Monday, June 30, 2008

Feminists and `Cosmopolitan' Historically

(The following article first appeared in the 9/9/92 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative weekly newspaper, Downtown.)

Although Cosmopolitan was successful historically at making a lot of cash for the men who run the Hearst Corporation and the Hearst Dynasty by selling Cosmopolitan primarily to economically independent women, feminist women in the 1960s criticized Gurley-Brown’s editorial politics almost as soon as her altered Cosmopolitan first appeared on the newsstand. For instance, as Current Biography 1969 noted, “Betty Friedan, the author of The Feminine Mystique…criticized the new Cosmopolitan outlook as debasing women: `Instead of urging women to live a broader life, it is an immature teenage-level sexual fantasy. It is the idea that woman is nothing but a sex object…’”

But by the early 1980s—when corporate feminist ideology was seen as less subversive by the U.S. Establishment mainstream media—Gurley-Brown told a Contemporary Authors interviewer:

“I consider myself a feminist, and I don’t think the women’s movement and I have any great differences at this stage of the game. Gloria Steinem is a good friend…I honor and respect her totally. The movement is here to stay, it’s not going to go away.”

And again, in an April 16, 1968 New York Times Op-Ed column, Hearst’s then-Cosmopolitan editor called herself a “feminist”—although she criticized “the way feminists—of whom I am proudly one, but not on this issue” were acting as if the mid-1980s reappearance of the miniskirt in the world of women’s fashion was “some major affront to womanhood.”

Although Hearst’s Cosmopolitan editor had been calling herself a “feminist” for many years before 1992, you still didn’t find too much mention of women like Alexandra Kollontai, Agnes Smedley or Simone de Beauvoir on its pages in the 1990s—or too many articles encouraging working women and intellectual Amazons to fight against the patriarchal U.S. corporate establishment on a political level. A 1992 Cosmopolitan issue which was published during the month before the New York presidential primary, for example, contained no article about 1992 election issues, but many articles like the following: 1. “Beauty Bar: Soothing Soaks for a Smooth Sexy Body;” 2. “Beauty Helpline;” 3. “How $50 Can Recycle Last Year’s Wardrobe;” 4. “What’s New In Beauty;” 5. “On My Mind: Lying With (and to) your Love;” 6. “March Horoscope;” 7. “The Joy Of Being Rotten Or How To Get Revenge;” 8. “I Had An Affair With My Handsome Assistant;” and 9. “Roadblock To Intimacy…When Sex Isn’t Enough.”

(Downtown 9/9/92)

Next: Institutional Sexism At The Hearst Corporation Historically

Sunday, June 29, 2008

`Cosmopolitan''s Pre-1992 History

(The following article first appeared in the 9/9/92 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative weekly newspaper, Downtown.)

The Hearst Corporation’s Cosmopolitan editor for most of the 30 years prior to 1992 was Jaws and Star Wars movie producer David Brown’s wife—Helen Gurley-Brown. After Mr. Brown came across some copies of old letters his wife had written to a former boyfriend, he “encouraged her to attempt a book on a subject she was well-acquainted with: the life of a single woman,” according to Contemporary Authors. Ms. Gurley-Brown—whose father was an Arkansas state legislator—then wrote the Sex And The Single Girl and Sex In The Office books of the early 1960s.

After making a bundle from her Sex And The Single Girl, Gurley-Brown “and her husband worked out a format in the Summer of 1964 for a magazine to be called Femme," according to Current Biography 1969. The publisher of Gurley-Brown’s books—a man named Bernard Geis—arranged a meeting with another man—then-Hearst Corporation President Richard Deems—and interested the Hearst Corporation president in Gurley-Brown’s 20-page dummy for Femme magazine. Deems then appointed Gurley-Brown as the new Cosmopolitan editor in March 1965.

After William Randolph Hearst I purchased Cosmopolitan for $400,000 in 1905, it had continued to be a muckraking magazine for a few years prior to World War I. But, following World War I, although its circulation was around one million, it was no longer such a magazine. Its editor between 1918 and 1931 was a man named Ray Long of the Algonquin Round Table literary set that included writers like Dorothy Parker. Four years after the new head of Hearst’s magazine division, Richard Berlin, had Long replaced as Cosmopolitan’s editor in 1931, Long committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth with a rifle. As Cosmopolitan editor, Long had been paid $185,000 per year [in 1930s money] in 1931.

Under Berlin’s management during the Great Depression, Cosmopolitan and most of the other Hearst magazines remained profitable ventures, while the newspapers of Hearst’s media empire were losing so much money that the whole company was in danger of going bankrupt. But in 1939 Berlin was able to secure an $8 million loan from the president of Bank of Italy, A.P. Giannini, which enabled the company to survive until the increased World War II demand for newspaper ad space by U.S. business restored the profitability of Hearst’s newspaper chain.

By the early 1960s, however, Cosmopolitan’s circulation had dropped to below 800,000 and its income from ad sales had dropped by 20 percent. So the men who managed the Hearst Corporation’s magazine division were willing to authorize Gurley-Brown to change the format of Cosmopolitan in accordance with her Femme magazine proposal, in an attempt to increase the magazine’s marketability among 18-to-34-year-old women office workers.

The decision of Hearst’s male managers to let Gurley-Brown alter one of their magazines proved to be a quite profitable decision. After Gurley-Brown and her husband put together her first Cosmopolitan issue in July 1965, Cosmopolitan’s newsstands sales grew between 1965 and 1969 by 300,000—despite the cost of a copy of the magazine also increasing from 35 to 60 cents a copy [in 1960s money]. Since 98 percent of Cosmopolitan’s distribution in the 1960s came from newsstand sales—in which money is made on every copy sold—and not from being mailed to subscribers—the combined increase in both mass circulation and newsstand cost-per-copy proved to be exceptionally lucrative. By the 1970s, Cosmopolitan’s readers and its advertisers were providing about $30 million [in 1970s money] in profits for the Hearst Corporation each year; and its monthly ad space was selling at $15,000 per page. In the early 1990s, copies of Cosmopolitan were purchased by about three million readers each month. [But by 2007, newsstand sales of Cosmopolitan had apparently decreased to 2 million copies each month].

(Downtown 9/9/92)

Next: Feminists and Cosmopolitan Historically

Saturday, June 28, 2008

`Cosmopolitan''s Historic Hearst Connection

(The following article first appeared in the 9/9/92 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative weekly newspaper, Downtown.)

“Steadily and quietly—indeed, with some of the palace secrecy of the old days—the managers of the Hearst Corporation have put together a media empire that dwarfs the earlier one…In 1986 it had revenues estimated at $3 billion (Hearst doesn’t publish financial statements)."

New York magazine on April 13, 1987

“We’re the largest publishers of monthly magazines in the nation with a total circulation of more than 21 million among 14 publications. These include Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar…,Town & Country, Esquire, House Beautiful, Sports Afield…"

William Randolph Hearst Jr. in his 1991 book, The Hearsts: Father and Son

[2008 Update: “Hearst Corporation ( is one of the nation’s largest diversified media companies. Its major interests include ownership of 15 daily and 31 weekly newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle and Albany Times Union; as well as interests in an additional 44 daily and 38 non-daily newspapers owned by MediaNews Group, which include the Denver Post and Salt Lake Tribune; nearly 200 magazines around the world, including Cosmopolitan and O, The Oprah Magazine; 29 television stations through Hearst-Argyle Television (NYSE:HTV) which reach a combined 18% of U.S. viewers; ownership in leading cable networks, including Lifetime, A&E, History and ESPN; as well as business publishing, including a minority joint venture interest in Fitch Ratings; Internet businesses, television production, newspaper features distribution and real estate.”—a June 18, 2008 Hearst Corporation press release]

“About 15 Hearsts either work at the company or serve as its directors.”

The New York Times on April 26, 1987

“We must first understand who the Hearsts are, who they serve and represent. Randolph A. Hearst is the corporate chairman of the fascist media empire of the ultra-right Hearst Corporation, which is one of the largest propaganda institutions of this oppressive military dictatorship of the militarily armed corporate state that we now live under in this nation.”

Symbionese Liberation Army [SLA] Leader “Cinque” DeFreeze in 1974

“For two generations, the Hearst newspapers themselves have wielded their power and profits by exploiting the most lurid aspects of war, irrational violence, and racist and sexist ideas. They have a lot of reckoning to account for.”

