you. First there is the agency I work for, called bureau Jansen & Janssen, which stands for Thomson & Thomson, the two stumbling detictives featured in the Tintin comics. Jansen & Janssen is a spin off from the strong squatter movement of Amsterdam in the eighties.
Activists had to deal with the police and secret services a lot, and the bureau started collecting stragegies and contra- expertise. Jansen & Janssen started in 1985 and soon grew into an archive on police tactics with particular interest in analysing how the force deals with critical powers that be. We published our research on how the secret service tried to infiltrate the activist movement, and on how they blackmailed asylumseekers to work for them.
Jansen & Janssen kept up with the changes of times and in 1994 revealed how private detectives collect information about lobby groups and sell it to the multinationals involved. Other areas which we have been interested in for many years are the change in police tactics in fighting organized crime, the influence of foreign agencies on seizing drugs traffic and the shift towards more intelligence gathering, by the police. But on this subject, we were too early. (Or haunted by our radical roots, which we never cut off and never will.) People took us serious, but to a certain extent. With some stories, we just did not get access to the media.

This was the situation up until some two years ago when a public prosecuter in Amsterdam found out that a special squad team, the Interregional Research Team (IRT), was de facto exploiting a drug trafficking line. The police worked with an informant who was allowed to grow into someone really important in order to infiltrate a big gang. The police looked the other way when containers full of soft drugs arrived from abroad. In the end, the police were involved in organizing import and export of all kind of drugs, including Ecstacy (XTC) and cocaine. The public prosecuter ordered this very special criminal investigation method to stop. Immediately. If only he had known what he had started on that day in December 1993....
Fights between departments, between commissionairies, between cities, between the police and the Public Prosecutor. Officials refused to talk to each other, policemen involved claimed their lives were in anger - and that of their informants' were too. The first official investigation into this didn't really elucidate what was going on, not only because a certain part of the final report remained secret. Nevertheless the crisis was taken seriously, the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Minister of Justice both resigned. Because further investigation seemed necessairy, an official parliamentairy inquiry commission was set up: the Van Traa commission.

This is our second player. The Van Traa commission (named after their chairman) was staffed with specialists from universities and the field. They interviewed a lot of people involved, and the public part of the hearings were broadcase live on television in October 1995.
People were shocked to hear about what was going on, and how little the higher reaches had known about it. It seemed as though nobody would take responsibility for what had happened. The police had been told to fight organized crime, and to go out and get some big guys - and that's what they had been doing. The use of undogmatic investigation methods was not really illegal. They reasoned that because they were not mentioned in the law, the methods were not forbidden.
The results of the Commission Van Traa were published in 13 volumes (more than 5000 pages) and sold together in a box, for 695,- guilders. A cd-rom with the same information (accessed using an impressive search engine and hyperlinked keywords and notes) was available for another f 650,- As the paper-version had no index whatsoever, people where in fact forced to buy the package deal for over 1000,- guilders. The publishers were the SDU - the former State Publishing House who were recently privatised. They are the third player in our game.

The price of the report caused much controversy as these documents are in fact Hansards of Parliament, which should be freely available to the public. After a plea on the opinion page of our most serious daily paper, NRC Handelsblad (bit like the Times), to put the Van Traa report on Internet, we decided it was time to act. We took the challenge and within a week, the job was done.

Some Perl-specialists hacked the cd-rom and managed to free the stripped texts from the processed version. The only thing we lost were the hyperlinks and the notes (a bloody shame!). But this was the only way to do it if we were to avoid legal problems. The Hansards of Parliament are free of copyright - the Law makes an exception for the sake of democracy. The SDU has claims on the edition work they do, but not on the texts as such. We saw the hole and jumped right in to it!
The stripped texts were turned into html-pages, divided into neat paragraphs made accessible by a search engine, and that was that. 'Monopoly of the SDU broken, Van Traa report on Internet.' We made headlines on the frontpage of the same, very serious newspaper. The managing director of the SDU admitted he had to congratulate us with the job. The Secretairy of State for Home Affairs wrote a letter to the paper which indicated he should have wanted to do the same, but that he was too late. He stressed the importance of accessibility of government information, and anounced a pilot project of using teletext on the local cable - because the masses don't have computers- for this (imagine, 5000 pages, each divided up in 4 quarters, to be handled with remote control).

