A monthly magazine dedicated to coverage of people engaging in direct action to solve systemic problems, manifest social change, and achieve true autonomy.
What is Direct Action?
Governments all over the world and throughout history have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of all people. Most governments are designed to use people, not provide for them. If we want to manifest real change, we mustn’t waste our energy in fighting or reforming our current systems. We must build new systems that will render the old ones obsolete. We can do this through Direct Action.
Direct action is individuals acting autonomously or organizing into groups to provide aid to one another or to fight injustice. It can take many forms, from tree sits that prevent the destruction of old growth forests to mutual aid networks that provide for communities devastated by natural disasters. In 1960, when four black students sat down at a white lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, to protest segregation, that was direct action. This is not an abstract utopian philosophy, but a concrete tactic everyone can use to confront the status quo, break the constraints of social norms and re-imagine what is possible.
Direct action is known to be a tactic used by Anarchists, and the mainstream media like to portray Anarchists as mask-wearing, window smashing rioters. Permissionless will not be a mechanism for churning out propaganda or for “recruiting” or “converting” people to Anarchy or any other political ideology. We aim to create a deeper and broader understanding of what direct action is and how it can be used.
Every day, people across the globe manifest change through direct action, but they can’t all take the time to document their tactics so that others can learn from them. Permissionless will outline their methods, successes and failures, the lessons they’ve learned and their visions for the future in order to show readers how they can take action to meet their own needs and those of their communities.
We want to empower people to work together instead of allowing the divisive rhetoric of manipulative governments to pit us against each other. Those in positions of authority will never fight equally for all people everywhere, so we must begin to act on our own behalf. The problem is that many of us don’t know where to begin. We offer Permissionless as a practical guide and a source of inspiration.
Given our focus on direct action, it may appear that Permissionless has an agenda. News, you might argue, should be objective. At Permissionless, we don’t claim to be objective. We believe that total objectivity in journalism is not only impossible, but undesirable.
It’s impossible because the act of deciding that an issue is important and relevant is an act of interpretation and judgement. In the process of reporting, the journalist decides who to interview and what to research. While writing, the journalist chooses an angle from which to approach an issue. They decide which facts, quotes and observations support that angle and they leave the rest out. Because journalism is a decision-making process from start to finish, it cannot be objective.
Objectivity is undesirable because, if a journalist has no point of view, they will simply report on what everyone else is reporting on. They will perpetuate an infinite cycle of repetitive news that focuses on a handful of issues to the exclusion of all others. We agree with Rob Wijnberg, founder of Dutch journalism platform De Correspondent, when he says that this approach reduces journalists to “messengers of the very elites they are supposed to hold accountable.”
In order to do her best writing, a journalist must know and care about the issue she is covering. When you care, you dig deeper and you take the time to listen. You incorporate the experience and wisdom of the people you report on, including the inconvenient perspectives that do not fit the traditional narrative. You paint a complex and nuanced picture that more accurately reflects reality.
At Permissionless, we will not simply cover what everyone else is covering for fear of appearing to have an agenda. Instead, we will practice what Wijnberg calls ‘transparent subjectivity.’ We will tell you why we’ve chosen to report on a given topic, and what we hope to achieve in shining a light on it. Because, as Wijnberg says, being transparent about your point of view is better than claiming not to have one.
Facts matter, but so does human experience. We intend to seek out both and let them guide our thinking and our storytelling out of the groupthink loop and into reality.
Rather than perpetuate the transactional, exploitative relationship that currently exists between journalists and the public, Permissionless aims to cultivate collaborative relationships with the activists we cover and the communities they serve. We will not exacerbate closed-mindedness with over-simplified narratives based on assumptions and preconceptions. Instead, we will begin our reporting with open minds and a desire to learn. We’ll tell you what we don’t know, and you can tell us what we should know, what we need to know, in order to produce stories that create empathy and understanding.
We also want to change the relationship between journalists and readers. In addition to detailing the problem itself, we will highlight the direct action tactics activists are using to solve it. We will pass useful information and inspiring examples on to our readers, empowering them to become engaged citizens rather than passive media consumers.
It seems activism only makes the front page when street protests erupt into violence. At Permissionless, we know there’s more to it than that. While street protests are important, they are only one form of direct action. Change is an ongoing process fueled by the daily work of activists engaging with their communities. Unfortunately, the foundational long-term efforts of a community can’t be reduced to easily digestible quotes and soundbytes, so despite their relevance, they go unrecognized.
Instead of focusing primarily on the shocking and dramatic, Permissionless will report on the long-term foundational projects that are essential to a movement but never make the evening news. We intend to cover street protests, but we also want to know about community gardens, housing squats, and that guy who hands out cheeseburgers in front of the library every Thursday.
In the near future, we hope to publish Permissionless through Civil, a blockchain-powered platform based on a decentralized governance protocol. We’re choosing Civil for its potential to render advertising-driven journalism obsolete and allow the people who produce and read the news to decide what valuable content looks like.
For more information on Civil, see their website.
The mission of Permissionless is to show how people in all corners of the globe are using direct action to solve problems. In addition to reporting from all across the United States, we will invite writers familiar with or engaged in this type of activism to report from their own locations and contribute to Permissionless, with the goal if including voices from all over the world.
The writing we publish will take many forms. Our primary focus will be explanatory pieces describing direct action tactics & projects being used by activists. Other forms will include:
- Solutions journalism
- Interviews with activists
- Profiles of individual activists and activist groups
- Investigative pieces about social issues
- Longform narratives about social issues
- Excerpts from books dealing with direct action
- News about recent and upcoming events
Who Are We?
My name is Sarah Handyside and my partner’s name is Garth Kiser. As a freelance writer, I’ve contributed to Reverb Press (2015), The Ex-Berliner (2012), The Redway Times (2010), The Garberville Independent (2010), and The Duluth Reader (2008). Garth and I both worked for KMUD, Redway, California’s, independent radio station, in 2010. I am also currently a student at Oregon Institution of Technology, majoring in communications with a focus on journalism.
Garth and I are also former Occupy activists. In 2011, we walked with a group of protesters from New York City to Atlanta, Georgia. All along the way, I wrote a daily blog that gained a dedicated following and generated donations that helped to support our mobile occupation. I later published the blog as a book titled Occupy the Highway. My experience with the Occupy Movement showed me that journalism and direct action are a powerful combination, and inspired me to use writing as activism.
Our hope is that others who see the power of direct action in combination with a truly free press will join us in contributing to Permissionless.
If you’re interested in writing for Permissionless or you want suggest people, groups, movements or projects we should cover, contact us: