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December 2001/January 2002
Guerilla Newsworthy: The Satya Interview with Anthony Lappé

By Anne Sullivan


Founded in the summer of 2000, Guerrilla News Network (GNN) is a multi-media news organization whose mission “is to expose people to important global issues through guerrilla programming on the web and on television.” GNN produces NewsVideos, which are mini-documentaries that combine high-impact imagery, tracks from top recording artists and interviews with leading experts about important issues underreported by the major media outlets. Topics have included the CIA’s involvement in the drug trade, the importation of Nazi specialists by the U.S. to conduct mind control experiments, and the suppression of Peter Dale Scott’s war conspiracy theory. Additionally, GNN is hosting its own guerrilla film festival in San Francisco called “Battle Ground,” featuring The Battle of Algiers and Kippur, two films that go beyond the traditional Hollywood representation of war.

GNN’s Executive Editor Anthony Lappé is a writer and television producer whose articles have appeared in various publications including The New York Times. He has co-produced a documentary for MTV’s True Life series, among other projects. Anthony took a break from his busy schedule to chat with Anne Sullivan about his experiences as part of both the mainstream and alternative media.

GNN NewsVideos are technically brilliant and stylistically amazing to watch. Who’s responsible for the content, research, and ideas for the stories?
There are several different sources from which we draw information. The main core of GNN content comes from Creative Director Stephen Marshall and I and then we have a small group of writers and partners who supply us with stories. Stephen is the creative genius behind the videos, which have become real cult hits. Josh Shore, Executive Producer (and co-founder, with Stephen) is the glue that holds us together; he always has a million ideas of how to package things.

We have a small group of cool writers we work with. We had this guy writing dispatches from Colombia who was using a pseudonym because he’s a reporter for a major news organization. He was giving us the real deal on what was going down. We have a San Salvador Bureau Chief, Tom Long, a crazy journalist who moved there and hasn’t come back. He writes for the New York Times and CBS radio. And there’s Michael Ruppert who’s been writing probably the best, most hard-hitting stuff on our war in Afghanistan, bringing to light things like the relationship between the Bushes and the Saudis and the bin Ladens. We also have a reciprocal relationship with a new lefty Belgian magazine called Mao, and Adam Porter—an investigative reporter out of London who has his own magazine called Year Zero. So we’re all hooked up in this sort of nexus trying to do the same thing—a lefty kind of writing with a little bit more attitude than you’ll find in a magazine like The Nation.

Where do most people learn about GNN and see your videos?
On the Web site. We have over 70,000 viewers a month, but in a world of six billion, it doesn’t seem that much. We are reaching a core group of people who are looking for alternative sources of information and cool videos. We launched the site this past March and have been progressively adding things, like our “Counter Intelligence” section which features interviews with forward-thinking people. It’s pretty cool in the sense that we have literally invested no money in it. We don’t owe any money, which I think is important; we owe only favors to our contributors.

As the dot com world continues to bust, more dot com survivors who have been working in unfulfilling jobs that no longer exist have been calling and asking how to get involved. We’re sort of a phoenix rising out of the ashes of the dot com industry—sort of a “dot commune.” One of the challenges we’re trying to figure out is how to build a network and how to get people involved in different aspects of the projects.

Can you tell us a bit about the “network”?
It’s an ever-forming concept. We’re constantly trying to think up new ways to bring people in. It’s a tricky balance because we want to build a larger network but at the same time, we don’t want to create an open situation where anything can come up on the site and it becomes overburdened with information. We’re already seeing our forum overrun with plagiarized cockney conspiracy theories. We don’t have the time to manage the content that comes in every single day. So we’re trying to figure out how to create a network that is both democratic and open but where only a handful of people are responsible for the content. We want to get people to create this themselves instead of just reading and watching our stuff.

We have a hardcore group of committed kids on the site, in our forum, where we normally get more than a hundred postings a day. We’ve instituted a program called “Guerrilla Operatives” where we send them out to make videotapes and get them to distribute them to their friends and get their communities activated around the site.

Do you envision GNN as being the alternative CNN one day?
I think it’s entirely possible, though I don’t ever see us on CNN’s level. But with the continuing advances in digital video and wireless technology there is no reason why alternative news networks will not emerge, whether it’s ours or someone else’s. I believe we have our finger on the pulse of people who could fill 24 hours on our own GNN channel or have a niche on another channel. That is a dream in our minds.