The Weather Underground on February 20, 1974

Although Cosmopolitan magazine has not been too intellectually cosmopolitan, historically, when it comes to printing many feature articles about the Hearst Dynasty’s media conglomerate, Hearst corporate interests owned Cosmopolitan for most of the 20th century. Yet despite its ownership of Cosmopolitan and many other U.S. monthly magazines, the Hearst family has not been popular with many cosmopolitan people in the United States. One reason why the Berkeley urban guerrillas who “arrested” Patty Hearst on February 4, 1974—the Symbionese Liberation Army [SLA]—quickly became folk-heroes, historically, in certain cultural underground circles, is that people in the United States have long felt that it’s not democratic for “Citizen Kane” types to monopolize control of so many Big Media outlets.

(Downtown 9/9/92)

Next: Cosmopolitan’s Pre-1992 History

Friday, June 27, 2008

Remembering The `Eisenhowergate Scandal'

Republican Party presidential candidates used to generally get preferential mass media coverage in the 20th century (before wealthy U.S. corporation executives began to also bankroll Democratic Party presidential candidates more heavily) since most of the people who own the Big Media conglomerates used to just be Republican Party supporters. Yet corruption and scandal plagued most Republican administrations during the last half of the 20th Century. During the 1950s, for example, there was an “Eisenhowergate Scandal” which the then-Republican Party-biased mass media chose to ignore. As Jack Anderson and Drew Pearson wrote in their 1968 book The Case Against Congress:

“By all odds the most astonishing conflict-of-interest case to be ignored by the press in recent years involved President Eisenhower. The conflict involved gifts to his farm in Gettysburg and the way the upkeep of the farm was handled.

“…The upkeep of the Eisenhower farm was paid for by three oilmen…During his 8 years in the White House, Dwight Eisenhower did more for the nation’s private oil and gas interests than any other President. He encouraged and signed legislation overriding a Supreme Court decision giving offshore oil to the Federal Government…

“On January 19, 1961, one day before he left the White House, Eisenhower signed a procedural instruction on the importation of residual oil…One of the major beneficiaries of this last-minute executive order happened to be Cities Service…The chief executive of Cities Service was W. Alton Jones, one of the three faithful contributors to the upkeep of the Eisenhower farm.

“Three months later [apparently it was actually nearly thirteen months later, on March 1, 1962], Jones was flying to Palm Springs [and nearby Palm Desert] to visit the retired President of the United States when his plane crashed and Jones was killed. In his briefcase was found $61,000 in cash and traveler’s checks [in 1960s money]. No explanation was ever offered—in fact none was ever asked for by the complacent American press—as to why the head of one of the leading oil companies of America was flying to see the ex-President of the United States with $61,000 in his briefcase.”

(Downtown 8/26/92)

Next: Cosmopolitan’s Historic Hearst Connection

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sexism In Broadcasting Ownership Historically

Although many U.S. women still watch Establishment television and still listen to Establishment radio, very few U.S. women have owned many U.S. Establishment broadcasting stations, historically. According to a late 1980s American Women in Radio and Television [AWRT] analysis of women’s ownership of U.S. broadcast station groups:

“…Women held equity owner position of more than 50 percent in only 4.3 percent of broadcast stations groups (defined as an organization with more than one station), an increase of less than 1 percent since 1978. Additionally, AWRT’s studies showed that women served as president, vice-president or general manager of only 8.4 percent of all radio stations and 6.1 percent of all television stations.”

In other words, as late 1990 U.S. corporate men still monopolized control of about 94 percent of all U.S. Establishment televisions stations—even if they did let a few U.S. women read their evening news more frequently by that time.

(Downtown 8/26/92)

Next: Remembering The “Eisenhowergate Scandal”

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Obama Voted To Confirm Rice As U.S. Secretary of State

Barack Obama, the Big Media-supported Democratic Party presidential candidate in 2008, claims to be opposed to the endless U.S. war in Iraq and opposed to giving Big Oil corporations like Chevron a special influence over U.S. government foreign policy-making decisions. Yet as a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 19, 2005, Obama voted to confirm the former Chevron board member who was one of the U.S. government officials responsible for launching the endless U.S. war in Iraq, Condoleezza Rice, as U.S. Secretary of State.

On the day before he voted to confirm former Chevron board member Rice’s appointment as U.S. Secretary of State, Obama said the following:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Members of the committee, Dr. Rice…

“Dr. Rice, it’s wonderful to see you here, and I’ve been very impressed, obviously with your mastery of the issues…And I think everybody, rightly, is extraordinarily impressed with your credentials and your expertise in this field…

"...I think it's important to note that...there was strong agreement between President Bush and Senator Kerry that our number-one priority, that our single greatest challenge, is keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists...

“Dr. Rice, I appreciate your stamina…

“I think that you have done a commendable job in helping the United States rethink its international aid and development programs…”

And on January 19, 2005, Obama also stated:

“The first question I guess I have is more of a request, Dr. Rice, and that is, assuming your successful confirmation here today that we schedule some mechanism for your Department to follow up on the question that had been raised yesterday…

“…You know, all of us, I think, are rooting for your success. And I recognize—not just yours, personally, but this administration’s success. I think the notion that we have a very real and present danger in the nihilistic ideologies of radical Islam, I think most Americans share.

“…I have to dispute, a little bit, your notion that, sort of, we’re always making progress. Indonesia, for example—I actually lived in Indonesia for five years—perceptions of America and the West were much better then than they are currently subsequent to 9/11…

“…I don’t think there’s anybody on this committee who would not prefer to see this administration succeed…

“I wish you the best of luck…”

U.S. Secretary of State Rice, also a former member of the Carnegie Corporation of New York board of trustees, was not the first person to be confirmed as Secretary of State by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a business connection to Chevron. A member of the Chevron board of directors at the time when George W. Bush’s father ordered the U.S. war machine to attack Iraq in 1991, George Shultz, was confirmed as U.S. Secretary of State in 1982 during the Reagan Administration.

As U.S. Secretary of State, former Chevron Director Shultz was the main force behind sending U.S. troops to Lebanon in 1982, according to Business Week’s January 16, 1989 issue. Former Chevron Director Shultz was also responsible for persuading former U.S. President Reagan to bomb Libya in April 1986, according to the 1988 edition of Current Biography.

Next: Sexism In Broadcasting Ownership Historically

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

`A Millionaire'

Oh, pig Bush a millionaire
And Bobby Dylan a millionaire
And Rockefeller a millionaire
And Bruce Springsteen a millionaire.

And Mr. Mellon a millionaire
And Warren Beatty a millionaire
And Tom Fonda a millionaire
And Mick Jagger a millionaire.

You’re such a phoney, just blowin’ out wind
Makin’ like Woody to win your million
You made me cry when I was a kid
But now I’m feelin’ you’re just a rich pig.

Don’t think we fall for that working-class shit
Give us your money, and then we might talk
We’re sick and tired of your ego-trip
Of making millions while raising your fist.

Now it seems to me it is unfair
That some men are millionaires
They steal their money by various means
Yet sing us songs to show their pity.

I’m just a poor man without any bread
I feel all people should make the same wage
To rip off culture from people oppressed
Is just as bad as burning their huts.

Inspired by the anti-corporate activism of A.J. Weberman,

the Yippies and the Lower East Side’s Rock Liberation Front during the late 1960s and early 1970s, the original lyrics of the A Millionaire protest folk song were written in a slum apartment in the Bronx in 1971. As the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s passed by some of the specific lyrics were changed a little. But A Millionaire still represents an historical attempt to protest against the ripping off-for personal economic profit of the Movement’s revolutionary counter-culture by the hip capitalist global corporate music industry and their stable of super-rich rock music aristocrats.

To listen to some other protest folk songs, you can check out the “Columbia Songs for a Democratic Society” site at the following link:

Next: Obama Voted To Confirm Rice As U.S. Secretary of State

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Anti-War Movements, Now and Then: A 1991 Interview With U.S. Political Prisoner David Gilbert--Part 4

What follows is part 4 of a 1991 interview with jailed former Weather Underground activist David Gilbert. See parts 1-3 below.

(The following interview originally appeared in the June/July 1991 issue of New York City’s Lower East Side alternative newspaper The Shadow )

Q: What about the argument that Hussein was another Hitler?

David Gilbert [DG]: I guess you should phrase that as “Hitler of the year,” since the U.S. propaganda machine has churned out quite a few “Hitlers”—Khomeini, Qadaffi, Arafat, Noriega—lately. One crucial element of defining Hitler objectively in history is that he was the leader of a major imperial power out to dominate the world. In that light, we need to worry a lot more about George Bush [Sr.] [I] than Saddam Hussein—and the same is true if we look at racial impact and scope of deaths caused by their military and economic policies.

