When does the Internet revolution begin?
By Ahmed Amr
A few years back, when we posted the very first edition of NileMedia.com, we had no idea what to expect. The Internet bubble was still in full swing and we figured that 'if we build it, they will come'. At the time, The Seattle Times was on strike and in a show of sympathy with the folks walking the picket line, we spent a few hundred dollars to advertise in their strike paper, "The Seattle Record". Other than that, we never spent a single dime on publicizing our site.
Within a few weeks, we were getting calls and emails requesting permission to publish NileMedia articles. One of the calls was from a young guy named Ali Khan from California who published MediaMonitors.net. He promised to publish all our articles without censorship. And to this day, he has yet to refuse a single editorial. He doesn't like half of them but he publishes them anyway.
A few days after the first articles appeared on MediaMonitors.com, I got another call from Ali. "Congratulations Mr. Amr. Your article is out on Yahoo." Sure enough, one of my article on the Palestinian uprising was posted right next to articles from the big guns, The New York Times and the Washington Post. Over the next few months, Yahoo hosted over a dozen of my articles. When the hate mail started pouring in, we knew we were doing something right. In the span of a single year, our articles ended up being published on over a hundred different sites and in a number of print publications, including the Middle East Times out of Cyprus and the Saudi Gazette.
After Nine Eleven, the world changed and so did Yahoo. All of a sudden, my articles were not good enough. At first, I thought nothing of it. I figured more journalists were focused on the Middle East and my work simply didn't make the grade. Besides, I was still writing about the Palestinians and the assault on the World Trade Center had put their struggle for freedom on the back burner. But then I started noticing the complete absence of other alternative news journalists whose work had appeared fairly regularly on Yahoo's portal.
Something different was going on in the cyber media world. It isn't that the big boys failed to notice what alternative media journalists were still writing. For one, The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto was incensed about one of my articles titled 'The idiot's Guide to Yiddish Supremacy' which appeared on dozens of sites, including ummahnews.com. After 9/11, any web site with an 'Islamic' name was deemed subversive, as you can see from Taranto's smear.
"An Islamic fanatic Web site called ummahnews.com publishes 'The Idiots Guide to Yiddish Supremacy,' an enemies list of 'the many American-Jews' in the media 'who have endorsed every murderous Israeli policy.' Can there be any doubt that they stole this idea from Eric Alterman? The Ummah guys have a shorter list than Alterman, but they're even more obnoxious than he is, if that seems possible. They describe Charles Krauthammer (who made Alterman's list as well) as a 'mental cripple to the extreme right of the Likud.' Krauthammer has been confined to a wheelchair since a 1972 diving accident." (James Taranto, WSJ Opinion Pages, April 12, 2002).
The ADL also took notice and posted a commentary on one of my opinion pieces right above a list of 'Hard-Core White Supremacists/Organizations'. I had finally qualified for the ADL's 'enemies list'. Under the title 'Terrorism Strikes America: What They Are Saying', they avowed their only intent was 'to provide a snapshot of responses to the tragedy, not to comment on or to categorize the inherent nature of these groups.' Really? So getting bundled in with White Supremacists isn't supposed to cast any aspersions on my writing. I am glad we got that cleared up.
This is the review I got from the ADL: "Editor Ahmed Amr of the Seattle-based Nilemedia.com expressed in his essay "Middle East Foreign Policy After Midnight" a wish that "Israel Firsters in the mass media" would take responsibility for policies that "invited the murderous assaults against our shores on 9/11." Amr suggests that "mass media tycoons, from Sulzberger to Graham to Murdoch to Levine" are "all too willing…to bend our minds with their ethnic agendas." Amr calls them "extremist Yiddish supremacists" who have elevated Israel to the "level of a deity." According to Amr, they have ruined millions of lives in attempts to place Israeli interests above all others. Amr identifies media personalities ranging from Jeff Greenberg to Wolf Blitzer to Aaron Brown to Larry King as part of the "Israeli lobby." He suggests that the "Israel Firsters" wish the U.S. to engage in war against multiple Middle Eastern countries (including Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan), while ignoring Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "murderous escapades." Amr declares that it is "especially important to neutralize" the New York Times, which he says "fancies itself a shadow government;" he expresses similar sentiments towards the Washington Post, and suggests that the government should reduce both papers "to their natural size as ethnic municipal rags." He also has criticism for Thomas Friedman, William Safire, and Rupert Murdoch. According to Amr, "if Yiddish supremacists manage to get away with their usual vaudevillian act, after the loss of 5,000 of our citizens, we will have even darker days ahead." (Posted on ADL's web site since October 29, 2001)
On of my articles also caught the attention of the Jerusalem Institute of Western Defense (westerndefense.org). The stated purpose of this 'Institute' is to "provide a reliable source of information about what is happening in Moslem states and thus to show Western policy-makers and public opinion the danger Islam presents to Western Civilization by citing the Moslems themselves." The subject of their ire was an article that appeared in Middle East Times (metimes.com), which is published by Grahame Bennett in Nicosia. I am certain that Mr. Bennett and other residents of Nicosia will be amused to find out that their city was now located in Egypt. So here I was, an Arab-American writing in Seattle and getting my work published in Cyprus by an Englishman, being portrayed as a "dangerous Islamic threat to Western Civilization." Just to give you an idea of the company Mr. Bennett keeps, check out his last issue of the Middle East Times (June 12, 2004). It featured two articles by other well known Islamic radicals: Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery and the president of The Arab-American Institute, James Zogby, who happens to be of Christian Lebanese ancestry.
