Cynthia McKinney: “We Need Narco News,
and It Needs Us”

A Letter from Georgia’s Congresswoman-Elect
on the Need for Authentic Media

November 9, 2004

Dear Friend,

I am one of the silver linings to come out of Election Day 2004 in the United States.

After being driven from my seat in Congress two years ago by a hostile corporate media that seeks to demonize those of us who speak our minds and our hearts against power, the voters of Georgia's Fourth Congressional District returned me to Washington on November 2nd.

I return to Washington ready to fight.

But before I get to Washington in January 2005, I ask you to join me in contributing to the Internet newspaper that made a free online media possible in the United States and elsewhere: Narco News.

When we contribute to the journalism of Narco News through The Fund for Authentic Journalism, we in Civil Society also become co-publishers of the newspaper - a pioneering experiment that is working to bring democracy to the Media. Read more about this innovative project, and make a contribution today, at this link:

http://www.authenticjournalism.org

Here is why our contributions to The Fund for Authentic Journalism and participation in Narco News are so urgently important today:

The voters brought me back from the political grave in disobedience to a Commercial Media that told them I was too radical for the United States Congress. They endlessly repeated falsehoods about my family and me. They distorted my political positions. If you know the story of the Fourth Congressional District in Georgia, you already know the score.

But the voters saw through the Commercial Media this time. Why?

Because an alternative media is rising from below, through which we were able to correct the record, and allow authentic truth to shine its light above all the lies.

The cutting-edge of that alternative media exists on the Internet. It would not have existed in 2004 if not for the heroic battles fought by Narco News three years ago to win press freedom rights for Internet journalism.

It was Narco News that, through its 2001 New York Supreme Court victory, established First Amendment protections for all Internet journalists. Narco News literally opened the legal door through which all other alternative media and bloggers on the Internet marched through to enjoy press freedom.

During that court battle, in September 2001, I wrote an open letter to the law firm that sued Narco News and its publisher Al Giordano on behalf of billionaire bankers, and sent a copy to the Court. I said:

“A respected journalist telling the truth, at risk to his own safety, should not be facing a lawsuit meant to silence him. The lawsuit is without merit. Cease the case immediately and issue a formal apology.”

Three months later, the New York Supreme Court issued its landmark decision protecting Narco News from that billionaire attack, which will be recounted in law school textbooks for decades to come as the turning point for press freedom on the Internet.

None of the online media that exist today - the bloggers, the journalists, the web pages of alternative media - would be able to do what they do if not for the sacrifice and fighting spirit of Narco News before them.

Beyond the legal precedent, Narco News continues to be the shining lighthouse setting the example for all online and alternative media about how to practice credible journalism that is not beholden to advertisers and big money interests.

What we read on Narco News is credible journalism, “reporting on the drug war and democracy from Latin America,” that time and time again over four years has changed the course of history. Narco News led the way in foiling the coup attempts in Venezuela when the Commercial Media dishonestly claimed that President Hugo Chavez had “resigned.” Narco News' reporting along the U.S.-Mexico border has become the chosen media of whistleblowers in the DEA, the Department of Homeland Security, Customs, and other law enforcement agencies. I know - because I hear all about it from the Washington insiders - that the border reporting of Narco News correspondent Bill Conroy regularly leads to shake-ups, firings, reassignments, and concrete changes in how those agencies operate. Hispanic and black law enforcers, in particular, count on Narco News to combat the rampant discrimination inside U.S. border agencies. And Narco News has the bureaucratic bosses running scared as a result.

Let's talk about racism in America for a moment. Narco News is the only online media of its size that doesn't just talk about combating racism: It is a shining example of a truly integrated, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, grassroots media. The Narco News School of Authentic Journalism has trained 100 journalists of conscience over the past two years. Although there is no law requiring Narco News to practice affirmative action, Narco News walks its talk. At least half of all young journalists given scholarships by Narco News are Latin American, and at least half are women.

The right wing has been indoctrinating young journalists with its own scholarship programs for 30 years. The Narco News School of Authentic Journalism is the first project of its kind to fight back by building an international army of truth-telling journalists of talent and fighting spirit.

You would think that a project like Narco News that does so much so well would be thriving economically. Well, it is not. There is no profit in fighting against greed. But if we, the people, don't act now to democratize the media, the undemocratic money-driven media will continue to make authentic democracy impossible in the United States.

One of the huge lessons from the 2004 elections is the folly of placing all our activist eggs (and funds) in election campaigns. The opposition in the United States raised more than $100 million dollars in small contributions via the Internet this year. I know my campaign benefited greatly from that trend. You may be one of the donor-activists who gave to my campaign or to others, and if so, I thank you for it.

But for the past three months, while everybody was making online credit card contributions to election campaigns, we forgot about the need to keep the alternative media strong. Donations to The Fund for Authentic Journalism - more than $60,000 in the first half of 2004 - dried up as everyone's focus was on elections.

Now the election is over - elections, alone, didn't work to change the country or the world - and we need our alternative media more than ever.

Narco News, as the first and best example of how non-profit authentic journalism can and does work, is the first of many that we must save and make grow stronger.

More exciting is that our participation in Narco News doesn't begin or end with a financial donation. It's the groundbreaking participatory nature of Narco News and its online group blog - The Narcosphere - that makes all of us who contribute to Narco News partners in the project. There, if we have donated labor as journalists, or money as citizens, we become "co-publishers" of the newspaper, and can comment, criticize, correct facts, add information, and discuss with others every single report published by Narco News. I don't know of any other newspaper that gives the readers so much power to directly keep journalists honest and be participants, not just consumers, of the media.

That's why, today, I have signed up for my co-publisher account on Narco News, and I ask you to do the same. Narco News has created the space for us in Civil Society - no matter what our political party or tendency is; all voices are invited - to be part of the newspaper.

Narco News continues building a revolution in journalism, tearing down the monopoly walls that once gave First Amendment rights only to Commercial Media.

You can join me as a co-publisher of Narco News by making your contribution today to The Fund for Authentic Journalism.

You can make that contribution online at:

http://www.authenticjournalism.org/

Or you can send a check made out to “The Fund for Authentic Journalism” at:

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

I want to know, when I return to Congress next January, that Narco News is on a strong financial footing again. If it is not, my job will be so much more difficult, and not only on the issues of democracy and the drug war, but also on all our priorities for a more just, fair, and open society.

We have all spent recent months in election campaigns, with mixed results, and we have ignored our alternative media to our own peril. The next two months we need to make up for lost time and bring Narco News and authentic journalism back to health, because every battle that comes next will be dependent on it.

Authentic Media, and the citizens it mobilized, brought me back to Washington.

Today, let's mobilize together to sweep Authentic Media to its new and rightful place as the path to replacing, and democratizing, all media in our lifetimes.

Without democracy in media, democracy in politics won’t be possible. When it comes to the First Amendment, I say “first things first.” Let’s save and strengthen the online newspaper that founded the Authentic Journalism renaissance. Let’s flex our political muscles where it most counts: in building that alternative media.

Let's have another mighty success story before January 1, 2005. If, together, we accomplish this task, then all will truly not be lost come the New Year.

Sincerely,

Cynthia McKinney
Congresswoman-elect
4th District, Georgia

 

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