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Before the Plamegate Deluge: Honoring Our Journalistic Heroes
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
A political and media onslaught is about to be unleashed with the indictments of a whole host of key White House officials (including you-know-who) caught up in the Plamegate coverup. The unraveling of this potentially treasonous scandal - which began with the outing, for political reasons, of a covert CIA officer - could well provide the tipping point that will allow the Democrats to retake the House in the next election, initiate Congressional investigations of Bush Administration crimes, and possibly even pass an impeachment resolution.
So, before all the craziness begins, it might be useful to remind ourselves how far we've come in the battle to remove the extremists who currently rule so recklessly and incompetently in our names. And how the work we've all been doing in the political trenches, unearthing the corruption and incompetence and dangerous initiatives of the Bush Administration, has helped weaken that crowd of crooks and liars to the point where impeachment is a serious possibility.
We deal so often with the negative high crimes and misdemeanors of the Administration, and with the cluelessness and cowardice of the ostensible Democratic opposition, that it's easy to be swept totally into that Bush shadow world and lose sight of the strength and powers at our command, and the hope they represent.
So I'd like today to recognize the heroes of our battle, who, ultimately, are helping to lead our country to a restoration of Constitutional rule and the banishment of the worst of the Bush & Co. miscreants either to political exile or, for a good many of the worst participants, to jail.
HERO #1: A COURAGEOUS U.S. SENATOR
But first some history:
Four-plus years ago, in the wake of the Supreme Court's 5-4 installation of Bush into the White House, it looked as if we progressives and traditional Republicans were in for total defeat. The Bush neo-cons and powermongers who had hijacked the Republican Party controlled the House, the Senate (by one vote), the Executive Branch, and most of the corporate mass-media.
But then a courageous U.S. Senator, Jim Jeffords of Vermont, stepped forward to resign from the Republican caucus and, as an Independent, side most of the time with the Democrats, giving them a one-vote majority in the Senate. The Rove/Cheney governing plan was thrown badly off-balance, and had unusual difficulty getting its regressive agenda passed.
That situation would have maintained itself for the rest of Bush's term except that 9/11 happened, and deadly anthrax was unleashed in the halls of Congress. Suddenly, thanks to al-Qaida and whoever distributed the anthrax, the Bush program went zipping through a frightened Congress, with barely any serious opposition - certainly no questions were asked about why the Bush Administration was so ill-prepared for the terror attacks even though they had received explicit warnings about them in the weeks and days prior to 9/11. No Democratic politicians wanted to risk being tarred with the epithets "soft on terrorism," or "unpatriotic" for not supporting the president during "wartime."
When more Bush Republicans were elected, tipping the Senate back into GOP hands, the Democrats became even more timid and disorganized. And so, devoid of a questioning political opposition and a mass-media willing to dig for answers, it fell to others to try to keep the flame of liberty burning. By and large, this task was taken up by websites and their writers and editors on the Internet, this generation's "alternative press."
THE HONOR ROLL OF COLUMNISTS
Despite the overwhelming pro-Bush fawning of the corporate media, radio talk-shows, newspapers, broadcast networks, cable TV "news" shows and pundits, a relative handful of writers remain willing to speak truth to power in the mainstream outlets. Their courage and perspicacity shine like beacons in an otherwise dark cave of journalism in the current era, even when their editorial pages cave regularly to Bush & Co.
The columnist Honor Roll includes: Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert, Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd, for example, at the New York Times; E.J. Dionne Jr., Eugene Robinson, Harold Meyerson, Dan Froomkin, at the Washington Post; Tom Oliphant, Robert Kuttner, James Carroll and Derrick Z. Jackson at the Boston Globe; Seymour Hersh and Hendrick Hertzberg at the New Yorker; Robert Scheer at the Los Angeles Times; Jay Bookman and Cynthia Tucker at the Atlanta Constitution-Journal; Marie Coco at Newsday; Jon Carroll, Mark Morford and David Lazarus at the San Francisco Chronicle; Joe Conason of the New York Observer; Robyn Blumner of the St. Petersburg Times; Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay at Knight Ridder; the incomparable Molly Ivins in syndicated release, the irrespressible veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas and a few others.
Plus, on the broadcast waves, Air America, a few lonely liberal radio talk-show hosts around the country, plus Keith Olbermann, virtually the lone cable-TV pundit willing to ask penetrating questions about Bush policy.
One is tempted to say that these few prestigious journalists gave supportive courage to those outside the mainstream media also to speak truth to power, but I think it probably was the other way around - or perhaps a joint venture in standing tall. The so-called "fringe" journalists and commentators on the Internet and elsewhere have never wavered in keeping the feet of the powerful next to the fires they had set with their determined research and incendiary critical analysis. In many cases, these Internet journalists and bloggers even forced mainstream editors to cover political stories they had shied away from.
THE PROGRESSIVE CYBERSPHERE
When so many millions of readers had learned of important stories via the Internet writers and websites and blogs, but hadn't run across them in their local papers or on their nightly TV news, it behooved mainstream editors to start paying attention and not looking totally silly or "bought off" by ignoring those same stories.
