The progressive community in Fresno had some excitement in April, which seemed to start with whether local community groups should co-sponsor and sell tickets to the Michael Parenti/Victor Hanson debate. The theme of the debate was about U.S. foreign policy, empire and imperialism. Parenti is progressive and Hanson is well known locally as a conservative.
The argument against the debate was that the Sunbird Conservative group was organizing the event and that radio station KMJ was a co-sponsor. Progressives supporting the debate looked forward to the opportunity of hearing two competent speakers civilly discussing an important foreign policy issue. Free speech and the often sought after concept of “not just preaching to the choir” were other arguments made in favor of participating in the event.
You can read more about the debate and the controversy surrounding it on page 1.
The debate controversy most significantly affected Peace Fresno, where several members of its Board of Directors left over disagreements surrounding this issue. About 30 people showed up at the Peace Fresno April 13 meeting to support president Camille Russell and board member Dan Yaseen, who were backers of the debate. None of those opposed to the Parenti/Hanson event came to the meeting. It was good to see Fresno’s progressive community uniting behind their leaders and for principled debate on important issues.
I’m a strong advocate for free speech and look forward to future opportunities where the left and right can engage in a dialog about important issues facing this community and nation. It is by having access to information that challenges us to critically examine our world that will improve our democratic process. That is why I was troubled when I received an article from a CSUF student this month who was adamant that we not use his name. He is absolutely convinced that he will be expelled or disciplined for sharing the information in the article which is on page 13. It is a sad state of affairs when students live in such fear for writing the truth about what is going on at their school. What has become of academic freedom at CSUF?
One bright spot on the horizon for free speech in the Fresno/Clovis area is the emergence of the Public, Education, and Government access channels on the Comcast cable network. Soon, we will have a Community Media Center, access to great video equipment, computers where we can digitally edit the video and a channel where we can share our work. The Public access channel will be available to everyone and the services will be free, all part of an agreement between the cities of Fresno and Clovis with Comcast. This might just be the largest soapbox this area has ever seen. For more information about this opportunity, see the Community Media Access Collaborative (CMAC) Web site at www.cmacfresno.org.
This area is fortunate to have a significant number of alternative/independent sources of information. We have three monthly newspapers – the Community Link (LGBTQ), the Undercurrent (lots of art and music) and the Community Alliance. You can listen to KFCF 88.1 FM for news and information from a progressive perspective. You can even watch Democracy Now! on channel 49 (Comcast channel 9) every evening M-F at 6 p.m. Democracy Now!, of course, is Amy Goodman’s award-winning news show.
Recently, I was asked why the Community Alliance newspaper does not provide space for conservatives to present their point of view in these pages. The answer is simple – the right has control of most of the mainstream media. Their message gets out loud and clear over Fox, KMJ radio and other corporate media outlets. The purpose of the Community Alliance newspaper is to give a voice to progressives and help build a movement for social change.
Although we support the efforts of groups like CMAC to provide a free speech platform in this area, this newspaper does not have the resources to reproduce the right’s rhetoric. We figure you get enough of that elsewhere. Now, if KMJ and other corporate media outlets wanted to give us equal time to present our views through their outlets, we will open up our pages to their commentators. . . but, that is probably not going to happen.
It is the building of a movement for social change that the Community Alliance newspaper is all about. It is my hope that you will not only read this newspaper but become involved in many of the activities written about in the paper. There will be a big immigrant rights march on May 1, environmental justice issues (see page 4) to address, cultural and musical events to attend and a vibrant movement to be a part of. We also have a fantastic analysis of the financial crisis (see page 1), which we are reprinting from Rolling Stone magazine. Find out how Wall Street looted Main Street! All of this and more for you in the May issue of the Community Alliance newspaper.
Mike Rhodes is the editor of the Community Alliance newspaper. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.