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FROM Beyond the funhouse walls

Geov Parrish -

03.26.03 - One of the most frequent requests or questions I receive is for suggestions as to where to go to get better or a broader spectrum of information than what America's mainstream networks and big dailies specialize in. As most readers of this site have already likely concluded, especially during time of war, what we get from our entertainment-driven media isn't usually the whole story. In the past few weeks and especially since the invasion of Iraq began last week, even that characterization would be a kindness. American network TV's emetic fare doesn't just resemble government propaganda; it is propaganda, taking current events and burying them under a fact-free blizzard of emotionalism, jingoism, and generous use of the first person plural ("Which sites did we bomb today, General?"). Repeated in endless variations, the cumulative effect, and the intent, is to rally the home front. Predictably, it's working -- more effectively than anything on Iraqi state radio ever could, because even beyond the whiz-bang technology and psychographic refinement of the American networks, Iraqi audiences are under no illusions about the biases of their government-run media. However, technology doesn't just help the Pentagon build bigger bombs and enable TV "news" programs to glorify the notion of pain-free, cost-free, rationale-free military invasions. It also enables more inquisitive folks to escape the funhouse. Via the Internet, Americans (and anyone else) can sample media coverage virtually anywhere of fast moving events -- from Iraqi deserts to the streets and conference rooms of the world's capitals -- in a way never before possible during wartime. As with last year's Israeli Easter offensive and 2001's Afghan invasion and 9/11, the news that audiences in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America get -- both of the invasion of Iraq itself and of global reaction to it -- is very different than what we're seeing here. The gulf, both in public perceptions and in the resulting policy decisions, seems to be widening; about that, more tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a short and necessarily incomplete list of sources I've found helpful for coverage of this invasion. (eds. note: At publication time, not all links in this list were operational. All URLs are believed to be correct.) (listed in alphabetical order) FROM THE ISLAMIC WORLD: English language versions of Islamic newspapers: : Al-Ahram, Cairo, state-owned; : Daily Star, Lebanon; : Gulf Times, Qatar; : Daily Jang, Pakistan, excellent reporting on Afghan war. Other sources for regional news: : Al-Jazeera, the now-notorious Pan-Islamic Qatar TV station; in Arabic, but until the U.S. bombs all of their reporters and facilities, the pictures alone can tell lots that we don't otherwise see or hear about both the news stories and Islamic news priorities. As for critics that claim Al-Jazeera's coverage is propagandistic because it favors one side's view: they should look in the mirror. Al-Jazeera has shown Americans in a humane light far more often than American TV has shown -- well, any Iraqis at all, actually; : AllAfrica Global Media, good news coverage of Islamic Africa; : Ha'Aretz, left-leaning daily Israeli newspaper, good for domestic Israeli news and a spectrum of opinion on the occupation of Palestine and other Middle Eastern matters far broader, actually, than what passes for debate on Israel/Palestine in mainstream U.S. media; : The Islamic Republic News Association, based in Teheran, tends to be a fundamentalist viewpoint; :, an impressive pan-Islamic site (Arabic & English) of news, opinion, and culture; : Middle East Media & Research Institute, translates articles from Farsi and Arabic media. EUROPEAN SOURCES: Daily newspapers & TV: : BBC; : Daily Telegraph; : The Guardian (until a few years ago, the Manchester Guardian), Britain's leading left-leaning daily, also publishes London Observer on Sundays; : The Independent, home of the immortal Robert Fisk, the single best English-language Middle East reporter in the world; : The Daily Mirror, home of John Pilger, who gives Fisk a solid run on both experience and on eloquent opposition to America's neo-colonialism; : Irish Times; : Le Monde Diplomatique, a separate online magazine published by Le Monde, the prestigious Paris daily. It's not the daily (that's only available in French), but still a good source for European perspectives on international issues. Other Western voices: : DebkaFile, an excellent Website devoted to Middle East intelligence run by a former Economist foreign affairs writer); scores of links to sites on Afghanistan, Iraq, and other Eureasian counties; : Institute for War and Peace Reporting, a British outfit that ranges from the Balkans throughout Asia, but especially valuable for the former Soviet republics; : Media Workers Against War, originally formed after 9/11 by disgruntled BBC and Guardian employees scrutinizing British media coverage of the Afghan invasion, has since morphed into becoming, as well, a British, with news on much of the global anti-war movement; : European (as opposed to Pacific) edition of Stars and Stripes, the daily newspaper of the U.S. Armed Forces. Not just the military "line" -- the Pentagon figured out ages ago that providing an honest reflection of what men (and now women) in uniform care about is in the long run far more useful than printing a house organ that refuses to acknowledge reality. This is war news stripped of the jingoism and feel-good fluff, and from military contractor scandals to battlefield (and, probably, occupation) difficulties, you're far more likely to read about it here than stateside. Oh, and if you want to support the troops, you can find out what they actually care most about -- like getting some toilet paper into Kuwait... : Wombat International News, A Japanese site with a stunning number of links to news coverage around the world, including heavy coverage of U.S. adventurism. Wire Services: Try accessing wire service articles, such as Reuters or Associated Press, before they've been edited by their local or national newspaper editors. They're posted on AOL, Yahoo, MSN, and a host of other commercial internet service providers. Because they're originally written for a wide variety of media outlets (with the same article often running internationally), the original wire service articles have been miles above the versions eventually printed in the NY Times, Wash. Post, and other major daily newspapers: they're timely, they contain body counts, and they contain "unofficial" quotes from US military men on the front lines that often contradict the glowing quotes from Pentagon spokesmen. ALTERNATIVE U.S. MEDIA: : AlterNet: syndicates articles to newspapers, magazines, and web sites around the country, but also carries a lot of great original content; : Libertarian-oriented, utterly priceless source of news and opinion on militarism and the resistance to it; : Common Dreams; : Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, an invaluable media watchdog group; : Independent Media Center, activism-oriented, with links to over 90 local indymedia sites around the world, including Israel & Palestine (a site which is very good). Can be stunning in its on the spot coverage of protest, but the open publishing policies of many of its affiliates can mean its quality varies wildly in reliability; : In These Times magazine, updated more frequently than the print publication; : Mother Jones' magazine; their daily site tends to be harder-edged and not as focused on long investigative pieces as the monthly print version; : The Nation magazine, also with many features that don't make it to print; : The Onion, an often brilliant satirical newspaper that's more painfully truthful than the garbage in your local chain-owned daily; : The Progressive magazine; : Tom Paine; : Utne Magazine's site is updated daily with little of the new agey lifestyle material the print monthly uses to spice newsstand sales; : the political site of Working Assets -- you found it!; : Yellow Times, like Utne is essentially a very good clipping service; : Z Magazine and ZNet, also with a widely read European edition. Chomsky's a close buddy, and ZNet tends to be more focused on activism and radical alternatives than most of the above outlets. As mentioned, this is necessarily incomplete, with no slight intended for a number of fine sites not listed here. I've run such lists in the past, I'm always looking for more suggestions -- and the web generates good new ones far faster than any one person can keep track. Send 'em along and I'll run a follow-up list as the opportunity allows.

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