evan on Fri, 20 Jul 2001 13:23:45 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Why I stole the Webby News Award

The Webby Awards are a celebration of corporate domination over the
internet. The whole purpose is to take a popularly created participatory
and democratic medium and laude the work of people who squeeze profit
out of it. Sure there are some categories such as activism, the arts, and
weird, but the focus, in their rhetoric and during the ceremonies, are the
profit hungry dot com's. 

I stole the webby award in the news category to protest the corporate
domination over the news media both in the traditional and online mediums.
When I got up to the stage I placed a copy of Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing
Consent on the podium, grabbed the news award, and yelled "Fuck the
corporate media!" in to the microphone. Unfortunately they had already
turned off the podium microphone speakers and only the online audience
heard my message. With the award in hand I ran back down the stage and
tried to leave the opera house. One of the webby security guards grabbed
the award out of my hands as I pushed through the doors. He said something
like "oh no you don't" and I didn't feel like fighting over, and breaking,
the spring so I gave it back to him. He ran it back down the hall and gave
it to winning news corporado.

Let me say that it wasn't an official 'stunt' and the webby people really
didn't like my action. They apparently do like my website, protest.net, as
it's been nominated for the activism award both times they've had the

Some other higher up in the webby hierarchy came over to chew me out for
"messing up their well planned event" and that they'd had to get the
inside.com guy to fly out at the last minute from New York. After hanging
out in the back of the theater for a while, not thinking it wise to walk
back up to my third row seat, the security guards found me and tried to
kick me out. They said "that was not cool, not cool." I wanted to see more
of the ceremony, maybe get people's reactions to my action, so I pled that
I was a nominee and that worked, they let me stay. They said something
about how if I'd be ANYTHING other than a nominee they'd kick me out. I
highly doubt that if I'd been a corporate sponsor they'd even threaten to
kick me out, but that's what he said. 

I ran in to one of the judges in the hall, who I'd been talking to before.
He again went off about how hard they worked to pull of this highly
scripted event and I was messing it up for everybody. When I quipped that
Webbies even have a tradition of disruption and I hadn't even thrown the
webby at the audience like jodi.org had, he said "well that was a long
time ago." Implying that things had changed, now at the webbies. Jodi.org
had called them "greedy corporate bastards" back in 1999, and they still
are greedy corporate bastards. Only now they're whining about the dot bomb
deflating their portfolios.

The webby awards have celebrated sites that pioneer the breaking down the
wall between advertisers and news content such as amazon, inside.com, cnn,
beliefnet, babycenter and many others. This is the wrong direction to take
our collective technological development. We have a choice, either we can
use this amazing new medium to become a truly popular mass medium where
everybody has a voice or we can use it to drive hyper consumerism and
friction free capitalism. For example, the technical achievement award
went to Microsoft Windows Update and not projects that have been both
major technical achievements and fulfill the internet's potential as a
libratory medium. I see such projects as FreeNet, Ogg Vorbis, Gnutella,
Apache, *BSD, and Linux itself as all being much more important technical
achievements. MWU is a clever way for Microsoft to send you bug fixes!
Bugs they created and bugs that are a result of their top heavy corporate
development model.

When the television, radio, and cable were introduced there was a struggle
between people who wanted to use the medium for the common good and people
who wanted to use the medium for profit and to reproduce the conditions of
inequality and domination. The question was, do we use this new technology
to reduce social, economic, and information inequality, or do we use it to
create a new class of wealthy. This struggle has played out across the
world. In the US we have the most corporate and profit driven society and
our media systems have been shaped to reflect and reproduce those values.
Quickly we saw the rhetoric of the 'information superhighway' be replace
with the ecommerce gold rush. The internet is a creation our society, like
all communications mediums it is communal property.  We must not let the
internet go the way of the newspaper, radio, television, and cable. The
communications commons must not be partitioned and sold for private

Perhaps this collapse of the hyper inflated internet stocks will help us
take the internet back from the VC's, dot commers, marketing spin
miesters, and ecommerce biz dev stiff's. This is a medium that can allow
us to radically change the balance of information power. Foucault said
"Power is not possessed, rather is exercised." We must exercise our power
as creators of technology, consumers of news and culture, people who are
willing to think critically about the world to fight for the liberation of
our internet.

DotCom's Burn: The Internet Lives Free! 


SAN FRANCISCO - Corporate media was both glorified and
protested tonight at the Webby Awards in San
Francisco, CA. Billed as the "Oscars" of the
internet, the Webby's is a high-glitz awards show
designed to highlight and promote websites and the web
industry. Many of the highly-visible sponsors and nominees
represent corporate media and media consolidation,
including CNN, ABC News, and more.

Indymedia was nominated for an award in the "Activism"
category. An anarchist who showed up at the awards
ceremony spoke anonymously, saying that "indymedia is news,
and it shows the corporate media takeover of the internet to
say that indymedia is activism, not news."

Another anarchist present said that if Indymedia is
an activist site, mainstream media like CNN or ABC are
"activists for corporations and rich elites."

A vocal minority in the crowd, wearing masks associated with
anarchist black blocs at recent anti-capitalism protests,
loudly booed when CNN and other corporate media
conglomerates, like Microsoft, were mentioned.

As the winner was announced for the "News" category, two
masked people ran onto the stage. One, wearing a gasmask,
grabbed the "News" award from the host, and shouted, "fuck
corporate media!" Then he ran off the stage, taking the award
with him. The host fumbled and said, "someone just took off
with the award..." The other person, wearing a bandana mask,
took pictures and identified himself as an Indymedia reporter. 
Sam Donaldson, ABC News personality, was
sitting a few rows away and could only shake his head in confusion.

Another anonymous anarchist present said, "corporate media
does not belong on the internet. As dot-com valuation
continues to plummet, we hope to save our wonderful
co-operative global network from insidious, patent-grabbing,
idea-owning megacorporations which despise free speech and

Featured speakers also included San Francisco Mayor Willie
Brown, who gloated in the changes that the dot-com
industry have brought to the city. Mayor Brown is frequently
targeted by housing activists for allowing dot-com companies
to illegally rent residential spaces, creating one of the
worst housing crises in San Francisco since the 1906 earthquake.

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