Publish or Perish

How an Atheist Helps Protect Islamists in Turkey,” The New York Times, November 26, 2002:

“In 1995, [Turkish publisher Sanar] Yurdatapan’s activism took the turn that came to define it: It began when Yasar Kemal, one of Turkey’s most famous writers, was charged under antiterrorism laws for writing an article against the war in Kurdish areas.

In protest, 1,080 well-known people signed their names [as co-publishers] in a book that republished Mr. Kemal’s article and nine other banned articles. They then demanded that they all be prosecuted because it was also a crime to reprint banned articles.

Mr. Yurdatapan’s orchestration of the book put the Turkish state in an awkward position, having to suspend sentences or change the laws to avoid arresting everyone. In 1999, however, he received a two-month sentence....

With little money and a tenuous legal status — his group, Initiative for Freedom of Expression, exists only on the law’s margins — Mr. Yurdatapan keeps up his work: 4 books and over 40 pamphlets have been published.

In 2000, he took up the case of Islamic activists, including the nation’s only Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, who has been banned from political life since the army’s ouster of his government in 1997 and whose party was victorious in the recent elections.”

The February 3, 2000 Kurdish Observer reports that Sanar, a civilian, was sentenced by a military court to two months in prison for “making publication to lose people’s enthusiasm for the military service.”

Sanar became well-known as a composer, songwriter, and advocate for free expression in the 1970’s. From Human Rights Watch:

“Sanar Yurdatapan was stripped of his citizenship by the military junta that seized power in Turkey in 1980. He lived in exile from 1980 until 1992. The military handed back power to a civilian government in 1984, but they have kept public discussion of certain issues off limits, particularly criticism of state institutions (especially the military) and the role of ethnicity or religion in politics.”

He has also worked on prison conditions, the right to conscientious objection to military service, and exposed the Turkish military’s massacre of Kurds. The Times again:

“[In the summer of 2002], as part of its bid to join the European Union, Turkey passed several laws easing freedom of expression. Mr. Yurdatapan says the atmosphere is improving, though not enough for him to end his work.”

More publishing than design, the 1995 action is such an elegant act of civil disobedience, a grand mockery of Turkish censorship law.

>  12 May 2003 | LINK | Filed in , , , ,

Media Lies. News at 11.

“On Monday, March 31, the Los Angeles Times published a front-page photograph that had been altered in violation of Times policy.

The primary subject of the photo was a British soldier directing Iraqi civilians to take cover from Iraqi fire on the outskirts of Basra. After publication, it was noticed that several civilians in the background appear twice. The photographer, Brian Walski, reached by telephone in southern Iraq, acknowledged that he had used his computer to combine elements of two photographs, taken moments apart, in order to improve the composition.”

Bloggers are all abuzz about this. You can see the photo and its sources here. The improved composition shows the soldier slightly enlarged, both feet planted, and made to look as if his gun is pointing at the Iraqi.

I hope that such high-profile corrections will inspire skepticism, but worry that they lend the appearance of objectivity and diligence to the rest of the coverage. And thoroughness at the expense of the stories that are not being told.

“Times policy forbids altering the content of news photographs. Because of the violation, Walski, a Times photographer since 1998, has been dismissed from the staff.”

Sucks for Mr. Walski to lose his job, but I’m sure an experienced war photographer with an eye for composition won’t have too much trouble finding a market for his images. Perhaps he could try the Brits?

Otherwise, I look forward reading the Times’s call for Colin Powell to be fired for his misrepresentations. And Bush for his many lies.

See also Underxposed, on photographs and lies in the media.

>  3 April 2003 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

A Bug’s Life

A “union bug” is a tiny logo used to designate items that have been produced with union labor.

“Printers have been know to use a bug to designate union labor as early as October 15, 1891, when it appeared at the head of the editorial column of the Compositors (I.T.U.) Typographical Journal. The first known use of a bug in commercially-produced documents was by the [International Printing Pressmen Union of North America] in May 1893.