In the meantime, let’s say you could air something on MTV, PBS or the BBC; is that something you would do?
Absolutely, but the question is, how do we break into the mainstream while sticking to our guns? All these networks are branching out and covering international events, because now they have to, but still it’s a very narrow-minded political journalistic culture. Take the whole issue of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, which has been a controversial subject in the media. I’ve seen reports from Channel 4, a UK outlet, that show graphic, hardcore images of civilian deaths. But that’s true of media from abroad. The difference between CNN international and CNN domestic is striking. Here in the U.S. we get a watered-down version of what’s happening in Afghanistan. But the images are out there. And that’s important.

We are currently talking with a major overseas network about a show. We all agree that there’s a lot more hope in the UK and overseas. We’ve all produced projects for TV and I think we’ve come to the realization that it’s really not worth sacrificing our values just to get on TV. People are responding to us the way they are because we’ve opted out of trying to become dot com millionaires or some TV programming gurus. We’ve stuck to our guns and produced what everyone thought was a niche. In the last couple of years, we’ve talked with several major network programming heads and were told that no one cares about international news, that young people don’t care about big political issues. Everyone told us we were nuts. Now the whole world is waking up to what is really going on around the world, regardless of their political stance. Nobody has a clue and people are asking questions about the factors behind the present war and why so many people around the world hate us. That’s a basic question that many people in America don’t have an answer to.

You’ve worked as a journalist in the mainstream media as well, written for the New York Times. What other mainstream outlets have you been involved with?
I worked in the satellite news business, the “belly of the beast,” which basically moves pictures of global events around the world. It’s really, in a sense, a shuffling of reality.

So how did this affect you?
Just realizing how idiotic the global news business is, especially the television news business, had a huge impact on me. I saw first-hand how the news is just shuffled around and clumped together into reality. And I saw what the priorities were. Up until September 11, international news was just a big game of who could get the best picture of Bush getting off a plane, or a plane crash or soccer riot.

The GNN NewsVideos would obviously appeal to people who watch MTV-especially young people. How does this factor into your vision of GNN?
There’s this whole generation for which there isn’t a global news outlet that is speaking in a way they can connect to. Most kids don’t have the ability to get into the game with something like The Nation. I’ve had a lot of direct contact with kids recently and I’m realizing that there are huge gaps that exist in their basic knowledge of history and geography. It’s scary and ironic that channels like MTV just ratchet up the ignorant program, for instance, a show like Jackass, which is an affront to humanity. I have a sense of humor, but a guy swimming in raw sewage is just wrong. They should have their license revoked.

For Random Intelligence [a music news and alternative culture program which airs on the cable music channel Much Music], Josh and I went around and interviewed high school kids. Some of them just echoed the arrogance of America in their beliefs that people from other countries hated us because they were jealous; you know, because we have Hollywood and French fries and Cadillacs. It was both depressing and enlightening. Depressing in the sense that these kids had so little basic knowledge of history and geography but at the same time a lot of them had this intuitive understanding of the conflict, like: “I think it had something to do with Bush’s dad.” One girl was telling me her theory that bin Laden had his own satellite that we couldn’t blow up and that’s why we couldn’t catch him. There are these weird, half-formed thoughts out there.

Many readers of Satya will be familiar with your mother, Francis Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet and of her upcoming book, Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam Publishing, January 2002). She must have played a huge role in your work and current interests.
She has been a major inspiration for what I’m doing with GNN. When she was 26 or 27 years old, she began writing a pamphlet after doing some research in the UC Berkeley library where she was auditing classes. Her research was about food and hunger and she started out with these startling facts about how there’s enough food in the world to go around and that hunger is caused by an unjust global economic system. The way she stuck to her guns and followed her nose and was not afraid to question the dominant paradigm is something that’s always inspired me. Keeping your eyes on the big picture and questioning the basic “truths” that everyone sort of holds as reality takes a lot of hard work—just having faith to believe in your own voice and to go out there and ask questions. I feel very blessed in having that as a legacy. I’m proud of her new book. I think it’s going to be really important because it goes deeper and looks at more tangible ways that people around the world are trying to solve problems and are questioning globalization.

Diet for a Small Planet and the new book deal with food, which is something everyone relates to. Putting recipes in the book and connecting food to deeper ecological issues made it very accessible. GNN uses music, which is universal and something that all young people can relate to. People picked up Diet for a Small Planet thinking it was just a recipe book. In the same sense, people may pick up on our stuff because of the Web site design or because they like the music in our videos. Then they’re exposed to the message. There is a parallel there.

To learn more about GNN and watch their videos go to or e-mail To order a 45-minute VHS compilation tape of GNN videos send a $20 certified check or money order made out to Guerrilla News Network, Inc., along with your address to: GNN Videotapes, 119 Sullivan Street, #8, New York, NY 10012.

Anne Sullivan is the publicity director for Lantern Books. She is a self-professed “media junkie” and was Satya’s resident “Media Watcher” for two years.


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