good for bristol

Monday, 9 September 2013

It was always crap and never really worked: the Bristol Indymedia story

Mock executions, police raids, terrorists, death threats, trolls (of course) and endless stupidity.  As internet talkboards go Bristol Indymedia's gotta be up there with the best.  Or worst.  Or something.

Indymedia started in America in 1999 to provide communication and news coverage for the Seattle protests.  The protestors decided to write their own talkboard software rather than use any of the many free open source boards available.  Their coders were crap and designers even worse but the protest attracted worldwide attention and Indymedia took off.

Just like now, back then Bristol was full of hippy anarchos - you could barely throw a stick in the street without hitting some dreadlocked whining clich√© - and in summer 2001 a critical mass of them met at Tech 2 weekend at the Cube Cinema.  For want of any better idea they decided to set up an Indymedia server for Bristol.

Here's what these losers said at the time:

"Bristol Indymedia is a site on the web where
independant news and information can be sent. It is
independant because it is not owned by anyone and
because the we have an open editorial system - which
basically means unless you send us something party
political or racists it will get published. If you do
send stuff like that it will get hidden. (Click here
for details) Another plus is that what you send us
gets published immediately so important news can get
passed around the city quickly."

 You can still see this and the rest of the founding statement online

Technically incompetent (the bit "click here for details" isn't a hyperlink - duh), badly written, long winded and pompous.  It set a standard for the future.

After its launch Bristol Indymedia went downhill.  It ran on clunky, buggy Dada software.  Hosted on an old computer under someone's stairs in St Werburghs it ran eyewateringly slowly.  Most of the original collective moved on, leaving it run by a tiny clique of self-important and incompetent arseholes.

It sort of worked, and sort of didn't.  Bizarre decisions were made, like stopping posts appearing until 30 minutes after they'd been written.  This was done deliberately to stop people talking in the comments.  Somewhat counter-productive for what was, at heart, a talkboard.

It was both unmoderated and heavily censored at the same time.  Posts and comments would get hidden for no reason.  And the "hidden" concept was always very odd.  Stuff that was legally dubious, libellous or downright incitement was "hidden" rather than being deleted.  But all the hidden stuff could be accessed by anyone who looked here

Meanwhile the place was full of trolls, bogus posts, adverts and hippy crap sent to every Indymedia server, all of which were allowed through.  A lot was in foreign languages the database simply converted into random characters.

It chuntered along unhappily until 17 June 2005 when someone posted this:

"alternative panel-beating for oxygen."

"with the G8 on the horizon, we looked for a simple yet effective way to stick two fingers up to this oil-addicted society.we found one! a train that carries brand-new cars from portbury dock nr avonmouth through the avon gorge to ashton and bedminster to desperse at temple meads for the rest of the country. Some questions that came into our little minds were:is portbury dock fianancially-competative? [yes], who paid for the tracks and maintance from portbury to parson St bedminster?. has anyone ever seen a passenger train on this route?,and sitting on a hot coach because you can't afford hiked-up train fayres, you see yet more new cars you can't afford to buy being transported by rail,to consume more oil, that our enviroment can't take. So we did an oxygen-grab as a kind of work-out up to the summit.Lifting and then dropping rocks onto useless pieces of metal.[17/06/05] We are feeling fit now for the greedy-ate, we suggest others should take aim and practice. The forth-coming event around gleneagles will not automatically mean a head-on confrontation with the old-bill, they have more spiteful weapons than us, so let us side step them and unbalance them using our minds. good luck stay free, S.P. ray. "

Inspired by the G8 conference at Gleneagles, Scotland someone had gone and dropped rocks from a cliff in Leigh Woods onto a train from Portbury.  They posted up what they'd done on Bristol Indymedia.  Note the "we suggest others should take aim and practice".

Calling for people to drop rocks on trains was a bit much and at least two people reported the post to the police.  Who duly raided the house with the server in it and arrested the resident.

The person arrested was soon released, no charges pressed and Bristol Indymedia even got their crappy old server back.  But the row that erupted afterwards was massive.

Local film-maker Mark Watson ("Zaskar") got most of the blame - totally unfairly.  He'd reported the post to the police and said so.  This led to graffiti at the end of his road, bits of cut grass being scattered outside his house, death threats and general shit.  Mark loved it of course.  He changed the graffiti from "Mark Watson is a grass" to "Mark Watson is a great shag" and made a film in which balaclaved terrorists cut his head off Al Queda style while screaming "Indymedia! Indymedia! Indymedia!".  The film was shown at a Blue Screen night at the Cube Cinema.

