<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Publisher:
Al Giordano


Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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Giordano Wins Upton Sinclair Award for Press Freedom

With Krassner, Flanders, Goodman, Robbins, Invited to Receive Award on May 15th in the Port of Los Angeles


By Adam Saytanides
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

April 4, 2004

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California will honor Narco News publisher Al Giordano at the Second Annual Upton Sinclair Freedom of Expression Awards on May 15 in San Pedro, California.

The fledgling Upton Sinclair Freedom of Expression Awards – known as “the Uppies” – are the brainchild of Dan Pasley, director of the San Pedro Alternative Media Council. The South Bay Chapter of the ACLU of Southern California sponsors the awards ceremony.

Return to Liberty Hill

Muckraking author Upton Sinclair was arrested on May 15, 1923 for reciting the US Constitution Bill of Rights before a group of striking longshoremen in San Pedro, at a place called – ironically enough – “Liberty Hill.”

Sinclair was detained under an archaic and unconstitutional law, the California Criminal Syndicalism Act, which took away citizens’ rights to freedom of assembly if a group was deemed “seditious.”

Sinclair’s stand on Liberty Hill “was the proximate cause for the founding of the ACLU of Southern California and established a clear and effective voice for First
Amendment freedom,” Pasley explains. “He was the author of over ninety books, was largely self published, and frequently had to subsidize his work from his meager income. His voice continues to lead the fight today.”

Giordano joins seven other journalists and media personalities selected for this year’s Uppies. Other recipients include radio personality and political commentator Laura Flanders, now with the new Air America national talk radio network, long-time Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, and author-comedian Paul Krassner. Tim Robbins has been offered an Uppie for his controversial play Embedded, which addresses media coverage of the war in Iraq, though his presence at the awards ceremony has yet to be confirmed.

Last year’s Uppie award winners included comedian George Carlin, who set off a wave of controversy (and lawsuits with his “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” act); Norman Solomon, syndicated columnist and co-author of Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You; and David Barsamian, host and producer of Alternative Radio and co-author of several books with noted academic Noam Chomsky.

For many Uppie honorees, Sinclair was an important inspirational figure early on in their development.

“I’m not into awards but this one meant a lot to me because as a kid I read The Jungle and it made a tremendous impact on me,” Barsamian tells Narco News. “It was the first political book I ever read.”

Solomon returns to host the awards this year, and he sounds excited to see Giordano reach the stage to claim his Uppie.

Viva la Diferencia

“I’m a big fan of Al Giordano and the Narco News project. The difference between truly independent journalism and the mass-media variety is the difference between actual fruit and a synthetic chemical,” Solomon declares.

“The independence exemplified by Al Giordano and Narco News is inspiring… it suggests the real potential of journalism. Authentic hard-hitting journalism is about unearthing difficult truths and breaking dishonest silences,” Solomon insists, “instead of [acting] in deference to the powerful.”

The idea of the Uppie is to encourage such fortitude, and to spotlight the efforts of authors and journalists on the “fringes,” says Pasley. “This was the hallmark of Sinclair. Get the story out. Be the media.”

If independent sources of news and information “cannot survive for economic or censorship reasons, or apathy, then the documentation of history is missing important pieces,” and they “must be nurtured and encouraged,” Pasley says. “The School of Authentic Journalism is important in this regard.”

Paul Krassner knows a little something about “the fringes.” He coined the term ‘Yippie,’ which was adopted as a name for the counter-cultural movement led by anti-war activist Abbie Hoffman, among others, in the 1960s. He published The Realist magazine from 1958-74, which developed a cult following, and he continues to write columns, books, and produce comedy CD’s.

Together Again

A dear friend of Giordano’s, Krassner thinks the philosophy behind his comedic exploits is shared by Narco News.

“It’s about having both irreverence and information about those who use power without compassion,” he says. Then, of course, you go after them.

“The targets are usually people in positions of authority who make their decisions on the basis of maintaining power rather than to help people and especially those who are hypocritical in the process,” Krassner continues. “Take William Bennett the former drug czar. He said ‘hypocrisy is better than having no values at all.’ That was the ultimate spin.”

A product of the hallucinogen-soaked 60s, Krassner takes special delight in picking at the contradictions behind the global “War on Drugs.”

To Krassner, “the war on drugs is actually a war on some people who use some drugs, sometimes: namely, the ones not manufactured by corporations.”

He points out that much of the original funding for the Partnership for a Drug Free America came from pharmaceutical, alcohol and tobacco companies.

In Krassner’s upcoming book – Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs: From Toad Slime to Ecstasy – he argues that people ought to have the right to take whatever mind-altering substances they desire.

“For me the bottom line is, as long as any government can arbitrarily decide which drugs are legal and which drugs are illegal, than anyone who’s in prison for drug use is a political prisoner.”

Publisher’s Acknowledgement: Thanks to our colleague Adam Saytanides, graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism (2002), of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism (2003), and professor for the upcoming 2004 session, for reporting and writing such a nice article about my receipt of this award. I will go to Los Angeles on May 15th to accept it and immediately share it with every single journalist who has participated in the Narco News project, without whom nobody would be giving me any awards.

Additionally, this sort of thing doesn’t happen every day, and I want to make the best of it to benefit the entire project and its future. I’ve consulted with Andrew Grice, treasurer of The Fund for Authentic Journalism, who will accompany me to Los Angeles and San Pedro for the awards ceremony, where I’ve been asked to give a 25 minute speech. There, in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, The Fund for Authentic Journalism will host a gala fundraising event on Sunday, May 16th (location and time to be announced) specifically to allow us to invite more Authentic Journalism scholars to this year’s School of Authentic Journalism.

If, kind reader, you live in the Los Angeles area, or will be in the region in mid-May, or have friends and allies there, please help The Fund to organize an event, and invite good people to contribute to that event, that makes wishes come true for more J-School scholars of the quality of those who are requesting applications – via solicitud@narconews.com – and who are working very hard, filling them out right now. Of everything we do here at Narco News, the J-School is the project that most concretely changes lives and destinies of the leaders of the journalistic vanguard, and builds a foundation for the future of the Authentic Journalism renaissance. An award is just an award. But if we can, together, turn it into a hand up and a fighting chance for the next generation of Authentic Journalists, then it will maximize its purpose.

There, at that event, we will announce the winners of the 2004 Narco News School of Authentic Journalism scholarships.

Wanted: 100 New Friends in Los Angeles (and environs) to organize and attend The Fund for Authentic Journalism’s first fundraising event, and the announcement of the 2004 scholarship recipients. If you are one of those auténticos or auténticas angelinas, please contact Andrew Grice at info@authenticjournalism.org and lend a hand. Or, why wait for the gala event? Just go ahead and give, because the journalist you save will be informing you for years to come of news and information that, if not for his and her hard work, you will not otherwise know. You can do that right now, via this link:

http://www.authenticjournalism.org/scholarship_fund.html

People like me don’t get awards. It is you, everyone who supported us and brought Narco News back to life, who can savor this special occasion and, together, make it count for something, and someone and ones, more.

Al Giordano

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America