Zines, Clickbait, Surveillance, and the CIA

“Zines are accessible, often friendly to the reader and easy and cheap to make. If you have a printer and a spare few hours and some ideas, you can become a zine publisher just like anyone else,” writes Jonno Revanche in The Guardian.

That anyone is still–or again–talking about zines is wonderful. But Revanche says that zines are an escape from surveillance and clickbait, which I think is only partially true.

We know that the Paris Review and other magazines were, back in the 1950s and 1960s, funded by the CIA. That’s not exactly surveillance, at least not in the sense Revanche means, but zines do have a history of extreme partisanship as well as of both overt and covert propagandising–clickbait, in a sense.

Revanche closes with a thought that, while I agree with its spirit, is a bit off in the letter:

The main, streamlined forms of online news and communication that young people have taken for granted have not existed forever. As citizens, as responsible humans who feel a need for justice and transparency from the media and from corporate monoliths, we shouldn’t hesitate to look towards old media as a way to alleviate our anxieties about online communication.

ZInes are great and yes, we should revive them for the purposes they’ve long served well: to spread good writing in a palpable form. Zines were replaced by blogs but, as Revanche points out, blogs have IP addresses and can be hacked. But if we’re looking for justice, transparency, and relief from fake news, zines aren’t the answer.

Newspapers, and the fourth estate generally, are what need reviving. Or, more specifically and accurately, it’s journalism–its ethics and methodologies–that need to be reaffirmed as ways of exposing truth when it is clouded by capitalism, politics, and partisanship.

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