By Leah Bartos
“Indeed,” wrote a 47-year old woman in her Harlem-based newspaper, “it is no exaggeration when I say that the war would have been at an end long ago had the American financiers been prevented from investing billions in war loans.”
She could well be indicting the Bush Administration for its entanglement with Halliburton, Bechtel and the other corporate profiteers that have made billions of dollars off of the United States’ mass killings. Moreover, she could be indicting the corporate media, that has acted uncritically and irresponsibly, and whose lies and half-truths have propelled the war machine.
But she—Emma Goldman—wrote these words 90 years ago. Goldman published this piece, “The Promoters of the War Mania” in vol. XII, no. 1 of her news magazine, Mother Earth, in March 1917 as a cry against U.S. involvement in World War I.
This piece would have never made it in the mainstream press—even in a time when we tend to romanticize newspapers as innocent and yet uncorrupted by corporate interests. Had Goldman not created her own independent media outlet, this piece would have never withstood the test of time and would have never made
it to my desk. Guaranteed.
The “promoters of the war mania” Goldman wrote of in 1917 were the corporations that profited from war. Today, little has changed—except that the media is now so deeply entangled with corporate profit that they have become the loudest of war mania promoters.
From the media’s blind acceptance of alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to the New York Times’ complicity with the government’s wish to conceal Bush’s warrant-less wiretapping, we have grown increasingly suspicious of the American media.
Everyday we watch the death toll tick forward—with over 3,000 U.S. soldiers killed and over 650,000 Iraqi civilians killed since the start of the war.
But statistics alone are meaningless. We are talking about human life. We cannot even begin to make sense of these numbers until we see, with our own eyes, the raw images of war.
The decision to print the photographs shown above was not easy. We were afraid of sensationalizing the issue of war and shocking our readers. We were afraid the photos were indecent and would be published in bad taste. But we realize now that it is the war itself that is in bad taste—especially when the media has willingly censored this atrocious reality.
But we are showing you the photos so that you can decide for yourself.
Though printing these photographs does not create the violence that so many Americans and Iraqis face, it does make it harder for us to ignore. The horror is not in the images; the horror is in what they depict.
The photographs of American soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib are among the most horrific that the media has printed.
“It was the photographs that made all this ‘real’ to Bush and his associates,” wrote Susan Sontag in a piece about the Abu Ghraib scandal, titled “Regarding the Torture of Others,” which was published in the New York Times on May 23, 2004. “Up to then, there had been only words, which are easier to cover up in our age of infinite digital self-reproduction and self dissemination, and so much easier to forget.”
At City on a Hill Press, we are committed to presenting these truths—whether through words, photographs, or both. As student reporters and members of the independent media, we have an advantage over the corporate news outlets in that our sole obligation is to serve the public.
In an interview last fall, Amy Goodman—independent news radio host of Democracy Now!—told me she also believed in this advantage of
“Young people have all the qualities that make for a seasoned journalist. You are optimistic, but you are critical; you challenge authority,” Goodman said. “We need young journalists. It is absolutely critical that reporters go to where the silence is.
“So,” she added, “Good luck.”
Good luck, indeed.
In June of 1917, only three months after she published “The Promoters of the War Mania,” Emma Goldman was arrested for conspiracy to obstruct the draft. She was then imprisoned for two years before being deported to Russia, her country of birth.
Weeks prior to her arrest, the Secret Service had been keeping tabs on Goldman. The evidence that led to her arrest, according to a New York Times report from Jun. 16, 1917, was from material printed in Mother Earth.
Needless to say, Goldman was not surprised about her arrest. In fact, her writing she seems to predict it:
“Principals and superintendents of our schools and colleges are hastening to poison the minds of their pupils with national ‘ideals’ and patriotic forgeries of history to prepare the young generation for ‘the protection of national honor,’ which really means the ‘glory’ of bleeding to death for the crooked transactions of a gang of legalized, cowardly thieves.”