What is the Cost of Freedom?

A Letter from Bill Conroy in San Antonio, Texas

September 20, 2004

Dear Reader,

Don’t the right-wingers have the saying that “Freedom is never free?”

Catchy, but it’s a bit too jingoistic in tone for my taste.

I think it would be better to say, “Freedom is never found in a kingdom.”

And that’s what a real free press should be about -- giving voice to the people under the thumb of any kingdom.

True, the age of the monarch has passed. But it has been replaced with another form of kingdom that is just as oppressive, a kingdom ruled by multi-national oligarchs who, just like the monarchs of old, reign as though they have been granted some divine right -- a supposed “invisible hand” that inspires all their actions.

And in this new kingdom, the media are often little more than the trumpets of the royal court. Most of the people of this realm do not know freedom; rather, only servitude, with the media serving to shackle their minds and blind their eyes to the pretense of it all.

Freedom must always be free. But it cannot survive in a kingdom that does not tolerate freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and freedom of association.

I believe that with every free bone in my body. Twice in the past year I have been faced with decisions on whether to move forward with journalistic investigations under the threat of court orders to avoid the subjects. Both times, bogus national security grounds had been trumped up to impede reporting on the issues.

There should have been a hue and cry from the media over this, right? But there wasn’t, nor has there been to date. At times, I feel like a journalistic leper, someone to be avoided to reduce the risk of my disease spreading.

I am far from being alone on this front; too much journalism has been suppressed in the mainstream media in recent years because, the truth be told, the “free press” in this country is bought and paid for by the kingdom.

There has been one publication, however, that has consistently stood its ground, taken great risks, and proven that it is free – a voice not of the kingdom’s rulers, but of its people. That publication is Narco News.

In my case, Narco News was willing to step up to the plate and print my stories, putting its future on the line for the truth. Narco News has done the same for many other journalists around the globe. Some 60 of these journalists gathered this summer in Bolivia for the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism to develop strategies to continue this effort, to carry on the struggle to make the free press a reality.

The stories that Narco News puts before its readers are given life in the public arena; they sound against the deafening blasts of the kingdom’s trumpets. And maybe, just maybe, the sound of that authentic journalism, in harmony with the chorus of a people seeking freedom, will one day bring down the walls of the kingdom.

That’s a romantic melody, admittedly. I believe it is our last best hope for what a true free press can be, but we have to give the music a chance to be heard.

And that, good folks, does take money. But the price of this subscription won’t be going to fund the salaries of well-heeled executives, the kind of people who run most mainstream publications. The staff behind Narco News has no such pretentions, a fact I saw first-hand while working with them in Bolivia this summer.

In fact, Narco News Publisher Al Giordano sported worn slacks, T-shirts and a well-traveled black jacket the entire time we were in the cool mountain climate of Cochabamba. He also wore sandals, with no socks.

I remember asking him, “Al, do you ever get cold feet?”

Giordano looked at me stone-faced, but with a gleam in his eye as he took a drag off a cigarette.

“Never,” he replied.

To me, that’s the spirit behind Narco News.

I encourage you to help amplify that spirit by throwing a few bucks into the hat to help keep conductor Al Giordano and his band of Narco News minstrels in socks and shoes as they work to bring down the house from the subways of the kingdom. You can do this by donating, online, at this link:

http://www.authenticjournalism.org

Or by sending a check today to:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism
P.O. Box 71051
Madison Heights, MI 48071

 

Contact: info@authenticjournalism.org

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