Hussein, even after trying to claim the very honorable mantle of Arab nationalism, is [was] no sweetheart when it comes to human rights and international law, but he certainly doesn’t stand out as worse than scores of dictators that the U.S. has installed in various countries around the world. The way I look at it, Hussein is [was] a small-time local bandit. Bush [Sr.] [I] is a big-time global bandit.

Q: What do you think was the Bush [I] administration’s main motive for the war?

DG: One thing for sure: it sure as hell wasn’t about upholding international law and the principle of non-intervention. I mean, the U.S. government under Reagan and Bush [I], alone, invaded both Grenada and Panama; walked out of the World Court when it ruled that U.S. aggression against Nicaragua to be illegal; intervened militarily in Lebanon, Libya, the Philippines, and El Salvador; has been the main supporter of Israel’s illegal occupations of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights and its invasion of Lebanon; for a long time circumvented UN sanctions on South Africa; and has supported Indonesia’s brutal invasion of East Timor—to name just some of the examples. The idea that Bush [I] was acting to uphold international law is a joke—a sick and bloody joke. Calling in the U.S. to deal with Hussein’s transgressions is [was] like calling in the Mafia to clear out a local shoplifter.

In analyzing the real causes, I’ve been a little disappointed with the three positions I’ve seen most frequently in the left press: (1) it was a war for oil, (2) it was a war to maintain the high level of military spending crucial for the domestic economy, and (3) it was a way for the U.S., a declining economic power, to maintain its importance relative to Europe and Japan.

Each of these positions deals with elements of reality, but I don’t think that any of them gets to the heart of the matter. Sometimes analysts who have correctly absorbed the importance of economic factors (or, better put, class interests) too often simplify every situation to something that can be calculated on a cash register. The way I see it, broad economic interests are usually behind the formulation of a political strategy that has a scope and coherence that goes beyond the cash flow of a particular situation.

Oil is certainly central to why the Middle East has been seen as vital to Western interests, but Western oil interests were well provided for and would have been rescued by the terms of several diplomatic initiatives—especially the Soviet/Iraq proposal—that Bush [I] brushed aside. Military spending is important for the economy, but the military has always been able to come up with creative fictions for this purpose, and for many reasons such spending is problematical as a solution to the current set of economic problems. The focus on the economic competition with Europe and Japan misses just how much these three poles have had a common interest in keeping the entire Third World open for joint exploitation.

Bush [I] was determined to fight a war. He frantically discredited and brushed aside credible diplomatic initiatives, terrified that peace might actually “break out.” Bush [I] was hell-bent to fight a war because fighting a successful major war was the capstone to what has been the ruling class’s central strategy for the past 15 years: to move the U.S. public and world opinion past the “post-Vietnam syndrome.”

To understand the ruling class’s obsession, you have to know something about the world economy and recognize just how fundamentally the wealth and power concentrated in the West is predicated on the thorough and abject exploitation of the Third World. Moving past the Vietnam syndrome was so crucial to them because you just can’t maintain a vast economic empire—especially imposing the living conditions that prevail in the Third World—if you are not capable of using decisive force and terror against any “upstarts.”

They prepared the way step-by-step, first with the invasion of tiny Grenada in 1983 and then little Panama in 1989. Hussein’s move into Kuwait gave them their opportunity to finally have well-orchestrated popular support for a major war that they could count on winning.

Q: How do you see the state of the anti-war movement today [in 1991], and the tasks ahead of it?

DG: Well, it is certainly discouraging to be living in such a wave of war euphoria. While that wave is wide, it is not very deep. The ruling class had a broader agenda and long-term goals behind this particular war. We need to have a long-term perspective. The logic of the system will lead to other interventions, and we want to be able to start from a stronger place to try to stop the next one.

During the past 10 years, there have been a number of important, although small, movements on international issues: around Central America, around apartheid, around Palestinian rights, and the recent surge of mass anti-war activity. I wonder what the possibilities are for pulling this all together into a strong and ongoing anti-interventionist front. To be successful, such a front would have to be firmly rooted in anti-racism and in challenging social priorities at home.

Q: Any closing thoughts?

DG: Despite the current orgy of jingoism, we need to maintain a sense of history, a sense of perspective. As human beings, we can never accept the depreciation of human life because the people happen to be Iraqi or Salvadoran or Angolan. If we maintain our sense of identification with humanity, especially the majority of human beings, who live in the Third World, we won’t—even in the face of the most sophisticated media barrages—lose either our moral bearings or our sense of purpose.

To view part 3 of a video of a 1998 interview with David Gilbert, you can click on the following link:

Next: A Millionaire lyrics

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Anti-War Movements, Now and Then: A 1991 Interview With U.S. Political Prisoner David Gilbert--Part 3

What follows is part 3 of a 1991 interview with jailed former Weather Underground activist David Gilbert. See parts 1-2 below.

(The following interview originally appeared in the June/July 1991 issue of New York City’s Lower East Side alternative newspaper The Shadow )

Q: What about the role of the media?

David Gilbert [DG]: As much as the media functioned as an uncritical cheerleader for the government in the Iraq War, it was even worse in the early stages of the Vietnam War. This statement may seem strange to students because of the now-pervasive myth that the media were staunchly anti-war in the 1960s. But that myth was consciously created to convince the U.S. public that the war in Vietnam was lost because the media and anti-war movement handcuffed the military. They need that myth so that people here don’t see the reality that the U.S. military was defeated by a people fighting for independence. They also use the myth to intimidate the media, which had developed a tad of independence late in the war, back into total lockstep with the government.

This time around the media were much more conscious about burying and downplaying news of anti-war activity. I think in the mid-1960s anti-war activity was somewhat of a novelty. But they learned from that experience that once people saw what was happening, the movement could really grow. So this time around they were much more conscious about suppressing or at least containing that news.

I know what it was like in the early 1960s. I remember the footage of Walter Cronkite cheering the troops on in Vietnam. I remember the many times when the media dutifully suppressed news of illegal, clandestine U.S. military operations in Indochina. But here, I’ll just spell out one particularly striking example.

When President Johnson commenced those February 1965 bombings of North Vietnam, he went on national TV and justified it by citing the 1954 Geneva Accords. He said quite clearly that he was doing it to uphold the Accords because they provided for or guaranteed an independent South Vietnam.

That didn’t fit with my sense of the history, so I went to the international law library and looked up the Accords. They were quite explicit—the division into North and South was in no way a permanent boundary but was only for a temporary regrouping zone. This was to let the French colonial troops get out without a rout. The Accords called for an election to reunify Vietnam in 1956. The U.S. and its client regime blocked the election because their intelligence estimates told them, as later recounted in President Eisenhower’s autobiography, that Ho Chi Minh would win overwhelmingly.

I was amazed. LBJ’s whole justification for this bloody escalation pivoted on a claim that the Accords called for an independent South Vietnam. The Accords in fact said just the opposite. It wasn’t a matter of interpretation; it was very clear, black and white. I was sure that the next day there would be blaring headlines that the president had lied about the Geneva Accords. Instead, it wasn’t mentioned in any establishment media. We made copies of the Geneva Accords and started passing them out by hand on Columbia’s campus.

By 1967-1968, the media began presenting some more critical material for two reasons. First, the drain of the war on U.S. power and prestige produced a split in the ruling class with significant sectors now wanting the U.S. to get out before it was further weakened and discredited. Second, there was a big enough underground alternative press to potentially embarrass established media for too blatantly suppressing certain information. At its height, the alternative press had four million readers—and it too became an object of an FBI-led COINTELPRO campaign to destroy it. For example, the established media never showed pictures of children who had been napalmed until Ramparts broke that open and created a sensation.

In the context of a losing war, the anti-war movement played a secondary but still important role. We helped legitimize the alternative of getting out. We helped shorten the range of brutal escalations that wouldn’t have changed the outcome but would have cost even more Vietnamese and U.S. lives. But the main brake on the air war was the heavy losses of U.S. planes to Vietnamese anti-aircraft fire. The main barrier to the “nuclear option” was fear of Soviet and/or Chinese response.

Q: What about the charges that the anti-war movement vilified the troops returning from Vietnam?

DG: Honestly, when I first heard reports of people vilifying troops returning from Vietnam, I thought it was a pure propaganda creation. I just never heard anything like that happening in our sectors of the anti-war movement. We realized that GI’s—disproportionately Black, Latino, and poor—were being used as cannon fodder for the rich man’s war. GI organizing became an important part of the anti-war movement. Of course, we urged GI’s not to kill, and we did condemn war crimes. But it was those who ran the war who were the enemy, and they were the ones victimizing the GI’s.

