Big Noise Tactical Media was a radical media collective founded circa 1998 by Jacque Soohen and Rick Rowley. "Zapatista (1998), Black and Gold (1999), and This Is What Democracy Looks Like (2000), have won top honors at hundreds of film festivals from New York, Toronto, and Los Angeles to Berlin, Seoul, and Bogota. They have also produced television and video reports from the front lines of global struggles. In 1999, founding members of the Independent Media Center video team collaborated to cut the historic daily satellite feeds from the World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Seattle. They have reported for national television news programs from Argentina, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mexico, Ecuador, Brasil, East Timor, South Africa, and Palestine, where they were the only media to break the siege on the Church of the Nativity."
The "Battle of Seattle" in 1999 included live broadcasts of on-the-ground protests, direct actions, and interviews with participants. In collaboration with Paper Tiger TV and a slew of media activists working on the front lines, this spawned a soon-to-be-global grassroots media phenomenon—the Independent Media Centers, then known as IMCs.
Independent Seattle media journalists explained the need for IMCs, "'We had a saying in Seattle,' one Indymedia journalist said. 'We're trying to break through the information blockade.' Indymedia organizers believe that corporate-owned major news organizations have created a 'blockade' that misrepresents or fails to report the varied viewpoints of those who protest globalization and the WTO. An example of Indymedia organizers' distrust of corporate media occurred during the Seattle protests. In an effort to downplay the violence of the WTO protests, the major networks reported that rubber bullets had not been fired into the crowd, based on reports from the Seattle police department. Indymedia journalists were on the front lines of the protests, and they filed online reports with photos of rubber bullets, contradicting police claims. The major networks were forced to change their stories."
Big Noise Films produced and chronicled these anti-globalization movements and the projects from these struggles to create a different world. In films about the Jena Six and a series of seven volumes of "Dispatches" reporting on the so-called "war on terror," Big Noise has circulated stories that no other media outfit was covering.
Check out the trailers on the Big Noise Youtube channel here, including The Fourth World War: "The untold human story of men and women who resist being annihilated in the current global conflict … weaves together the images and voices of the war on the ground—from the front lines of struggles in Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Palestine, Korea, 'the North' from Seattle to Genova, and the 'War on Terror' in New York and Iraq."
In 2013, Rowley and Soohen worked with Jeremy Scahill, journalist and author of Blackwater:The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, on the award-winning film Dirty Wars. In 2013, Dirty Wars wasnominated for a 2013 Academy Award for documentary film. You can see the trailer here. Soohen and Rowley also worked on American Insurrection for PBS Frontline about the rise of violent, far-and-near-right white supremacist extremism in the US.
This post is not about nostalgia or even a "let's learn from the past" suggestion. Instead, Big Noise Tactical Media, and the IMCs that emerged post-Seattle 1999, are essential elements in the genealogy of struggles against global capitalism. These grassroots independent media producers were connected to political movements and exposed the organized refusals to the violence of neoliberal social and cultural politics.