Gather round, gather round! Covid, overwork, and the state’s assault on the commons have been major barriers to people getting together in the past year. As capitalistic thinking dominates social media and the mainstream news, we urgently need alternative ways of getting the truth out and connecting people to radical projects and ways of life.
Universities, non-profits, and businesses regularly run big-budget “orientations,” to try to acclimate us to be eager cogs in the machinery of empire. Amazon shoved anti-union propaganda down workers’ throats in Bessemer, Alabama to stave off a unionization drive – putting posters in bathroom stalls and paying temp workers to walk around wearing “Vote No” t-shirts.
We can’t counter this assault only with tweets and TikTok videos, which often leave us more isolated than before. We urgently need ways to share new readings of the world and visions for the future. That’s where “Disorientation” zines come in!
Disorientation zines have a rich history as a cheap and effective way to communicate a lot of information with a lot of people. We’ve written up some advice on how to make a disorientation guide about whatever matters in your area! You can create one independently, but things will be much easier and more fun if you have small group working together from the start.
One of the most important (and hardest!) balances in making a Disorientation is being honest about the exploitation, extraction, and damage being done by most sectors of our society, while keeping things open-ended and hopeful.
Many of us are reaching out to the world through these zines because we feel burnt out from organizing – both because of internal conflict and a lack of public support. This fatigue can show, as we describe for the hundredth time why a beloved institution is actually part of the problem rather than the solution. We’re often asking people yet again not to call the cops on us, not to support that slimy non-profit, not to do the awful things that pass as normal.
But we cast these zines into the world as little lifeboats, in the hopes they will re-invigorate our movements and lead more people to re-imagine our world. At our best we write from this place of hope, so we’ll want to return to our zines – sparkling with possibilities of a revolutionary and abolitionist future – again and again.
How to make a disorientation zine
1. Discuss what you want to re-orient people away from, and towards. Do you want to take on a specific topic, like how corporate consultants are trying to take over your co-op? To build support and get more people out to your actions? To bring new people into a movement or group? The possibilities are pretty endless.
2. Start thinking about printing and distribution. (We’ve got strategies for both later.) You’ll want to know early how you’re going to print it, since this might determine how you put it together, how many pages it can be, etc. You’ll also want to have a plan for passing it out, so all those copies don’t sit in a basement somewhere.
3. Make a plan for creating your zine. Come up with a schedule, and make a cool flyer inviting people to come to some work sessions! You can share it just around your network, but it’s also fun to put it on bulletin boards and telephone poles around town to meet some new people. You can also invite people to email in content and ideas!
4. Have some work parties for writing and assembly! Bring food and spirits, or advertise it as a potluck. Put out a donations jar to collect money for printing – you’ll need it later. We recommend pasting zines together on paper if possible, so everyone has a chance to participate. With digital graphics, usually only one or a few people have the knowledge and software to make it. This can put a lot of pressure on them and leave everyone else with less say in the project. When you make zines by hand, everyone can contribute a doodle and can work simultaneously. (If you are using a computer, Scribus is a totally free alternative to Adobe InDesign.)
5. When the final zine is done, you’ll need to get it ready for printing! If you’re going to be folding the pages in half and stapling, you might need to do some extra prep work to make the spreads ready for the copy machine. You’ll need to assemble the individual pages into spreads for the copier. You can fold paper into a dummy copy, number each page, and unfold it. Or check out booklet.jaehnig.org and boooks.org for some helpful calculators!
6. Now you’re ready to print! The cheapest way to make a zine is to copy it yourself. Check all the independent copy places nearby, ask if they can give you volume or cool project discounts, and ask if they’ll price match what you “used to get ‘em for in [city nearby].” Look online for local offset or risograph print shops, which can be cheaper at high volume.
Other tried-and-true methods to get cheap copies include offering to do more labor yourself, fudging the copy count, befriending a copy store worker, or taking a job there. To save some trees and maybe some money, you can often find reams of unused but discarded paper (and staples!) at recycling/junk centers in your area.
7. A word about the internet: It’s probably tempting to promote your project on Twitter and other networks. We say it might not be worth it. Trying to “game” the algorithms and amass followers takes a lot of time and energy, and if you succeed, you’ll just be generating more value for the capitalists by keeping people scrolling on their website. The revolution will not be surrounded by promoted tweets. Distributing in the real world is the surest way to reach the most people and the broadest audiences. Still, putting a PDF online is always helpful and allows people in other areas to find your work. If you have the raw text, it’s important to put that online too so people who use screen readers can access it. This also allows future generations to pick up where you left off and easily build on your great work.
8. Time to distribute! For bonus points, have a launch party at a local community center, library, or bar. If the people you’re trying to reach frequent local bookstores, laundromats, coffee/donut shops, or other places where free newspapers live, ask if you can leave copies there. Take shifts passing out the zines where your audience gathers. (Long lines are always captive audiences!) It might be intimidating to pass out provocative words to total strangers, especially if your zine speaks against the place or institution you’re flyering at. But you’ll find many people are actually quite grateful to receive a hand-made booklet and appreciative of the interaction. Those who aren’t will probably just look the other way as they pass by.
9. Grab a stack and repeat! If you have a table, you can put out a donations jar to collect funds for your next print run. If you use Paypal or venmo, you can put the link right in your zine, or – as we prefer – just put an address where people can send well-concealed cash.