Nonetheless, I’ve now met a number of Vietnam vets who were pelted with fruit or cursed or spat upon when they returned, and that is wrong. My guess is that this came from sectors of the population that became disgusted with the war but, unlike the active anti-war movement, didn’t have a clear analysis of who was responsible for the war.

Q: Were you surprised that the U.S. establishment was willing to slaughter so many Iraqis to accomplish its political objectives?

DG: No. After studying its international and domestic actions over the years, I wasn’t at all surprised. I was surprised and chagrined, however, to see the U.S. public so readily manipulated into colossal callousness about Iraqi lives.

(end of part 3)

To view part 2 of a video of a 1998 interview with David Gilbert, you can click on the following link:

Next: The Anti-War Movements, Now and Then: A 1991 Interview With U.S. Political Prisoner David Gilbert—Part 4

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Anti-War Movements, Now and Then: A 1991 Interview With U.S. Political Prisoner David Gilbert--Part 2

What follows is part 2 of a 1991 interview with jailed former Weather Underground activist David Gilbert.  See part 1 below.

(The following interview originally appeared in the June/July 1991 issue of New York City’s Lower East Side alternative newspaper The Shadow )

Q: Why do you think there was such extensive New York City Police Department Red Squad surveillance of the ICV at Columbia in the 1960s? Do you think there is much spying on Columbia’s campus today?

David Gilbert [DG]: Well, it was both the Red Squad and the FBI. What struck me—I think it was even clearer in my FBI files than in the Handschu files—is how early the surveillance began. They started their files on me in 1963, when all I had done was go to some civil rights meetings and a couple of picket lines. The file on the ICV starts right from the beginning, with my very first leaflet on the war, long before they could have had even the remotest conception that we would consider illegal activities.

One lesson is that their surveillance had nothing to do with law enforcement but was simply because they saw any significant dissent as a threat. Second, the surveillance wasn’t just to keep an eye on us: they initiated disruptive activity against us almost from the beginning—usually trying to foment splits and distrust among us.

One of the many examples I remember: an ICV member came to me with a list she said she found while working at some government agency that had the names of five ICV members who were actually police informants. If I had gone for this faked information and accused these people or tried to kick them out, at the very least we would have lost five fine activists; more likely we would have had a major and bitter split in the ICV. Luckily, I knew too much about some of the individuals’ background and integrity to go for the bait.

More examples became clear in retrospect once COINTELPRO—the government’s illegal program to destroy the Black movement and the New Left—was exposed. But there are still situations we’re not sure about—to what degree was it our own weakness and misunderstanding or to what degree had disinformation been consciously planted?

To maintain perspective, the infiltration of the ICV was minor compared to what was done to the Black movement. There, infiltration began a lot earlier, was much more pervasive, and moved beyond character assassination to outright violence.

As for the surveillance at Columbia today, I don’t really know how to assess it from here. The government is so worried about the re-emergence of a student movement, I’d be surprised if they weren’t at least keeping tabs on developments there.

Q: How do you compare the anti-war movement then to the one now [the first Gulf War in 1991 against Iraq]?

DG: That’s a giant question—there are many connections and also major differences. To start with, the U.S. defeat in Vietnam has lain like an insufferable nightmare on the consciousness of the ruling class—like a demon to be exorcised—and has guided almost every detail of what they did in the Iraq war. On the other hand, the legacy of Vietnam—the wellspring of sentiment against interventions in the Third World—meant that this time around we had massive and broad-based anti-war activity before the fighting even began. And the hundreds of thousands of people who marched against the war on January 19 and 26 [1991] certainly dwarfed the 20,000 we found so impressive in April 1965.

The similarities in the wars are that (1) the U.S. government is determined to crush any significant threat to its hegemony, and (2), each war was fought to set an example to other Third World nations and movements.

But there are vast differences, too. For one thing, Vietnam was fighting a national liberation struggle with deep historical roots. With Iraq, while Hussein did connect with important sentiments of Arab nationalism and support for Palestinians, the war developed more suddenly, and involved his own maneuvers for power and aggrandizement. The Vietnam War was very protracted, and we were pretty sure Vietnam would win. With Iraq, it’s just impossible to make up for the vast differential in military technology if you’re not fighting a people’s war—a war with deep roots in the people and for a cause they passionately believe in.

Q: But perhaps another reason for the one-sided slaughter is that Hussein—for all the demonization of him in the U.S. media—was actually not willing to be as ruthless as Bush [I], whose massive bombings killed tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of civilians both directly and through the destruction of sanitation and medical infrastructures. Hussein did release the hostages he initially held as a shield against attack. And he didn’t unleash his chemical weapons [in 1991] or order suicide missions in Europe.

DG: You’re right. And the whole media demonization of Hussein is something we should discuss further on. But first, without in the least justifying the U.S./Allies’ invasion, I was trying to make an analytical point that you just can’t fight a protracted war with any chance of success against a vastly superior military machine unless it’s a people’s war—a guerrilla war with deep popular support for a cause fully embraced by the people.

Another major difference in the context was the impact of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Liberation Movement in the 1960s. It opened people to seeing the need for social change and to questioning the very foundation of this society. It also created an atmosphere where moral questions were much more in the forefront. By contrast, in the 1990s, it seemed that the only issue—and some sectors of the anti-war movement played into this—was how many U.S. body bags came home. It is really shocking to see how little feeling or concern there is for the something like 300,000 Iraqis who were killed in this war.

Even with the impact of civil rights, the 1960s anti-war movement proved inadequate at incorporating anti-racism and in responding to leadership from Third World movements within the U.S. These necessary building blocks are certainly urgent tasks for the anti-war movement of the 1990s.

Another important difference is the role of women. Women played active and leading roles in the 1960s, but they had to do so against all odds. All too often women weren’t listened to, and were shut out of leading positions. Today [in 1991], as I understand it, women are playing prominent and often predominant roles at all levels of leadership and activities.

(end of part 2)

Next: The Anti-War Movements, Now and Then: A 1991 Interview With U.S. Political Prisoner David Gilbert—Part 3

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Anti-War Movements, Now and Then: A 1991 Interview With U.S. Political Prisoner David Gilbert--Part 1

What follows is part 1 of a 1991 interview with jailed former Weather Underground activist David Gilbert.

U.S. political prisoner Gilbert is currently in his 27th year of a 75-years-to-life sentence for a “felony murder” conviction stemming from his involvement in an attempted expropriation of a Brink’s truck in Rockland County, New York, in 1981.

In the 1960s, Gilbert was the founder and first chair of the Columbia University Independent Committee on Vietnam (ICV) anti-war student group and was also one of the founding members of the Columbia University Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapter which led the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt.

Years later, Gilbert joined the underground and, after ten years of active resistance, was captured in 1981 in the wake of the armored car robbery and shoot-out with police. Gilbert is currently imprisoned in Clinton State Prison in Dannemora, New York, where he has been an activist around AIDS issues and prisoners’ rights. Since this 1991 interview, he has written a book of essays, No Surrender, and appeared in a film, The Weather Underground.

(The following interview originally appeared in the June/July 1991 issue of New York City’s Lower East Side alternative newspaper The Shadow )

Q: How did the Columbia Independent Committee on Vietnam get started?

David Gilbert [DG]: We started in March 1965, about a month after President Johnson began the regular bombings of North Vietnam—LBJ had bombed North Vietnam earlier, after the rigged Tonkin Gulf incident in August 1964, but we were fooled into seeing this as a one-shot outburst—I was sure that some of the more established campus groups and leaders would form something. But when nothing happened after about a month, I called together a small group of people who had long been troubled by U.S. policy toward Vietnam.

Q: Did anti-war sentiment predominate on campus?

DG: Not by a long-shot. Back then it was almost unheard of to question the government on foreign policy. Initially, the vast majority of students accepted what the government and media told them. But it was also a wonderful time of new openness and ferment: students’ social awareness and moral sensibilities were blooming due to the Civil Rights Movement.

The first thing the Independent Vietnam Committee [ICV] did was set up literature tables on Low Plaza. We’d be out there for hours and hours each day debating the war—debating, rather than discussing, because most students opposed us. But there was definitely a burgeoning anti-war sector, and events themselves were changing people rapidly. By 1968, more than two-thirds of the students at Columbia University opposed the war.