Who would have thought Jansen & Janssen would be praised for helping Dutch Society!?! The funny side was that, within a week, we had gone completely mainstream - accepted by Parliament and known in every far out corner of the country. It was a strange experience. Sure the timing was right. We interfered in a discussion we had only heard of vaguely, but we happened to pull the right string at the right time.
The monopoly of the SDU was a thorn in the flesh of many people at all kind of levels. This tiny push was just the thing needed. Two weeks after the launch of our Van Traa homepage, the SDU announced they would put all Hansards of Parliament on line, starting the first of May. For free. (but as a GIF-picture, without search possiblities..)

But the story does not end there. One month later, the Rijksrecherche, (a kind of Internal Affairs - the police of the police) finished their research into the affairs of the criminal investigation department where the two drugdealing officers worked. Internal Affairs Reports usually are secret. But because the results where handed out to the Parliament, the status changed. Politicians were under great pressure to disclose this report, and within a week they had to give in. But 'made public' didn't mean open to everybody yet. The report - 500 pages of completely shocking details - was availables to members of Parliament; but not more then two copies for each party. Journalists had it, but wanted to wring out every last drop before giving it away.
Putting it on the Net was far more work this time. It had to be scanned in by hand over the weekend, and corrected with WordPerfect. As we didn't have a very intelligent version of a scan-program, there were a lot of mistakes, I can asure you! But we did it, and it was a success.
And, because we are trying to grow up, we decided we had to try and make some money out of this big joke. Last week our Van Traa cd-rom saw the light of day. A complete copy of our Van Traa-site, the Internal Affairs report, and a selection of other works of buro Jansen & Janssen. All this for the price of only f 49,50. The sale of the cd-rom raises another question: will Netvertising work, or not? The cd-rom is only available by order, and in some selective bookshops. Will we go bankrupt, or do we get rich in the end? It goes without saying that buro Jansen & Janssen is a no- budget initiative, surviving on too little payment for jobs and small subsidies, doing most of the work for free and for the good case.

I really liked doing these things, even though it involved a lot of crap work, short nights and unexpected problems. It was so inspiring and yet so simple. This action was at the same time a natural continuation of Jansen & Janssen work, and an entirely new development. We have always loved disclosing secret reports on criminal investigation, but had never used Internet for this purpose before.

The action involved methods typical for the (Dutch) activist movement we come from - like breaking in and publishing. But nowadays hacking a cd-rom and putting it on your homepage is easy! Once you have the right people together at the right time, you take yourself seriously and it's done in no time.
And it felt so good to break to monopoly of a -privatised- state organ, and to use Internet to make information public that is supposed to be public anyway. By just doing something, making a statement that didn't need any further introduction or explanation.
Our site meant a big step forward in talks between authorities on different levels and on organizing access for the public by means of electronic media. And it was an event welcomed by MP's to get the average couch potato more involved in politics. Our secret agenda was really to deepen the discussion on investigation methods. If more people had access to details about the affairs of modern policing, this would eventually lead to a debate on more essential points. But this hope was in vain, I'm afraid.
Then again, it's hard to rate our influence on the discussion. This is what Internet was meant for, people said, and I couldn't agree more. In thinking about the meaning of this action, I guess the value of it is in adding a dimension. The breaking of this information monopoly could not have been done -at least not so easily, or not without problems with the law- without Internet. On the other hand, the action added something to the ideas of the use of Internet and so was very inspiring.

2. The McSpotlight Story

The McLibel Trial, which has pitted the mighty McDonald's Corporation against two unwaged environmental activists is something very special and unique itself.
In 1990, London Greenpeace (a small campaigning group not related to Greenpeace International) was sued for libel by McDonald's. Instead of backing off, Helen Steel and Dave Morris accepted the challenge and went to court. Now they are successfully defending every single line of their critical leaflet, cross-examining scientists and McDonalds officials and winning at points in the London High Court.
The trial celebrates its second anniversary this summer and is due to continue until November. The activists, nicknamed the McLibel Two, found themselves a new stage to critizise McDonalds in a more detailed way than they could ever have dreamed of. It is one of the best examples of using the courtroom as stage: here the facts can truly speak for themselves and McDonald's legal action backfires completely.

