The Op Ed News Tribe?

The fact that Arianna Huffington shamelessly exploited politically motivated liberal writers for her own personal financial gain is something that carries a strong déjà vu element for folks living in Berkeley CA because it echoes an episode from the city’s journalism history when the staff of the <I>Berkeley Barb</I> figured out that the publisher was making enormous profits from their efforts and paying them in a niggardly (that’s a legitimate word and not a racial slur-word) fashion to increase his personal savings account balance.  The aggrieved reporters walked out and started their own weekly publication, the <I>Berkely Tribe</I>, to be run in majority consensus fashion and, according to one of the participants, also operated the newsroom/editorial boardroom in a hippie commune style house.

[There is a folk axiom that asserts that those who forget history are doomed to repeat what has previously happened.  If that is a valid bit of wisdom, the folks who remember that Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and Hosni Mubarak all came to power via service in their country’s military during time of civil unrest in a Muslim nation, will be among the few who find that the situation in Egypt has some very ominous implications.]

The fact that, to the best of our ability to discern, the recently sold Huffington Post website has not seen fit to cover the story about the U. S. Chamber of Commerce efforts to pay public relation specialists $2 million to discredit Brad Friedman (and the Bradblog, and other web entities), let alone even run a link to the Bradblog in their list of sites for fans of the liberal point of view, may give a big hint to her group of keystroke slaves just where the rollercoaster ride is going to take them.  If they lived in Berkeley and were aware of the circumstances that facilitated the birth of the <I>Berkeley Tribe</I> publication, they might not take as long to figure it out.

At this point, some cynics might want to ask why would a columnist who has been a member of Teamsters local 229 and who was protected from capricious and arbitrary conduct by management at a nationally known news wire service in New York City by the Guild, which promised a strike in response to the shoddy treatment of “the last hired” guy, would object to labor issues at a website that doesn’t use his stuff, but will contribute material to other digital underground newspaper type websites. 

There is a difference between breaking every rule you can bend and going “way over the line.”  There is a difference between being exploited and willingly going along with program.  Is there a difference between rape and using rough sex as a method of making love?  Yes.  Is the difference visual?  No.  We rest the case.

There is an urban legend in the journalism industry about the time a staff photographer for LIFE magazine spent a month aboard an ocean liner for an assignment and when he turned in his expense account, he had listed the spending of some money for taxi fares.  The ever vigilant accounting department challenged that particular expense.  When the photographer glibly responded “It was a big ship,” they let it slide.  Does the term “gonzo blogging” convey a valid concept?

Getting up at O-dark-thirty, to write a column gratis can be rationalized if the writer can fulfill some personal needs, other than the monetary dependence one, such as getting the feeling that he is (in a very small echo way) walking a mile in Herb Caen’s moccasins or being given the chance to symbolically raise his middle finger in a gesture aimed at “the Establishment.” 

Getting up before dawn to crank out a freebie column because the editor/publisher owner/operator of a website thinks “we have to work harder to help Democratic candidates” win in November of 2011, is a particularly galling experience if the writer happens to be convinced (by reading the Bradblog too much?) that the election will be a sham/fraud and that the results (the Inauguration of JEB) are a done deal.  Just thinking about it makes the words of “Memo from Turner” (“you schmucks all work for me!”) reverberate in his head.

On the one hand, there is the Columbia Review of Journalism taking the position that the journalism industry could do better and on the other you have (here’s that word again) volunteers contributing to Project Censored producing work that proves that Lazy Journalism is alive and thriving in the USA.

While attending the Project Censored annual awards ceremony, this columnist got involved in a discussion about current cultural values and it was noted that a shift back to hippie values might deserve a trend spotting report story.  We have observed that there is a noticeable increase in the fund raising efforts of the Sierra Club and Greenpeace.  Information about “running away to join a hippie commune” will bring a steady trickle of new readers to a personal blog. 

Is it time to recycle some of the “back to nature” stories from the Sixties? 

Recycling old issues, in turn, reminded this writer that we might extract a good column from the effort to read Rex Weyler’s book “Blood of the Land” (Vintage Books paperback 1982).  That then reminded us that some hard nosed website plantation owners might think that only new books should be purchased, read, and reviewed.  Does the Internets version of Charles Foster Kane think that just because the plight of the Native Americans isn’t given air time on Faux News, it doesn’t exist?

Doesn’t the idea that volunteer writers can be fired repudiate all the hard efforts of past pro-labor activists to establish a fair and balanced work relationship with management?  Isn’t reestablishing superiority through intimidation of the workers, exactly what the Republicans want?  Will the Rove-conservative gang owe a political favor to a “liberal” who helps achieve that goal at her website? 

If a tyrannical publisher holds the threat of a pink slip over the heads of her staff (like the sword of Damocles?), doesn’t that mean that it will be up to writers for rival publications to express the grievances of the exploited folks on the content plantation?

Americans tend to think that the Native American and Muslim cultures are homogenized groups.  Don’t they realize that the Native American culture ran the spectrum from the Sioux, who believed (like most Republicans) that women should be kept pregnant in summer and barefoot in winter, to the Cheyenne tribe which had women warriors? 

Has the Huffington Post ever run an unbiased (let alone critical) story about the Pasqua Lama gold mining controversy in South America?  Isn’t it only those gosh darn scientists who say that the gold mining process can produce toxic waste?  Who wants to risk their gig by sounding like they are fellow travelers with the guys who compete for inclusion in the Mad Scientists Hall of Fame?

Rex Weyler, on page 185 of “Blood of the Land,” wrote:  “The method that the FBI was using on prospective witnesses was to frighten them with serious felony charges; then offer them a deal if they gave information on other suspects.” 

Now the disk jockey will play “Memo from Turner,” Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen tons,” and the Doors “Weird Scenes inside the goldmine” album.  We have to go try to figure out how the Apaches lived in desert terrain without camels.  Have a “toe the line” type week.   If the Huffington Post wants permission to run this column?  Request granted!


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