Here are just a few of the progressive websites that deserve our plaudits for fighting the good patriotic fight for so long: AmericanPolitics.com, AlterNet.org, AntiWar.com, BushWatch.com, BuzzFlash.com, CommonDreams.org, Consortium News.com, CounterPunch.org, CrisisPapers.org, DemocraticUnderground.com, Democrats.com, DemocracyNow.org, HuffingtonPost.com, Independent-Media.TV, JuanCole.com, MakeThemAccountable.com, MediaMatters.org, MotherJones.com, OnlineJournal.com, OpEdNews.com, Project for the Old American Century.com, Salon.com, Scoop.co.nz, SmirkingChimp.com, TheAmericanProspect.org, TheNation.com, Progressive.org, TomPaine.com, Truthout.com, WorkingforChange.org, ZNet.org, et al. (For a fuller listing, see The Dissenting Internet).
But the presence of daring websites would mean little without an immense corps of fine researchers, columnists and bloggers willing to put their reputations, and in some cases careers, on the line, usually for little or no compensation. Thankfully, the liberal/progressive left and libertarian/traditional conservatives are numerous and unafraid - doing the work the opposition Democrats should be doing - even in the presence of McCarthyite threats from Bush & Co. and their rabid supporters.
HONOR ROLL OF ANALYSTS & BLOGGERS
Here, in random order, are just a few of these regularly producing U.S. writers who keep alive hope and intelligent resistance; this Honor Roll includes: Arianna Huffington, Sidney Blumenthal, John W. Dean, Jonathan Turley, Bill Moyers, Evelyn Pringle, Greg Palast, Howard Zinn, Amy Goodman, Ray McGovern, Naomi Klein, David Podvin, Scott Ritter, Robert Parry, Jim Hightower, Ralph Nader, Karen Kwiatkowski, Jason Leopold, Georgie Anne Geyer, Paul Craig Roberts, Chalmers Johnson, David Swanson, Tom Engelhardt, Bill Van Auken, David Lindorff, Alex Cockburn, Jim Lobe, Ted Rall, Elaine Cassell, Thom Hartmann, Gary Leupp, Jennifer Von Bergen, Bob Fertik, David Corn, Ted Kahl, Will Pitt, Jeff St. Clair, Rob Kall, Ivan Eland, Norman Solomon, Paul Lukasiak, et al. (At the risk of seeming self-serving, I would think that Ernest Partridge and Bernard Weiner might well be included in that list.)
In a separate category I put the professional bloggers, those who walk the daily news tightrope, instantaneously trying to figure out what it all means, and thus helping to guide us in the hunt for what's important. They shine bright light into the dark caves of ignorance and apathy that is too much of American politics these days. My favorite blogger heroes include: Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo, Markos Moulitsas ("Kos") at DailyKos, Duncan Black ("Atrios") at Eschaton, Billmon at the Whiskey Bar, Juan Cole, Steve Gilliard, Digby at Hullabaloo, Kevin Drum's Political Animal, the Corrente collective, David Neiwert at Orcinus, Brad Friedman, David Sirota, James Wolcott, John Aravois, et al., along with the video/audio compilers at CrooksAndLiars.com. (For a much longer list, with the linked URLs, check out Recommended Blogsites at The Crisis Papers.)
ELECTORAL FRAUD SPECIALISTS
And then there are the writers who have educated all of us on the all-important topic of electoral integrity and electoral fraud. It doesn't really matter how correct our analyses are, and how much activism we can generate, if the voting tabulations remain easy to manipulate and corrupt, which is the case today and was the case in 2004, 2002 and 2000. American democracy owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the groundbreakers in this field: Bev Harris and the late Andy Stephenson of Black Box Voting, Mark Crispin Miller, Greg Palast, Alastair Thompson at New Zealand's Scoop website, and such researchers and writers as Lynn Landes, Rebecca Mercuri, Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman, Steven Rosenfeld, Steven Freeman, Pokey Anderson, Ernest Partridge, Steven Hill, Kim Zetter and others.
One must not neglect the progressive online activist organizations that have used the internet so successfully for organizing and raising funds, such as MoveOn, True Majority, AfterDowningStreet, Codepink, and the like. (For a fuller listing, check out the Activists' Page).
And, finally, though this article is concentrating mainly on U.S. writers and editors and websites, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the vital online contributions of non-Americans who help to educate us, and often are the first to discuss the dirty little secrets of the Bush Administration. Such as: the Guardian and Independent and Times Online in the U.K., Scoop in New Zealand, Outlook India in India, and such writers as Robert Fisk, John Pilger, George Monbiot, Julian Borger, Andrew Gumbel, in the UK, Arundhati Roy in India, Salam Pax and Riverbend in Iraq, Eric Margolis and Linda McQuaig in Canada, William Pfaff in France, et al.
These lists of names could have gone on much longer, and no doubt I've inadvertently left out many of your favorites - for which lapses I assume you'll be alerting me, for future updates.
I hope you weren't bored with all those names above, but so often we take for granted the good, solid, provocative work of those struggling daily in the fields of journalism and commentary, especially those who match our values. Their contributions become our daily political wallpaper, so to speak. But it's difficult, dangerous work, I can assure you, and all of those listed here, and those omitted, are true patriots and heroes in the struggle we're all in to stop the international imperial slaughter abroad, the march toward a militarist police-state at home - and, in so doing, to help rescue the moral soul of America.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers. For comments, write email@example.com.