Up The Torch
For me, Pulse has been my university for becoming
an investigative journalist, and for the Twin Cities, it's provided
a space for progressive voices. Ending both the newsprint and online
editions of Pulse is a huge loss, for writers and for the community.
Thomas Jefferson observed that ''Democracy cannot
survive, or thrive, without an informed and vigilant citizenry.”
If most people only know what their television tells them, how can
they keep government accountable? If people are kept ignorant of
facts, on issues of war to economics, how can they participate in
a meaningful way or take action in their own interest and in the
public interest? The so-called ''mainstream media”--which
more accurately should be termed “corporate media”--primarily
engages in public relations for the powerful, rather than being
the watchdog for We The People, which Jefferson recognized as the
mission of a free press in a country aspiring towards democracy.
Judith Miller's willingness to be a pipeline for the Bush Administration's
pro-war propaganda is simply a blatant example of what corporate
media does every day as it favors economic elite voices and excludes–or
minimizes-- dissident ones on issues from corporate globalization
to the continuing realities of racism and sexism in America.
I applaud ''citizen journalism'' exemplified
by Indie-Media sites around the country. The internet is an amazing
resource for finding alternative to PR swill. But, the reality is
that to do in-depth investigative journalism demands economic support.
It's damn near impossible to do ongoing journalism on the side after
working another 40-hour-a-week job to put food on the table. Progressives
should be deeply concerned about how to economically empower progressive
print radio and television. On July 15, small-circulation print
media are going to be hit with a 15 percent rate hike in postage,
that publishing giants like Rupert Murdock's—which includes
the print version of junk food like People magazine—will NOT
be subjected to. This amounts to a tax on progressive ideas and
is an abandonment of the concept of a “marketplace of ideas.”
Television is the most expensive medium. PBS regularly fights to
continue to get government money with right-wing conservatives extorting
networks to drop progressive shows—like cutting Bill Moyers'
NOW from an hour to 30 minutes—and to add many more conservative
shows. Conservatives already have their own network—FOX—plus
they dominate talk radio. Internet radio is also under attack, with
Congress considering laws that could effectively end internet radio.
For more information on this battle see http://www.savenetradio.org.
As a nation, we are becoming a corporate plutocracy,
where the voices, needs and priorities of the vast majority of Americans
are subjugated to an economic elite that remains primarily white
and male. This year, Bush's Supreme Court undercut women getting
redress for discrimination at work, which will no doubt also set
a precedent for racial discrimination, as well. Consistently, Bush's
Supreme Court mostly reinforces corporations' power and disempowers
ordinary people. Those who question our core right to privacy and
making our most intimate decisions in our lives without government
interference would seem—pardon the pun—hell-bent on
taking apart the separation of church and state, brick by brick.
I think the Founders would be appalled by both of these trends.
The new conservative majority was even willing to, in essence, reverse
the Brown school desegregation decision this week.
The Senate failed to pass the Employees Free
Choice Act, which would have leveled the playing field for workers
to organize and join unions, giving ordinary people a fighting chance
against greedy corporations run amok, taking tax breaks to outsource
jobs, feeding at the public trough for corporate welfare and distorting
our electoral system by bankrolling political candidates. This is
a bipartisan problem, with corporations having two political parties
and We The People having none—yet--having the strength to
challenge this duopoly. Neo-conservative Republican Party, which
is increasingly tied to the Religious Right and the neo-liberal
Democratic Party (Bill and Hillary Clinton's “free-trading,”
“welfare-reforming” new Democrats) both vie for corporate
My hope lies in recognizing, as Howard Zinn's
“A People's History of the United States” reveals, that
massive social movements made up of ordinary people have always
been the means for social change and for racial, gender and economic
justice. No politician ever gave us anything from the end of slavery
and Jim Crow legal segregation to the minimum wage to addressing
violence against women and the AIDS crisis gay men first faced in
isolation. It was people organizing that forced politicians to take
action. We forget that at our peril.
Pulse has been a beacon for progressive politics
and without it, there will be a little less light shining for making
real the small-d democratic promise for peace with justice, for
true equality for all. What I want to leave Pulse readers with is
the challenge to pick up this torch. We must change America if we
are to see the changes in the world we long for. To end war, create
economic, social and political equality and to preserve the planet
facing global warming and other environmental crises demands that
activism not be taken up as a hobby or charity, but as essential
for the survival of the American experiment in democracy and for
This week's first United States Social Forum
was titled ''Another World Is Possible—Another U.S. Is Necessary.”
It's up to white, middle-class progressive activists to challenge
our own ways of organizing that exclude people of color and the
poor. We must be willing to learn from people who do not look like
us or live like us. For inspiration, we can look to Latin America,
where people living on a few dollars a day, without cars, often
illiterate and without access to the internet, have risen for the
common good against elites, in Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba—and
even won. What's stopping Americans from doing the same when we
have far more resources?
It's up to us to step up our resistance. The rest of the world