'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Narco News and The Field: No Longer Open for Debate 

I present this post today with some sadness. There are few people who have taken advantage of the Internet to bring attention to marginalized people and social movements as Al Giordano. Through the creation of Narco News, he has extensively covered the political turbulence of Central and South America. Later, through The Field, he provided innovative coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign, and continues to post on US politics, from an avowedly pro-Obama stance.

Despite being raucous, and sometimes personally insulting, Giordano posts articles that reveal what the commercial media conceals. For example, his articles about Mexico over the years have provided us with a priceless alternative perspective about the social turmoil there. Unfortunately, his recourse to villification has escalated in the aftermath of the Honduran coup on June 29th. Even worse, he no longer permits the targets of his abusive posts the courtesy of responding to them. Nor does he permit anyone else to come to their defense or merely object to his obnoxious, holier than thou, character attacks.

In other words, Giordano has become a bully, one who manipulates the moderation of comments on his sites to manufacture an adoring audience. He is now mirroring the behavior of the right that he finds so contemptuous. Perhaps, it has been this way for quite awhile, and I was unaware. I had the misfortune to discover it this week, when I had the temerity to post a comment at Narco News that George Cicarriello-Maher had correctly characterized the public pronouncements of the Obama administration in response to the coup as evasive, displaying an unwillingness to take any concrete action to reverse it. I posted an excerpt from that article here last Friday. By doing so, I was challenging the Giordano narrative that Obama has been against the coup, and will, eventually, take the necessary measures to drive the perpetrators from power. I was sticking my hand into a hornet's nest.

Giordano hates the Ciccariello-Maher article because it also criticizes him for dismissing the possibility that the US was actively involved in the coup, as asserted by Eva Golinger, and calls him to task for an implicitly misogynistic attack upon her screeching about such a prospect. Both Ciccariello-Maher and Golinger are cautioning us, quite rightly in my view, that it is far too early to make such a determination, even if we can conclude that the US is only willing to support the return of Zelaya to Honduras upon condition that he become a figure head serving out the remaining days of his term.

As noted by Ciccariello-Maher, Giordano dispatches Golinger with characteristic drama: In this hour, those that adhere strictly to the documented facts are those that are showing character worth trusting, today and into the future. It is a rather odd statement for many reasons, such as, for example, our knowledge that the documented facts are manufactured by those in the positions of power to do so, as cinematically explained to compelling effect in Kobayashi's samurai masterpiece, Harakiri, among other places. It is also odd, because, Giordano has made a name for himself, and justifiably so, by going beyond the documented facts to get the real story, over and over again. And, of course, it is very odd, because Giordano doesn't believe that our appreciation for the facts is enhanced by permitting people to comment openly, without censorship, on his sites. Because, you see, Giordano, and only Giordano, decides who has character and who does not.

As you might have guessed, Giordano only gave me one bite of the apple. He responded to my comment by saying that Cicarriello-Maher's article was an exercise in political masturbation. The moderator blocked my response that he should engage Ciccariello-Maher more substantively, although Giordano did publish a post that does so today over at The Field, one with a tiresome introduction rife with more personal insults. His primary complaint appears to be that Ciccariello-Maher failed to acknowledge the hard work of Giordano and Narco News in exposing the association of the US with the 2002 coup in Venezuela by (oh, the horror!) giving all the credit to Golinger. Apparently, Cicarriello-Maher, or one of his defenders, tried to post a reply in the comments section, but it was either removed or never cleared. If the posted comments are any indication, his audience of DailyKos liberals cheered Giordano's character attacks upon Ciccariello-Maher and his refusal to allow Cicarriello-Maher a chance to defend himself. I submitted a comment to the effect that I found the entire episode very sad because of what it reveals about Giordano and Narco News. Of course, it never got past the moderator.

Apparently, the sites are now ploughing new ground in parody as well, because, after several people posted how great it was that Giordano won't permit Ciccariello-Maher to respond, Anthony Schofield, a reporter associated with The Narcosphere, sounded the alarm about an anti-Al piece on Z-Net, and gave a short rebuttal there, not recognizing the obvious, embarrassing contradiction between a site like Z-Net that permits engaged debate and Narco News which does not. If I find the time, I may return and engage the substance of their dispute in more detail, but, for now, today's post is an exercise in consumer protection. The Field and Narco News are sites that you should visit at your own risk, with the recognition that the purported discourse in the comments section is strictly controlled. You should read any content there with the understanding that Giordano permits limited critical engagement with it. Narco News remains an essential portal for information about events in Central and South America, but, unfortunately, we must exercise caution in how we utilize it. And, of course, here, unlike at Narco News and The Field, Giordano is free to comment and say whatever he wants.

UPDATE: If you find that you have wandered into the comment section of either The Field or Narco News, click on the links under the names of those who have posted comments. You may be surprised at how many of them have been posted by reporters associated with The Narcosphere. It seems to be rather difficult for anyone outside the scene to actually post comments there. As a consequence, the comment sections take on the tone of an echo chamber.

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