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Thorns in the Paw

We know what happened in the corporate media over the last four years: grossly inaccurate journalism, censorship and dismissals, directives on what not to report, the dawn of embedded reporting both abroad and at home, fervently patriotic news anchors, and more media consolidation. But these trends, however disturbing, have had a profound effect on independent media, increasing both the numbers of people creating alternatives and those who want to consume it. Clamor asked a sampling of independent media-makers to talk about significant aspects of their work during the Bush Regime: what they’ve reported on, what’s been left out, what mark their work has made. As these accounts indicate, there’s a lot of excitement about independent media right now and what it’s accomplishing. There’s a vigorous energy in the air and a powerful sense of compulsion, which will only grow into the years ahead.

Andrew Stelzer
Free Speech Radio News
Portland, OR

August 21, 2002.  Not a year had passed since the twin towers thing.  Dissent was still largely seen as unacceptable and un-American in that time of fear (can you remember way back to those days?)

I can tell you one thing; I was glad to be living in Portland that year.  There was a large, visible community that wasn’t fooled.  When “President” Bush came to town to raise money for Republican Senator Gordon Smith’s campaign, about 1500 of them hit the streets, for so many reasons.  I was reporting for KBOO community radio. The people I interviewed were upset about the loss of civil liberties, the FTAA, the destruction of the environment, the sanctions and impending war on Iraq, the attacks on women’s rights, the neglect of workers’ rights, and the government’s lucrative partnerships with corporate giants. The list goes on and on.  The people were angry but not violent.  Apparently the police didn’t feel the vibe.  They declared a “state of emergency” and decided to unleash the pepper spray and the rubber bullets on a crowd that hadn’t broken any rules.  One officer decided that even though I had been standing in the same spot, behind a barricade a few feet from him for 20 minutes with a press pass on, I needed a good spritz of pepper spray right in the eyes.  They decided the same thing for a father and his one and three-year-old children.  As the news spread over, messages began pouring in from all over:

As I sit here with tears streaming down my face I wish that I could go there to join my fellow brothers and sisters.  Everyone in Chicago and in the world is so proud of you.  Peace.

Please keep this going; Pass it around the world, we must stop this crazed spoiled child called Bush.  He is destroying the american way of life.

-Sad Amerian

Keep talking y’all. The internet is still up, really the only tool that might get us thru this shit. Portland rocks! I love your city! Cheers from Texas, Brian.

I’m afraid this is just the beginning. I’m old enough to remember the anti-Vietnam War protests, most of which, just like this one, were peaceful and ended in police violence. It seems as though it’s 1968, and George Bush is Richard Nixon.  Keep on.

-TR of St. Paul, Mn.

 We live in the age of the Internet. The world is watching.

The next day, the people and their lawyers decided to sue the city and the police.  I could have been part of the lawsuit, but decided to stick with my role as “media.” However, I submitted my account of the event as evidence.  I reported the story on Free Speech Radio News. The world was not only watching but listening.

Over the next few months, the entire planet decided enough was enough.

Leticia Cortez
Editor and co-founder of ¿Hasta Cuándo?
Chicago, IL

¿Hasta Cuándo? grew out of our belief that a publication needed to exist including youth and minorities in the political community to address issues pertinent to them and their community. This is also why it’s a bilingual publication. From the beginning, ¿HC?’s purpose was to inform and work for change. The things that were going on in the fall of 1999 shaped the first issue. Locally, gentrification was hitting the neighborhood; Mayor Daley and the City Council were passing anti-youth ordinances. Nationally, the WTO protest in Seattle was going on.

Then came the 2000 election, followed by the attendant thievery and ensuing massacre of our economy, health, environment, and educational system. The most important topic I have covered during the last four years has been the Bush Administration.

Bush has disgraced the cover at least four times since the election. We included a spread of the Bush Cabinet with bios in the issue that followed the election. In the last issue Bush is the symbol of death dressed in his flight suit (the one he wore when he declared the war with Iraq had ended) and helmet in hand. For the next issue we are focusing on this year’s election.

It is hard to isolate the most important story one has covered submerged in this climate for the last four years. However, the political plague of this administration and the repercussions of their agenda at every level have been the main motive of my writing. The reason this answer is so general is because we have to see the damage done in four years by this administration in its context. From their “election” to the prison abuse scandal in Iraq, more and more horrors come out that this administration has conjured from an Orwellian nightmare.

Beginning with the irresponsible, exorbitant tax-cuts and the massive deficit they created, Bush’s appointments of judges when the Senate was not in session, the wars, privatization of the military, and the mess that is Iraq... There are plenty of examples of crimes against humanity perpetuated by this administration.  History must be recorded from the angle of the other. I have tried to reflect this in ¿Hasta Cuándo? in the topics we have covered. In the last four years there has been a steep decline in the quality of life for everyone. This administration is very dangerous and it’s obvious that the planet can ill afford four more years of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rice, Wolfowitz, Libby, Thompson, etc.

Dahr Jamail
The NewStandard News
Baghdad, Iraq

While the Bush Administration scuttles to manipulate the news coming out of occupied Iraq with the U.S. election quickly approaching, the need for independent journalism here is more vital than ever before.

While the corporate media has been forced to acknowledge stories like the torturing inside Abu Ghraib prison, many of the outlets continue to apply the spin of “a few bad apples” to a systemic problem that has been ongoing throughout U.S. detention facilities in Iraq since the beginning of the occupation.

This is only the most recent example of a phenomenon which drew me to Iraq last November. I feel now as I did then; in general the corporate media is failing to report the reality of what is occurring on the ground in Iraq.

Because of this, there may never have been a time where the need for investigative independent journalism has been so great. In Iraq, citizens and soldiers both are continuing to die on a daily basis while the corporate media continues to report the bungled speeches of Mr. Bush during the lead up to the June 30 “handover.”

As in the U.S., there is a great disparity in Iraq between what is really occurring on the ground and what the Western corporate media chooses to report.

Even with stories of torture dominating television screens throughout much of May, the mainstream stations seem to be conveniently overlooking the price Iraqis are paying for the lack of rebuilding: Flickering electricity as summer temperatures reach up to 140 degrees, an unemployment rate of 60 percent, gasoline shortages, and a security situation so horrendous that many women are unable to leave their homes for fear of being kidnapped, raped, or both.

An informed citizenry forms the basis of a democracy. Not only are U.S. citizens being deprived of access to information about the true nature of the critical situation in Iraq, they are being outright lied to by most of the corporate media outlets.

Thus, independent media holds the responsibility of telling the stories which the Bush Administration cannot afford to have people hear.

To read the rest of this piece and other great Clamor features, please pick up a copy of the new issue, or subscribe now.

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