LETTER FROM AN EDITOR


I started political writing for ANTIGRAVITY in 2016, after the media industry had entered its nosedive into whatever the hell it is now and in spite of being urged by many to avoid journalism at all costs. The Times-Picayune was disintegrating, Gambit was losing its edge, and it was generally agreed that print media was on its deathbed. You wouldn’t know it reading ANTIGRAVITY, though, which miraculously seemed only to be getting better. Jules Bentley was launching deliciously scathing missives from some anarchist squat, the cultural coverage was electric, and the political writing was making its growing reputation on a rare, unflinching honesty that cut through the post-Katrina bullshit.

When Andru Okun published his bombshell piece on the St. Roch Market (“Going Hungry at the St. Roch Market,” June 2015 #131), I was months deep into an utterly failed attempt to produce something resembling journalism on that very same subject. It was like breaking down by the side of the road and watching someone fly by in a Porsche. Whatever was going on at ANTIGRAVITY, I wanted in.

I was just a spring green when I joined up, but even if I’d had more experience with the editorial process there’s nothing that could have prepared me for what it took to get an ANTIGRAVITY feature ready for publication. Pity the fool caught between Andru Okun and Beck Levy on a red hot Google doc back in the day. Those editors were bad motherfuckers with thoroughly examined political opinions and brains like knives, and if you wanted to write about politics for ANTIGRAVITY, you had to go through them.

Andru was a merciless assassin; he did not consider a spoonful of sugar necessary to help the medicine go down. Instead, he’d snatch anything sloppy or careless from your cherished draft and hold up its carcass like a prize. To this day I can’t use the word “countless” without hearing Andru’s voice tell me that you can count it, actually, so pick another word.

Beck Levy was a do-or-die DC comrade who knew her shit—she had done The Reading. One time she and I were writing an article together (“Bread And Roses: The Solidarity Economy in COVID-era New Orleans,” November 2020 #196), and she dropped off a copy of Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid that I was required to finish before we went any further. Getting in the ring with Beck meant either you were getting knocked out or no one was—I’ve never known her to decline another round.

From the outside, this editorial style must seem a little intense. But the truth is that renegade publishing is a blood sport, a fact you don’t learn until the moment you’ve gone too far to turn back, then suddenly there’s an explosion and someone throws you a machete and tells you to run. If you write for one of the few media institutions still standing, the comfort of money and status provides a suit of armor for this century’s ideological war of attrition. Riding into battle with ANTIGRAVITY offers no such protection. What we do instead is put your work through a gauntlet of razor-sharp editors scouring for imperfections, until you are left with tempered steel capable of withstanding whatever scrutiny comes your way.

This isn’t to say the process isn’t also nurturing; creative work cannot be done well if it’s not cultivated with love. In an ideal world that would be enough, and I hope for a day when gentle gardening will be all that is required of any of us. I’d even say that my passionate desire to see this happen in my lifetime is the primary motivator behind my work here. But in the meantime, I will relish the opportunity this publication has always given me to be fierce with purpose. As long as the demons that run things keep one hand wrapped around our throats while the other rummages through our bank accounts and whatever natural resources this sickened planet has left, a righteous battle will remain one of life’s great privileges. That’s why, 20 years in, ANTIGRAVITY is still going strong, in spite of all the sleepless nights, nervous breakdowns, and pints of blood lost along the way. Hasta la victoria, siempre.


Illustration by Laura Frizzell from Letter From an Editor, February 2024 #232

 

 

 

 

 


 

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