First of all, the 'experts' at the Jerusalem Institute of Western Defense list the Middle East Times as an Egyptian paper and published the article under the banner 'Islam in America'. And they added this commentary:
"Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle. His article is yet another proof how well the Arabs have mastered the principle of Joseph Goebbels that the bigger the lies the more likely they are to be believed. He calls Rabbi Ovadya Yosef's speeches "racist drivel" and describes Ariel Sharon as "a serial mass executioner of innocent civilians." Yet he conveniently forgets that all the anti-Israeli polemics in the Arab media are racist drivel and that Yasser Arafat has been ordering the killing of innocent Jewish civilians for the past 35 years. Sharon never killed or ordered anyone else to kill the Sabra and Shatila refugees. Eli Hobeike, who commanded the Christian Phalange forces there, did. The same Eli Hobeike later served the Syrian interest in Lebanon - an interesting fact in view of Syria's involvement in the assassination of Lebanese President Bashir Gemayel and 26 of his aides in an outrage that probably was the direct cause of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Nobody in Israel regards the New York Times as pro-Israeli."
A visit to the Western Defense web site revealed that among the Institute's original Board of Directors was none other than Shlomo Baum who along with Ariel Sharon led Unit 101 that committed the massacre of Qibya in 1953. So, we have one war criminal vouching for the honor of another war criminal. One of the Institute's founders was Max Singer, a right wing American columnist for the Jerusalem Post, a paper owned and operated by Conrad Black, another Likudnik extremist. The current Chairman if the Institute is Yohanan Ramati, another Jerusalem Post hack, who bills himself as "an expert on global affairs, including the threat of Islam." Just for the record, Eli Hobeike was assassinated in January 2002. He was killed just a few days before he was scheduled to testify before the Belgian court investigating Sharon's role in the Sabra and Shatila massacre. It was very convenient timing for Ariel Sharon.
At the dawn of the Internet revolution, many of us entertained the false hope that we could use this cheap technology to circumvent mass media censorship. Sites like Yahoo were giving equal access to alternative voices that were more than happy to take on the Goliaths of the mass media industry. To a certain extent, the Internet managed to level the playing ground. But it didn't take long for the big guns to react. They immediately moved in to contain the threat to their franchise by co-opting the big brand names on the Internet.
Today, Yahoo is a carbon copy of the mass media. Their news menu uses the same recipes as CNN.com and MSNBC. Once in a while, they will let a few alternative voices into the fray, so long as they work within the parameters established by the major media moguls. As it turns out, branding still counts, even in cyber space.
One of the major problems encountered by alternative web sites is the reliance on the mass media outlets for breaking news. Even irreverent outfits like AntiWar.com and Truthout.com place many links to news items on the web sites of New York Times, The Washington Post and MSNBC. As a result, alternative news outlets end up re-directing traffic to the bad guys. One of the horrible side effects is that taking such short cuts restores credibility to the mass media moguls and places them back in good standing with the public.
Alternative web sites have to resist the urge to take the easy way out. At NileMedia.com, we have only one rule: not a single link to the big bad boys. We refuse to pollute our site with the foul produce of CNN or The New York Times. Once in a while, we allow a BBC article to grace our pages. Other than that, we only link to alternative web sites like Mediamonitors.net, antiwar.com, truthout.com, palestinechronicle.com, axisoflogic.com, the Independent and the Guardian.
The real acid test is to get to the point where authentic alternative web sites avoid publishing any links to any site that feature links to the mass media portals. You are either for alternative media or against us. Let the big boys have their black lists. Let them devour Yahoo. The proper response to their black lists is to draw up a better black list that includes The New York Times, CNN and Yahoo.
When does the Internet revolution begin? When we get together and develop a better Yahoo that can never be co-opted by the mass media Goliaths.
Media consumers should not be passive participants in this revolution. They must agitate with their checkbooks. Financially healthy alternative web sites are the best personal investment we can make to bring about a better world in which ordinary free thinking individuals can speak truth to power in an audible volume. So, before you go on to the next article, think seriously about making a donation to Mediamonitors.net and other web sites that challenge the established order. Let the revolution begin.
Ahmed Amr is the editor of NileMedia.com. This article can be published at will. The article was an unsolicited tribute to mediamonitors.net.
Want to help spread quality independent journalism?
Donate to NileMedia and watch us grow.