Favorite Alternative Media Outlets

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A self-described “infomediary,” AlterNet.org is a like Dante’s Virgil, guiding us to the Web and helping us drudge through hellish corporate-driven, merger-loving, war-supporting mainstream media. It is John Edwards for the information-obsessed, like myself, or for progressives who go online hoping to find signs of critical resistance and candid discussion. Allow me to make just one more gross overstatement:
Awash in a hyper-torrent of information, we need infomediaries like AlterNet. It organizes its frequently-updated collection of articles into a searchable database that includes other alternative sources. It also archives by date, collects in “content files” articles related to pressing issues, and keeps tidy and timely its main newswire. Part of the Independent Media Institute, AlterNet syndicates investigative journalism too – the stories available online come from these and other published and respectable sources in partnership. Heavily hyperlinked, it is easy to follow citations and reach other sites, sources, and viewpoints as well as peruse such vivacious and vigorous opinionistas as Molly Ivins and Arianna Huffington.
Despite several points of criticism about the site that I will not launch here, I find AlteNnet.org a solid starting point for Web sessions that undoubtedly lead far beyond it in a scavenge for information, analysis, and discussion. Via AlterNet’s database, those aiming to research a specific topic would surely find left-leaning gems. Finally, hard-core netizens can participate in a number of forums hosted by AlterNet in its admirable effort to mitigate against mega-media’s information onslaught.


Combine the phrase “feminist response to pop culture” with a cuss word, and you have an irresistible combination. “Bitch: Feminist response to pop culture” is exactly what it sounds like – an intelligent yet irreverent (read: snarky) analysis of movies, music, television, advertising, and the world at large. Bitch offers its take on everything from the latest scholarly works to “Joe Millionaire,” and no matter what these women write, it’s always fascinating. I don’t always agree with the authors’ viewpoints (although more often than not I do), but I have never seen a magazine so willing to discuss its editorial policies. So willing, in fact, that the letters section has been expanded to include room for “letters about letters.” The first issue of Bitch I bought included an ad space where the editors, rather than running the ad, described it, explained why they had decided not to run it, and invited readers to comment on this decision. The dilemma was that the ad featured a pair of buxom blond women frolicking on a bed. It was for the band Nashville Pussy, and the two women are musicians, not just models selling records. There was no way to know this from the ad, however, so Bitch chose not to run it. But, and this is key to that indy media spirit, Bitch thought it owed its readers an explanation. I’ve been hooked ever since. You can check Bitch out at www.bitchmagazine.com, at bookstores around town, and soon at the IMC.

Common Dreams
http://www.commondreams.org/ Founded in 1997 by a former Congressional staffer who learned the value of distilling the mountains of available information into manageable “Daily Clips,” Common Dreams presents progressive perspectives on the news of the day in their NewsCenter. The site also publishes in their Progressive NewsWire the press releases and position statements from the progressive community that mainstream publications often ignore. Common Dreams accepts no advertising or corporate support but with a small staff and a lot of volunteers they have created a site that promotes progressive visions for America’s future and could, in the words of The Utne Reader, “shake the world”.

Counterpunch.org is the website of Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair: they have a magazine of the same name that contains material that is not always on the web. Cockburn is the more notorious of the two, though St. Clair is known for his eco (and other) activism and writing in the Pacific Northwest. They have recently edited an anthology called The Politics of Anti-Semitism, to be published in October by AK Press. Cockburn maintains a page long essay in The Nation, cut back from two pages sometime ago (Those editors would have done well to have given him the page his frequent antagonist Chris Hitchens surrendered when he went off in another direction). Beat the Devil, his column is named for his leftist father’s pseudonymous novel, made into a movie, Bogart’s last, that was centered around control of a uranium mine in Africa…Hard to not comment on that presently. The website features a wide variety of provocative essays from authors around the globe, most of whom aren’t in any media’s rolodex. Others are published like Edward Said or Robert Fisk, who are well known but don’t get calls from Brit Hume or Andrea Mitchell for comments. Whilst their effort doesn’t take advantage of multimedia, no audio of Cockburn’s entertaining bookchats, for instance, they do the traditional literate approach well, even including a pair of hundred Best Book List, one of english language and another of works in translation. Well worth your attention. Chomsky calls it “must reading.”

