I was recently invited to be a speaker at the upcoming Rebellious Media Conference in London – a celebration of the role of alternative media in bringing about social change. With all of the tickets sold and Noam Chomsky delivering the keynote, it looks likely to be significant. Chomsky is known for showing how the current structure of the media business can serve to squeeze out radical viewpoints. But this is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, throughout history élites have consistently sought to stifle those media sources that challenge them. But history also provides myriad stories of resistance and resilience to inspire campaigners and radical journalists today.
One of my favourites is a story set in the early 19th century, when taxes on newspapers were levied in such a way as to put radical media outside the purchasing power of ordinary working people. The mark of having paid the 4d tax was a ‘stamp’ of approval from the government. Although this led to the closure of some newspapers, a new publication was set up in defiance of this unjust law, illegally priced at 1d: The Poor Man’s Guardian.
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