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‘Wrong Side Feelings’, Mila RochennerCourtesy Good Trouble / Rod Stanley

The new media platform bridging the arts and activism

Former Dazed editor Rod Stanley has launched ‘Good Trouble’: an online zine celebrating the culture of resistance

If, like me, you spent the days after Trump’s election in a depressed stupor wondering what – if anything – would change, look no further than Good Trouble. Set up by former Dazed editor Rod Stanley, it’s a new collective arts platform dedicated to celebrating the culture of resistance and grassroots activists promoting positive change.

In an age where even Pepe memes have been hijacked by the alt-right, it seems that the furthest reaches of counterculture and anti-establishment discourse are in danger of being manipulated for cynical ends. On the other hand, Rod explains, the progressive left are busy arguing and analysing in their online bubbles, while only preaching to the converted.

It’s becoming clearer that there is a real need for the media to face these evident challenges, and that is what Good Trouble aims to do in its coverage. It bridges the gap between culture and radical politics by providing readers with ways to make some kind of difference to the world we find ourselves inhabiting. As Stanley puts it, “Come for the sexy shoots of protests, stay for the resources and connection to actions.” We caught up with him about the platform’s brave new world of art-meets-resistance.

Could you tell me a little more about how Good Trouble was started? 

Rod Stanley: In the bleak, cold days following the US election, frenzied group message chats on my phone buzzed through the night, all with the same theme: ‘What the hell are we going to do?’ We talked a lot about the failures of the media, the alt right’s cynical hijacking of countercultural energy, the total collapse of truth and meaning – all that fun stuff.

I’d felt for a while there was both a space and a need for a magazine/site at the intersection of arts and culture with politics and protest, so the time felt right. A collective blog was started immediately, then Good Trouble followed as a standalone site a few weeks later. Many friends, artists, photographers, editors and musicians have contributed ideas along the way. It’s a bit raw but we liked the idea of launching something first, then just figuring things out as we went along. Its mission statement is to 'Celebrate the Culture of Resistance' – to amplify stories of creative resistance, the people and groups promoting positive change and protesting assaults on freedom via cool art, music, photography, film and other methods – not just in the US and UK, but around the world.

“Vast swathes of social media are now like the irradiated, poisoned battlefields of some sci-fi comic” – Rod Stanley

What makes Good Trouble unique from other media and publications out there that focus on social justice issues?

Rod Stanley: Good Trouble is an arts and culture platform focused solely on protest and politics, which I haven't really noticed anywhere else. There are a few magazines (such as this one) that cover these things as part of their remit, which is great, but I think that Good Trouble can become a powerful voice by virtue of having a really tight focus. And I do feel that online media’s ongoing obsession with traffic and clicks at all costs is boiling down to vast amounts of opinion pieces that preach to the converted but make little real difference.

Vast swathes of social media are now like the irradiated, poisoned battlefields of some sci-fi comic, with wounded individuals staggering through the cratered hellscape, bitterly fighting wars long since lost. Maybe it's time for us to withdraw from compromised spaces like Facebook in favour of a network of smaller, more direct, open and honest places. What’s the point of having those endless arguments with racist relatives or former school friends that go nowhere? It just makes more money for those networks. We shouldn’t become defined by what we’re fighting against – by staring too long into the abyss of Twitter until it looks back into us.

Ultimately, Good Trouble is interested in the power of stories to create networks. Maybe lots of free-spirited, DIY spaces sharing positive stories, documentaries and photos about people creatively resisting and making cool shit in aid of a better world can do their part to help counter lies, hate speech and propaganda. 

How important are the arts and culture in creating real political change, in your opinion?

Rod Stanley: Real political change happens through voting, through pressuring representatives, and via sustained protest and acts of mass civil disobedience. Arts and culture can affect and drive all of these things. Good Trouble is interested in that.

What are the most pressing issues in the world right now that you’d want to cover?

Rod Stanley: The ongoing collapse of western liberal democracy is obviously quite pressing. Climate change is another big one. But we have stories in the pipeline about a former LA gang member turned actor, a Cambodian pop-up restaurant with a mission, a Tunisian rebel singer who was a hero of the Arab Spring, and a super-woke Arizona cassette label that creates mixtapes for prisoners. It’s pretty diverse.

Who are your top icons of cultural resistance from the past to the present day?

Rod Stanley: Too many, but we should also take a moment to shout out the Congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis, who is much in the news at the moment for his anti-Trump stance, not least because we borrowed his excellent phrase ‘good trouble’ for the title of this project.

What are your plans for the future of Good Trouble?

Rod Stanley: The Good Trouble creative network, in which we amplify the best stories far and wide via a web of independent cultural publishers. An expanded resources section. Radio shows. Books. Events. The establishment of our own independent state. With a rousing national anthem.

Good Trouble is an open platform calling for submissions from writers, activists and creatives. You are welcome to add concrete actions for people to take at the end of your stories. You can find out more on their website, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.