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The title of this essay is a slightly modified version of the title Let Truth be the Prejudice, the book that W. Eugene Smith intended to publish as his way of making the world face up to the reality of “the greed, the stupidity, and the intolerances” that he witnessed and documented in his photographs.  As the New Year approaches, each of us, but most particularly those who have taken it upon themselves to expose as he did, both the suffering and the struggles of those who struggle against the conditions of their suffering, should resolve to take up Smith’s words and make them our own.  We also should honor all those who have lived his words; all those who have been imprisoned, beaten, and killed because they let truth be their prejudice.  When we look back on 2018, we will find that it was the year of open war for and against truth, a war which witnessed the unprecedent slaughter and imprisonment of journalists.

Reporters Without Borders noted in its annual report that 80 members of the press have been killed in 2018, at least 60 are currently being held hostage, and nearly 350 are being detained in some.  Of those who were killed an RWB spokesperson said that over 40 were targeted murders.

This year Time magazine recognized jailed and killed journalists as its “person of the year,” including Khashoggi, Maria Ressa imprisoned in the Philippines, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo imprisoned in Myanmar, and staff at the Capital Gazette.

The deadliest country for journalists this year has been Afghanistan, the committee found. Thirteen journalists were killed there, some in back-to-back blasts staged by suicide bombers and claimed by the militant Islamic State group

The attack against journalists and journalism has come not only from Islamic militants but from the mouths of some of the most powerful people in the world.  Trump has attacked “the news” on the campaign trail, on social media, and personally and directly from the Oval Office, even employing the old Communist phrase to define them; they are, in his eyes, “the enemy of the people.”  He has branded news outlets “fake news,” criticized   the press corps for asking “stupid questions” and called reporters “flunkies,” “dummies” and “clowns.”

In many countries, governments have cracked down on the press to stifle dissent, including China, where 47 reporters are currently behind bars, and Myanmar, where two Reuters journalists were each sentenced to seven years in prison.

Governments fiercely critical of the media have only increased their attacks on the press in places like Turkey, Egypt, Vietnam and Eritrea.  https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/2018-terrible-press-220821208.html

The murder, imprisonment and detention of journalists has not gone unnoticed by the world…how could it.  Thousands of voices have risen up in protest, thousands of words written in rage.   Recognition of those journalists, particularly after the murder of Khashoggi, resulted in the Times naming them “Person of the Year.” Also, when the traditional New Year “ball” drops in New York’s Times Square this year, it will be dedicated to protecting press freedom and celebrating the importance of journalism. https://abcnews.go.com/beta-story-container/US/years-eve-ball-drop-celebrate-journalists-press-freedom/story?id=60050545

Yet, even as we pause to remember the journalists who have been killed, beaten, tortured and imprisoned this year in the Truth War, we should also remember that there is a larger, a bigger question at stake here, one which we must also pause to consider.  Bulgakov, in his masterpiece, The Master and Margarita, has Pilate pose it to Jesus, but also to the world: “What is truth?”

When Trump attacks the liberal democratic press calling them the “enemy of the people” there is an element of “truth” in that statement.  We must not forget that the liberal capitalist press voices the perspective of the ruling class, its needs and its wants.  It is the barking dog of the status quo.  It is indeed, more often than not, “false news” that it projects on the screen of people’s minds.  I do not say this to justify the death of any journalist, any newsperson, but rather to make clear that in the war for and against truth, journalists fight on both sides.

So where can we find “truth” in the news?  Well, the revolution in technology that has unified computers, phones, cameras and “typewriters” into one machine and placed them in our hands has provided us with an answer.  Truth is mass communication in which each individual is or can be a journalist, so that truth is to be found in the voice of the common people, speaking from different parts of the world, telling and showing us through pictures the truths of their existence: tales of police brutality, of government suppressions, of the brutalization of women and workers.  The people of France let us see their revolutionary struggles, the farmers of India can show us their resistance, Afro Americans can record the multitudinous physical attacks against them; the seemingly never-ending beatings and shootings. The horrifying abuse of women all over the world are recorded and put before our eyes.  Even Donald Trump understands the power of social media to transcend the controlled news and speak directly to the people.

What is truth? it is what it has always been, the totality of experiences and thoughts of people at different times and in different places.  Totalitarian governments understand this, and it is why control over mass media in all its forms is the cornerstone of their war on truth.

This totality can never be completely communicated or observed, but the more we know the closer we come to knowing truth.  It is also why the alternative press, which brings together the peoples’ news from around the world is so important.  It is why Countercurrents is so important.

Power to the people, and power to the press which gives them a voice.

Happy New Year comrades.

Mary Metzger is a 72 year old retired teacher who has lived in Moscow for the past ten years. She studied Women’s Studies under Barbara Eherenreich and Deidre English at S.U.N.Y. Old Westerbury. She did her graduate work at New York University under Bertell Ollman where she studied Marx, Hegel and the Dialectic. She went on to teach at Kean University, Rutgers University, N.Y.U., and most recenly, at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where she taught the Philosophy of Science. Her particular area of interest is the dialectic of nature, and she is currently working on a history of the dialectic. She is the mother of three, the gradmother of five, and the great grandmother of 2.

 

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