Q: What was the relationship of the ICV to Students for a Democratic Society [SDS]?

DG: SDS was a national organization. Their work included support for the Civil Rights Movement, organizing in poor communities, and actions against apartheid. With the benefit of a little more-developed analysis they had a few months earlier—December 1964—put out a call for an April 17, 1965 march on Washington against the war. When the systematic bombing started in February, interest in the march mushroomed, and it ended up with, for then, a tremendous size of 20-25,000. Columbia, incidentally, sent 650 people, despite it being spring vacation—the largest single delegation in the march.

Those of us who started the ICV really liked SDS because it combined the issue of the war with a program against racism and also had some sort of vague socialist perspective. So we started a small SDS chapter at Columbia. Still, there was such energy and awakening around the war that we felt we had to put our main effort into the ICV to provide a vehicle for the broader range of anti-war views and energy.

By 1967, so many students were seeing the connections between the war and the underlying nature of society that SDS became the main organization, at the same time raising the level of militancy—e.g., by disrupting CIA recruiters.

(end of part 1)

To view part 1 of a video of a 1998 interview with David Gilbert, you can click on the following link:

Next: The Anti-War Movements, Now and Then: A 1991 Interview With U.S. Political Prisoner David Gilbert—Part 2

Thursday, June 19, 2008

`At Age 42'

He started young by driving a truck
He played his guitar, he had much luck
They made him a king, for singing some tunes
But still he died, at age 42.

They lifted him from deep poverty
They sold his records and received much money
They made him a super-celebrity
But he didn’t live to be 43.
They merchandised his voice and the way he shook
They cut his hair when he entered the Service
They gave him gold records and a big mansion
But at age 42 he still was dead.

They called him the “King of Rock’n’Roll”
But when the Beatles scored, they said he was too old
They cursed him when they thought his weight too high
But rapidly pushed his records when he died.
They took away his rural honesty
They corrupted him with cash and hypocrisy
They never asked if maybe he was lonely
And he didn’t live to be 43.

The media vultures gather ‘round his grave
And all now seek to cash in on his pain
And none dare say the words which should be plain:
“He wasted his life in a quest for perpetual fame.”
They changed him from a worker to a rich man
And made him so scared that he needed bodyguards
They twisted up both his mind and his body
And confused his soul completely with girl screams.

To listen to this folk song, you can go to following music site link:

The At Age 42 biographical protest folk song was written shortly after Elvis Presley’s death in 1977. Ironically, one of the earliest times I ever performed before a live audience was when--as a Cub Scout during the 1950s--I played the role of “Elvis Schmelvis” in a satirical skit about U.S. mass media culture that was written by my Cub Scout Den Mother.

To listen to some other biographical protest folk songs, you can check out the “Columbia Songs for a Democratic Society” music site at the following link:

Next: The Anti-War Movements, Now and Then: A 1991 Interview With U.S. Political Prisoner David Gilbert--Part 1

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 15

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-14.)

After the FCC allowed then-Voice owner Murdoch to purchase Metromedia’s television stations in the United States—despite FCC regulations which prohibited U.S. television stations being owned by foreign businesspeople—the right-wing Australian-born global media baron needed to quickly raise more cash to help finance his entrance into the world of U.S. broadcasting during the 1980s. To raise an additional $55 million, he decided to sell the Voice and his stable of Voice writers to the then-Hartz Mountain Industries owner and NYU trustee Leonard Stern in June 1985. Murdoch earned a net profit of about $30 million (in 1980s money) from buying the Voice in 1977 and selling it in 1985.

Former Voice owner Stern, a then-billionaire like Rupert Murdoch, described himself in 1985 as “right of center on defense issues,” according to the New York Times (6/28/85). And a few weeks after Stern purchased the Voice in 1985, the Times reported that “some Voice employees” were “uncomfortable existing under the same corporate roof with Hartz…” and “some Voice staffers speculate that the desire to recoup some respectability he may have lost because of Hartz’s problems could have motivated him to purchase the newspaper…” Stern’s Hartz Mountain Industries had just pled guilty to some white-collar crimes and antitrust law violations. The Times (7/7/85) also reported the following in July 1985, in reference to the billionaire New Jersey real estate developer who owned the Voice alternative media conglomerate between 1985 and 2000.

“Mr. Stern says he intends to take the same brand of…tenacious management to the Voice…And he is convinced that he has captured a prize: `It was the best media property that’s been offered to me in a long time. Hands down.’

After NYU expanded eastward and moved its students into high-rise East Village dormitories, NYU trustee Stern also decided to move the Voice’s editorial offices closer to the East Village during the early 1990s. Yet although the Voice’s pre-tax profits exceeded $8 million per year in 1991, local advertisers had started purchasing less classified ad space in Stern’s newspapers by the early 1990s.

By the 1990s, Voice staff writers and senior editors apparently were earning more money than what most antiwar bloggers, antiwar indymedia journalists and grassroots antiwar activists earn from their antiwar work today. From a $6 million per year editorial budget, the owners of the Voice in 1996, for example, were apparently paying a full-time Voice staff writer $51,000 per year and a Voice senior editor $52,000 per year in 1996. And the Voice’s editor-in-chief was being paid $125,000 per year as long ago as 1996.

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

June 2008 Update on Post-1996 Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History:

Despite its parent company's annual revenues of over $80 million per year, the journalistic quality of the Village Voice newspaper has, predictably, continued to deteriorate since the October 2005 merger of the New Times alternative media conglomerate with the Village Voice alternative media conglomerate created the Village Voice Media alternative media monopoly.

According to the New York Times (10/24/05), 53 percent of the Village Voice Media’s shares are owned by a trust which Village Voice Media chairman James Larkin and Village Voice Media executive editor, Michael Lacey, control—that is financially backed by a Boston-based private equity firm, Alta Communications. In addition, a minority share of the Village Voice alternative media monopoly is held by Wall Street-based investors like Goldman Sachs, Weiss Peck & Greer and Trimaran Capital Partners.

There’s apparently a possibility that the Village Voice staff writers who haven’t yet been laid-off by Michael Lacey and his Boston Back Bay and Wall Street financial backers since 2005 will be going on strike on July 1, 2008, when their existing union contract is set to expire. But until full control of the Village Voice Media’s alternative media monopoly is democratically shifted to the U.S. anti-corporate and anti-war counter-cultural communities and its staff employees in the various cities where it distributes its weekly newspapers, freedom of the press in the U.S. alternative media world will continue to be threatened by alternative media corporatization and U.S. special corporate interests in the 21st-century.

Next: At Age 42 lyrics

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 14

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-13.)

Although former Voice editor/publisher Schneiderman apparently did not find it objectionable to visit Murdoch in his New York Post office, to chat with the Australian right-winger about the Voice and about the Post’s battle with the News, Schneiderman apparently didn’t like to chat with Voice writers during the 1980s. As the New York Times (6/28/85) noted in 1985, “Mr. Schneiderman left the New York Times, where he was assistant editor…to become editor-in-chief of the Voice, but only after his appointment was delayed several months at the insistence of the Voice’s staff” and “Mr. Schneiderman adopted a policy of not socializing with anyone, which he still largely observes…” Schneiderman was willing, however, to socialize with other U.S. Establishment figures, apparently, as a member of the elite Council on Foreign Relations group during the 1980s.

In the Murdoch-Schneiderman Era, the Voice’s paid circulation started to drop, its appeal to people under 25 started to decline, and only 25 percent of its readers were actually residents of Manhattan—despite its large number of Manhattan resident-oriented classified ads. But because its classified ad publishing business had expanded greatly during the Murdoch-Schneiderman Era [before being ultimately hurt by the internet competition of Craig’s list in the 21st-century], its profitability increased to $5 million per year [in 1980s money] in pre-tax profits, despite the early 1980s decline in circulation. During this same period, the Voice axed its then-media criticism columnist, Alexander Cockburn. In The Nation (9/7/85), Cockburn later asserted that “The Voice is…spawned with Democratic reform politics and self-regard” and “Rolling Stone and the Village Voice may be able to coin revenues for their repugnant proprietors but the future is not with them.”

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 15

Monday, June 16, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 13

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-12.)

David Schneiderman, a former editor and top executive at the Village Voice alternative media conglomerate for many years before it merged with Michael Lacey’s New Times alternative media monopoly a few years ago, had secured an MA from Maryland’s Johns Hopkins University in 1970—not from a school of journalism, but from its “School of Advanced International Studies.” He had been quickly pushed into a deputy editor position at the New York Times, prior to being brought Downtown by Murdoch to manage Murdoch’s stable of Voice writers in the late 1970s.

