Our News Team Worked Harder for You in 2011, so Please Donate to Keep It Going
By Al Giordano
(Yours truly at a May 2011 press conference of the Mexican Movement for Peace and Justice with Dignity in Mexico City, with a team from the School of Authentic Journalism. DR 2011 Marta Molina.)
Dear Colleague: It’s been a while since you got a fund appeal from us; six months, in fact. And it’s not been for the lack of need. It’s simply that we have been too busy keeping up with the news and the training of sufficient journalists of talent and conscience to keep up with and report the amazing events of 2011, The Year of Civil Resistance.
If you’re one of the reliable year-in, year-out supporters of Narco News, The Field and the School of Authentic Journalism, you know that we write you today because once again we need your help, and you don’t need to read “the pitch” to do your part. You know that you can make a tax-deductible contribution to The Fund for Authentic Journalism online, right now, at this link:
Or you can send a check to:
The Fund for Authentic Journalism
PO Box 1446
Easthampton, MA 01027 USA
We’d like you to know that up to $20,000 in your contributions will again be given matching support by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, another organization whose ideas' time had come in 2011. That means if you give $100 you’ll generate $200 toward our work, that $10 will equal $20, so on and so forth.
Thank you, in advance, for your contribution today. Still, you might want to read on, because 2011 has been a year to rejoice and never forget, and I’ll summarize for you here why our work, and your support, is now more vital and urgent than ever.
2010 seems an eternity ago. That’s when, among the graduates of the Narco News School of Journalism, Noha Atef, taught us all about the struggle in her country that was happening on the ground but ignored by the international media. And that’s when, with Noha, we produced the video, Torture In Egypt, that went “viral” (30,000+ viewers in English and 65,000+ in Arabic) only months before the January 25 revolution in her land that toppled a dictator, continues to dismantle the dictatorship, and inspired a global wave of nonviolent civil resistance that promises to grow even larger as 2012 is about to begin.
Before winter was over, Narco News TV director Greg Berger and I had found ourselves in Cairo, interviewing the young organizers and media makers of the Egyptian revolution for a series of online videos on how the revolution was won, focusing intensely on the strategies and tactics developed there.
From Cairo we headed to Madrid and led a workshop for independent journalists from the other hemisphere with the curriculum developed over the past eight years at the School of Authentic Journalism. And while we take no credit for it at all, we were thrilled to see, two months later, the civil resistance methods Narco News has championed for years – long before the rest of the media paid them any attention at all – take root throughout Spain and much of Europe with its still-young “indignados” movement.
When we were in Cairo a week prior, utilizing an apartment of a new friend half a block from Tahrir Square, Greg Berger said to me: “Can you imagine living a half block from where a revolution happens? I live in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Nothing ever happens there!”
We returned to Mexico on March 24. Three nights later, the Mexican poet and journalist (and decade-long friend of Narco News) Javier Sicilia lost his son to drug war violence near that city of Cuernavaca. The Cuernavaca city square – known as the zócalo – became the focal point for the birth of what is now, nine months later, the world’s largest mass movement to end the war on drugs and its first explicitly nonviolent one. Javier Sicilia wrote an essay at that moment of grief and despair that Narco News immediately translated to English – in it, he repreated the phrase, “We Have Had It Up to Here” – and which galvanized mass protests against the drug war within a few weeks in 27 Mexican cities and many throughout the world, too.
In many ways, this was the moment that Narco News and our reporting had been building toward since we began publishing on the 18th of April of 2000 (only weeks prior we had produced the viral video about the drug war violence in Cuernavaca, Spring Breakers Without Borders). Over that decade, Mexican public opinion had crystalized in opposition to the prohibitionist drug policy and with the poet Sicilia’s good works found its language and voice to speak it.
Those of you who remember when Narco News was born, in fact, may remember that we predicted this moment with our first words, almost 12 years ago:
“Mexico, unique among American nations, has the power to call Washington's bluff. The US blusters against Mexico daily, but its threats are hollow. The US armed forces cannot invade Mexico: the turmoil and economic damage that military intervention would cause inside the United States would turn even US citizens against their government. Nor can the US impose an economic blockade or boycott against Mexico: Every time the peso falls in relation to the US dollar, another million Mexicans stream over the border. And immigration, for US politicians, is a far more deadly issue than drugs.
“The US press corps has missed the big story out of Mexico. A Mexican drug legalization movement is, by whispers, assembling into a critical mass...”
A lot of people thought we were crazy then. You didn’t. Or even if you did, you still kept us reporting and training new generations of journalists to do this work. The truth is that this Mexican movement against the drug war is shaping history already whether or not TIME magazine declared Sicilia one of its persons-of-the-year last week. I remember last April, practically shaking other news media correspondents by the collar, telling them, “this is something big! Don’t miss the story of your lifetimes!” And they all told me, every single one, that I was nuts, that they didn’t see anything coming of it, that nothing ever changes in Mexico. Of course, today, they’re all looking at last week’s issue of TIME and kicking themselves for having missed the big story.
