Transcription of the EZLN Press Conference with the free, autonomous, alternative, or whatever-you-call-it media, August 10, 2014, in La Realidad Zapatista, Chiapas, Mexico.
First part: the words of SubGaleano
Good morning Gotham City… whenever you finish taking pictures of the stage over there, we’re going to start the press conference over here.
Please take your seats so that we can start in a few minutes, and so that afterward you can take your departure. Please find your places compañeros, compañeras. Please sit down.
Good morning Gotham City (that is a greeting to a compañero who uses that as a twitter handle).
What you just saw a few moments ago is what in military terms is called a diversionary tactic, and in laymen’s terms is called magic. And what took just a few minutes to actually happen, took someone 20 years of work to make happen that way.[i]
We want to begin, taking advantage of the fact that we have the free, autonomous, alternative, or whatever-you-call-it media here, as well as compañeros from the national and international Sixth, by thanking you. And in order to thank you, I am going to tell you the story of a death.
This August 25 marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of Infantry Lieutenant Insurgente Eleazar. In 2004, really in 2003, he began to show signs of the kind of illness that only appears on Doctor House or stuff like that. It is called Guillain-Barré, and it consists of a gradual decline of all systems of the body until the patient dies. There is no cure, and the patient must be kept connected to life support.
When he began to get sick they took him to a hospital in Tuxtla Gutiérrez. They diagnosed him with this illness and told him that he should just go home, that it wasn’t that serious. But when I heard what he had I knew what they meant by those instructions. The doctors, when they saw that he was indigenous, knew he would not be able to pay for treatment. It’s really treatment for survival, not a cure.
#&*%^$*… let’s see if the milicianos can be moved into the shade, they’re going to be cooked alive out there, Lico…
The eye patch is so everybody thinks I have a glass eye, but I don’t. Me and my damned ideas, now I have to walk around with this thing on.
So, this illness… in Chiapas, and I imagine in the rest of the country, doctors calculate whether the patient is going to be able to pay for treatment or not. If, according to their calculations, the answer is no, then the doctor tells the patient they don’t have anything, gives them a few placebos so they think they are going to get better, and sends them home to die.
But we refused to accept that. We began to spend from the war funds, the resistance funds, until we couldn’t maintain him any longer. At that point, we’re talking about 2003 when a certain artistic intellectual sector still loved us, we asked them for help so that we could keep our compañero alive. They laughed at us. Apparently the indigenous can die of smallpox, measles, typhoid, all these kinds of things, but not of such an, shall we say, aristocratic illness, as Guillain-Barré, which happens to only one in a million.
When we couldn’t maintain him any longer, we took Lieutenant Eleazar to Oventic and, with the equipment we were able to get there, we kept him alive until one August 25, ten years ago, when he died.
Ten years later, along with the tragic assassination of the compa Galeano, paramilitaries from the CIOAC-Histórica destroyed the autonomous school and clinic here in La Realidad, the ones that belonged to the local Zapatistas. In order to rebuild, we didn’t go to those people [the artist-intellectual sector] for help, but to the people below, our compañeros, compañeras, and compañeroas of the national and international Sixth.
Compañero Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, present here, and Comandante Tacho, along with the Zapatista authorities of La Realidad and the compañeros who do carpentry, calculated the necessary materials and came up with 209,000 pesos and some change. At that point we were thinking:
Well, this crowd is really down and out, maybe really scraping the bottom of the barrel they will be able to come up with half of the money and we can take the rest out of the resistance fund or ask for support from the other caracoles.
You already know the story of what happened next, because you are the protagonists. And by “you” I don’t just mean those of you who are here, but all of those who, through you, find out what happens here, that is, our compañeros, compañeras, and compañeroas of the Sixth all over the world. You quintupled the request; in the last accounting we did, the support that had come in quintupled the budgeted amount.
We want to say thank you for this; never before has the EZLN received so much support, and this support from below was more than those who do have money had ever given. Because we know that the compañeros of the Sixth didn’t give what they had leftover; they gave what they didn’t even have. We have been reading in your free media, your twitter accounts and on your facebook pages, stories that fill us with pride.
We know that many of you struggled to come up with the funds to come here, that some even struggle to feed themselves every day and to have a fresh pair of—I was going to say underwear—of clothes, and that despite that you made the effort to find a way to come and demonstrate what support between compañeros looks like, as opposed to hand-outs from above.
So the first thing I want you to tell your compañeros and compañeras all over the world in your languages, tongues, ways, times, and geographies, is thank you, for real. You have given a beautiful lesson not only to those above who divvy up crumbs as hand-outs, to the governments who abandon their obligations and even promote destruction, but also to us; it is the most beautiful lesson that we Zapatistas have received since the Sixth Declaration was released.
The point of this press conference is to honor a promise. Originally this press conference was going to be held in Oventic, along with the exchange with indigenous peoples that was meant to happen there. Later it was going to happen when we had the funeral for compañero Galeano, the homage that is. And it was principally meant to say the last words or the farewell of Subcomandante Marcos, and the first words of Subcomandante Insurgente, now Galeano—at that point it was going to be another name.
