Thursday, July 5, 2012

Samizdat deaths and births: Antiwar Radio has been cancelled, Wikileaks announces secret Syria cables

In a bad mark on the celebration of America's 246 years of Independence, Antiwar.com took the occasion of the fourth of July to cancel its daily radio program, Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton.  This hit me hard, as I have been a fan of the show for a number of years, and Horton has developed an incomparable roster of guests and sources.  I will deeply miss his interviews.

For those unfamiliar with the show, its archives are a treasure trove of Samizdat on current events and modern history, as well as economics, political science, and libertarian thought.  Horton has spent the past seven years interviewing top investigative journalists and historians, often speaking from foreign capitals and conflict zones.  Voices like Patrick Cockburn, Eric Margolis, Jim Lobe, Gareth Porter, Pepe Escobar, Greg Palast, Juan Cole, Gabriel Kolko, Robert Parry, and the late, great Chalmers Johnson are some of my favorites to have repeatedly graced Horton's show, as have hundreds of other minds of great worth.  If someone has penned a critical thought on American foreign policy in the past decade, there is a good chance Antiwar Radio has interviewed them.  In fact, it was Chalmers Johnson himself who turned me (and I'm sure many others) on to the radio show, when he mentioned in a lecture that it is not the New York Times that is his internet homepage, but Antiwar.com.

Random highlights that spring to mind from the show's history include an hour long conversation with investigative journalist Robert Parry about the history of U.S. support for Saddam Hussein, his many hours of interviews with National Security State whistle-blowers Sibel Edmonds and Karen Kwiatkowski, and his recent series of interviews on Egypt with Cairo-based IPS news reporter Adam Morrow.  But besides the distinguished guests, it was Horton's libertarian, everyman viewpoint that provided a refreshing coat of facts to the jargon and rhetoric-filled nature of modern political discussion.  Debunking the lies of the war party and advocating for peaceful freedom worldwide was Horton's m.o. As he put it in a farewell blog post, "Doesn't look like we stopped any wars, but at least we told people the truth about them."

But now, no more!  As Horton explained it the next day, his editor at Antiwar.com, Eric Garris, told him "I've got to cut 20% of the budget, and you are 20% of the budget."  Speaking on the phone to Hong Kong is an expensive business, especially when you hold 45 minute conversations that provide all the nuance that is absent from mainstream TV and Radio news.  And while Horton is hoping to keep up his work independently, he has little optimism that funding will emerge.  Horton's farewell blog post, and his further plans, are below:

Well, Antiwar.com is making budget cuts and so my gig doing Antiwar Radio and assorted assistant editor type jobs around the site is over.
My thanks to Eric Garris and the rest of the crew for having me these past 7 years. Doesn’t look like we’ve stopped any wars, but at least we told people the truth about them.
Also thanks very much to all the readers, listeners and volunteers who’ve helped me all this time.
I’ll be trying to keep the show going on the Liberty Radio Network and my own websites, but I’m going to need your help.
So, announcing the new Save the Scott Horton Show Donation/Sponsorship drive:
Have a company? Sponsor the show or advertise on the site.
You can PayPal scott@scotthorton.org, or stop by my blog Stress or email me scott@scotthorton.org for more information. I can also accept snail mail checks at 612 W. 34th St Austin, TX 78705.
I’m also open to suggestions.
And sign up for the show archive podcastsinterviews and the rest too at ScottHortonShow.com. My blog StressFacebook pageTwitter.
Thanks yall, very much
In other media related news, Wikileaks has announced that it will soon be releasing a batch of 2 million private emails from Syrian political figures, ministries, and associated companies.  According to Julian Assange, the embattled Wikileaks leaders, the material is damaging to both the Syrian government and opponents of the Syrian government.  Worth noting is the changing media partners of Wikileaks.  While Wikileaks initial high-profile releases, the collections of Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and State Department Diplomatic Cables, were privately analyzed and published by major world news outlets like the Guardian, New York Times, and Der Speigel, Wikileaks new media partners are a bit less globally prominent.  According to the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, which is once again one of Wikileaks "co-publishing partners" (having worked on the "Global Intelligence Files" made up of leaked Stratfor emails), the full lineup of media outlets also includes Egypt's Al Masry Al Youm, Germany's ARD, Italy's L'Espresso, France's Owni, Spain's Publico.es, and the Associated Press.  


What is striking about this list is that it lacks any major Anglo-American press outlet besides the AP, which is a wire service.  While many papers heavily rely on the AP dispatches, they are able to selectively choose which articles to publish, and which to ignore.  My guess is that this will lead to little sustained interest in Wikileak's Syria emails in the U.S, even if they contain sensational information.  The Times and the Post do not have much incentive to continually splash AP scoops across their front pages, and only three of the "publishing partners" listed above have english language websites: al-Akhbar, Al Masry Al Youm, and Owni.  While the Syria emails will certainly be covered, one can be sure that the conversation will die off soon.   


As for the rest of the world, it is harder to say.  ARD, a German television station, is the second largest public television broadcaster in the world after the BBC, and L'Espresso is a leading weekly magazine in Italy.  However Publico, the left-leaning, Madrid based paper, was forced to cancel its print edition last year and now only maintains a website, France's Owni also operates only a website, and both the Arabic language papers sacrifice mass market popularity to maintain integrity and independence (a difficult task for Middle Eastern media).  Does this mean that the most recent Wikileaks files will be a preeminent talking point in Europe and the Middle East?  Probably not.  


Interestingly, RT, the English language, Russian owned news network formally known as Russia Today, is not a "publishing-partner" of Wikileaks, even though Julian Assange has his own interview show on the network.  RT's researchers are more than adept at uncovering malfeasance in governments, and considering that Russia has current and historical ties to Syria, it is odd that they are not grabbing hold of this major scoop.  Perhaps they are striving for DC "credibility" and as such are warming of the beltway opinion that Wikileaks and Assange are evil, criminal scum.  If this is true it would be a sad state of affairs, as RT has so far remained apart from the PR game of "respectable" and "unrespectable" American Media Opinion.  In the same vein, they may be staying away from the cables because of Russia's current support of the Asad government, knowing that the secret emails can only embarrass the Syrian ruler.  This would be an equally sorry state of affairs.

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