BugThe union label has at least five purposes:

  1. It is a protection against anti- or non-union shops that might otherwise profess union working conditions.
  2. It can be part of a public-relations campaign to induce customers to buy union-made products.
  3. It is a sign of good workmanship and quality standards.
  4. It is badge of union prestige to attract new members.
  5. It is warning against trespass by competitive unions.

Bugs usually appear discreetly at the corner of a back page or at the bottom of a title page.... The most common union bug is that of the Allied Printing Trades. It signifies that all aspects of the work, from typesetting to finishing, were performed by union labor. This bug contains several important pieces of information. The lower arc contains the geographic region, which may be a city ("New York") or a broader area ("Northern California"). Coupled with that location is a shop name or number. The number is permanently assigned when the shop is organized. A regional list of union shops, indexed by shop name and number, is available from the local Printing Trades Council. A national database is also now available on-line.”


So in addition to recession, years of declining union membership, and an increasingly hostile organizing environment, the union bug, proud mark of much hardship and struggle, is being written out of the history of the documents that bear it. While archivers and catalogers of printed matter note publisher, printer, city and date of printing, they almost always exclude information encoded in the union bug and even fail to mention the bug at all.

From Proposal for Inclusion of Union Label Description In Bibliographic and Archival Cataloging Guidelines:

“Most catalogers have no idea what to do with them. Full cataloging of bug-bearing documents either omits mention of them at all or indicates only that which is recognizable.... Direct inquiry confirmed that ‘The Library of Congress has not sought to describe (this) level of detail... when encoding historical documents with the American Memory DTD [Document Type Definition].’...

The authoritative source on cataloging guidelines is the Anglo American Cataloging Rules (AACR). According to Michael Gorman, Dean of Libraries at C.S.U. Fresno and editor of the AACR, ‘I can safely say that the Union Bug is not mentioned in any English-language cataloguing code.’

A review of the 1988 edition provides several potential loci for specifying union bug information.... Given that the union bug is a valuable piece of cataloging data, I would like to propose that it be formally included in AACR, MARC, EAD, and other archival cataloging protocols. The default option should be that absence of information means that there is no bug. If a bug is present, however, the relevant information should have a designated place to record it.”

>  3 January 2003 | LINK | Filed in , , , ,


Photgraph of Jews in a train stationThe people in the black and white photo behind the bars of the boxcar in the 1940’s German train station are not Jews off to the camps to be killed. They are indeed German Jews off to a camp, but the photo was taken after the end of war, the soldiers on the platform are British, and the passengers are survivors of Nazi concentration camps, denied entry into Palestine. Here, they are being transported from Hamburg docks to the Poppendorf detention camp.

The photo and its story are reproduced in Underexposed. From Vision On Publishing:

Underexposed tells the stories behind the photographs which determine our view of history, providing a reality check on alleged events from the last hundred years and documenting the struggle of the powerful to contend with rival cultural forces of media and information. Reclaimed from the trash cans of the Second World War. From the cruelty of Stalin’s Russia and fundamentalist chaos in Iran to the horrors of the Gulf war and perspectives on September 11th — even Hitler’s preening speech rehearsals come back to argue with his self-made myth. Via disgruntled starlets, ecological destruction and US nuclear tests, Underexposed gathers together some of the most ideologically dangerous photographs ever taken and releases them to haunt the increasingly manipulated, re-touched present.”

Cover of the book Underexposed I found the book on the front table at St. Mark’s Books, mixed with the latest compilations on cyber-typography, club flyers, erotica, and graphic novels. The juxtaposition is continued on the publisher’s Web site. Among the publisher’s list of glossy photo books of rock stars, fashion, erotica, and a celebration of the Manchester City Football Club (and its fans), Underexposed seems a bit like war porn. The design of the book is certainly less than sober, full of dramatic, oversized, full-bleed spreads and a hip sans serif typeface. Each photo is provided with some background, but the captions only allow so much space.