Internet was involved from the very beginning. Since the start of the trial, in June 1994, extracts from the transcripts of the hearings were being published on the Net, and McDonald's didn't like it at all. The case was becoming the biggest public relation disaster in the corporate history. Just after the trial celebrated it's first birthday, McDonald's tried to reach a settlement with the defendants - the company had had enough and wanted out. When the parties couldn't get to any kind of agreement, McDonald's choose the strategy of obstruction. I find it extremely significant that their first target was the publishing of the protocols. McDonald's had made an agreement at the beginning of the trial, that they would pay 300 pounds a day to have the transcripts of each day in Court ready by seven in the evening. (To wait for the Courts Office to do this would take three weeks.) Until day 156, the court and the McLibel 2 each got a free copy. Then it stopped. McDonald's wanted the Defendants to promise that they would only use the transcripts themselves. 'What it would prevent, and this is what this is all about, is their disseminating it (any transcript extract) to journalists and the McLibel Suport Campaign and similar like-minded', said McDonald's QC Richard Rampton. Not to mention, putting them on the Net. The defendants started a fund-raising campaign in order to pay the 300 pounds to get each day's transcripts.

Before McSpotlight, there also was the McLibel mailing list. Already a big success. Campaigners from anywhere keep each other up-to-date with all of the activities in the world-wide Anti- McDonald's campaign. The McLibel Trial became the virtual centre of targeting the Hamburger King. Suburbians against McDrives, loothers in Kopenhagen, Ghandi-inspired Fins discussing with their local McDonald, India against the invasion of McDonalds -all connected through Internet.
The mailing list is yet another excellent example of Internet adding a certain value to a campaign. The list connects otherwise relatively isolated protesters of all kinds. Internet helps to create a movement on a global scale. People who act in their own environment and with their own means, realize that their activities are part of a larger context. (Do I sound holistic here? please not!) Could the postman do the same? No, not really. Time delays, and the lack of direct contact would be frustrating. The advantages of being able to react immediately, and to support & advise people all over the world for the price of a local phone call, are immeasurable for campaigns such as this one.
There is no doubt that McDonald's underestimated their opponent. The sueing of London Greenpeace backfired, but I'm sure they had never expected anything like McSpotlight...

A WWW-site with all the information about the longest running civil case in Britain ever, and more. Complete with an audio Guided Tour narrated by the McLibel 2, taking visitors round the key pages on the site - the case, the company, the circulum vitae of all the people involved in the trial and the coverage in the media. I particular like the cartoon section! The issues treated in Court are being dug out to the bottom:
* Nutrition - Can a diet high in saturated fat and sugar lead to heart disease and cancer?
* Advertising - Are children being manipulated by advertising?
* McDonald's International Expansion - Where will they invade next?
* Employment - Environment - Are McDonald's responsible for damage to rainforests?
* Animals - Recycling & Waste - Multinationals and Global Trade,
* Freedom of Speech/Libel laws - Capitialism & the Alternatives.

There are so many links, and possibilities, and yet the site is so well organized and accesable. And so very well designed....I still get impressed, everytime I pay a visit.
The brand new 'Debating Room' is another Internet innovation to be found on McSpotlight. It is essentially a moderated discussion group within the website that means that any visitor can take part in the discussion about the campaign against McDonald's. A very good idea is the Campaign section which offers groups from all over the world to present themselves and their material.

Translations of current Anti-McDonald's leaflet can be printed out in any desired language, what a service! This service is something of the categorie 'added value', you could call it an Internet speciality. In combination with all the information McSpotlight provides, it is the first worldwide activist manual. Facts and figures available, as well as a platform for publicity and support from all over the world. It makes campaigning against McDonald's not only pretty easy, but also very attractive. Not to mention the surplus of the site as an easy way to keep the public and the press informed about what's happening in Court. The media coverage of McSpotlight was overwelming, and is still going on. USA Today, Times of India, Chicago Tribune, Stern, Channel 4, BBC, the Guardian, Daily Mail etcetera. Only four weeks after its launch McSpotlight celebrated its millionth visitor - including 2000 from in the first week. McDonald's decided against taking action to try to ban the site initially, but apparently had second thoughts. In April they filed a plaintiff (added to the running case), which was too funny to be taken seriously. The Defendants are being accused of taking part in a 'photo-opportunity' outside McDonald's Leicester Square store and a press conference at the Cyberia Cafe in London. McDonald's point is the fact that the Defendants took part in publishing further the challenged factsheet.

