THINKING FOR OURSELVES
The Real News
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, July 11, 2010
After engaging in ridicule and name calling, the mainstream media gave almost no coverage to the United States Social Forum. It avoided any discussion of the substantive issues debated in the Forum, the inventive organizational forms created there, and the depth of the challenges it raised about the direction of our country. Even protests against major institutions were cast as local events, not products of the USSF and its engagement with Detroit. The New York Times never mentioned the Forum. Fox News and its print-based soulmate, the Detroit News, were especially shameless in providing coverage that evaded the challenges raised by the Forum.
For example, both the Detroit News and Fox reported on the thousands who gathered to protest against the notorious Detroit incinerator. Long recognized as a prime contributor to unhealthy air, the incinerator’s expected closure was thwarted by Mayor Dave Bing when he agreed to keep it operating for at least another year. The Detroit News portrayed the protest as made up of Detroit residents as well as local and national environmental advocates. It made almost no mention of the USSF. Fox followed and didn’t even bother to show the march, choosing instead to provide still images of the incinerator.
A similar pattern followed the two other major protests organized within the context of the Forum: the protests against police brutality and Chase bank. People from around the country, deeply moved by the tragic death of Ayanna Jones, came to lend national support to efforts of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality. Fox portrayed the event as though people from Brooklyn, New York, stopping to participate in a local march was an everyday occurrence. At Chase Tower, several hundred protesters gathered to demand an end to foreclosures and ties with the R.J. Reynolds company because of their treatment of tobacco workers in North Carolina.
This protest, like much of the Forum, marked a new moment, missed by mainstream media. Bob King, the newly-elected president of the UAW, stood with religious leaders and farm workers, speaking out on an issue of fundamental justice and risking arrest. It has been a very long time since a leader of a national union has taken such a stand. But King is giving every indication that this was no one time occurrence and that he is prepared for a long haul.
The good news for all of us is that the mainstream media is no longer the only game in town. They are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the way people are learning about our world. Literally thousands of bloggers, alternative media, organizational newscasters, live video feeds, pod casts, radio shows and major alternative news outlets provided significant coverage of the Forum. Much of it enabled people to see and hear for themselves what was taking place. Yes Magazine, Tikkun, Arab American News, Latin American news outlets, Huffington Post, and hundreds of other publications chronicled the event.
Almost all this coverage recognized two important things. First, that the USSF is something new; and, second, Detroiters are creating visionary solutions to common problems. Writing in Racewire, Seth Freed Wessler said the USSF is an opportunity to think beyond the bounds of where we are, to make plans and to build new community.
Detroit offers a unique opportunity to rethink and rebuild what a new American community should look like.
Blogging for FreeSpeechTV, Ron Williams warns those who would ridicule and dismiss the city, its people and the Forum, “DO NOT underestimate the capacity of this city to achieve great things. …Thing is, there is a flip side to Detroit’s devastation. … Nowhere else are the opportunities to re-invent, re-think, re-build and re-imagine a major American city greater than in Detroit today.”
That’s the real news of Detroit and the USSF.