The bottom line: photographs can lie. Particularly those that purport to be objective. Taken out of context, they are cropped, altered, and framed by the context at hand and by cultural assumptions. And page after page, the flouting of taboo and power starts to flatten out. Like all the speakers in the corner of Hyde Park, all ideologies become equivalent.

That said, the book does rouse a healthy dose of skepticism. It also crosses into the terrain of Barthes’s Mythologies, an examination of connections between language, imagery, ideology, and power and a wandering interrogation of “the obvious.”

From a review in The Guardian:

“In one of the most shocking images, taken from the Sudanese famine of 1984, Wendy Wallace photographed the photographers at work snapping an emaciated child who had been brought out to sit in the dirt precisely for that image.

It is a theme that recurs in Alex Webb’s pictures of the American invasion of Haiti. A line of US troops lies dramatically - heroically - on the Tarmac at Port au Prince airport aiming their weapons at an unseen enemy. Most media organisations showed this image. Webb’s version shows the reality: the only figures are half a dozen and more photographers and cameramen crouched in front of the soldiers, puncturing the dramatic image in a campaign that was to see virtually no opposition to US troops.”

See an excerpt from the forward to the book, some photos from the book, or listen to an audio interview with Colin Jacobson, former photo editor for a number of British news magazines and editor of Underexposed.


Before After

Also of note, The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs in Stalin’s Russia, an small online exhibit of doctored photos and propaganda posted by the Newseum. Shown here, Stalin with Nikolai Yezhov, commissar of water transport, before and after he was purged.

>  18 December 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , , , ,

Steal This Book

Starting A Printing Workshop

“Leaflets, posters, newsletters, pamphlets and other printed matter are important to any revolution. A printing workshop is a definite need in all communities, regardless of size. It can vary from a garage with a mimeograph machine to a mammoth operation complete with printing presses and fancy photo equipment. With less than a hundred dollars and some space, you can begin this vital service. It’ll take a while before you get into printing greenbacks, phony identification papers and credit cards like the big boys, but to walk a mile you must start with one step as Gutenberg once said.”


Underground Newspapers

“Food conspiracies, bust trusts, people’s clinics and demonstrations are all part of the new Nation, but if asked to name the most important institution in our lives, one would have to say the underground newspaper. It keeps tuned cover in on what’s going on in the community and around the world. Values, myths, symbols, and all the trappings of our culture are determined to a large extent by the underground press. Each office serves as a welcome mat for strangers, a meeting place for community organizers and a rallying force to fight pig repression. There are probably over 500 regularly publishing with readerships running from a few hundred to over 500,000. Most were started in the last three years. If your scene doesn’t have a paper, you probably don’t have a scene together.”


G.I. Papers

“A heavier scene than even the high schools exists in No-No Land of the military. None-the-less, against incredible odds, courageous G.I.’s both here and overseas have managed to put out a number of underground newspapers. If you are a G.I. interested in starting a paper, the first thing to do is seek out a few buddies who share your views on the military and arrange a meeting, preferably off the base. Once you have your group together, getting the paper published will be no problem. Keeping your staff secret, you can have one member contact with someone from a G.I. coffee house, anti-war organization or nearby underground newspaper. This civilian contact person will be in a position to raise the bread and arrange the printing and distribution of the paper. You can write one of the national G.I. newspaper organizations listed at the end of this section if you are unable to find help locally. The paper should be printed off the base. Government equipment should be avoided.”


Guerrilla Radio

“Under FCC Low Power Transmission Regulations, it is legal to broadcast on the AM band without even obtaining a license, if you transmit with 100 milliwatts of power or less on a free band space that doesn’t interfere with a licensed station. You are further allowed up to a 12-foot antenna or the use of carrier-current transmission (regular electric wall outlets). Using this legal set-up, you can broadcast from a 2 to 20 block radius depending on how high up you can locate your antenna and the density of tall buildings in the area.”


Free food, housing, education, and independent media. Shoplifting, pipe bombs, medical care, draft counseling... and graphic design.