So this is how McDonald's defines the site: 'On Friday, February 16, 1996, the Defendants publicly launched the 'McSpotlight' World-Wide Internet Web Site having on it, among other material, a version of the leaflet complained of.' This is what I call the understatement of the year. I think this is the first case in court in which people are being accused of 'encouraging users of the Internet to access the Website where they are likely to read the same' (i.e. the leaflet).

The final straw for McDonald's could well be the latest feature on McSpotlight - and as far as I know, this is the first time anyone on Internet has done this - in which, they use the 'Frames' browsing system to hijack McDonald's own corporate website. On one side of your screen you have McDonald's shiny, expensive website, and on the other you have a detailed deconstruction and criticism from McSpotlight. McDonald's carefully-constructed PR nonsense is taken apart word by word, and as McSpotlight contains 25 Mb of detailed information about McDonald's, they simply add links to the scientific reports, or witness statments or whatever, that support their arguments. McSpotlight is the perfect example of how to combine safe & familiar activist methods of campaigning in the street - sneeking around in the dark hours at night - with using the new techniques of modern times in cyberspace.

3. How to Fight Scientology on the Net

Net-activists cannot do without the old media, not entirely. The controversy between acces provider and the Church of Scientology proved that. Xs4all is a provider founded by the former anarcho-hackers famous for their underground magazine HackTic ('xs4all', say it aloud: 'access for all'). Started two years ago, they are now running a fastgrowing access providing company. But they have not forgotten their roots, and are always in for fun, or for some political controversy. (They helped us out with our Van Traa site technically, and with the cd-rom). In the summer of 1995 xs4all got into serious problems with the Church of Scientology. An accountholder had put the famous Fishman-affidavit on his homepage.
Scientology is not really a church, but more a profit seeking company. Or a sect if you wish. To become a full member you have to take several courses at different levels, and pay for them. The higher levels of these courses are kept secret, only available for those who reached those sacred hights. Ex-members are being terrorized and blackmailed to keep them from exposing their stories in the media.

Steven Fishman was one of them, he worked in the department of Scientology that had to deal with defectors. So he had some stories to tell when he left the sect. Scientology followed him around the world with slander, libel and lawsuits. But Fishman didn't give in. He even used the written material of the high- level courses, called OT's, as evidence in one of the cases in Court. This in fact made the so called secrets accessible for the public. They consist of complete nonsenses, stories about UFO's, immortallity and the bad things in your body you have to conquer, and kill, which is, of course, not possible without paid counseling from the Church. Now that the OT's were in the Court's library, the holy secret could have been a sell out. But not for Scientology. They set up teams to work in shifts and study the affidavits in the library, so nobody else could ask for them. After a year or so Scientology managed to get a court order to remove the papers from the library again.

And that is where Internet comes in.
People started putting the Fishman-affidavit on their homepage, and Scientology came after them. Threatened providers, sued them, just to cause a lot of problems and scare others off. But not the Dutchies.
When Scientology found out about the first Dutch homepage, they started a procedure against xs4all. Before anything was clear, they got themselves a search warrant and barged into the xs4all headquarters to seizure all property. There was a baillif, some American officials, computer specialists and a lot of Scientologists -twelve in total. They wanted to draw up an inventory, to use to prove xs4all's credibility if the case ever went to court - and they would win. (Silly thing is, they only wrote down the pc's in the main office, and forgot to go and check out the engine room with hundreds of modems and the big Unix systems).

