I’ve long noticed there are few active, online peace sites or communities that have the grassroots depth I see occurring elsewhere on the net. It’s a problem for Nonviolence.org [update: a project since laid down], as it makes it harder to find a diversity of stories.
I have two types of sources for Nonviolence.org. The first is mainstream news. I search through Google News, Technorati current events, then maybe the New York Times, The Guardian, and the Washington Post.
There are lots of interesting articles on the war in iraq, but there’s always a political spin somewhere, especially in timing. Most big news stories have broken in one month, died down, and then become huge news three months later (e.g., Wilson’s CIA wife being exposed, which was first reported on Nonviolence.org on July 22 but became headlines in early October). These news cycles are driven by domestic party politics, and at times I feel all my links make Nonviolence.org sound like an apparatchik of the Democratic Party USA.
But it’s not just the tone that makes mainstream news articles a problem – it’s also the general subject matter. There’s a lot more to nonviolence than antiwar exposes, yet the news rarely covers anything about the culture of peace. “If it bleeds it leads” is an old newspaper slogan and you will never learn about the wider scope of nonviolence by reading the papers.
My second source is peace movement websites
And these are, by-and-large, uninteresting. Often they’re not updated frequently. But even when they are, the pieces on them can be shallow. You’ll see the self-serving press release (“as a peace organization we protest war actions”) and you’ll see the exclamatory all-caps screed (“eND THe OCCUPATION NOW!!!”). These are fine as long as you’re already a member of said organization or already have decided you’re against the war, but there’s little persuasion or dialogue possible in this style of writing and organizing.
There are few people in the larger peace movement who regularly write pieces that are interesting to those outside our narrow circles. David McReynolds and Geov Parrish are two of those exceptions. It takes an ability to sometimes question your own group’s consensus and to acknowledge when nonviolence orthodoxy sometimes just doesn’t have an answer.
And what of peace bloggers? I really admire Joshua Micah Marshall, but he’s not a pacifist. There’s the excellent Gutless Pacifist (who’s led me to some very interesting websites over the last year), Bill Connelly/Thoughts on the eve, Stand Down/No War Blog, and a new one for me, The Picket Line. But most of us are all pointing to the same mainstream news articles, with the same Iraq War focus.
If the web had started in the early 1970s, there would have been lots of interesting publishing projects and blogs growing out the activist communities. Younger people today are using the internet to sponsor interesting gatherings and using sites like Meetup to build connections, but I don’t see communities built around peace the way they did in the early 1970s. There are few people building a life – hope, friends, work – around pacifism.
Has “pacifism” become ossified as its own in-group dogma of a certain generation of activists? What links can we build with current movements? How can we deepen and expand what we mean by nonviolence so that it relates to the world outside our tiny organizations?