It’s important that I tell you what this event was going to be, that is, how we had conceived it, in order to propose to you another possible reading of the homage to Galeano and this transition between death and life that was created by the disappearance of the late Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, due to whom the devil is holding his nose. Now it must be said, that was one good-looking guy, to each their own… That was sarcasm, I don’t know if you got it… I can still distinguish these things.
Look, compañeros, in order to understand what happened in the wee hours of that morning of May 25, you have to understand what had happened before, what was going to happen. I have read and heard various interpretations that are more or less correct, and a whole bunch that are absolutely ridiculous, about what that May 25 morning meant. Some are quite clever, such as for example the one that proposed that it was all a trick to avoid paying child support.
But most accounts completely disregarded everything that had happened. For example, they said that the Zapatistas had said that the paid media don’t exist, that they were now the enemy, that this was an action aimed against the paid media, etc. But if you have even a little bit of memory, you’ll recall that in the original invitation the event was open to everyone, when it was to be held in Oventic. That meant the paid media could also attend.
What was gong to happen originally was that Marcos was going to die and bid farewell to the paid media, explaining how we viewed them and thanking them kindly and then he was going to speak and introduce himself to the free, alternative, autonomous, or whatever-you-call-it media. What I am implying is that one reading, perhaps not the most correct, is that what happened in the wee morning hours of May 25, 2014, meant that the EZLN was changing interlocutors. That is why I told you the history of the late Infantry Lieutenant Insurgente Eleazar, war veteran, who fought in 1994.
Yes, the Zapatistas have not only not said that the paid media don’t exist—somebody out there circulated that stupidity—but we said something entirely different: that what is happening with the paid media has nothing to do with us and has everything to do with the advance of capitalism at a global level.
The paid media present something truly marvellous within capitalism, because they represent one of the few times that capitalism has managed to convert non-production into a commodity. Supposedly, the job of the communications media is to produce information and circulate it for the consumption of its various audiences or listeners. Capitalism has managed to pay the media to not produce, that is, to not inform.
What has happened over the past few years is that with the advance of mass communications media that are not privately held—that is, they are currently being litigated or disputed, such as the battleground of the internet—the traditional press has lost power—both the power of dissemination and of course, the capacity to communicate.
I have a few facts here and I am going to cite the author because he asks that he is cited any time his information is used, Francisco Vidal Bonifaz. He does an analysis of the print runs of the principal newspapers in Mexico (note: it is probable that the speaker is referring to the book “Los Dueños del Cuarto Poder”, published by planeta editing house, where the author Francisco Vidal Bonifaz does an exhaustive analysis of the press in Mexico. In this book and in the blog “The Wheel of Fortune,” ruedadelafortuna.wordpress.com, you can find this information, the print run of each publication, as well as the economic and educational levels of their readerships, etc. The book and the blog are recommended for anyone who wants an in-depth understanding of the situation of the Mexican Press. Note courtesy of “Los Tercios Compas,” “The Odd Ones Out”). The newspapers classified as the principal newspapers in Mexico, in that inverse provincialism characteristic of chilangos [people from Mexico City], are the ones that are produced in Mexico City, even though the print run of newspapers produced in the states may be greater.
In 1994 they put out, sometimes in a more than a figurative sense, more that a million copies of the principal newspapers. In 2007, production had fallen to 800,000, and the number of readers had gone down scandalously. One way or another, investigative journalism and journalistic analysis, which is the ground on which the paid media would have been able to compete with the instantaneous information possible through the internet, was abandoned or left aside.
The paid media, which really isn’t an insult, it’s a reality; it is media that lives off of money, right? Some may say “no, the thing is that “paid media” sounds really bad, it’s better to say ‘commercial media’.” But commercial media sounds worse than paid media.
Newspapers don’t live off their own circulation, that is, off the sale of their paper; they live off of advertisements. So in order to sell advertisements they have to show those buying advertising space what public they are targeting, who their readers are. For example, they say—and this is data from before and up to 2008 because after that all of the newspapers censured any information about their own publications—that El Universal and Reforma took about 70% of the paid advertising in Mexico City, and the other newspapers fought over the remaining 30%.
So each newspaper has a profile, we could call it, of its readers—a particular class strata and educational level it targets—and that is what it presents to companies buying advertising space. So if I am El Despertador Mexicano and my primary consumers are indigenous people, then I’m going to sell one page of advertising space to El Huarache Veloz [The Fast Huarache] in order to sell huaraches or pozol or whatever.[ii]
The thing is that all of the newspapers, absolutely all of them, including those that say they are leftist, present an analysis of their readership profile that has 60 to 70% of their readers in the upper ranges of buying power. The only ones who openly recognize that their readers are of low buying power and low educational background are Esto, Ovaciones, and La Prensa. All the others target the upper class, that is, those above.