Before assuming his role as Murdoch’s Voice editor in January 1979, “Schneiderman sat in an office for six months,…mapping his strategy until Partridge’s contract was up,” according to Barefaced Cheek. The same book also revealed in 1983 that Murdoch was “obviously happier” with Schneiderman as Voice editor and that “Murdoch…appears to enjoy his…meetings with Schneiderman” and “occasionally” Schneiderman was “on the receiving end of criticism for individual stories, mainly about Murdoch.” Murdoch by William Shawcross also noted that “Schneiderman received the occasional irate telephone call” from Murdoch during the early 1980s.

Barefaced Cheek also revealed that after the Voice printed in 1981 “a thinly-veiled suggestion that the Post was getting a tax reduction on its South Street office building because of its support for Edward Koch, the [then-New York City] mayor,…Murdoch’s senior henchmen phoned Schneiderman to tell him how badly Murdoch viewed it…” The same book also noted in 1983 that “Murdoch clearly trusts” former Voice publisher/president Schneiderman “as much as he trusts anyone working for a paper that does not relate to anything he knows about” and “when David Schneiderman went for one of his meetings about the Village Voice, he found Murdoch bubbling with enthusiasm for the impending battles with the News, asking advice on what moves he should make.”

Coincidentally, one of the first editorial decisions which former Murdoch Magazines editor Karen Durbin made, after Schneiderman named her as Voice editor in 1994 [before she was eventually replaced by a former editor of New York Newsday], was to publish an article that was critical of the New York Daily News owner with whom New York Post owner Murdoch then did “battle with.”

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 14

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 12

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-11.)

Initially, Rupert Murdoch attempted to change the Voice’s editor immediately during the period when he owned the Village Voice alternative media monopoly. As Barefaced Cheek by Michael Leapman noted, “on the Voice the first thing Murdoch did was to try to replace the editor, Marianne Partridge.” The Australian global media baron apparently ordered the Voice editor to report to his New York Post office on January 11, 1977, where he informed her that she was now fired. But when the Voice staff protested against him giving the axe to then-Voice editor Partridge so soon after his purchase of the Voice, Murdoch decided to back off for another year. But during Partridge’s stint as Voice editor under Murdoch’s ownership, Murdoch sometimes telephoned the Voice office “to complain vociferously about stories, nearly always stories about himself or his papers,” according to Barefaced Cheek.

The same book also revealed that Murdoch “was angry when [then-Voice media critic Alexander] Cockburn wrote an article scoffing at Paul Rigby, the Australian cartoonist and an old friend, then working at the Post.” Murdoch also “phoned and said he did not see why he should be vilified in his own newspaper” when “he heard that [the then-left-liberal] Nat Hentoff…was preparing a critical article about the Post,” and “the Hentoff article did not in fact appear,” according to Barefaced Cheek.

On May 10, 1978, however, Murdoch again decided he needed to replace the Voice editor, so he apparently ordered his Voice publisher at that time, Bill Ryan, to fire Marianne Partridge. But again Voice staff complaints caused Murdoch to back off, and Partridge “got to stay—till January 1979, when Murdoch designee, David Schneiderman, would take over,” according to The Great American Newspaper: The Rise and Fall of The `Village Voice'.

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 13

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 11

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-10.)

In February 1976, then-Voice editor Tom Morgan chose to publish a previously-classified copy of a House Committee Report On The CIA—the Pike Report—which had been leaked to the Voice by then-CBS News correspondent Daniel Schorr (who later in the 20th century became a reporter for NPR). But then-U.S. Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller’s son-in-law, Morgan, shortly afterwards decided to resign as Voice editor in September 1976. So Felker next brought in a then-Rolling Stone magazine editor from the outside, Marianne Partridge, to manage his stable of Voice writers.

Australian global media baron Rupert Murdoch then figured it was an appropriate time to gobble-up New York magazine and the Voice [before eventually deciding to purchase the U.S. television stations of Metromedia in the late 1980s and set up a fourth television network, Fox Television, and a right-wing propaganda cable broadcasting organization, Fox News], apparently to reduce expected local media criticism of the way he planned to abuse power as the new foreign owner of the previously-liberal New York Post daily newspaper. Using about $6 million of his recently-acquired New York Post’s general funds and about $1.5 million of his Australian-based News America Company general funds, Murdoch gained control of both New York magazine and the Voice in January 1977, for an eventual cost of about $25 million.

The right-wing Australian global media baron then reached an out-of-court settlement with his former friend, Clay Felker, after Felker went to court to try to block Murdoch’s takeover of the Voice between 1977 and 1985. Since Felker, personally, didn’t own the majority of stock in the then-merged New York magazine/Village Voice company during the New York Magazine/Clay Felker Era (in which Felker took home a salary of $120,000 per year in 1970s money for being the Voice’s executive editor), Felker couldn’t stop the majority of New York magazine/Voice stock from being sold to Rupert Murdoch by twelve other stockholders during the late 1970s.

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 12

Friday, June 13, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 10

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-9.)

During the New York magazine/Clay Felker Era of the Village Voice alternative media monopoly’s history, readers of the Voice apparently grew even more dissatisfied with the newspaper than they had been during the Carter Burden Era, since it became clear that the newspaper had no philosophical or moral anchor anymore. As The Great American Newspaper recalled:

“To any outside observer, it was obvious by early 1975 that the Village Voice was publishing less, not of quantity, but of substance, than it had ever published before…The Village Voice had stopped making trends that others would follow. It had begun itself to follow trends. It was covering—reacting to—events. It was publishing stuff that everyone else in publishing published. It had ceased to be the paper where a new writer could always be discovered, or a new idea always discussed…”

The same book also noted why Voice staff people grew more dissatisfied with the Voice during the New York magazine/Clay Felker Era:

“The crew of editors that came in under Clay Felker…found themselves, to use Movement lingo, inside a participatory police state.

“The problem was that Clay Felker would come down to his new acquisition on Wednesdays for a lunchtime editorial meeting…where the contents and the cover of the next week’s issue would be decided upon and then would come down again on Monday afternoon…charging through the 5th floor, raging and storming about how this story and that picture were not right, how the cover was awful, how everything had to be changed, forcing them to tear up all their plans and start all over again at the last minute. They began to dread living under the gun with Clay…”

Former Voice executive editor-in-chief Felker was apparently not a very mellow guy to work under. As The Great American Newspaper revealed, Felker “threw…screaming fits, howling and wailing and bellowing so that everyone on the entire floor could hear him…” He also again raised the Voice’s newsstand cost to 60 cents (in 1970s money) in late 1976.

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 11

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 9

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-8.)

To pick up another $5 million in 1970s money quickly, in June 1974 then-Village Voice owner Carter Burden and his Wall Street lawyer business partner, Bartle Bull, peddled the Voice off to the then-owner of the previously-competing New York magazine, Clay Felker—for about $2 million more than what Burden had paid to gain control of the Voice in 1970.

In exchange for agreeing to sell the Voice to New York magazine during the 1970s, Burden and Bull also received some New York Magazine/Village Voice Company stock.

Clay Felker and his New York magazine had been launched in the late 1960s by Felker with the financial backing of Aeneid Equities and super-rich folks like Seagram’s then-chairman of the board, Edgar Bronfman, and an investment banker named John Loeb. In 1968, New York magazine had lost $2 million, but by 1973 it had 400,000 readers and an annual profit that exceeded $400,000 in 1970s money. After Felker and the New York magazine corporate board decided it wanted to gobble up the previously-competing Voice, Felker appointed then-New York City powerbroker and Lazard Freres investment banker Felix Rohatyn to arrange the purchase of the Voice’s stable of writers and other properties from Burden.

A few months after merging the Voice and New York magazine, Felker hiked the Voice’s price from 25 cents to 35 cents in Manhattan in August 1974. Not satisfied with one price hike per year, Felker again increased the cost of the Voice to its readers to 50 cents in December 1974. Felker apparently also began to control the Voice’s editorial emphasis in an overt way, named himself the Voice Executive Editor-in-Chief and brought in former liberal New York City Mayor Lindsay’s press secretary (and former U.S. Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller’s son-in-law)—Tom Morgan—to be the Voice editor for awhile.

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 10

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 8

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-7.)

