What's Really Going On?
The mainstream media are increasingly failing to provide
investigative reporting, substantive analysis, and the broad range of information
and views that citizens of a democracy need to develop informed opinions
on the issues that matter. Seduced by the lure of profits, aided and
abetted by a political establishment that permits media monopolies without
any commitment to public service in exchange, controlled by magnates (such
as Rupert Murdoch) and investors with extreme, hypocritical, and self-serving
right wing agendas (and subservient their advertiser's interests in any case),
merged into powerful international conglomerates, many corporate media outlets
have devolved to a mixture of shameless commercialism and propaganda. This
phenomenon has been amply documented and analysed by Robert McChesney, Norman Solomon, and
numerous others, who have also put forth a call to action. Several
excellent, independent organizations are taking such action, including FAIR, (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting,
which publishes superb reports), and ACME (Action Coalition for Media
Education, an activist group of media professionals, not to be confused
with the also excellent Acme Klein
Bottle company). I urge you to read their stuff and support their
Fortunately, trustworthy sources of news, analysis, and scholarship
on politically relevant issues can be found if you look for them. What
follows is an annotated list of sources I use regularly or am at least familiar
with. This list is certainly not comprehensive, although the sites
listed will link you with many other resources and individual authors. Given
my location, the emphasis is on the U.S. I will make additions as appropriate.
Please send comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A terrific site which gathers news stories and opinions from a wide variety
of sources, both mainstream and alternative. The range of sources
includes highly regarded British and Canadian papers, such as the Guardian/Observer
and the Globe and Mail, as well as English editions of other foreign news
of the liveliest left-wing sites on the Web. Run by Michael Albert
and the Z Magazine crew, this site leans heavily toward Albert's particular
economic/political vision (participatory economics, or "parecon") and is
definitely anti-capitalist (as opposed to liberal or populist). I
have no quarrel with that, but just so your forewarned. Although Albert and
his collaborator, Robin Hahnel, are to be commended for advancing a thoughtful
economic alternative, the emphasis on this particular alternative rather
than a call for more general discussion is a bit annoying. That said, most
of the ZNet site transcends this criticsm, as Albert and his colleagues are
open to publishing debates with people ranging from Naomi Klein to David
Horowitz. Commentaries by many fine authors appear on the site, along
with wide ranging discussions, and it has links to numerous other resources.
In the spirit of internationalism, the site even offers translations
of many of its articles into a variety of languages! For a small monthly
fee, sustainers can participate in forums with well-known commentators such
as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn; sustainers also receive additional commentaries
The Center for Economic and Policy Research
The best source I know for solid data and critical analysis of political
economy. If they don't have it, they can find it for you, and they
explain everything in terms anyone can understand. From the stock market
bubble to the East Asian currency crisis, co-directing economists Mark Weisbrot
and Dean Baker have been right about just about everything. (Quite
possibly the qualifier "just about" can be discarded.)
United for Peace and Justice
The place to go for what's happening in the contemporary
(U.S) anti-war -- and pro-social justice -- movement.
This Modern Word,
by Tom Tomorrow Dead-on, informative cartoons and a great
Weblog. You can even buy Sparky the penguin underwear.
Journals and Newspapers:
Many of these also have Websites, from which some or all
of their material can be accessed. Many Websites have additional features
not found in print. I've linked the journal titles to the sites, when
The oldest independent political magazine in the USA, The Nation still sets
the standard for sophisticated political journalism, cultural criticism,
and reviews of the arts. It is one of the few papers that still spends
money on real investigative journalism, and the results show it. Recently,
The Nation has moved left on the left/liberal spectrum, a welcome move in
my opinion, but the departure of Christopher Hitchens was a loss. (The
addition of Naomi Klein is a compensating gain.)
In These Times
Livelier and punchier than The Nation, with shorter articles, ITT is
great for those who want to know what's going on but don't have the patience
for The Nation. I gave it to my teenaged daughter for her birthday,
and she reads it! (So does everyone else in the house.)
The Hightower Lowdown For fun-to-read, hard-hitting
populist invective backed up by good (well, horrifying) factual information,
there's none better than ol' Jim
Hightower (except maybe fellow Texan Molly Ivins,
but she doesn't have her own newsletter). No one catches irony and
throws it back in the faces of the powers that be like Jim.
Perhaps the best daily newspaper in the English language. (Published
in England, with corresponding emphasis in national news; the international
reporting is excellent. Also publishes The Observer.)
An outstanding journal of politics and culture with many eminent contributors,
each issue includes a forum on an important topic, debated by authors with
wide-ranging points of view, always thoughtful and well-informed. The
Website is exceptionally well-designed. Historian John Dower's article,
"A Warning from
History," in the current issue is a must read. Published bimonthly
The New York Review of Books With scholarly writing
of inspiring quality, this venerable intellectual journal presents book
reviews so extensive they enable you to talk intelligently about a book
without reading it. (Of course, you should try to read some of the
books, too!) The reviews typically include political and economic
works of current interest. In addition, there are always essays on current
events. A nice feature is that, like Boston Review, The New York Review
does not come from a set political perspective and includes intelligent
conservative opinions. Intelligent conservative views are hard to
find these days and raise legitimate issues that deserve serious consideration.
(Not to be confused with the New York Times Book Review, to which
it compares as Guiness to Miller Lite.)
The Progressive Populist The title says it all. In
its own words, "a journal from the heartland that believes people
are more important than corporations." Many great columnists gathered
in one paper, including not only Hightower and Ivins, but also Huffington,
Weisbrot, and many more. The rural emphasis of this paper is a welcome
perspective. I especially like the work of farmer and food activist Margot
Ford McMillen, which I have not seen anywhere else.
Other progressive journals of note include: Mother Jones, The Progressive, Le Monde Diplomatique (English version available), Monthly Review, and Z Magazine (see also
ZNet, above; more generally see Z Communications).
It is also valuable to read quality conservative newspapers and journals,
as well as the centrist newspapers of record, such as the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal, which
despite its loony editorial page has an excellent reporting staff, and The Economist come to mind.
Amy Goodman's peerless news and issues program. For
stories you won't hear anywhere else (even though they're true), this is
the show to listen to.
BBC The BBC world service is invaluable. Although
beleaguered by the same corporate forces that afflict public broadcasting
in the US, the BBC has held up much better.
Speeches from around the world by some of the greatest minds of our time.
Recent programs have included Noam Chomsky's speech to the World Social
Forum in Porto Allegre, Brazil (which filled a stadium with an audience
of 20,000), a debate about the impending war with Iraq, featuring journalist/poet
Katha Pollit, essayist Peter Berkowitz, and Professors Rashid Khalidi (Chicago)
and Raymond Tanter (Michigan; member of Ronald Reagan's National Security
Council), and Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist
of the world bank, speaking on globalization. Broadcast on WILL-AM
(see below) Saturdays, 6-7pm.
The University of Illinois' excellent public radio station (tune to 580
AM if you're near central Illinois) broadcasts several excellent locally
produced shows, in addition to Alternative Radio. David Inge, host
of the call-in talk show Focus
580, is a fine interviewer and often invites interesting guests. Robert
McChesney hosts the excellent and aptly named call-in talk show Media
Matters, Sunday at 1pm, Central Time. All locally produced programming
is archived on the Website.
Since I don't have a TV, I can't say anything about that medium.