It is evident that this class with high buying power can reach information via a more instantaneous route. Why wait for the newspaper to come to see what is happening in another part of the world if in an instant I can know what’s going on in Gaza, for example? Why I am I going to wait for the TV news or the newspaper if I can see it immediately?
There is no competitive terrain there, because what the super-high speeds of these forms of media means is that the idea of first or exclusive access to news vanishes in the face of high speed competition. So all of these media outlets, including the progressive ones, are fighting for a rating, that is, for an upper middle class and upper class audience. There is another class that is very rich, beyond every measure; I think they’re the ones that produce the information.
Paid media have only two options in order to survive, precisely because they are paid. They can contract their survival with those who can still pay, that is, the political class, in return for its commercials and propaganda, but in its own way. You can see this in the fees that each newspaper charges for a full page ad, a half page, three quarters page, down to the smallest section you can buy, and there is a special charge for non-commercial advertising, which are the governmental advertisements, and another fee for the “miscellaneous” news, for example those interviews that no one knows why appear in the newspaper because nobody cares what that person has to say—those are paid. The highest fees are for the non-commercial ads, that is, the ones paid by the government, and the miscellaneous news—paid insertions disguised as information.
The other option they have is to develop investigative journalism and journalistic analysis that isn’t offered on the internet. Well, it wasn’t offered on the internet until spaces like what we now call free, autonomous, alternative, etc. media existed. What they could do is make an analysis, a dissection, of the information that is flowing through incoherently, and investigate what’s behind it, for example, the Israeli government’s policy in Gaza or Manuel Velasco’s policy in Chiapas and so on, wherever the case may be.
No one with even minimum standards informs themselves about what is happening through the newspapers. (You are all a bad example because you are neither upper nor upper middle class, if you were you wouldn’t be here.) But, who says, “well I want to understand what’s going on in Chiapas, I’m going to read the profound journalistic analysis of Elio Henriquez.” Nobody.
Nobody says, “what’s happening in Gaza?” I’m going to read Laura Bozzo to see how it is being explained.” No, that terrain has been completely abandoned [by newspapers], now it is webpages and blogs that cover that terrain.
This lethargic withdrawal or disappearance of the paid media is not the responsibility of the EZLN, nor of course of the late SubMarcos. It is the responsibility of the development of capitalism and the difficulty of adapting to the new terrain. The paid media are going to have to evolve into entertainment media, that is to say that if I can’t inform you, then at least I can entertain you. Because, as any honest reporter from the paid media will tell you, they can’t have an impact via investigative and analytical journalism, “the thing is if I write that, they won’t publish it.” And the newspaper earns more for not publishing those kinds of articles than for publishing them.
That’s what I mean about how non-production becomes a commodity; in this case, silence itself. Any reasonably decent journalist with even minimal ethical responsibility who does an investigation on the involvement of the state governments of Salazar Mendiguchía, Juan Sabines Guerrero, and Manuel Velasco with the CIOAC-Histórica will find that there is a lot of money moving around there, including the money that Mrs. Robles distributes from the National Campaign Against Hunger.
But it is more marketable to not publish that article than to publish it, because who is going to read it, the enemies of these heroes of the homeland? On the other hand, keeping quiet about that and talking instead about how nice the capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez is looking with the new urban developments that municipal president Toledo and Manuel Velasco are putting into place will sell well, even if it’s all a lie. We check the twitter accounts of the paid journalists, those who work for the paid media that is, and they are in fact reporting on this, on the image of war presented in the Chiapan capital by these totally anachronistic and absurd constructions.
But for example, people from Veracruz come here, and I think if we said, “Well, if we want to see what’s going on in Veracruz we read the Xalapa Herald” (if that even exists), they would say, “Man, Sub, don’t fuck around, those people have nothing to do with anything.”
So the problem the whole world has is that if there is no longer information, nor analysis, nor investigation in the communications media – if there indeed at some point ever were – then where are we going to find these things? There is a gap, then, in the media sphere that is currently in dispute.
What we were also trying to signal in that farewell was that the media that had so prided themselves on creating media figures—they were so proud of having themselves created Marcos—now, despite their efforts, can’t manage to create an international figure much less a national one, even when they are paid to do so, as in the case of López Obrador.
It can’t be done. Now the figures that have emerged, that have moved people or moved information at a national level, are created not by the media but despite them. I don’t know if I’m saying it correctly, but Julian Assange became a referent when his revelation of documents showed the communications media at a global level that they were not reporting what was happening. Although he is part of a collective, the media only report on him. There is even a film about him as a person, even though we all know it is a collective at work.
The young woman Chelsea Manning, who underwent an operation to become Chelsea Manning, and Snowden—what all of these people have done is uncover what was hidden and what should have been the work of the communications media to reveal. But those who have truly disrupted the world of information are the collectives where the individual is completely dissolved, like Anonymous. You hear it said “but nothing is known about Anonymous anymore, they don’t show themselves,” which is absurd because if they are anonymous how are we going to ask them to show themselves.