But Narco News did not miss this story. We have been the international media that has reported it most frequently, coherently and effectively at every step the Mexican movement has taken. We’ve also brought you an inside look into the strategies and tactics of the movement so that they may be replicated in other lands and have functioned, publishing all our works in Spanish, too, as an important communications system for participants in that movement. Our archives for 2011 are now the first draft of a making of history that continues into 2012.
Sicilia, long a student of the nonviolent strategies and tactics of Gandhi, understood from the moment he inspired the movement that protests, alone, do not make big changes. In less than a year, he and those who work alongside him, have introduced the ideas of nonviolence into a country whose political movements have long fetishized armed insurrections whether or not they achieved their goals. The Mexican movement in April began mobilizing, in May marched massively and silently on the national capital, in June led a caravan of hundreds north to Ciudad Juárez, the US border city and epicenter of the pain inflicted on the people by today’s drug policies. In September the movement led a similar caravan to the southern border with Guatemala.
If you’ve been reading Narco News’ extensive coverage, you’ve been with those mobilizations and caravans at every step as if you were physically there. And you also know that these public events are not even half the work that this movement is doing, that, beyond the lights of media glare it has quietly organized family members of more than 50,000 dead and 10,000 disappeared in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon declared “war” in December 2006. It’s not just a story of protest, but also about community organizing.
In many ways, Narco News came full circle in 2011. A decade ago, many read and supported our work because we prosecuted against the falsehoods of the war on drugs, a job that Bill Conroy and others on our news team continue valiantly doing, week in, week out, today. Some shook their heads when we began focusing on other kinds of social movements in Latin America. They didn’t understand what that had to do with the drug war. When we began, in 2002, recruiting (mostly young) journalists and communicators to train them in what we do through the School of Authentic Journalism, others, still, didn’t get it. In 2008, when, through The Field, I began covering US politics through the eyes of a community organizer, still others furrowed their brows and scratched their heads. And earlier this year, when we embarked from this hemisphere into the Arab Spring, we lost some important funding from longtime supporters who must have wanted us to focus more exclusively on Mexico and Latin America.
Well, truth is, for eleven years major funders have come and gone, but you, one reader, sitting at home or at work, keeping yourself informed on what is really happening South of the Border and elsewhere, and tossing us a few coins whenever we’ve asked, you’ve made us independent of reliance on any one source to do this work. You are the reason for this ongoing miracle of authentic journalism.
Suddenly, with the Mexican movement to end the war on drugs, all the different threads that may have once seemed as tangents from our work – exposing the drug war, reporting on social movements, studying the strategies and tactics of civil resistance, nonviolent campaigns and community organizing, and training an army of communicators who know how to report on those things - have come woven together into one gigantic wave that has you and us together on its crest, riding it forward into the future. And the most immediate battle ahead is the one we began with: Ending the drug war from the bottom up, from the land that has been most devastated by it in this young century. It’s really happening. Oh, right, you know that because you’ve been reading Narco News!
It’s been a lot of hard work this year. I can’t deny that. It’s why you haven’t received as many fund appeals from us in 2011. We had the need, but we didn’t have the time! But now, at the end of the year, a time of reflection for many, I ask you to reflect: Had we been nagging you all year long, how many donations do you think you would have made? One? Two? A monthly pledge? Think of what you have done in previous years. And then please consider rolling it all up into one year-end donation to keep this project working for you.
There are many worthy projects and causes asking for you help at this time of year. We respect that. But there is only one Narco News and only one School of Authentic Journalism. More than 1,100 people from every continent have written us this month for applications to our upcoming j-school in March 2012. They understand the importance of learning to do this work and are ready to give you their time – for many, it will mean dedicating their youth, or even their lives, to it – and now we need you to do your part and support them, and support us to train them and to keep a shining example of what journalism should be alive in an epoch when few media even come close.
This is your online newspaper. We do it for you and you have always been the one to make it possible.
You keep making it possible by making your donation – one that will be doubled by matching support – via this link:
Or by sending a check to:
The Fund for Authentic Journalism
PO Box 1446
Easthampton, MA 01027 USA
If 2011 was The Year of Civil Resistance then help 2012 become the year that these effective strategies and tactics – including that of authentic journalism, which assures that they happen with the attention of the world upon them – emerge to put the drug war on the defensive as never before and bring us all giant steps closer to a more sane and less harmful policy throughout “a country called América” and the world.
You know what else a lot of people learned in 2011? That we’re not crazy, and neither are you. We were all just a little bit ahead of our times. But the hour has not yet come for anybody to rest on his or her laurels. Now is the moment to double down on all the time, labor and investment we have made, to remember the friends and allies we have lost to the ultimate sacrifice along this path of struggle, and to do them justice as we create a better world for our children and grandchildren.
Everything is possible.
And everything is to be done.
From somewhere in a country called América,
Founder, Narco News