This was a bridge too far. People who heard about the raid were stupefied, indignant, and extremely angry. Some of them started putting the Fishman affidavit on their own home page. The writer Karin Spaink took a lead in organizing the protests and within a week one hundred people from all over the country had an addition to their homepage. Karin Spaink started a mailinglist to keep all those individuals informed, and that was more then necessary.
All kind of people joined, forming an extraordinairy occasional coalition. Journalists, a liberal MP, commercial broadcasting stations, people at universities, catholics, christians, activists, you name it. They all had accounts with different providers, so they were kind of hard to get. I am sure this coalition would not have survived a reallife meeting, let alone a discussion on the strategy. Some of them would have detested eachother at first sight, just because the way they looked, or smelled or talked. But on the Net, everybody joined for their own reason, for the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, or just to tease Scientology. And this was the strength of the action. Karin Spaink was the spokeswoman in the press and coordinated the legal steps. A newsgroup was founded to discuss important matters, with sympathisers as well, but the list was moderated and closed. This worked, and it really helped.
Scientology pulled out all the stops to reduce the damage. When persuading didn't help, they started threatening providers, and harrassing some of the participants. The liberal MP for instance, got so many phonecalls from CoS, that he felt forced to remove the Fishman papers temporarily because he couldn't get on with his work. They even tried to frame Karin Spaink and some people from xs4all in a setup so complicated it would take hours to explain. (Someone -said to be-working for the American Embassy offered them compromising information about Scientology in order to help them fight the Church. But soon it came out he had been in touch with Scientology before he talked to xs4all). They started to build their mirror palace, to play people off against one another. But it didn't really work here.
Scientology started a procedure for violating copyrights, against several providers and Karin Spaink. As this would be the first case on copyright & Internet, some people thought it a shame it had to be a Scientology case. Because the principle of the matter could easily be confused with their smoke screen of freedom of religion. The occasional coalition hired a good laywer, still remembered for his work for revolutionaires in the seventies. The Fishman Affidavit was printed on old fashioned posters (pure text layout, it's quite a lot of letters..) which were soon seen in the centre of the city, specially around CoS-headquarters. They had their people sneeking around with spray and lime to repaint the posters. A date was set for the Court hearing, at the request of Scientology months after the procedure started. Their biggest problem was the secrecy of the challenged papers. In order to claim the copyright, they would have to come forward with the orginals. And thus, break their own secrecy.
They tried to solve this dilemma by hiring a public notary to comparise the orginal documents and the Internet version. This took him a long time.
Two days before the case was due in Court, the very night the Fishman supportgroup held a solidarity night in the Milkyway (well known to every smoking visitor of Amsterdam), Scientology announced that they were withdrawing the case. The notary had not been able to declare the two documents were exactly identical. Goodbye copyright claim.
This support gathering was a big success. Celebrities read out horrifying statements from ex members, and comical parts of the so called secret wisdom of the Church. Star of the show was David Fishman himself, flown in from the United States. He was completely flabbergasted as he hardly knew about the Internet struggle about his Affidavit before a friend introduced him to the Net a short time before. It sure was inspiring for him to be in Amsterdam. And he was not the only Yank present. Scientology had brought the top of their public relation staff - easily identified by their stiff, aloof faces.

Isn't it funny, the night in the Milkyway was the top of the campaign? The fight with Scientology originally was a pure Internet event. The challenge was, whether or not, something could be published, on the Net. Support came through newsgroups and connected people in the United States, and the campaign spread, around the world (to Hungary for instance). The primary attack was against a provider, which aroused the anger of Dutch users of the Net. The coalition they formed wouldn't have survived reallife meetings, but florished in Cyberspace. This was new. But then again, the campaign couldn't do without the Old Media. A case in Court, a laywer from the seventies, a blackbook by sect-watchers and paperprints postered in the street. A sole window smashed, a meeting in a hippyjoint and good coverage in the papers. And Scientology brought out another law suit, we won, and they brought out a new one. This is a neverending story.

