As the police attach eviction notices on the Occupy London tents outside St Paul's, we chat to Steven Maclean, editor of the movement's unofficial newspaper
It's 3pm on Sunday last week and, amongst families eating carvery roast dinners and friends having drinks, Steven Maclean and Natalia Sanchez-Bell are working on the new issue of the Occupied Times of London, the independent newspaper of Occupy LSX. Now on its fourth issue, the paper is developing its mix of features, news, opinion and cartoons and covers everything from the latest protest injunction to the psychology of debt, critiques of the neoliberal agenda and police violence. Described in the week's editorial as now looking like "a legitimate newspaper… if more aesthetically radical", a team of volunteer designers work with Jonathan Barnbrook's font Bastard as part of a striking design, emphasised in the DIY signs that form the back page slogans of 'NO JOBS NO HOUSING NO FUTURE NO FEAR!' or in this week's special pink edition 'FINANCIAL CRIMES'.
Not that it's always this relaxed. In the previous days, one of the papers editors, Mirchea Barbu, was arrested at the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts march as part of a group trying to camp on Trafalgar Square and their tent at the occupation was downsized. The Internet has been patchy at best, and often non-existent, explaining their choice to finish this week's edition at the pub just down to the road. Currently the team is based at the Finsbury Square occupation. OLSX may be fairly orderly for a set of tents, but it would be difficult to produce anything next to the children's drum workshop.
Now, a month into the occupation, issue four's editorial states that, "as long as the system remains intact and the tents remain on the street, [the paper] will be here as well". Or as Steven says, with the threat of eviction always there - something their New York City counterparts have just found out - it's "something tangible that puts a fix on it". We chatted to editor Steven Maclean...
Dazed Digital: So how did the Occupied Times of London start?
Steven Maclean: At the General Assemblies everyone goes away into small groups and discusses anything they want to bring up. People on Twitter had been telling me that there wasn't enough information coming out and, as I'd already been tweeting pictures, I just said "Why don't we make our own paper".
I think some people were distrustful of a lot of the media and realised there was always an agenda so we wanted things that were direct from the source to provide other narratives. Thanks to the mainstream media we've had to put loads of people straight. For example when they were saying the tents were all empty? When you've got the Telegraph prepared to write a piece like that it's terrible.
DD: That explains sections like 'Debunking the Myths' then…
Steven Maclean: This week, somewhere was saying that campers have graffiti-ed the cathedral which isn't true. Someone else said that a protester went to the toilet in the cathedral which also isn't true.
DD: I guess it's not possible to correct everybody who has read those articles?
Steven Maclean: No, not really. We're doing a print run of 2000 but I'd like to think we could shift 20,000 more!
DD: Do you try to avoid your own bias in it then? How have you sourced the articles?
Steven Maclean: I don't believe that proper objectivity exists. With the Occupied Times, the independent newspaper of the Occupation, clearly we're not going to run a totally negative story. It would be absurd if we didn't make it clear that obviously we're onside with the movement. But, yes, the way I see it is that if we were complete propaganda, we'd have no legitimacy so this issue we've got an article where our writer Stacey Knott has been spending time with Nightwatch. We have been writing about the issues on camp too, we're not just going to ignore any problems.
DD: It sounds like you've had a challenging week?
Steven Maclean: One of our editors, Mircha, was arrested at Trafalgar Sq this week so me and Natalie stayed all night at the police station. We tried to sleep but couldn't because it was so uncomfortable. I think he was more comfortable in the cell than we were outside! We had to sleep the next day to catch up so we were really behind, but It's still got that buzz. The design guys are amazing, they stay up all night and just whack it together. Although there are some mistakes, one week we printed the previous week's contents!
DD: Do you have any favourite pieces?
Steven Maclean: No favourites, I think it's been very good overall. We're publishing a piece by David Wearing (Tahrir Square & The Occupy Movement) who also writes for The Guardian this time and there are people have amazed me when they say they'd be flattered . Only one person has said no so far and that's Naomi Klein, just because of her workload. Noam Chomsky has agreed to write for us in a future issue.
DD: Is the idea behind Money Talks to get different opinions, like where you've spoken to economists like Walter E Williams?
Steven Maclean: I completely disagree with his politics but yes, within the paper it worked well.
DD: How do you feel about editions of the paper being in the Museum of London?
Steven Maclean: I think that's pretty cool but we didn't really aim for it. A lot of people are like "wow, it's amazing etc" but I'm too busy just making it to really notice! I suppose it is a piece of history though.
DD: I know you'll never be able to sum up all the opinions here (at the camp) but is there any one philosophy behind the paper?
Steven Maclean: I've always thought it should always have Political Theory and pieces about activism. Although, sometimes I think "how do you make if appeal to the wider 99%?" (even though I don't like that term).
DD: So it's not important to make it accessible?
Steven Maclean: It is but, what do you do to solve that? I always think that if you say "this is my position" and you alter it to make other people comfortable, you're just telling them it's something it's not! You still haven't convinced them of something you think, you've altered your position! You've just got to be what you are. We could put the odd Daily Mail story in to appeal to people who like that… But…. (laughs). I think there's a danger in going too far with that. What you make accessible is not what you wanted to get in the first place.
People have been coming to the tent, just members of the public, and because of the novelty of it people are picking it up and reading it no matter what. I think it's an opportunity really. Get in a bit of proper stuff! The news gets people in and hopefully we Jedi you, and you're reading political theory before you know it.
DD: It might sound obvious, but what's your particular reason for being here?
Steven Maclean: Well, the world is incredibly unjust. I lived in Spain from the ages of 20 to 27 and I travelled a lot in that time in South America, India and places so I like to think my view is based on the world perspective.
It's all very well with this 99% stuff but if we reformed banking in this country and everything was equal here well, globally we're not in the 99% If we just achieved all this for ourselves and then packed up and went home I'd be pissed off. It should be about global equality. Our wealth is based on the exploitation of other countries. For example the Daily Mail has a campaign to get a Royal Yacht. Why do we need that? Actually, why do we need a Royal Family?
For more info on the Occupied Times of London and where to get it, click HERE