WIN Letter

Independent Information = Informed Action

"If those in charge of our society—politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television—can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power,” Howard Zinn wrote in Declarations of Independence. “They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.” This was in 1991, during the first Gulf War in Iraq. Twenty years later, as we are witnessing the “end” of the Iraq War (with 50,000 troops still in the country), “those in charge” continue to dominate the media, and soldiers do in fact patrol our streets. Predator drones fly over the southern U.S. border, and police beat and murder Black citizens with impunity.

Zinn’s words illustrate the dire need for us to free our ideas from political and corporate control, as much today as when he wrote them. Thanks to digital printing technology, independent publishers now make up about half of the book publishing market, making non-corporate-controlled books available to readers and teachers all over the world. It is in celebration of independent book publishers, filmmakers, and musicians that we bring you this review issue of WIN.

Not one but two films commemorating and documenting the life of the late Grace Paley—poet, educator, and nonviolent activist—receive the attention of Judith Mahoney Pasternak, both an experienced film reviewer and someone who has written a lot about Grace. Another poet and nonviolent revolutionary, Dennis Brutus (whose obituary appeared in WIN spring 2010), left us a wealth of literature, and the college that houses his papers has released a new volume of previously unpublished works, affectionately reviewed by Matt Meyer.

Team Colors, a radical research collective, has released a collection of essays and interviews documenting and investigating struggles and opportunities in radical community organizing, from farm workers and artist collectives to queer and antiwar activists to urban and homelessness struggles. Billy Wharton explores the questions raised by this important book, and some questions the book left him with.

Two more reviews analyze mainstream politics and propaganda and their impact on U.S. and international culture. Through the lens of Anthony DiMaggio’s book When Media Goes to War, Matt Surrusco identifies the absence of dissenting voices in international news, particularly in the coverage of the Israeli raid on the aid flotilla attempting to break the siege on Gaza this summer. Wendy Schwartz looks at media closer to home in her review of two books and a documentary film dedicated to Barack Obama’s rise, election, and first year in office.

The issue is rounded out by a review of classic antinuclear film The China Syndrome, a Hollywood production that may or may not have turned the tide of public opinion against nuclear power; a look at two antiwar books by former Army Capt. Paul K. Chappell, who argues that warmaking is not inherent in human nature; and an interview with Riot Folk musician/activist Ryan Harvey about his antiwar work, G.I. resistance, and his plans to be a “powerful historian.”

The late historian Howard Zinn’s posthumous book The Bomb receives praise from Frida Berrigan, who links the questions of accountability Zinn poses about aerial bombardment during World War II to a current development in aerial warfare: unmanned drones.

Accountability can only occur when those with power agree to be held accountable. But with pressure from independent media—small presses, indie film companies, student-run radio, and anticapitalist music labels—governments and corporations as well as individuals might feel the push to take responsibility for the human cost of war.