It’s all there in the hipster slang of 1970. While downloading the complete Steal This Book as one big 413 Kb HTML file, read a little about its provenance.

The title joke still makes me laugh. Steal this book about destroying capitalism. But, while some items in the book are still relevant to movement building and perhaps real social change, others seem more like cheap thrills than liberation. 30 years later, Hoffman’s catalogue of techniques of resistence reads as a vision of a life of struggle. The introduction breezes through a snapshot of the ills of America, but get your nuanced political and economic analysis elsewhere — this is just a practical guidebook. Perhaps for those without a nuanced political or economic analysis? “The purpose of part two is not to fuck the system, but destroy it.” By fighting violence and theft with violence and theft? And then what?

Found via Boing Boing.

>  29 November 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , ,

Archie Loves Betty, Veronica, and the FBI

Since 1954, the Comics Magazine Association of America has issued a Comics Code Authority Seal to comics submitted by publishers which meet the standards of the Comics Code. In practice, the Code was used as a tool of censorship, since it was nearly impossible to sell unapproved comics to newstands and mass merchandisers. With the rise of specialty comic book stores in the mid-80’s, most publishers have opted out of the Comics Code.

The code was updated in 1971 and again in 1989. The 1989 version adds:

“In general, recognizable national, social, political, cultural, ethnic and racial groups, religious institutions, law enforcement authorities will be portrayed in a positive light. These include the government on the national, state, and municiple levels, including all of its numerous departments, agencies and services; law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, the Secret Service, the CIA, etc.; the military, both United States and foreign; known religious organizations; ethnic advancement agencies; foreign leaders and representatives of other governments and national groups; and social groups identifiable by lifestyle, such as homosexuals, the economically disadvantaged, the economically privileged, the homeless, senior citizens, minors, etc.”

CPB notes, “DC Comics and Archie are the publishers who still abide by the Code to portray the CIA, ethnic advancement agencies and the economically privileged in a positive light.”

>  22 August 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , , ,

Wanted: One Independent Press

Washington DC based Freedom House “is seeking a qualified media specialist to serve as its Project Director of its Printing Press project in Kyrgyzstan. A qualified applicant will have experience in developing and running newspapers in a repressive government environment, and in supervising the operation of a printing press. The Project Director will be responsible for developing and implementing a strategy for successful installation and start-up of an independent printing press in Kyrgyzstan.” The Director will help identify, or else else help develop “a local entity” to operate the press, help select a local board of directors, find a place to house and run the press, facilitate registration and other requirements of Kyrgyzstan law, develop a business and marketing plan, and “work with local media outlets to develop protection strategies to address government harassment.” Russian language a plus. Are you game? Contact the House by May 24.

>  22 May 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Prison Press

The Angolite is a bi-monthly newmagzine written, edited, designed and printed by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Since 1976, the publication has been “free to publish whatever content it wants.” Former death-row inmate and Angolite editor Wilbert Rideau also co-directed The Farm which was nominated for an Academy Award. The Angolite is a seven-time finalist for National Magazine Award and has received numerous awards including the George Polk Award for special interest reporting, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award.

>  13 May 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,


Transiciónes is both a spinal clinic and an “Independent Living Center” operated by and for disabled Guatemalans. In addition to medical care, the center provides vocational and educational training at a small graphic arts, desktop publishing, and printing business, as well as a computer and office equipment repair and maintenance business. The print shop produces notebooks, bound hard cover books, business cards, brochures, posters, and other jobs both large and small. The also runs a small center for manufacturing and refurbishing wheelchairs. The costs for living at the center are offset by the work of the residents, who also earn a small salary. And, in 2001, Transiciónes’ wheelchair basketball team represented Guatemala at the Central American Games. See the articles at Disability World and the Global Development Center site.

>  4 May 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

First Things, Again

In 1964, a group of London designers published a a manifesto, a challenge to designers involved to apply their skills to worthwhile purposes. In 2000, “First Things First” was updated and published in 7 design magazines. It provoked a bit of debate.

>  3 May 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

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