In sum, what we have seen is that the anonymity of the collective is coming to replace and to put into crisis that penchant of those above to find, and make in the media, individuals and personalities.
We think that this has a lot to do with the form or structure of the media. If the structure of the paid media is the envy of any army in terms of verticality, authoritarianism, and arbitrariness, the media collective—that is the alternative, free, autonomous, etc. media—has another structure of being and way of working.
In the paid media, what matters is who does the reporting. If you look at what came out in the paid media on the 20-year anniversary of the uprising in January of this year, the majority of the articles were about what journalists did 20 years ago, not what happened during the anniversary: “I interviewed Marcos,” “I did such-and-such interview,” “I was the first to get in,” “I wrote the first book.” What a shame that in 20 years they haven’t done anything else worth remembering.
But this is the kind of thing that carries weight. The exclusive. You have no idea how important it is and what a journalist will do to get “the exclusive.” The exclusive right to have the last interview with Marcos or the first with Galeano has a value and a cost, even if it is not published, because as I said, keeping quiet is also a commodity and can be sold.
In contrast, I want to think that in the collectives to which you belong and in others that couldn’t come, the way you work makes the information more important than who produced it. There are of course those who still have to learn to write properly, but the great majority can compete with their ingenuity, analysis, depth, and investigation of what is happening.
What we see is that in this shitstorm that is the capitalist world, the question is, where do we get information? If we go to the internet and google something, such as Gaza, we can find there that the Palestinians are a bunch of murderers that are burning themselves alive just to demoralize the Israeli army, or the reverse. You can find pretty much anything. Where are you going to find information about what is really happening? Ideally, the Palestinians would tell us what was happening themselves, not through others.
In this case, for example, we say, wouldn’t it be better to know what the Zapatistas themselves are saying? Wouldn’t that be better than someone else saying what they think we should have said, not even what they think we said, but what we should have said. Like those who say that in the text “The Light and the Shadow,” Marcos says he’s not going to write anymore, which means Galeano isn’t going to be able to write. But they didn’t notice that when everyone else bid farewell, the cat-dog remains. There are a lot of things one can examine there, but that doesn’t matter right now.
What we want to point out is that the best information is that which comes from the actors themselves, not from the person who is reporting on the event. Those who can do this are the free, autonomous, and alternative media. What I am explaining to you, compañeros and compañeras and compañeroas, is still a tendency, not something that is happening right now. Meaning, don’t start acting like peacocks saying, “now we’re the shit and the whole world depends on us.”
It is a tendency that we see due to that curse we’re under of seeing things before they happen. We see that the paid media, as information media, are in free fall, not through any fault of their own, but because they embraced a political class that is also in decline. They did this in order to survive and that is understandable.
We do not criticize those who work for the press and make their living from this. We do think that dignity and decency have a limit and there are limits that are being crossed, but this is something for each person to evaluate for themselves; we are not going to judge them. But what we do see is that the problem for the paid media is survival, and while their [long-term] possibilities for survival indicate one direction, they are going in another, one of more immediate concern.
In the long run that paid media, like anything you buy and consume, is going to disappear. Why would you buy the newspaper if you can check the internet? But additionally, you aren’t going to look for information there, you aren’t going to look there for analysis of what’s happening.
So we think, if we want to know what’s happening in Michoacán, ideally it would be people from Michoacán who would tell us. We think that if people in other parts of the world or the country want to know what’s happening with the Zapatistas, there should be at least some space where they can find out.
What I mean is that we are not looking for militants for that work, militants of Zapatista communication; for that we have the cursed idea of the “Odd Ones Out” Press [Los Tercios Compas]. What we want are listeners, so that people who want to find out what is going on can find something that is true, or they can find an in-depth analysis or a real investigation, keeping in mind that the important thing is the news or the information, not who produces it.
We think that in the long run the free, autonomous, alternative media are going to fill—or could fill—this gap that is occurring in the exchange of information at a global level. The internet can’t fill the gap, though you may think it would; on the internet you can find anything you want, if you’re in favor of something you can find arguments in favour, if you’re against you can just as easily find arguments against.
What is needed is for this information to have a space where it becomes legible. And this is what, in broad strokes and at this point still tendentially, we think the alternative, autonomous, free, or whatever-you-call-it press can provide.
That is what we had wanted to tell you when this press conference was going to be in Oventic, that you have no fucking idea of the task that awaits you. It isn’t that we are going to keep you running around: come to La Realidad, now go to such and such place, and the “Odd Ones Out” Press are going to go, or the Even Ones, or whoever. Okay not the even ones, it’s a pun, we chose “Odd Ones Out” Press for a reason…(Note: clearly the speaker is affected by his one-eyed condition, because he should be saying “Odd Ones Out Compas” not “Odd Ones Out Press.” We hereby energetically protest this error and insist that this correction be published in the same space and with the same importance as the original blunder. Note courtesy of “Odd Ones Out Compas.”)
The hopes of many people await you. We ourselves don’t place our hope in you, but rather our trust. Not just in you who are here, but in the tendency that you are part of that can in fact fill that gap.