4. More content on Internet

As a promoter of creative use of Internet to produce more content, I am often asked why the Jansen & Janssen archive is not accessible via Internet. The answer is not in the barriers put up by technical problems, as I first thought. I now know it has to do with the way we work. Putting archives on line doesn't necessarily leads to more content on the Net.
I came to this conclusion, because as well as being an archivist, my main roles are as an activist and an investigating journalist. My work for Buro Jansen & Janssen made me not only a specialist on the endless problems of computerizing an archive in order to make it accessible, but also taught me how to deal with monopolized media that are basically not interested in serious research. Pioneering in computerization has had important consequences for the way we organized our work, both for the archiving as for the research.
Through the years Jansen has been collecting all kinds of material on the monitoring of the police and secret services. Newspaperclippings, magazine articles, brochures and books formed the more conventional part of the archive. But people also specialized in monitoring special squads of the police which left us with a collection of frequencies, license plate numbers and addresses of interesting authorities. Others approached us with stories about infiltration, with files of their lawsuits or dossiers about criminal investigation against them. Even secret papers from police and intelligence sources eventually found their way to our offices. This was usually the result of typical methods for the (Dutch) activist movement - namely, breaking in and publishing - and we were always ready to give a hand analysing the material.
With the decline of the activist movement of the eighties, the origin of our archive changed slightly. We were now handed complete collections of people who wanted to find a home for a part of their past. With Internet came the totally unstructured digital archive of floppies containing interesting textfiles found somewhere in cyberspace.

We felt the need to structuralize this chaos.
As soon as we started collecting newspaper cuttings, articles, books and brochures we also started using a computer to make the files of cuttings accessible.

The history of buro Jansen & Janssen can be read as the history of archiving with the help of computers.
Our first computer was an Apple-II, (followed by XT's and AT's) with very simple software. The facts about each article: title, date and source where connected with a few keywords, and the name and code of the place it was going to be filed, and could be found again. Later attempts to refine the software focussed on the layout and on trying to make it seem more intelligent. As the archive and the amount of people working there grew, the collection of keywords expanded like a malignant tumor. Alternative spelling, plural or not, use dots or don't, not to mention the equivalents: using different meanings for the same thing - or the other way around. All problems that may sound familiar to those using search engines on Internet.
The ideal software should help make us more distinctive and rule out the options not allowed. With this tool the search options could be refined, and our computer program would be the best there was. At least that is what our second programmer promised us. As did the third, and the fourth.
Looking back, I think we were too early. The people that were willing to help us in fact needed us as a project to improve their own skills. Small modules were completed, but admitting the work was way beyond their level appeared to be impossible.

This course of events had dramatic consequences for the work on the archive. In the beginning we had a dream... of getting the clipping archive up to date (One Day) and of adding modules to include our brochure collection - not to mention the extending library and all the unselected items mentioned earlier.
In reality we faced arrears that kept haunting us over the years. Waiting for a new version of the software often meant the old one could not be used for a while. No input into the computer meant no impulse to continue cutting newspapers and magazines. Of course there were enough reasons to ignore the necessary paperwork - like exciting research or other outdoor activities - and we have managed to work away arrears of six months or more, several times...

The cutting of mainstream papers has become less important over the years anyway. With the entry of digital versions of papers, on line or on CDrom, the oldfashioned handicraft will be superfluous in no time, meaning that we'd only have to concentrate on the specialized press.
On the whole we've given up the ambition for completeness. It is no longer a goal to have our archive ready for presentation at some later date. Jansen & Janssen is archiving present time issues - we are not a newsservice, or server. Lack of energy, personpower and money made us more realistic in our priorities. The work will never be finished or ready for presentation - it will be permanently Under Construction. This goes for both the archive and the software making it accessible.

It might be usefull to stress once more that this concerned only a *part* of the collection of the Jansen & Janssen archive. Only the newspaper clippings. So putting the archive on line, would have meant presenting only a part of our collection.
If we get questions for information, we prefer to present the results of a queste through the entire archive. In our case, the computer has never been more than *one* of the ways to search our archive. Going through the files by hand always proved to be a rewarding: most parts of the library were not included in the system, and through the years a shadow system of temporary files and personal drawers made the quest even more complicated. Finding sources is never enough, it is the combination of facts & figures that makes the story. It is the extra input of research that turns bare information into content.
Never underestimate the human factor!

It goes without saying that Jansen & Janssen has learned to value resources like complete papers on CD-rom or the archive of magazines put on line. Not to mention Internet as a resource as such, as an extention of our archive, one more place to check out in order to find answers. But content is not produced until you combine found facts in a certain context.
The Jansen & Janssen archive is not secret, but only available for those who know how to handle it.

