The Alternative Media: Free Speech is Still Possible

The Alternative Media: Free Speech is Still Possible

By Ramzy Baroud

To speak of an alternative media is to acknowledge the deficiency of the
prevailing media, the mainstream, in addressing the issues, catering to the
concerns, and responding to the woes of the general public, the overwhelming
majority of people who are almost completely disregarded by the corporate
media everywhere.

It is disheartening, to say the least, that at a time of unpopular wars,
corrupt elites and a widening gap between rich and poor, the corporate media
still finds it tasteful to follow the mischievousness of Paris Hilton, now
that Britney Spears is getting back in shape after her drug mishaps, or
discuss at length and tirelessly the most recent scandals or spectacular
performances at Britain’s Big Brother or American Idol.

This is, of course, problematic if one is to consider the role of the
citizenry in sustaining a healthy democracy, which itself requires an
educated and well-informed public. When the public sphere becomes a puppet
in the hands of the corporate media, whose profits and losses are often
determined by friendly relations with the state, then a meaningful change in
the lives of peoples of democratic societies is simply untenable.

The corporate media is, by definition, forged and sustained with corporate
funds, by wealthy individuals whose objective is to amass more wealth,
rather than ensure that freedom of speech serves as a guarantor for personal
and collective freedom, social cohesion – as opposed to alienation – and
democracy. Unlike theocratic or authoritarian societies, which simply stifle
freedom of expression altogether, the conduct of the media in Western
societies is legitimate from a legal standpoint: it violates no written
rules, but the end result is the same. In Taliban’s Afghanistan, people knew
little of the outside world because TVs and satellite dishes were tabooed.
In the US, most people, no matter how will intended, also know little of the
outside world. Their perception is almost entirely concocted based on bits
and pieces from CNN’s sound bites, Jay Leno’s comedy and Hollywood’s
stereotypes.

But it should be recognized that democratic societies, although being robbed
in so clever a way from their own meaningful democratic platforms are more
than capable of tipping the balance in favor of free speech – as opposed to
nations that are violently coerced not to exercise the same right. Indeed,
the more the US administration and its corporate media benefactors attempt
to consolidate their control over public opinion, under various pretences,
notwithstanding, the need for unity in the ‘war on terror’ – thus justifying
the ostracizing of dissidents – the more agitated Americans insist on their
right to exercise their free speech, refusing to succumb to the new skewed
logic of the time. Thus, the need for an alternative media.

Increasingly so, alterative media is breaking away from being a mere local
expression of dissent, and is emergent as global initiatives; from
international newspapers to progressive publishing houses, there is indeed
an intense and genuine effort at countering the corporate media in a
collective and equally global fashion. I spoke with two leading individuals
whose work is felt around the world, but still, require the support of the
public for their missions to truly succeed.

Wendy Kristianasen, the editorial director of LMD, Le Monde Diplomatique’s
English edition, told me: “I think it comes down to this: we publish
wonderful writing that illuminates the state of the planet in a fresh way.
LMD specializes in the very best journalism – things nobody knows about
until after we’ve exposed them and important stories other papers miss
altogether. And the analysis is sharp, and authoritative.”

“Everyone has heard of Le Monde Diplomatique, they know of it as the famous
Paris monthly, radical and independent. What they don’t know is that the
paper has dozens of foreign editions around the world, in thirty languages,
making for a global readership of one and a half million.” One of its many
foreign editions is, of course, in English, and it can be easily obtained
from http://www.mondediplo.com.

Dr. Roger van Zwanenberg is the Chairman and Publisher of Pluto Press
Limited (http://www.plutobooks.com). This tireless individual, through his company,
disseminates scores of most valuable books to countless bookstores and
academic institutions the world over. His office on London’s Archway Road is
reminiscent of a dungeon, but a lot of good comes out of it.

He commented during a recent conversation: “Pluto is 20 years old this year.
We are a dying breed, an independent book publisher producing 60 new,
non-fiction, books a year. In a world where book publishing and selling are

part of the great global media conglomerates, Pluto struggles to remain
viable and alive. Our niche, our rationale and our advantage in the
marketing place of the world, is that we tackle the great issues of our
day… the grandeur of Imperialism, war and peace locally and globally, the
tyranny of oppression, and the domination of one people by another…. the
great issues as seen through socialist writers’ eyes. Our readers expect not
only relevant books, high quality professional production, and modest
prices. This is what our house proudly stands for, and why we have a good
chance to succeed to remain against the odds of a globalized world.”

Online, CounterPunch.org remains one of the most important and respectable
commentary website anywhere. But since no single article can give a full
account of the best alternative media available today, CommonDreams.org is
an excellent place to start; this homepage list of alternative media is
simply exhaustive.

It’s important to note that the success or failure of the alternative media
is wholly reliant on the engagement and the support of the public, who
would, ultimately have to make a choice: what issues to care about? What
books to read? What music to listen to? And what news are worthy of
attention: health coverage, education, war and peace, or Paris Hilton’s
prison fiasco? The choice is ultimately ours.

-Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian author and journalist. His latest volume: The
Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto
Press: London) is available at Amazon.com. He is the editor of
PalestineChronicle.com and can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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