Democracy Now
When are our sons, daughters, and spouses coming home from Iraq? In an effort to learn more about the situation in Iraq, I sometimes listen to WEFT radio and Democracy Now! carried at 4:00-5:00pm Monday through Friday. On July 8th I heard just the end of a story about a military base somewhere in Georgia where a large number of spouses/parents of those deployed in Iraq are based. I missed the city and the number attending this meeting and a number of the details. However, I knew I could find out what I had just missed by going on line to www.democracynow.org. I found the details of July 8th story. The fort is Fort Stewart and the 800 spouses and/or parents were crying, cussing, and yelling at the Pentagon official (a colonel) who had to be escorted out of the gathering. I appreciate knowing details like this, which you never hear on the usual mainstream media. These family members want their loved ones home and not left in harms way.Morale is low and the danger is high. The mood is changing and the fact that this took place on a military base and the number of 800 family members voicing this kind of attitude seemed significant to me. To read this very story go to www.democracynow.org and look into the archives for the July 8, 2003 story and read the details for yourself. The questions seem to be growing…. When is our military coming home from Iraq?

IMC Websites
The IMC (Independent Media Center) network started in 1999. There are now over
120 sites on six continents. Any IMC website – www.ucimc.org in Urbana-Champaign –
is an entry point to a vibrant, radical, people-to-people web of progressive, independent activists around the world. Each site’s opening page has a list down the left-hand margin of all the other sites. Austin, Portland, Philadelphia, for example. Istanbul, Vancouver, Nigeria. Both Palestine and Israel are there. So is Baghdad. Click on any in the list and you arrive at that IMC, where local citizen-reporters are posting breaking stories, links are available for background information, and there are photos and graphics you’ll never see in mainstream media. The sites are interactive – anyone can add a comment to a story, and following the conversational thread is like entering a local debate. I know a mother who tracks her activist children’s activity by going to the IMC sites of the cities they are in. Back in May a couple of C-U folks headed for St Louis where the World Agricultural Forum and parallel Biodevastation 7 Conference were taking place (see the article elsewhere in this issue by Sehvilla Mann).When I heard on NPR that protestors in St Louis were being arrested, I went to the St Louis IMC website and could follow what was happening there, by the people it was happening to.
• Did you know that last month 10,000 people gathered in Los Angeles to protest against the Bush administration at a fundraising dinner? Not if you only tune in to mainstream media.You can read about it at the LA-IMC.
• Did you know that on June 21 twentynine people were arrested protesting against the EU Summit in Thessaloniki, Greece and that solidarity activities have been taking place in many cities across Europe? Check the Athens-IMC for more info.
• Interested in what will happen at the WTO meetings in Cancun, Mexico in September? Many IMC sites show local organizing efforts to go there. IMCs are above all dedicated to disseminating media skills, so that people can produce radio, video, film, and newspapers, and become the media. The sites are as good as what is posted – so become a citizen-reporter yourself and get the word out.

e-mail: portside@yahoogroups.com I am especially fond of Portside because, more than any other website I know, it offers important information on racial issues and developments in Africa. To be sure, it covers the globe as well as most other websites but it offers more concerning race and Africa the others that I have seen. This is probably due to the fact that Portside is the news, discussion, and debate site of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CoC). This organization was created over a decade ago by independent socialists and former members of the Communist Party/USA. The latter were largely African American party members who felt that the Communist Party was not giving them proper representation at the national leadership level. Aside from the CP itself, not all of whose African American members quit, the CoC is one of the few truly integrated organizations on the American Left. It contains a number of prominent intellectual activists, including Angela Davis. In case you are wondering, the name Portside derives from the nautical term of the left side of the boat.