The problem that we see is the pay, now we do have to talk about pay. The majority of people who work in the free, autonomous, etc. media have another job. So the autonomous, free, alternative media is like the “Odd Ones Out Press” (note: error and protest to error reiterated. Attentively, “Odd Ones OutCompas”), everyone participates as they can because they all have to work, to put in their time in order to make a little money. Or they participate as long as there is money, and when the money runs out the media disappears. It can also happen, and I hope it doesn’t, that the media lasts only until the calendar imposes its logic on the members; that is, when they grow up and mature, as they say above, and leave behind such rebellion and craziness.
We think that you are going to have this problem and that you have to figure out a way to resolve it, I don’t know how. I see that on some [web] pages there are ads with advice about how to lose weight, how not to get old, how not to get wrinkles, something about that what’s it called, lifting, that thing they do to themselves, well stuff like that and other esoteric nonsense. And well, people who are looking at the alternative media aren’t going to pay attention to things like that and the media can make a little money that way. Some handle the income question like that, although in order to be able to do that you’d have to demonstrate that someone other than yourselves goes to your webpages.
We used to joke many years ago with those who were in charge of our page before all of this, who said “look at this, such-and-such communique had this many hits.” And I would say, “that’s a lie, it was us going click, click, click, click, click… not really.”
I don’t know, maybe the same thing that compelled you to work as a collective, in addition to those of you that do urban artisan work or whatever you call it, who make things, maybe you can also collectively find a way to resolve this issue so that your media doesn’t collapse, so that it endures and grows. You don’t have another choice, compañeros, I’m sorry to say: you either grow or disappear. This includes those who only sporadically publish information. This is your only choice, because even among yourselves disparities will start to develop. I hope that any disparity in development occurs because of the depth of your analysis and investigative abilities and not because some manage to resolve the issue of pay and some don’t.
I hope you figure it out, because there are a lot of people who are expecting more of you than you can imagine.
So, just in order to clarify and summarize: The paid media exist, they are real, they have a certain importance, this importance is tendentially diminishing, and what the EZLN has done is radically change its media policy. We do not want to talk with those above, as Subcomandante Moisés will further explain in the question and answer session, which is going to consist of the Zapatista media asking the questions and you providing the answers, rather than the reverse.
What the EZLN has done is to say: now we don’t care about those people we had to address through Durito, or through Old Antonio, those of the paid press that is. Now we are interested in the people who understand the fact of the cat-dog; who recognize difference and recognize that there are things that we don’t understand, but just because we don’t understand them does not mean we are going to judge or condemn them—like a cat-dog that exists; you’re not going to believe me but it’s real.
What we are interested in is talking and listening to you, and by that I mean the people who talk and listen to us through you. If we want to know what is happening in any particular place, we look first to the alternative free media. There isn’t that much information really, but even the little that exists is much better than any paid media source. Plus, you have to subscribe with a credit card to read whatever the Laura Bozzo types publish anywhere.
What happened then that changed this farewell plan? This plan to tell the paid media “thanks for everything…” (although the majority of them were involuntarily and unwillingly complicit in what you saw here a little bit ago, the diversion tactic or magic act), and to tell you all the curse that awaits you?
The majority of you are young. We think that rebellion has nothing to do with the calendar, that it shouldn’t have anything to do with the calendar, because we see people who are older, not in their right mind because (inaudible), but they continue to be rebellious. And we have the hope that you all continue, even if it isn’t you who are here anymore. Maybe you divide up the work, “you guys figure out how to get money and we dedicate ourselves to this, and we rotate or something like that,” but don’t abandon this work, it is truly important.
So what happened? Take into account the original plan, where the paid media were going to be present too. This was still the plan two weeks before, it was only 15 days before the event that we said no, they’re not coming to the homage for Galeano.
What happened was a death. On this fact I have only read, and I’m not saying there aren’t other things out there, an article by John Gibler, who happens to be here somewhere. He wrote that he was telling someone about the homage to Galeano and that person said, “but all this for one dead man?” And he tried to explain the best he could what one dead man meant. And we want to to say how important one death is to us.
If we let one death go, then we let two go, and if we let two go then there will be ten, and later a hundred, later a thousand, later tens of thousands, like in the supposed war on narcotrafficking waged by Calderón, who permitted one death and later permitted tens of thousands. Not us. Yes, we will die of natural causes or just causes – in struggle that is – but we are not going to permit anyone, any of our compañeros and compañeras and compañeroas to be murdered in impunity. We will not allow it. And we will move all of the forces in our power even if it is for just one person dead, even if that person is the most ignored, the most disdained, the least known.
The rage we felt with Galeano—this compañero Galeano was the one who was in charge of receiving the paid press, he carried their bags and brought them on horseback to where the interviews or reports were done, he received them in his house and fed them. These people who ignored or disrespected his death, who heroized the paramilitaries as victims of arbitrary judgement, they didn’t even bother to ask him his name all the times they came here—and for 20 years he was in charge of receiving and hosting them. He even made bets with one of them on who would win the World Cup each time it came around.
