February 08, 2005
How I keep up with the news
I hardly ever watch TV news and talk shows or spend much time with other elements of the mainstream media. I donâ€™t read the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal or other so-called national papers unless someone directs me to a specific article. I also donâ€™t read the popular news magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and US News and World Report.
It seems to me to be a waste of time to try to follow all these so-called news outlets, since they all parrot the same establishment interests, with a narrow range of news and voices, all serving the interests of the elites.
However, I am a news and politics junkie and try to be fairly well informed, and I thought Iâ€™d share with you those sources of news and opinion that I find helpful in keeping up with events. I have permanent links to these sites on my blog home page.
For news sites, antiwar.com is a site that I have been reading since the time of the US involvement in the former Yugoslavia. It has had a consistent antiwar stance, while providing useful links to news and commentary you might not see elsewhere. The people behind the site are old-style libertarians and paleoconservatives who see US foreign policy being taken into dangerous interventionist and imperial directions by both Republican and Democratic parties.
The site provides links to a lot of news reports and is refreshingly open to opinions from all elements of the conventional political spectrum (defined by virtually meaningless distinctions such as Democratic/Republican and liberal/conservative), yet maintains a consistent antiwar perspective. It gives space to articles from the worldâ€™s press and to a range of analysts from Noam Chomsky to Lew Rockwell to Pat Buchanan to Alexander Cockburn to Charley Reese.
It was as hard on Clintonâ€™s interventions in Yugoslavia as it is now on Bushâ€™s policies in the Middle East. The editorial director Justin Raimondoâ€™s columns (which appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, see top right of the antiwar.com home page for the link) are well worth reading
Another establishment voice is the BBC, but this site at least has a world-wide perspective, something that is sorely lacking in the major US media outlets.
Cursor is a very readable guide to current events with links to important news of the day.
I also read quite a few blogs. Some of them I read daily, some of them occasionally. Here are those that I particularly admire and recommend and the reasons why I consider them well worth bookmarking..
James Wolcott, columnist at Vanity Fair, can deliver a smackdown to sacred cows and pompous fools with a wit and venom that I can only envy, since I have neither the skill nor the temperament to match him. â€œI wish I could write like thatâ€? is the thought that keeps popping into my mind whenever I read him.
There are few around to match the knowledge and expertise on the Middle East that Juan Cole has. Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, is a scholar of the region who has published widely and extensively. He also knows the languages of the region and thus can keep up with the media there to provide truly Informed Comment, which is the title of his blog.
The nice thing about Coleâ€™s site is that it combines scholarliness with lively and up-to-date commentary. And when the need arises, he can deliver a rebuke to the ignorant warmongers in the pundit class that leaves them reeling. Take for example his recent comeuppance of Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, a third-tier TV, web, and print pundit, who had the temerity to disparage Coleâ€™s knowledge of Iraqi and Iranian politics.
â€œI think it is time to be frank about some things. Jonah Goldberg knows absolutely nothing about Iraq. I wonder if he has even ever read a single book on Iraq, much less written one. He knows no Arabic. He has never lived in an Arab country. He can't read Iraqi newspapers or those of Iraq's neighbors. He knows nothing whatsoever about Shiite Islam, the branch of the religion to which a majority of Iraqis adheres. Why should we pretend that Jonah Goldberg's opinion on the significance and nature of the elections in Iraq last Sunday matters? It does not.â€?
Cole ends up issuing this challenge to Goldberg:
â€œSo let me propose to him that we debate Middle East issues, anywhere, any time, he and I. Otherwise he should please shut up and go back to selling Linda Tripp tapes on Ebay.â€?
I wouldnâ€™t bother packing my bags, Juan. Chickenhawk Jonah is probably cowering behind his mother Lucianne (who along with her son rose to dubious fame as the peddlers of the Linda Tripp tapes from the Monica Lewinsky era), peering around and wondering if it is safe to show his face in public again.
(Update: Apparently Jonah rose up briefly from the canvas only to get knocked down again by Cole.)
Incidentally, Justin Raimondo also dissected Jonah in 2002, showing that not only is Jonah is way out of his depth, he is a slow learner to boot. One feels almost sorry for him, getting publicly humiliated in this way, although he keeps asking for it.
Atrios (aka Duncan Black) is well known in the blog world as the creator of the site Eschaton. I like his site because he monitors the news media and other blogs and finds interesting items and perspectives that I would otherwise have missed.
Joshua Micah Marshall, who maintains the website Talking Points Memo, is a knowledgeable Washington-based journalist who has access to informed sources inside the beltway and writes well on important topics.
And if you are not aware of the daily syndicated comic strip The Boondocks, you are missing a treat. Those of you who think Doonesbury tests the limits of edgy political and social comic strip satire will be surprised by how much further Aaron McGruderâ€™s strip takes that form. He speaks truths and provides a level of sharp political commentary that is missing in the news and editorial pages.
Establishment papers such as the Washington Post are so spineless that they occasionally refuse to run The Boondocks, such as the two-week series where Huey and Caesar decide that the reason that Condoleeza Rice is such a warmonger is because she has no love life and decide, in order to save the world from her disastrous actions, to run personal ads seeking a mate on her behalf. To maintain on a daily level such a high level of political incisiveness and still be funny takes real skill.
Huey for President!