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Open Letter to Trib Columnist

An open letter to Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune, in response to his 9/25 column on local anti-war activism. (For text of this column, see earlier newswire post on local columnists' reactions to anti-war demo).
An Open Letter to Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune

September 25, 2001

Dear Mr. Zorn,

For now, at least, as American citizens who are not likely to be suspected of traveling/walking/existing while Arab, you and I still have our Constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of thought—a right that includes, sadly, your prerogative to abdicate your responsibility to understand the "geopolitical, military, and religious nuances" of the current crisis. I would hope, however, that in choosing to enact such an abdication you therefore intend to excuse yourself from your position as a member of the news media.

The willful ignorance you advocate is the position most beneficial to the military aims of the present U.S. government on the part of its citizens. For those of us who don’t buy paternalistic assurances of "trust us to wage this war and we’ll keep you safe," this government is at work crafting legislation whose language conflates terrorists and dissenters in repealing basic civil liberties.

During the Vietnam war (nostalgia for which now inspires the once-peacenik, now patriot aging Boomers to go so far as to offensively pervert the Civil Rights protest song "We Shall Overcome" into a battlecry for a war against the shadowy, foreign Other embodied in the vague formulation "terrorist"), members of the mainstream news media were instrumental in building popular opposition to the war by exposing both the atrocities of the war and the abuses of government at home. Now, if a stance such as yours is to be viewed as at all representative of those of your colleagues, I fear exactly the opposite will be true. By refusing complex analysis, by publicly declining to formulate intelligent critique of the actions of your government or your culture, you fail in your responsibility as a journalist.

One of the things of which you refuse complex analysis is the current anti-war movement. While quoting bits and pieces of the Left’s output, you make no attempt to acknowledge or understand the systemic understanding of global politics offered by what you characterize as a "gratuitous" inclusion of a "grab-bag of political ideas." What you superficially cast as haphazard and opportunistic is in fact a complicated insistence that the forces of global capital are directly implicated in the climate of global power imbalance that has fostered rage at the United States potent enough to kill and die for. It is not only the fact that the present nationalistic frenzy has inspired an explosion of racist violence right here in Chicago and across this country, but also the blatant racism of American global economic domination, that makes a multivalent movement opposing both war and racism extremely logical and cohesive. And incidentally, what you failed altogether to note is that the Chicago Ad-Hoc Coalition also lists the preservation of civil liberties on its platform.

A systemic analysis of global capital has been offered all along by the growing worldwide voice of dissent that careless journalists such as yourself have mis-labeled the "anti-globalization movement," and whose tactics you’d become fond of equating with those of terrorists long before September 11. This is a movement that values participatory democracy and an open forum of ideas—and as such, runs the risk that sloppy, uncritical infotainment-providers will attribute the position of one individual to the entire movement—not to mention brand us with ridiculous non-words like "peacemonger."

If you bothered to research your work even marginally, you’d know that the Independent Media Center is not a "local anti-war Web site" but a worldwide network of autonomous journalists and media producers who have been working for years to craft a counterbalance to the information-devoid, anti-intellectual, formulaic writing that passes for news from corporate media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune.

Finally, it does not even require a complex analysis to conclude that militaristic action will do anything but bring the world to a state of peace. Yes, the decision not to use "peace" in the title of the anti-war coalition was deliberate: the Left is not as stupid as you might think, and recognizes that the word and symbol of "peace" have long since been co-opted by those who advocate its opposite. With any luck, the majority of Americans are also not as stupid as the mainstream media seems to think, and won’t buy your suggestion that they decline to form their own opinions.


Kathryn Rosenfeld





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