The Z Media Institute

Just back from the Z Media Institute (ZMI), a 9-day summer school where students learn about vision, strategy, and media skills. I was there as a teacher, doing topics of international solidarity and cultural vision. In addition to teaching, I had the chance to attend classes by Sonali Kolhatkar of KPFK, who taught radio skills; a play by Lydia Sargent, co-founder of Z Magazine; a talk by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, and of course talks by Noam Chomsky. That was just a tiny slice of the huge program students went through. While I didn’t get the chance to attend their classes, I did get to spend time with Jessica Azulay and Brian Dominick, editors of the New Standard, who taught students about the kind of journalism they do at TNS.

I also spent time with Chip Berlet from Political Research Associates. Berlet monitors the right-wing, and it was interesting to hear his perspective, since his outfit (PRA) predicted the rise of the right about 15 years ago, and then had to watch it happen, partly because the left couldn’t get its act together. Instead of integrating diversity, those in power in the left refused to give it up and helped keep the left separate, so that left constituencies could be attacked piecemeal. Those conversations made an impression on me: questions of balancing autonomy and integration and flattening structures of power that seemed like idealistic dreams for the future would also help us survive the onslaught. There were many other interesting conversations from a remarkable group of students. In my own classes we talked about Haiti, Venezuela, Israel/Palestine, and difficulties solidarity movements have and have had.

ZMI is still going on, for another few days, and I suspect so are the conversations…

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

4 thoughts on “The Z Media Institute”

  1. Chip Nerlet is full of shit
    Chip Nerlet is full of shit and I’ve told him as much in public on more than one occasion. Berlet relies on his research on the right to maintain his status as an expert. He has a vested interest in the right existing and “growing.” The evidence points to a weakening of the right, which doesn’t sit well with liberal managers of the right wing threat such as Berlet. He was pretty upset last year when I explained why the right wing culture wars had been lost by the right wing. This didn’t go down well with Berlet, although he probably feels rejuvenated this year by all the hype around the “rebirth” of the right wing.

    I see he has other nonsense to peddle like this diversity theory of the failure of leftism. The left hasn’t gotten its act together for many reasons, but diversity has to be one of the minor reasons. Of course, the whole suggestion that the right wing has become powerful and effective while the left has waned is nonsense to the nth degree. The Democrats may have fallen on hard times, but the American left is bigger and stronger than it was 30 years ago. We have an extensive media system, we reach more people than 40 years ago, and we’ve shown our power through things like the anti-globalization movement.

    Berlet is a relic of the Old Left. He may have a few insights, but his take on contemporary politics is incredibly out of touch.

  2. Hi Chuck. I disagree of
    Hi Chuck. I disagree of course. If you think Chip is a ‘relic’, ‘full of shit’, peddling ‘nonsense to the nth degree’, and ‘incredibly out of touch’, I shudder to think of what you’d make of me. I find that kind of commentary to be unhelpful, and try to filter it out of my writing and my reading. I’d rather see simple explanations and arguments than those kinds of adjectives.

    I find him not only to be a good teacher and writer, but also to display great integrity in his personal behaviour. I certainly didn’t get the impression that he’s happy about the right’s continuing march from strength to strength (which, I suppose, you don’t think is going on).

    I appreciate your reading and commenting, of course. But I think Chip’s dead-on, and I don’t feel like the left in North America is better off than ever. Far from it. One place you and I might agree is that there are probably more leftists than any time before. But my feeling is that the whole is much less than the sum of the parts.

    At any rate, I’ be interested in your take on the culture wars – if you think you can tell me about them without the ‘full of shit’ and the ‘liberal managers of the right wing threat’…

  3. Justine,
    Thanks for the post


    Thanks for the post and for your response to the comment, I think you are right on.

    I remember my ZMI well, except the year, 2001 I think.

    Look forward to a reunion that Lydia has mentioned before.

    Best, Mark

  4. Hi Justin,
    This topic of

    Hi Justin,

    This topic of diversity and divisiveness on the left brings in two topics about which I feel a certain amount of confusion. The first is offering support to causes/actions/efforts which are not those around which you primarily organize. It is impossible for any one person to be involved in every struggle, although more than one member of the progressive side has burnt themselves out trying. So, how do we offer our support? Certain things come to mind – donations (not everyone can afford that), attending demos, talking about the issue.

    The last two raise the other point – participating in actions around struggles about which you aren’t fully informed. Trying to keep up with the information coming out about every struggle, every aspect of the global power system and its every manifestation is, again, impossible. I think a lot of people feel like if they aren’t fully informed, they shouldn’t publically express views or support for those oppressed. A good example might be the current march from Montreal. Someone who doesn’t know exactly what is going on in refugee struggles, or what the nuances of immigrant efforts are may be intimidated about finding themselves in a situation where they have to answer questions about what is going on.

    So, I may support the gay rights struggle, but it is not one which I engage in. Someone else may like the organizing taking place against SNC, but not be informed about them or other Canadian war-profiteers, and unable, due to their own organizing, to help organize. How can they engage themselves and how do you encourage those who recognize which side of an issue they would land to participate despite their lack of indepth knowledge?

    Any thoughts?

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