When all the drama died down Bristol Indymedia returned to being dull and crap, but at least it was a bit faster and less buggy as it now ran on a proper server in America (maybe - all a bit vague) and used the slightly less worse Oscait software.

And then more rubbish terrorists started using it to publicise their actions.  Mostly these guys set fire to mobile phone masts and wrote painfully long communiques full of rambling nonsense.  They also set fire to cars.  And tried to set fire to a bank.  And burnt down a big TV and radio mast. They even set fire to a railway line.  See a pattern there?

But then in September 2013 the rubbish terrorists set fire to a police building that was still under construction, doing about £10 million pounds worth of damage, placed their first bomb behind a bank and probably tried to burn down Ashton Court Mansion (they haven't yet claimed responsibility for the last one).  Everyone with even the slightest connection to anarchists in Bristol is now shitting it waiting for the police to kick the door in.

So it's no surprise Bristol Indymedia have finally decided to chuck the towel in.  They're the platform of choice for a gang of crazed attention-seeking arsonists.  It's only a matter of time before some very pissed off police come calling again.

I'll miss it.  Respect to everyone who's put work in to keep it going over the years.

RIP Bristol Indymedia 2001 - 2013


  1. It wasn't gone long!! enough, calender useful though or would be if there were any interesting things to do

  2. By way of explanation as to what I'm doing here in this lonely corner of the Net, I Googled Bristol Indymedia and saw this article listed and on reading it I felt it needed some sort of correcting....
    I was one of those who were at the Tech 2 event where BIM was born and from what I recall there were hardly any - if any at all - "dreadlocked hippy anarchos" there. Most were quite ordinary looking people, in fact, with a good balance of men and women and of various ages. And it certainly wasn't "for want of any better idea" that Bristol Indymedia was set up. It was just one of many, many ideas that were being floated and being tested at that time.
    It was interesting times and an anti-capitalist, ideologically imaginative current was on the rise, going from J18 to Seattle and beyond. A war of ideas was being waged and Indymedia was just an attempt to challenge or at least to counterbalance the mainstream media and its depiction and representation of that war. There was a bunch of people who thought we should bring that war home and Bristol Indymedia was but one way of doing it.
    We weren't "losers" as you put it. We were just fucking trying. And at least we were fucking trying instead of bowing our heads to the scum who were running and wrecking the world both on a global and local level.
    I was one of the "original collective who moved on", in my case in 2005 to live in Amsterdam - giving a clue to who I am. I was in Bristol, however, when the server was seized by the police so I know a bit about what went on. As far as I can recall it was Zaskar who went to the police but your timeline is out of order. I suspect it wasn't out of moral outrage that he went to the police and told them where the server could be found but because he was in some bizarre battle with BIM. He did indeed make a film in which his balaclaved friends cut off his head while shouting Indymedia but this was way before the reporting to the police incident. An indication of the bizarre battle he was having with BIM. The proof, if needed, that his action was pointless is in the fact that no-one was charged and the server was returned.
    BIM has never been perfect but a big point to be made is that the quality of its content and even the quality of its technology has always been open to be improved or changed. Its never really been owned by anyone, which means that instead of carping about its software or complaining that it was a platform for "rubbish terrorists" or it was run by "self important and incompetent arseholes"; if it was really an issue to anyone then they should have got involved with it. The meetings were always open to anyone. Even Zaskar used to go to them.
    Of course BIM is and always has been open to criticism but if those doing the criticising weren't prepared to put their money where their mouth was then it was all just guff. Wank, basically.
    And as for the "rubbish terrorists" point you make: Anyone causing £10 million of damage to a police factory isn't that rubbish. Not in my eyes, anyway. And it's simply not true (as far as I know) that "everyone with even the slightest connection to anarchists in Bristol is now shitting it waiting for the police to kick the door in". And again, it's not true (as far as I know) that BIM have "finally decided to chuck the towel in".
    From what I understand it will be back in one form or another and if you miss it so and it has your respect then why not get involved? So long as you don't try to dictate or expect it to be run exactly the way you want it to be run then you won't be disappointed. Which subsequently means that for anyone who wants to dictate or are unable to work with other peoples (shared?) ideas then they should stay away and keep to their own lonely corners.
    Or continue bowing down to the scum running and wrecking the world both on a global and local level.........

  3. Faux Anarchist twat.