Open Mic

The foreign press shows a perspective absent from U.S. media

By Shepherd Bliss

Dark clouds loom over America, obscuring our vision. Though the shadows thickened on that terrible Sept. 11, they gathered earlier and have grown more ominous since. As the U.S. government engages in protracted preparations for a war with Iraq and the slaying of more innocent civilians, the dimness deepens. What a way to start a New Year.

From the middle of a volcanic fire storm–where we have been since Sept. 11–it can be difficult to see clearly. Both the bright fire and dim smoke blind. Hidden beneath the murky clouds and fueling the fire is the oil that runs America–a treasure that our leaders are willing to kill to secure.

I write this from a lunar, gloomy feeling, seeking to discern light in this blurry time. I feel a sense of dread about what the United States might do, allegedly in my name and with my tax dollars.

I crave for our allegedly free press to do more serious investigative journalism. Too little has been done by American journalists, and the hour is now late, as our freedoms and civil liberties recede. Important information, details, context, and analyses are not being offered to the public. Much is being concealed, rather than revealed.

Europeans and others overseas have greater clarity than our citizens about what the U.S. government does in the world. I trust some of the international press more than the corporate U.S. media to objectively report and independently analyze the news. As the U.S. mainstream media becomes more restrictive, more consolidated, and less free, we simultaneously have greater access to the international press because of the Internet.

Among the excellent foreign authors writing about America today I recommend writers like India’s Arundhati Roy and Vandana Shiva, England’s Robert Fisk, Uruguay’s Eduardo Galeano, and Chile’s Ariel Dorfman. Their insights round out what I read from the compromised writers who dominate our nation’s newspapers.

You can find their voices on the Internet by using a search engine, such as Google, and typing in their names. You can also read the U.N. Observer, published in The Hague, at The United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper ( has a number of excellent columnists. Among the best new online publications is the Crisis Papers at It provides links to articles from other online publications.

The corporate U.S. media’s censorship obscures the truth. We can demand that our daily newspapers and alternative press publish more diverse articles by European and other foreigners. Then the public would be better informed and able to make democratic decisions that could help guide us out of the blurry darkness.

I am not suggesting that we ignore American writers, especially those who remain independent. Mark Hertsgaard, for example, has just written an illuminating book, The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World. It is based on interviews conducted overseas before and after Sept. 11.

America’s isolation and alienation from our European allies and the rest of the world grows. Any moral authority that we might have had is disappearing in a world increasingly angry at our abuse of power. The only similar dark crisis during my nearly 60 years was the Vietnam War. We made it through that tragic time, thanks in part to a free press willing to challenge Pentagon propaganda.

One of the best contemporary American authors on darkness is farmer Wendell Berry. His book In the Presence of Fear briefly made it onto some lists of 10 best-selling books. Berry writes from rural Kentucky, at a margin, rather than from the center, of the gray storm. Those outside the New-York-to-Washington corridor write from a different ground.

We need direct action in the tradition of American freedom fighters–like Martin Luther King Jr. and Philip Berrigan–to preserve a democracy that is endangered today as never before. We have work to do. May such actions clear our skies of the dark clouds and allow the light that is waiting to bathe us with its restorative powers.

Or, as poet Deena Metzger writes, “There are those who are trying to set fire to the world, / we are in danger, / there is time only to work slowly, / there is no time not to love.”

From the December 26, 2002-January 1, 2003 issue issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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