We were waiting for a reaction from those who had that kind of relationship with him, but they didn’t even know who he was. They came to interview Marcos, to see Marcos; they saw the horse and the gun, they wanted to know what he read, although everyone already knew what books the late Marcos had read. All of these things interested them, but not the man who was receiving and welcoming them here.
Perhaps we can understand that he didn’t matter to them because he was another indigenous person, without a face, who fed them, carried their things, helped them onto the horse, accompanied them, told them where to step, what to watch out for, all of that. We understand that he did not matter to them, but to us he does, Galeano and each and every one of the Zapatistas. We created all this ruckus and we will do so again and again because we will not permit a single death to go by with impunity.
So that’s why we changed everything, and out of our rage Subcomandate Moisés, who now commands those things, said that no press were going to come in, no paid press, even though originally everybody was going to be allowed.
The cadaver of compañero Galeano was here in this room [gesturing behind him]. There is a video where you can see the cadaver, surrounded by compañeros reproaching the CIOAC for Galeano’s death. They didn’t touch them, compañeros. I, who am supposedly a controlled being, with all that had happened I would have least given them a shove. But the compañeros didn’t, they were yelling at them but they didn’t touch them. Anywhere else there would have been a lynching right there on the spot, because they were responsible for the death and the cadaver was right there.
Then we arrived. We had been in Oventic getting ready for the events to be held there, I was practicing with a wheelchair. Today I came in on a horse, but there I was going to enter in a wheelchair in order to feed the rumors about me being really sick and in bad shape. Later I was going to stand up because my knees were hurting me from practicing.
When we found out what happened we came here and we saw what was going on—and look, what didn’t and won’t come out in the press was that that guy that lives there [gesturing outside the caracol] right outside, and there, and there, and there, and there, are those that were involved in the conflict, and they came here to the door of the Caracol to mock the compañeros who were enclosed here to avoid being accosted, just where you are now, that’s where the compañeros were.
They were mocking how the deceased danced with the blows they were dealing him, they made fun of how they shot him, cut him with machetes, all of this that we have edited from the investigation because it is our pain. Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés has now finished the investigation, but we will not make it public in order to avoid acts of revenge. We will hand it over to Frayba with all of the names and everything; we already know who did the killing.
That is the situation we found ourselves in, compas, and we couldn’t allow ourselves even the slightest reaction because it was like a dry prairie here, with even a spark everything was going to go up in flames and there would have been a river of blood. We had to withstand the rage and keep bearing it and we still have not released it. We have not yet released this rage.
So the answer, John Gibler, is that for the Zapatistas one unjust death is too many, and that is why we were willing to do anything and everything.
This kind of media management imposes an inhuman, absurd logic, uncalled for in any part of the world. Look, for example at the little girls and little boys in Palestine who have demonstrated a great patience in dying, because one dies and nobody pays any attention, and the cadavers keep piling up until finally the mass media turns to see what’s happening and the children keep dying so that there are images to print. They keep dying so that the image is seen and they have to die in the most scandalous ways, outrageous ways, so that the people above begin to say, “hey wait, what are we doing there,” that is, to do something.
We as Zapatistas are always surprised at how little humanity there is in the humans who exist above. Why is so much spilled blood necessary for them to say something? And even then they qualify their position: “fine, kill them but don’t show it because it implicates us.”
Robert Fisk, who writes in The Independent of Great Britain, put what we are saying now another way: the large mass media outlets are in crisis because the people who read them—which is the upper classes, well-informed and of high consumption capacity—are indignant because that same media treats them like idiots, trying to present the massacre in Gaza as if it were a confrontation between two sides or as if the fault lay with Hamas. If people feel insulted—and just because they have a salary doesn’t mean that they are dumb, well some are—but they have intelligence and they feel insulted. Fisk recognizes this in an article, saying “we are in crisis, people don’t believe us anymore, they don’t take us seriously, and what’s more, they’re openly complaining about us.” In some places this has been going on for years, like here in Mexico.
What is happening in Palestine that nobody talks about—this mortal patience of the Palestinian children—is the responsibility of the Israeli government. We always distinguish governments from the people, we understand the temptation to conflate them, but we’ve said on another occasion that the problem isn’t between Zionism and antisemitism, even if the big heads continue spouting such silly things.
We can’t say that because the Israeli government murders, the Israeli people are murderers, because then they will say that the Mexican people are idiots because the Mexican government is idiotic, and we, at least, are not idiots. There are people in Israel, we don’t know how many, who are noble, conscientious, honest, and they don’t have to be leftist because the condemnation of what is happening in Palestine has nothing to do with a political position; it’s a question of human decency. Nobody can see that massacre and say nothing is happening or that it is somebody else’s fault.
What I am explaining about the crisis of the paid media and the emergence of the free, alternative, or autonomous media is a tendency in which, over the long haul, you will run into a lot of problems. I didn’t want to tell you this but it has to be said.
