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A weekly Socialist Worker
A voice for our side

September 28, 2001 | Page 13

WHEN SOCIALIST Worker announced our plan to begin publishing weekly in October, we said that the pace of political events was developing rapidly, faster than a biweekly newspaper could keep up with.

Little did we know. The attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., in September have thrown up many new political questions--and reshaped all the old ones.

But not only that. We also said that the last few years have seen the birth of a new left--a growing layer of people who think of themselves as activists fighting for social change.

That new left now faces a profound challenge--resisting the Bush government's agenda of war abroad and a crackdown on civil liberties at home.

The need for a socialist newspaper--to be a voice for our side, to report on the news of our struggles and to discuss the challenges ahead --has never been greater.

Here, Socialist Worker editor ALAN MAASS looks ahead to our weekly paper.

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A UNIVERSITY of Massachusetts study conducted during the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq found that people who regularly watched the television news knew fewer basic facts about the conflict than those who didn't watch.

The mainstream media had misinformed viewers, rather than informed them.

This finding was easy to believe during the wall-to-wall coverage of the air attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

People were naturally glued to their TV sets, trying to understand the scale of the disaster and how it could have happened. All they got in the way of an explanation was patriotic bluster from politicians and half-baked theories spun by ex-spies and retired military officials.

"It was possible to watch the cream of the nation's political analysts and commentating classes, hour after hour, without ever hearing the word 'Israel,' unless in the context of a salutary teacher in how to deal with Muslims," wrote columnist Alexander Cockburn.

Neither did the word "Iraq" pass the lips of the Rathers and Brokaws--unless it was to speculate on whether Saddam Hussein was to blame.

Yet economic sanctions on Iraq claim the lives of more than 5,000 Iraqi children every month, according to the United Nations--a "terrible and senseless loss of life" that doesn't seem to rate when it comes to the mainstream media.

It was impossible to walk away from the TV with any understanding of why millions of people around the world hate the U.S. government.

Of course, in times of war, the mainstream media love to unite behind U.S. leaders and cheer on their war drive. But even on less charged issues, the media obscure more than they explain.

Many of the atrocities of the free-market system--for example, famine in Africa--are reported on regularly. But the explanations and the connections to other events and issues are missing.

So you could watch a TV news segment about famine and then see a report on the surplus of grain or dairy products in advanced countries as a result of government agribusiness support policies--without anyone pointing out that there might be a connection.

All of this is in the nature of the capitalist media. The mainstream media is big business in the U.S. and around the world--and for the wealthy elite that owns and controls the media, it doesn't pay to explain too much.

Add to this the fact that the journalism professionals who set the agenda in the media--news anchors, editors and high-powered reporters--share much more in common with the rich than with ordinary people.

No wonder the media seems organized to prevent people from understanding the events around them…It is.

A revolutionary newspaper like Socialist Worker has, of course, entirely different priorities. Our goal is not only to describe the events that affect working people's lives, but to show the connections between them and fit them into a picture of the world that can explain why they happen.

But analysis, though important, isn't the only job of a revolutionary paper. Our hope is not only to show what's wrong with the world--but also how it can be changed.

That's why newspapers and other publications have long been central features of the different struggles for a better society. The 19th-century abolitionists who fought slavery in the U.S. South used newspapers to put forward their ideas and help to build the struggle.

So did socialists and communists, who organized throughout the 20th century around newspapers that spread their message--from the Socialist Party's Appeal to Reason to the Communists' Daily Worker and many others.

Likewise, the most radical sections of the Black Power movement--for example, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement in Detroit--turned to the tradition of publishing newspapers as well.

For all of these revolutionaries, newspapers were not only a way of putting forward their ideas about the world. They were also organizers that helped build the struggle.

The whole process of producing and distributing a revolutionary paper is different from the capitalist press. To produce a paper like Socialist Worker, we rely on volunteer correspondents sending us reports and articles from across the country.

And, of course, Socialist Worker isn't sold off supermarket shelves or out of street-corner boxes. SW is sold by people involved in the fight for a better world--which means the paper has a much more direct connection to the discussions taking place in those fights.

Because of this, SW is well placed to cover the news that our side needs to hear and to be a forum where activists can exchange views and discuss the way forward.

Our move to a weekly paper is an exciting step for us. But to take it, we'll need the help of all our readers--help in telling the news that needs to be told, help in distributing the paper to more readers, and help in handling the financial obligations that producing a weekly paper will bring.

This is the last biweekly issue of SW, and we're very proud of what we've accomplished in the past. But even more, we look forward to the future--in which Socialist Worker can take new steps toward becoming a voice for our side.

Our readers welcome a weekly Socialist Worker

THE NEED is great for a variety of independent media to directly challenge the dominance of corporate priorities. Despite the claims of the mainstream press, there are viable democratic alternatives to privatization, economic injustice, environmental degradation and war. We need much wider public debate--and an upsurge of activism for social justice and peace. Socialist Worker is helping to move such debate and activism forward by providing a forum for outlooks and information that rarely get into the mass media.
--Norman Solomon, syndicated columnist on media and politics

I'M A political prisoner in the state of Illinois, and where I'm at, there is no TV nor a newspaper that covers worldly events like Socialist Worker. Socialist Worker has become my eyes and ears to this worldly knowledge. I must say, to be in a place like this and not receive the SW, I'd still be thinking in a primitive state of mind. I'd really like to thank Socialist Worker for its stand against the racist death penalty, which is my personal favorite as an issue. Thank you, Socialist Worker, for your excellent journalism and layout.
--Ronald Kitchen, Illinois death row prisoner

CONGRATULATIONS TO Socialist Worker on becoming a weekly publication! In today's America, most cities have only one major newspaper, and nearly all of the country's news sources are owned by a handful of individuals. In times of crises such as these, the need for alternative news sources like the Socialist Worker is especially important. Many thanks for offering those on the Left a real choice in where to receive their news.
--Daniella Dwyer-Grove, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Chicago-Hyde Park chapter

I THINK that Socialist Worker is a great help, and will be more so as a weekly, for Teamsters and other working-class people to better inform themselves about labor's struggles. This is important now in a situation of war. For example, the airlines right now are playing a financial game with people's lives with announcements of layoffs. Now's the time for labor to stand up.
--William Jenkins, member of Teamsters Local 743 and contributor to the "Labor Beat" cable TV program

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