Smirking Chimp
SmirkingChimp.com, so named because of the remarkable resemblence of our commander in chief to a, well…smirking chimp, is as you might suspect, more anti-Bush than pro-anything else. But it’s a lot of fun and the articles they choose to reprint from a variety of credible sources while not balanced, are informative, and taken in such a large dose they are scary enough to move you to act or at least click over to the ACLU site and buy a card. “Ask not at whom the chimp smirks – he smirks at you.”

SKEPTICAL!!! Are you suspicious of the official Washington story line regarding the events of 9-11? So too are thousands of selfthinking Americans.
“UnansweredQuestions.Org” is dedicated to pressing for a continued investigation of the unanswered questions surrounding 9-11. The current official explanation is not the total story they assert. To demonstrate the incongruity of the events of that day and the government’s explanations regarding them, they have identified eleven “talking points”. Each point raises significant questions about why and what happened on that fateful day. Each cries for a truthful and factual response.Yet to date these questions have been largely left unanswered or ignored by our government and press. The goal of www.unansweredquestions.org is not to let these questions go unanswered but to aid the Government’s Commission in finding the truth about the events leading up to and following 9-11. If you too are skeptical of the government’s explanation of 9-11, you will want to visit this web site. Being interactive, the site also invites you to submit your own unanswered questions regarding 9-11. Be a self-thinking American.

WILL AM 580 is a superb resource. The weekday morning talk program Focus 580 (10am–12pm) produces programs on a wide range of topics from general (home and garden care, medicine, finance, computers, electronics) to political (global/national/local events, journalists, candidate interviews) to author interviews. Plus, anyone can call in and ask questions and participate. If the 10am show doesn’t trip your trigger, check out the show at 11am. In addition, WILL archives all the shows on www.will.uiuc.edu so you can catch interviews you miss or recommend interviews to your friends. In addition to Focus 580, WILL also carries BBC news (9am, 8pm, and 11pm–5am). The BBC provides a more global news source and foreign perspectives generally missing in the mainstream media. The BBC can be quite enlightening. Simply adding a little BBC to your news diet can increase your awareness of global events tenfold. Of course, I have to include Media Matters with Bob McChesney as an important piece of WILL’s lineup (Sundays at 1pm). This program provides critical examinations of different media and, like Focus 580, is usually a call-in program. Besides these benefits, WILL has real meteorologists (as opposed to disc jockeys reading teleprompters) and runs CBC news weeknights at 7pm. Be prepared to listen to ag reports at the tail end of every hour. For those of us who aren’t farmers, it can be tedious, but I try to see it as an opportunity to expand my knowledge base and confirm my dream of a more diversified ag sector in the future.

Visiting ZNet (www.zmag.org) is like entering an enormous downtown department store – the alternative media equivalent of Bloomingdale’s or Sak’s. If you’re looking for something in particular –whether Chomsky’s latest comments on the Middle East or a debate about healthcare reform – you’re certain to find it. If you’re just browsing, you could spend a virtual eternity meandering through an ever-growing number of sub-sites with topics ranging from Terror/War to Global Economics to Latin America to Gender issues, each a link-laden universe unto itself. And in addition to the cornucopia of compelling material, the reader may choose among 11 different languages. The options are truly inspiring, if not overwhelming. My personal favorite is the “ZNet Interactive” section, which allows (registered) users to post their own provocative/progressive song lyrics, poems, quotes, reviews and cartoons. Indeed, here is where I enjoy the weekly privilege of publishing my own comic, Channel X, alongside more popular political cartoonists like Stephanie McMillan (Minimum Security), Jim Siergey (Cultural Jet Lag), B. Deutsch (Ampersand), and Kirk Anderson. Founded in 1995, ZNet is the online offshoot of ZMagazine, a popular monthly which has been thumbing its nose at the status quo since 1988. The brains behind the operation belong to one Michael Albert, an activist, speaker and writer of over a dozen books focusing politics and and empowerment, the most recent of which is entitled Parecon: Life After Capitalism.

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