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Call for intellectual self-defense

In the USA, alternative media in particular provide information about what is actually happening in the country and what US foreign policy is causing in the world. There are a lot of those. And most of them - like the WOZ - depend on the solidarity of their readers.

From Lotta Suter

For the mainstream media, it was a chaotic bunch of headless activists who pitched their tents on Wall Street in New York a few weeks ago. In contrast to the tea party events, which are continuously reported, they ignored the Occupy Wall Street movement for a long time. There was also an astonishing radio silence for nine days on state-subsidized public radio. It was not until the violent confrontation that the police provoked on the first weekend that the occupation of the financial center hit the headlines, mostly negative, of course.

The American linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky describes this control of opinion by a handful of profit-oriented media groups (and in this case also by conflict-averse radio) as the “fabrication of consensus”. But Chomsky's timeless analysis has a second part: the tireless activist writes that only the persistent and coordinated counter-strategy of “intellectual self-defense” can help against this thought control. This also applies to the new social movement: Anyone who wants reliable information about the occupation of Wall Street in the USA depends on other news sources: SMS messages and YouTube films from private individuals, on blogs from political experts, old and new Alternative media in every form. Because only those who get information from them will learn, for example, that the “movement of the 99 percent”, as the losers of current economic policy call itself, has spread to dozens of cities and states in the USA and beyond.

Backbreaking work

The backbreaking work of intellectual self-defense has spawned a vibrant alternative media scene in the United States. This is shown by a look at the website of the Alternative Press Center, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that has been observing and accompanying the counter-public, largely ignored by the mainstream, since 1969.

Not only is the diversity impressive, but also the long history of alternative media in the USA. Compared to the flagship of the US left, for example, the weekly magazine “The Nation”, the thirty-year-old WOZ is still green behind the ears. "The Nation" was founded in 1865 by opponents of slavery and immediately promised in its first advertising brochure: "We will wage war against the sins of violence, exaggeration and deception that damage today's political reporting so much." "The Nation" is still doing that, persistently, almost stubbornly. But now there is also a website in addition to the printed booklet (print run: 160,000). The digital “nation” (enriched with pictures, current news, blogs and discussion forums) is a lot more attractive than the brittle magazine - but of course not financially self-supporting. The “nation” has solved its money problems, so to speak, following the example of the WOZ: advertisements only finance ten percent of the expenditure; sixty percent are contributed by the readers; the remaining thirty percent come from Nation Associates, a ProWOZ-like association.

“The Nation” is not the only left-wing medium in the USA that relies on private donations and / or a support association for its financial survival. The same model is chosen by the small monthly magazine “The Progressive” (circulation: 65,000), which was founded in 1909 by a progressive senator and is still impressive today with its consistent pacifism (also with regard to Iraq and Afghanistan) and its commitment to social justice (also for immigrants).

The US monthly “Mother Jones” (MJ), founded in 1976, has been able to rely financially on its publisher, the Foundation for National Progress, from the start. This enabled the MJ editorial team to persist in the serious research journalism that is shrinking and shrinking in the mainstream media. In 1993, MJ was the first US political magazine to go online. Today “Mother Jones” operates two equal platforms: the bimonthly magazine (circulation: 240,000) and a continuously updated website (with over a million hits per month). MJ unconditionally puts the entire content online, but asks for donations. The printed MJ edition is touted for three reasons: for extensive reading, because of the layout and pictures, and for financial support of the project (which can of course also be done with pure internet use).

For these three reasons, during my stay in the US, I alternately had one or the other press product on paper sent to me. But I increasingly worked with online material. And the generation of my children read everything on laptop, iPad, smartphone or Kindle anyway. Several new US alternative media have adjusted to this type of use from the start, including "Politico", "Common Dreams", "The Huffington Post" and "Salon.com". The ZNet website is also the key product for the ZCommunications media group, which is close to Chomsky.

Private donations

However, like 1.5 million other Internet readers, I myself visit the Alternet.org website most regularly. The website, which was opened in 1998, presents good journalism, a clear presentation rich in images, a wide range of topics and a sympathetic credo: “We believe that the media don't just have to inform people. We insist on focusing the energy of our audience on social change. " Pro Publica, an association of around three dozen journalists who have made it their goal to make quality journalism “in the public interest” and distribute it free of charge, also on mainstream media, defines itself as politically neutral. Like the other e-media, Pro Publica is financed from private donations and foundation contributions.

The Internet allows a diversified, mobile and also comparative view of the most varied of information sources. You can not only consume texts and images on the screen, you can also see the material from libraries, archives and left-wing NGOs. In the USA, for example, this is the National Security Archive, which collects and sorts declassified government documents on US foreign policy. Or the Southern Poverty Law Center, which documents racism and the legal scene in the USA and deals with civil rights and immigration issues in advance.

These and other “intellectual self-defenders” can make their contribution to creating a counter-public today. Provided that users remember that good information is not available for free. The traditional newspaper subscription is already being phased out in the USA. But virtual media are also dependent on the real support of their audience.

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