There are people who are going to desmayar [falter or faint] — the compas say desmayar when someone gives up, when they leave their work, the struggle—when they say desmayar they mean someone has left the struggle.
There are people [among you] that the paid media are going to summon, to say come over here—to eat shit, as one newspaper assistant editor said, but they’re going to pay you to eat shit—maybe because they write well, or they have a good analysis, or because they frame the photos nicely or the video or whatever.
And some are going to go. Others are going to betray you, they’re going to say “no, hell no, that text isn’t real, they made it up,” or whatever. And others are going to give up [claudicar]. Claudicar is a word that the compas understand very well, which means that you are on a path and you say, “ah no, I don’t want to do this after all, better that I take this other path.” In these cases it doesn’t usually have anything to do with leaving a job per se—sometimes one has to work a job to live—but rather with leaving a particular position with respect to how information is treated, in this case the position of the free, autonomous, or alternative media.
The problems you are going to have are money-related. That is, you are going to have to survive. And survival will be a problem not just as media but as human beings who still have to eat, right? Though some of you are overcoming this, but…
What we also want you to know, and for other free media to hear through you, is that we recognize this effort and this sacrifice. We know it is a huge pain to get here for people who have a salary, for someone who doesn’t have one it is practically heroic. We recognize this, we know it, we understand it, and we appreciate it. You can be sure that if anyone is going to take into consideration what this requires of you, it’s us.
So where are we going to look for information? In the paid media? No. Through the social networks. No. On the unstable and choppy sea of the internet? No. There, like I said, anything goes.
So there is a gap regarding where to find the information. The medium you are using now is also limited: it gets to more people but also has a limit because people who don’t have internet of at least medium speed—and I challenge you to try to open any of your own pages here, sonofa… we could have another uprising, and win the war and that page still wouldn’t have opened completely. There should be a lighter version or something like that, the smartphone version or whatever. But the majority of your interlocutors, or at least those who should be your interlocutors, don’t have this [fast internet], although that could change.
We think that at this time the principal means of communication has to be to listen; that’s why we were referring to you all as “listeners.” There are people, I was just telling Moi, that have this need to talk, and they don’t care if anyone is listening, they just have to talk, it doesn’t even matter what what about. But there are also people who are concerned as to whether they are being listened to, and this matters to them because they want their words to go further out into the world.
The compañeros and compañeras of the CNI came here with the charge to be heard. This is different than during the Other Campaign; I remember those multiple nightmares—the collective divan of “get comfortable, cause here we go”—that was the Other Campaign, where everybody said whatever crossed their mind. They didn’t care if anyone was listening or not, or understanding or not; the point was that they could go on and on about whatever they wanted. And it was free! Imagine what that would cost you to do that with a psychoanalyst or a psychiatrist or whatever you call them these days.
So the point is to remind you that the medium is also the limit and you have to look for ways to get past this. Right now, the direct source currently seems to be the primary one and we have to tell you that the originary peoples are the real specialists in listening. My point here is to warn you about what is coming with the World Festival of Rebellion and Resistance, and to exhort you not to let it become the show-off spectacle that the meetings of the Other turned into, and that includes the preparatory meetings and all that. The compañeros and compañeras of the originary peoples are specialists in the art of listening, in communication par excellence.
That the person who is the subject of a particular issue, or suffering, or action is the one who tells you how they see things should not be an impediment to providing an analysis. I take what you say at face value but then I see these other things. That is the job of those who dedicate themselves to providing information.
We also see, ever since the tragedy of the death of Galeano, how different types of media handle their work either as charity or support. In the paid communications media, if they pay attention to you then you should be grateful, and this is something for which they cannot forgive the Zapatistas. “We’re still trying to lend you a hand,” they would say “and you bite the hand that feeds you.” Well we aren’t looking for indigestion; we would spit on that hand, because what they are offering with that kind of media attention is a charitable handout.
On the other hand, for the free, alternative, autonomous, etc. media, your reporting is not a hand-out. It is a duty that you are honoring, despite all of the difficulties you may have in doing so. That is what we call “the compa media,” I know Tacho tore them to pieces and that’s why we published that stuff about the Odd Ones Out Compas (note: the speaker finally said it correctly. Attentively, “Odd Ones Out Compas.”)
That is the difference between the paid media and the compa media. It’s not that one has money, or receives a salary or not. The difference is that for some we are a commodity, whether they are reporting on us or purposely not reporting on us, and for others we are a space of struggle, like they have themselves and like there are in every corner of the earth.
Yesterday’s event was open to the press, and only three journalists came. Well, four, but one was one of the three journalists that have been given noble titles for having lied about the death of Galeano, that one we didn’t let in. Of the other three, one was from Proceso, one does media work on the southern border, and another works with Aristegui. As of now only Proceso has printed something, but no other media came, I don’t know if this is all Paquita La Del Barrio[iii] style, that is, out of spite, but either way.