As early as January 1970, the Voice was already controlled by the husband of the CBS media conglomerate board chairman’s stepdaughter--who was also the nephew of a Columbia University trustee and CBS, Lockheed and Pentagon weapons research think-tank director—and by a Wall Street lawyer. And during the Carter Burden Era of the early 1970s, the Voice moved its then-corporate headquarters to University Place and 11th Street in Manhattan and began to operate in a much more corporate-oriented way. As The Great American Newspaper recalled:

“In March of 1970, the paper raised its price to 20 cents an issue. That was only the start of a new profit drive ordered by its absentee owner…The drive continued—the price went up to 25 cents in May 1973…The rates for ads increased…and…so did the number of them…The audience they had was capable of being milked far more than it already was in support of the Voice, overhead was low…and profits actually reached a high of 14 cents on the dollar in 1973…”

Although Burden paid one of the Voice’s founding owners, Dan Wolf, a $72,000 (in early 1970s money) salary to continue to be the newspaper’s editor, Voice writers were initially not paid much more under Burden’s ownership than they had been under the Voice’s original owners. Voice columnists, for instance, were paid less than $95 a week at a time when the Voice’s market value already exceeded $3 million in early 1970s money. This caused some Voice staff people to start grumbling and Voice staff salaries were finally increased somewhat near the end of the Carter Burden Era. Yet as late as March 20, 1974, Voice staff photographer Fred McDarrah made the following complaint in a letter to a Voice manager:

“First of all it is clear to me that the Voice can afford to give me more money because it is the largest paid weekly in the country and there is no two ways about it, it is profitable to somebody…The paper grows in circulation, advertising, income and future profits but I as an individual employee do not benefit by this…It is a poor excuse and a deception to say the Voice can’t pay more…”

The “somebody” to whom the Voice was extremely profitable during the Carter Burden Era was, of course, its then-owner: Carter Burden. By early 1974 it was discovered that he “was dipping into the paper’s cash reserves to liquidate his bank obligations,” according to The Great American Newspaper. The same book also described the reason the super-rich Voice owner suddenly needed to use the Voice’s surplus cash to pay off his personal debts, instead of to finance more investigative reporting:

“His level of annual income was more than handsome enough to suit all but a handful of people in the United States of America for the rest of their lives, but Carter Burden considered himself to be in financial trouble…To the existing credit crunch of his bank loans had been added, in recent months, the extra burden of heavy alimony for his now-divorced wife Amanda, and the decline of his stock portfolio…”

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 9

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 7

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-6.)

By 1968, Mailer had sold 5 percent of his Voice stock to the then-owner of Manhattan’s WMCA radio station, Peter Straus (who later became the director of the U.S. government’s propaganda agency, Voice of America, in 1977). But it wasn’t until 1970 that the three founding owners of the Voice sold control of the publication to super-rich members of the U.S. Establishment and to outside corporate interests.

In 1968 students at Columbia University had occupied university buildings for a week in support of six demands, before New York City’s “liberal” mayor at the time, [the now-deceased] John Lindsay, ordered his cops to clear both Columbia’s buildings and its campus of students, in what turned out to be a bloody police rampage. One of the six demands made was that then-Columbia University Trustee William Burden—who also then sat on the corporate boards of CBS, Lockheed and American Metal Climax—resign his position as then-chairman of the executive committee of the Pentagon’s university-sponsored weapons research think-tank: the Institute for Defense Analyses [IDA].

IDA’s then-executive committee chairman, Burden, was the uncle of 19th Century U.S. robber baron Cornelius Vanderbilt’s great-grandson, Carter Burden.

[The now-deceased] Carter Burden was also then married to the stepdaughter of the then-CBS Chairman of the Board, [the now-deceased] William Paley. CBS Board Chairman Paley, like Carter Burden’s uncle, was also a Columbia University Trustee. After the Voice printed a few articles which were very critical of the Columbia University Administration’s handling of its 1968 student revolt, Carter Burden apparently became interested in buying the Voice. Burden also apparently decided it might help his political career in 1969 if he started negotiating with then-Voice owner-editor Wolf about purchasing the Voice.

Just before Burden started a 1969 primary campaign for a NYC council seat, “a profile of him and his [then] wife Amanda…appeared” in the Voice, “followed by an editorial endorsement from Dan Wolf (in which Wolf revealed to the readers of the Village Voice that Burden was…`the best representative of the new politics running in the primary’…but not the fact that he was a prospective buyer of the newspaper they were reading),” according to The Great American Newspaper. Then, in January 1970, Burden turned both Wolf and Fancher into millionaires overnight by paying them $3 million for 56 percent of the 70 percent of Voice stock which Wolf and Fancher had come to own by that time. Burden also acquired an additional 24 percent of Voice stock by buying most of Norman Mailer and Mailer’s lawyer’s remaining Voice stock, as well as WMCA radio station owner’s Straus’ Voice stock. A Wall Street lawyer who was Burden’s business partner in his Voice acquisition, Bartle Bull, also obtained Voice stock at this time.

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 8

Monday, June 9, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 6

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-5.)

By the end of the 1960s, according to The Underground Press In America by Robert Glessing, “most underground editors, particularly the political radicals,” now found “the Voice timid, if not downright traitorous to their cause.” Jeff Shero, the then-editor of the now-defunct Rat newspaper (another Lower East Side-based counter-cultural newspaper of the late 1960s and early 1970s) told the now-defunct Evergreen Review in 1969, for instance, the following:

“I don’t think it’s sins of commission so much as sins of omission that’s the trouble with the Voice. Like the 21 Panthers now in jail on these trumped up charges. The Voice hasn’t said a word about it, not one word.”

Lesbian and gay male activists were also dissatisfied with the Voice’s coverage of the Gay Liberation Movement, when the Lindsay Administration’s cops in New York City raided the Stonewall gay bar and provoked the Stonewall Rebellion of June 28, 1969. In November 1969, about twenty-four Gay Liberation Movement activists picketed the Voice’s editorial office and representatives went inside to speak with then-Voice publisher Fancher. The gay liberation activists “told Fancher…that they wanted free ad space in his paper, a gay community news section, a gay editorial slant, and gay writers hired on staff” but “to none of this would Fancher give in,” according to The Great American Newspaper: The Rise and Fall Of The `Village Voice’.

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 7

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 5

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-4.)

Ironically, despite the big profits their newspaper took in during the Viet Nam War Era by marketing counter-cultural ideas and descriptions of street protests to its new antiwar readers, neither then-Voice co-owner Wolf nor then-Voice co-owner Fancher “ever marched in a civil rights or antiwar demonstration,” according to The Great American Newspaper. The then-Voice owners were also apparently not very eager to recruit many African-American editors or staff writers during the 1960s era of African-American mass rebellion. As Kevin McAuliffe noted in The Great American Newspaper, “for all the public hand-wringing over White Guilt and Black Power” the Voice “never had a black editor or a black staff writer” during the 1960s.

To attempt to give people in Manhattan a genuinely alternative newspaper during the Viet Nam War Era, Walter Bowart and Allen Katzman scraped together about $5,000 in 1960s money to launch the now-defunct East Village Other (EVO) alternative newspaper from an office at 10th Street and Avenue A, on October 1, 1965. Within three months, its paid-circulation had increased from 2,500 to 7,000 and it was being published on a regular bi-weekly basis.

The Voice apparently felt a competing Lower East Side-based alternative newspaper threatened its profitability. When Voice publisher Fancher heard that Voice news editor-turned-Voice columnist John Wilcock was “going around the Village telling people that the Voice was a dying newspaper and that EVO was `the voice of the future,’ he called him into his office and told him he could not stay at the Voice,” according to The Great American Newspaper. But despite the Voice’s attempt to discourage alternative journalists in the neighborhood from offering Manhattan readers a genuinely counter-cultural newspaper to choose from every other week, by 1969 the East Village Other’s paid circulation had jumped to 45,000 and it looked like its paid circulation would eventually exceed the Voice’s paid circulation.

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 6

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 4

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-3.)

Its lack of hipness, however, did enable the Voice to suddenly attract a large group of culturally-straight New York Times junkies, who were desperate to read any newspaper, after Manhattan’s newspaper strike began on December 7, 1962. By the time the strike ended on April 1, 1963, the Voice’s weekly circulation had jumped from 17,000 to 40,000, it had begun to corner the West Village and Lower East Side market for printing classified ads, and it was on its way to becoming a big money-making machine for its owners—especially since it wasn’t very generous about paying much money to its regular writers. And as U.S. military intervention in Viet Nam escalated during the 1960s—thus creating a much larger antiwar, counter-cultural market for alternative antiwar newspapers—the Voice’s circulation jumped from 41,000 in 1965 to 138,000 in 1969.

