November 25, 2012
Founded in 1998, AlterNet is an online progressive news magazine that publishes original articles and also redistributes news stories from other independent media outlets. Visited by some 1.7 million readers per month, the AlterNet website aims “to inspire citizen action and advocacy on the environment, human rights and civil liberties, social justice, media, and health care issues.” Alternet is a program of the Independent Media Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “strengthening and supporting independent and alternative journalism.”
Specific topics that regularly draw AlterNet’s attention include: the suggestion that women who choose to forego a career to raise children “could be making a huge mistake”; the threat posed by the “religious right”; philosophical justifications for high taxes as public policy; the current income tax system’s inequities against women; Republican scandals; the dangers of global warming; sexism in the United States; America’s “bloated prison system and its tremendous financial and moral cost to our society”; the Bush administration’s mismanagement of the Iraq War; characterizations of the “war on drugs” as “an assault” on the poor; and the need for socialized medicine.
AlterNet identifies three major “challenges” toward which it directs its efforts on a daily basis:
The right-wing media machine: “The scope of conservative media is vast. … The ability of the right-wing media apparatus to dominate public discourse is at the expense of liberal and progressive values and represents a fundamental transformation in American politics. This is what we are fighting against.”
The negative impact of right-wing media: “Over the past two decades conservative media has had a huge impact, and the results are disconcerting. First, most conservative media uses an ideological propaganda model that results in a more ignorant audience.”
Building the progressive “echo chamber”: “The top-down delivery model of right-wing rhetoric … traces a path directly from the White House and conservative think tanks, to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and a whole host of conservative talk shows. These messages are repeated and further reinforced on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers, creating a right wing echo chamber. AlterNet is working hard with many partners to build the progressive echo chamber that will fight back.”
AlterNet columnists include, among others, Amy Goodman, co-anchor of the radio and television program Democracy Now!; author and professor Robert Scheer; Norman Solomon, founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Public Accuracy; and media personality Arianna Huffington.
The Executive Editor of AlterNet is Don Hazen, former publisher of the San Francisco-based Mother Jones, a bimonthly socialist magazine and website. In the late 1990s, Hazen organized the Media & Democracy Congresses that sought ways to merge progressive activism with alternative media. In addition, he helped manage the political campaigns of New York City Democrats Ruth Messinger and (former mayor) David Dinkins. Says Hazen, “The country is sick and tired of war, corruption, hypocrisy, ignoring global warming, lack of healthcare, and the colossal failure of Republicans across the board.”
AlterNet’s Senior Editor is Jan Frel, who previously worked on the 2004 presidential campaign of Howard Dean and for the news website TomPaine.com.
AlterNet has also published a number of books, including a 2002 screed titled After 9/11: Solutions for a Saner World, a collection of 42 articles that “untangl[e] the knot of our new post-9/11 landscape, tackling every subject from civil liberties to Islamic fundamentalism to economics to sex.” Contributors to the book included: Bill Moyers, Barbara Ehrenreich, Barbara Lee, Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, Marc Cooper, Michael Klare, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Stephen Zunes, Arianna Huffington, and Robert Reich.
Following the 2004 presidential election, AlterNet published Start Making Sense: Turning the Lessons of Election 2004 into Winning Progressive Politics. This book featured interviews with such notables as MoveOn.org co-founder Wes Boyd and Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern. It also contained articles by leftist blogger Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and then-Illinois Congressman Barack Obama.
In January 2008 an Alternet op-ed piece by Chuck Collins advocated massive tax hikes on “big corporations and the rich” as a means of strengthening the American economy. Wrote Collins:
Underlying our economic crisis is a polarization of income and wealth. Real wages for working people have been stagnant for decades … On the other end of the wealth spectrum, the superrich have so much money that they are engaging in speculative investments in search of maximum returns…. Congress should pass a ‘bottom up’ stimulus package and pay for it with taxes on the rich.… These measures would [address] the root of our current economic distress, the extreme inequality of wealth and power.
AlterNet is the creator and host of WireTap Magazine, an online publication that seeks to bring progressivism to contemporary youth culture. In its sub-sections titled “Youth Activism,” “Immigration,” and “Racial Justice,” WireTap posts stories that “foster dialogue, challenge stereotypes, inspire action, and give young people a voice in the media.” A project of the Tides Center, WireTap is a strong backer of Noam Chomsky and the United For Peace and Justice antiwar coalition.