How many dead—because it wasn’t an EZLN event, it was the CNI’s event—how many dead would the CNI have to have for the media to pay attention to them? “A lot,” the media would say, in order to really become a commodity. Later they would decide if they were going to market the fact that they covered it or market the fact that they didn’t.
The difference for us is that support from a compañero doesn’t come with conditions, because they know they are part of the same struggle.
So what we see in this chaotic panorama that I have described is that with the super-speed saturation of jumbled information out there, paradoxically, the highest or supreme level of communication that exists is the exchange, this direct sharing.
The compas have discovered something that you have also discovered in your work, which is the power of listening. If it isn’t possible for us all to listen at the same time, then it is necessary to have someone who takes these words and spreads them further, to the people, which is what the “escuchas” [listeners, a job or duty assigned for EZLN events, usually to young people in the Zapatista communities] do. And one way or another it is what you all do too.
But if this kind of exchange is now the supreme level of communication (this is according to us, but as you know, we don’t know anything about communications media), then those who are best at such things are those who need to be listened to. It seems to me that the originary peoples are pretty fierce at this—having the necessary patience and all of that—but Subcomandate Moisés is going to talk to you more about that.
That is what I wanted to tell you. Compañeros and compañeras, there won’t be any questions for me, as it seems to me that in the last 20 years you’ve asked me everything you need to ask me, and I think I have in fact received a Certificate of Impunity to not answer anything anymore, but we’ll have to show that to you later.
We were still going to do this in the wee hours of the morning last time, but since they now have me working as an Odd Ones Out Press (note: hmm… the speaker just doesn’t learn. Odd Ones Out Compas!) and I was checking and seeing that they were pirating everything off of you, we decided it was better for you all to be able to get going because it wasn’t fair what the paid media were doing. It wasn’t just theft, it was a dispossession out of disrespect. That is, it was as if they were saying I’m going to take this and not say who it came from because who gives a shit about that tweet or that page that nobody sees anyway.
That was what they were complaining about, according to what we are told; the paid media got to San Cristobal and were saying “that Marcos is crazy, how is he going to pick people that don’t have 10 visitors to their pages” (hey so click on them more (inaudible) so you can at least get to a hundred) “and not pick us who have millions of readers.”
So we owed you this conference, compañeros, and here it is. Galeano is not going to be quiet, sometimes Tacho is going to talk, sometimes Moisés, sometimes Galeano, sometimes somebody else, the cat-dog, whoever. The important thing here is that: one, we have changed interlocutors; and two, we recognize the importance of the tendency that we see in your appearance as free, autonomous, alternative, etc. media.
We have created the Odd Ones Out Press (note: aaaarrrrrrghhhhh! T-h-e O-d-d O-n-e-s O-u-t C-o-m-p-a-s!) so that you don’t have to bust your asses to get here every time; this way we can send you material. It’s not just that we recognize and value your work, above all we recognize and value the sacrifice and incredible effort you put out to turn toward us and see what’s happening here.
For this, to you in particular and to all of the compañeros of the Sixth in general, thank you.
That’s all, Gotham City. (note: the speaker wanted to imitate the voice of the evil villain Mr. Bane, but it didn’t really come out right).
End of SubGaleano’s discourse.
(Transcription from the original audio by “The Odd Ones Out,” under some protest and somewhat pissed off because of all the blunders, but oh well, that’s the way the work goes, let them suffer).
Copyleft: “The Odd Ones Out Compas” August 12, 2014. Reproduction permitted without resorting to auto-eroticism. Underground circulation allowed as well as overconsumption of the “go for it there’s more where that came from” kind.
[i] Before the press conference started, Zapatista authorities moved tables and chairs to the raised stage at one end of the caracol. The independent media rushed over to set up their cameras and equipment there, squeezing into the best positions for filming or photographing. Then activity on stage ceased and the media eventually sought refuge from the fierce sun under the stage. When a familiar tune was heard over the sound system (“La Cigarra”, the song that the late SubMarcos has included in various communiques in the past and which marked his entrance on horseback to the homage in La Realidad in May of this year), they scrambled back up to the cameras. The doors of the caracol opened and a formation of Zapatistas on horseback ceremoniously entered the caracol, including Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés and Comandante Tacho. Some of the media clustered around them, obstructing their path, and SubMoisés gestured repeatedly for them to step aside so the entourage could continue to the stage. Between the effect of the music and the masked commanders on horses, almost none of the media noticed what was going on at the other end of the caracol, where Subcomandante Galeano had quietly emerged from one of the rooms of the Junta de Buen Gobierno offices and sat down at a table on the small raised patio in front of the building. He finally summoned the media’s attention by speaking into the microphone with the initial remark of this discourse.
[ii] Huarache comes from the Purépecha word for a traditional sandal made from leather. It is also, as used here, the name a popular Mexican dish consisting of an oblong corn masa base with meat and/or bean and vegetable toppings. Pozol is a highly nutritious drink made from ground corn mixed with water. It is commonly consumed in the Mexican countryside as a midday meal.
[iii] A well-known Mexican singer of rancheras and other styles, known for her songs about being wronged by men.