In April 2000 Robert W. (Bob) McChesney and John Bellamy Foster joined Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy as coeditors of MR. In December 2002, while still coeditor of MR, Bob, working in close collaboration with journalist John Nichols and campaign finance reform advocate Josh Silver, launched Free Press, a nonpartisan media reform organization. From the start Free Press was unique in three ways: (1) it took on the entire gamut of media policy issues with the idea of building a unified grassroots coalition against the corporate-dominated media; (2) it sought to draw popular organizations into the movement for media reform, including organized labor, educators, feminists, civil rights organizations, and environmentalists (and was willing to ally with conservative groups committed to the principles of a free and open media system); and (3) it was dedicated to taking the offensive on media issues by sponsoring legislation in cooperation with members of Congress in an effort to change the status quo. By 2004 Bob’s growing responsibilities as founder, president, and board chairman of Free Press, in addition to his already arduous teaching, writing, and speaking commitments, compelled him to resign as MR coeditor, though he remains a director of the MR Foundation.
The influence of Free Press continues to expand. MR author Ben Scott (see MR, May 2002) is its policy director in Washington. Free Press has the strong support of such noted figures as Bill Moyers, Howard Zinn, Jim Hightower, and Janine Jackson. Its Web site at http://www.freepress.net has become a major portal for the media reform movement as a whole. Activists can find there all the means of getting involved. MR readers will immediately recognize this cause as their own. And for those looking for a comprehensive treatment of this struggle there is no better work than Bob’s The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st Century (Monthly Review Press, 2004). In our opinion the more people who have this critical book in their hands the better!
At present the Free Press is spearheading SavetheInternet.com—a broad-based group of mostly grassroots organizations on both the left and right devoted to preserving “net neutrality,” often referred to as the “first amendment” of the Internet. As of early May 2006 SavetheInternet.com had obtained half a million signatures from those opposing the attempts of telecommunications and cable companies, such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, to pass legislation in Congress that would create a hierarchical Internet system, mediated by money and monopoly power—the critical step in turning it into a fully commodified realm. In contrast, net neutrality—a principle adopted by the Internet’s founders—ensures that the Internet does not discriminate in terms of particular hardware or software, underlying network, language, types of data, etc. According to a New York Times editorial (May 2, 2006), “One of the Internet’s great strengths is that a single blogger or small political group can inexpensively create a Web page that is just as accessible to the world as Microsoft’s home page. But this democratic Internet would be in danger if the companies that deliver Internet service changed the rules so that Web sites that pay them money would be easily accessible, while little-guy sites would be harder to access, and slower to navigate. Providers could also block access to sites they do not like.” Already the Canadian communications giant Telus blocked the access of its Internet customers to a web site opposing it during a bitter 2005 conflict with the Telecomm-unications Workers Union. The struggle to maintain net neutrality then is a major political battle for our time—one that even if won will have to be fought again and again in today’s ruling monopoly capitalist order.
MR authors in recent years have pointed to the vast numbers of precarious contingent workers created by global neoliberal capitalism, and the problem they pose for traditional forms of labor organization. In Turkey political activists responded to this new challenge by creating a vigorous chain of neighborhood centers (“Halkevleri” or “Peoples’ Houses”), aimed at helping contingent workers organize to protest neoliberal measures at the level of the state rather than the employer. On April 18, 2006, the Peoples’ Houses and other left labor organizations carried out a demonstration at the Turkish parliament, which that day was taking up a neoliberal health privatization scheme. The demonstration was met with massive violence by the Turkish police; guns were fired at unarmed peaceful demonstrators and the Peoples’ Houses leaders were singled out for brutal assaults. MR friends in Turkey warn that this is a dark moment: in the context of heightened tension over the Kurdish national question and U.S. threats of aggression against Iran, the Turkish government is preparing to augment the current “anti-terror” law to declare as terrorism public political opposition to neoliberalism. We send our friends in Turkey a message of solidarity and admiration for their brave struggle. Readers who wish to stay informed of these developing events should take a look at http://www.sendika.org/english/.
Our friend Sid Shniad has pointed out that John Bellamy Foster’s “New Geopolitics of Empire” in the January 2006 issue of MR mistakenly says that the CIA launched the greatest covert war in history after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. That is of course the official history. But according to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s National Security Advisor, this was not the case. In a 1998 interview published in Le Nouvel Observateur he said:
Brzezinski:…According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention. [Emphasis added.] (See http://members.aol.com/bblum6/brz.htm for the full interview.)
We thank Sid for the correction.
On page 29, paragraph 2, in William K. Tabb’s article “Trouble, Trouble, Debt, and Bubble” in the May 2006 MR “$11.5 billion” should have been “$11.5 trillion.”
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