This brings me to another important topic: the relation between collecting information and what to do with it.
Making money was always a problem, but at the same time a non- issue. Selling information was not within our power, we preferred to remain marginal if that meant free to appoint the agenda of our own activities.
Jansen & Janssen frequently discussed opening up our archives for visitors, subscribers or scholars, but always decided against it because it would mean an incredible amount of work to get the archive up to date and to keep it that way. Most of our our personpower would have been eaten up by this work and we prefered to spent our time on research and writing.
Even the production of regular newsbulletins or investigative bulletins never succeeded, which is something that I still regret. Professionalising the management of information is a skill we still not possess. We are forced to ask for money for research from people who used to be fellow activists or friends now landed in the mainstream media arena. We couldn't survive on the give- one-take-one relationship - not financially at least. But in our hearts, we would have rather kept things between us. This so- called unprofessional attitude also turned against us when we tried to get our stories published. The mainstream media scene is unable to deal with us in a normal way - they just can't handle the fact that we cannot be labeled into a specific corner. We cannot be placed in the category of freelance journalists, because our work is too much biased. On the other hand we have proved to deliver reliable information, yet with a tiny trace of activism. Not asking big sums - or 'fair amounts'-of money seems to be unflattering as well these days. Not everybody is taking us seriously all the time, but is that a problem? The question is: do we want to be treated as grownups all the time, or do we prefer to be the joker of the neighbourhood every once in a while...

5. Conclusion

New media require the development of new strategies to create public consent on important debates. The monopoly of mainstream media is challenged by Internet. Manufactured consent, orchestered by the traditional massmedia is fading away. On Internet an endless amount of paradigms compete for the attention of the electronic audience.
Growing public access to Internet has conflicting consequences. The power of Internet is fragmented. Instead of the collective global time of massmedia - CNN in the Gulfwar - there is the personal time of groups and individuals. Massmedia will be replaced by permanent archives and real-time channels for smaller organisations or groups.
This trend offers opportunities for social and political movements to organize themselves on a global scale - to create real and virtual communities.
Internet offers new possibilities for groups without power, extending their potential to influence society. Internet is important for the distribution of information among all segments and levels of society. It takes away physical limitations and creates more possibilities for countries in the South.

There is a radical difference between Internet and other, older, media. Michiel Bauwens, a philosopher from Belgium, explains Internet can be seen as a meta-medium, a combination of massmedia and personal media in one and the same environment. This combination leads to completely new forms of mass intercommunication, where television was nothing more than the next broadcaster, only with images.
Most of the time we are not aware of the potential of these new dimensions. We are so used to making a distinction between internal communication, and messages coming to us through mass media. Internet is generally seen as either (1) a means of communication or (2) a mass medium. However Internet fulfills both roles simultaneously. Maintaining a distinction between both roles is crucial in underestimating the potential of Internet. This dual role is being reflected in the seperation between the features that have become the most important on Internet -email and the WorldWideWeb. Most people are active users of email and passive consumers of Web-sites. And that's all.

The intermediate world of mailinglist or newsgroups is restricted to a more selective part of Netizens. Not to mention the telnet-libraries, the ftp-archives trapped in dust; and whatever happened to good old Gopher?
The reason why I keep on rambling about McSpotlight is because of its innovative spirit: it has nothing of the boring static formats of the average WWW-site. On the contrary, McSpotlight presents a combination of virtually all available Internet features in one integrated environment: I guess the spirit lies in this combination. It shows how background information can be presented in a creative way. An information monopoly has been broken, by putting facts online within the correct context. The McSpotlight site has shown a way forward for Internet. There is no doubt that this is an example of the beauty of Internet, and that is what we should be exploring and working on - not just dumping endless megabytes of information into the depths of cyberspace. The use of Internet can be extremely inspiring if it adds a certain value to a discussion or supplies a special dimension to a campaign. In developing ideas about political activism on the Net it is so important to keep exploring the outer boundaries, the borderies of the possible combinations that the system offers.

It is the fantasy of the people who use Internet, that creates its potential power. That's how the whole thing got started anyway, remember?
Maybe it's time for a revaluation of the true merits of Usenet.
Back to the source!

Some site-seeing:

Van Traa Report

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