Nonviolence.Org was founded by Martin Kelley out of a home office way back in 1995. Over the 13 or so years of its existence, it won accolades and attention from the mainstream media and millions of visitors. It’s articles have been reprinted in countless movement journals and even in a featured USAToday editorial.
The past eleven years have seen countless internet projects burst on the scene only to wither away. Yet Nonviolence.org continues without any funding, attracting a larger audience every year. As the years have gone by and I’ve found the strength to continue it, I’ve realized more and more that this is a ministry. As a member of the Religious Society of Friends I’m committed to spreading the good news that war is unnecessary. In my personal life this is a matter of faith in the “power that takes away occassion for all war.” In my work with Nonviolence.org I also draw on all the practical and pragmatic reasons why war is wrong. For more personal motivations you can see at QuakerRanter.org, my personal blog.
A Nonviolence.org Timeline
In 1995 I was editor at an activist publisher struggling to adapt to a rapidly changing book world. Many of the independent bookstores that had always supported us were closing just as printing costs were rising. The need to re-invent activist organizing and publishing for the 1990’s became obvious and I saw the internet as a place to do that. One of the earliest manifestos and introductions to the Nonviolence Web was an essay called The Revolution Will be Online.
I began by approached leading U.S. peace groups with a crazy proposal: if they gave me their material I would put it up on the web for them for free. My goal was to live off of savings until I could raise the operating funds from foundations. “Free typesetting for the movement by the movement” was the rallying cry and I quickly brought a who’s-who of American peace groups over to Nonviolence.org. I knew that there was lots of great peace writing that wasn’t getting the distribution it deserved and with the internet I could get it out faster and more widely then with any traditional media. For three years I lived off of savings, very part-time jobs and occasional small grants.
Through 1998, Nonviolence.ommarg developed into a web “portal” for nonviolence. We would feature the most provocative and timely pieces from the NVWeb member groups on the newly-redesigned homepage, dubbed “Nonviolence Web Upfront.” A online magazine format loosely modeled on Slate and the now-defunct Feed Magazine, it also contained original material and links to interesting threads on the integrated discussion board. With these popular features, the Nonviolence.Org became a “sticky” site, one which attracted regular visitors. The combined visibility for member groups was much greater than anyone could obtain alone and we earned plenty of awards and links. There was a New York Times tech profile (boy was that a weird photo shoot!) and I was invited to write the guest Op/Ed in USA Today.
But this model couldn’t last. A big problem was money: there’s were too few philanthropists for this sort of work, and established foundations didn’t even know the right questions to ask in evaluating an internet project. Nonviolence.Org was kept afloat by my own dwindling personal savings, and I never did find the sort of money that could pay even poverty wages. I took more and more part-time jobs till they became the full-time ones I have today. At the same time, internet publishing was also changing. With the advent of “Blogs” and open-source bulletin board software, Nonviolence.org has continued to evolve and stay relevant.
Nonviolence.org continued to be one of the most highly-visible and visited peace websites, being highly ranked through the first Gulf War II, the biggest U.S. military action since the web began. This model of independent activist web publishing was still critical. The Nonviolence.org mission of featuring the best writing and analysis continued until 2008 when Martin finally mothballed the Nonviolence.org project and sold the domain.