After 1969, however, the number of Voice readers failed to increase very much, although its classified ad printing business guaranteed [until the impact of Craig’s list was felt] that it always remained profitable—even when its editorial contents didn’t excite many West Village and Lower East Side residents in Manhattan.

An additional reason the Voice’s circulation increased during the 1960s was that it apparently was helped by the Establishment-oriented Hearst media conglomerate. As The Great American Newspaper revealed, “Dick Deems, an officer in the Hearst publishing organization…eventually interceded on the paper’s behalf when it was having distributor problems” and “when that happened, the Voice got on more newsstands everywhere, which boosted its growth.” Not surprisingly, the Voice was never very eager to publish many exposes’ of the Hearst Dynasty’s media conglomerate.

By 1968, about 18 percent of the Voice’s income was coming from its classified ad sales and about 62 percent from its display ad sales—which sold for about $1,100 per full-page in 1960s money. The number of ad inches printed per issue during the Viet Nam War Era rose from about 1,200 in 1965 to about 3,300 in 1970, as the war escalated. Like the New York Times, about two-thirds of the newspaper was devoted to publishing commercial ads, although the Voice still claimed to be a counter-cultural publication.

Yet despite its many ads and post-1962 newspaper strike profitability, the Voice’s owners did not begin distributing it for free until the late 1990s and, instead increased its newsstand price to 15 cents in 1966 money in May 1966. By 1969, Voice owners were making a profit that exceeded $260,000 per year in 1960s money from their originally money-losing weekly newspaper.

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 5

Friday, June 6, 2008

The 'Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 3

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for parts 1-2.)

Even in its early days, the Voice was not considered hip enough by some people in Manhattan. Initially, Voice co-founder Mailer wrote a column for the newspaper which he owned. But, as J. Kirk Sale noted in a December 1969 article in the now-defunct counter-cultural Evergreen Review magazine:

“Norman Mailer quit after 13 columns because `the Voice was square, not hip.’…Mailer was…right. The Voice was square, patriotic, safe, liberal, and middle class. Still is…”

The Voice’s initial news editor, John Wilcock, also told Evergreen Review the following in 1969:

“The Voice was never far out. I was on to things before they heard of them, and they wouldn’t touch them till they became legitimized somehow, someone else picked them up and said they were OK…It’s become really, a part of the `establishment.’”

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 4

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 2

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly. See below for part 1.)

Voice co-founder Wolf was the husband of a social worker. After his involvement in the world of Manhattan alternative journalism enabled him to become a millionaire by the early 1970s, Wolf turned neoconservative and eventually moved into a City Hall office in 1977 to be an aide and close adviser to then-New York City Mayor Ed Koch.

Voice co-founder Fancher was a Lake Placid, New York prep school graduate who had become a Manhattan doctor. He had also inherited $30,000 (in 1950s money) worth of Orange County Telephone Company stock from his grandfather.

Fancher used part of his inherited utility company stock to come up with the $5,000 that he initially contributed to launch the Voice. [Now-deceased] Best-selling Novelist Mailer also put up $5,000. In exchange for his $5,000 investment, Mailer and his lawyer received 40 percent of the Voice’s stock. In exchange for his $5,000 investment, Fancher and his close friend, Dan Wolf, received 60 percent of the Voice’s stock.

The idea of naming their Manhattan alternative newspaper, “The Village Voice,” however, was apparently not thought up by either Mailer, Wolf or Fancher, but by a woman named Patricia Woods, who worked as an English teacher during the 1950s. Wolf took the title of Voice editor-in-chief, but a hip guy named John Wilcock was named the Voice’s first news editor. Other editorial employees initially included Florence Ellerbert and Jerry Tallmer, who was a former editor of Dartmouth College’s student newspaper. Although Wolf was approaching his 40th birthday when the Voice was first published, “in the first issue he would lie and say he was only 33,” according to The Great American Newspaper: The Rise and Fall of the `Village Voice’ by Kevin McAuliffe.

Before the 1962 newspaper strike by local union people shut down all of Manhattan’s daily major newspapers for 114 days, the Voice was not much of a success, financially. In 1955, it only had a circulation of about 3,000, sold for 5 cents and lost up to $1,000 a week in 1950s money. It didn’t publish many classified ads, though, in those days and, therefore, consisted of only 12 pages.

To keep the Voice from going bankrupt in 1956, Mailer had to pour in about $10,000 more from his literary profits and Fancher had to shovel in another $10,000 from his utility company stock inheritance. But the Voice still had difficulty making money until the 1962 newspaper strike. Between October 1955 and the start of this strike, about $60,000 was lost by the then-alternative newspaper and then-Voice editor-in-chief Wolf had to be “supported by the income brought in by his wife, Rhoda, a social worker,” according to The Great American Newspaper: The Rise and Fall of the `Village Voice’. The Voice’s circulation, though, had risen to about 17,000 on the eve of the big Manhattan daily newspaper strike.

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 3

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The `Village Voice' Alternative Media Monopoly's Hidden History--Part 1

(Most of the following article originally appeared in the October 9, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian Weekly)

“The Village Voice became not something there because of the need for it, to give a voice to voiceless people, but a prize of booty on the battlefield of venture capitalism, something to be looked at and fought over, put into the portfolio of a corporation, used by one individual on the make after another…As of 1977, it had become part of a super-empire…”

--Kevin McAuliffe in The Great American Newspaper: The Rise and Fall of the `Village Voice’ in 1978

Denver’s “alternative” weekly newspaper, the Denver Westword, may not be publicizing on a regular basis the current efforts of local antiwar activists to protest against the Democratic Party-controlled Congress’s failure to end the U.S. military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and impeach Bush and Cheney, by mobilizing antiwar Denver residents to demonstrate outside the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

One reason might be because the Denver Westword is owned by the Phoenix-based Village Voice/New Times “alternative” weekly newspaper chain that also owns the Village Voice, the LA Weekly, the Seattle Weekly, the San Francisco Weekly, the Minneapolis City Pages, the Phoenix New Times, the Dallas Observer, the Orange County Weekly, the Houston Press, the Cleveland Scene, the Nashville Scene, the St. Louis Riverfront Times, the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, the Miami New Times and the Kansas City Patch. In fact, the free circulation of the “alternative” weekly newspapers which the Denver Westword 's out-of-state parent company owns represents 25 percent of the free weekly circulation of all U.S. “alternative” weekly newspapers.

But prior to the 2005 merger between the Wall Street bankers who had purchased the Village Voice from former Voice owner Leonard Stern for $170 million in 2000 and New Times media company owner Michael Lacey, the Voice was also not controlled by its original owners. For--like current Voice/Westword owner Michael Lacey--the Wall Street bankers, former Voice owner Leonard Stern and former Voice owner Rupert Murdoch did not provide the initial money or initial labor that was needed to launch the Village Voice on October 26, 1955. The Voice was actually started by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher and Norman Mailer—using money from Mailer’s bank account and from Fancher’s inheritance.

(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 10/9/96)

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 2

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

`Ballad of Harvey Milk'

He knew the straights would kill him
And many people sobbed
His murderer walked the street
But Harvey Milk lives on!

He came from the East out to San Francisco
He hung with the people on a street they called Castro
He rapped with all the youth who marched against their War
He spread his love around, he mingled with the poor.

He fought to be himself, he fought for the right to love
He linked arms with the people and sensed their vibration
He fought the Establishment, he went to City Hall
He united all his brothers and sisters and the poor.

But the straights are all sore losers and their right-wing thugs have guns
And there are many men like Dan White who do not know how to love
And they want to push the people back into closets and off the streets
For they want us to be passive slaves and mask our deep feelings.

So Dan White snuck into City Hall and gunned Harvey Milk right down
And although Harvey was not armed, his killer freely walked around
And the people then hit the streets, but the media made the jury blind
And Dan White got just 5 short years for taking Harvey’s life.

He symbolized liberation, he symbolized equality
He symbolized the powerless and all those not yet free
They cut him down like cowards to stop the march of history
But the spirit of Harvey Milk still lives in you and me.

The Ballad of Harvey Milk was written during the 1980s after seeing a documentary film about Harvey Milk’s life and his assassination during the 1970s.

To listen to the Ballad of Harvey Milk protest folk song, click on either of the following links:

For more information about Harvey Milk’s life and death, you can check out the following sites:

To listen to some other biographical protest folk songs, you can check out the “Columbia Songs for a Democratic Society” site at the following link:

Next: The Village Voice Alternative Media Monopoly’s Hidden History—Part 1