After 9/11

By Seeta Peña Gangadharan, 10 March 2002

In 1987, AlterNet was born in a small, sweaty office in Washington, DC. Its primary function: to help the struggling, non-mainstream weekly papers find content for their often-empty pages. For fourteen years since, AlterNet has filled, and even ‘fluffed’ the pages of these news weeklies with syndicated stories written by freelance writers and independent publications on progressive American Left topics.First distributed the old-fashioned, hard-copy way, then later by fax blast, AlterNet never acquired the status of other independent media – not even after its full transition to an online format in 1999.

On September 11, however, was transformed. Immediately, it became the trusted news source for anyone wanting to learn information or hear perspectives un-primed by the propagandistic pump of the Bush Administration, Pentagon or major media. As executive editor, Tamara Straus remarks in the organisation’s recent anthology, After 9/11: Solutions for a Saner World, Web traffic increased by 500% to nearly half a million visitors.

The reasons for the spike are explicit in this noteworthy collection of news and commentary: journalists, writers, academics and cult pundits investigate a vulnerable American psyche through the untouchables of major media. People, history and ideologies discussed in After 9/11 range from youth to subaltern, from covert, Cold War actions to internment of American Japanese during World War II, and from anti-corporate globalisation to public health advocacy. Acutely forthcoming in its disparateness, After 9/11 manages to bind together the novelist Arundhati Roy, academic Edward Said, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney (interviewed by labour writer Marc Cooper), hip hop journalist Oliver Chang, feminist Barbara Ehrenreich and nearly forty other writers.

Given the paltry number of independent viewpoints expressed in both American and international media, After 9/11 conveys a mild sense of relief: at least these writers and journalists have posed questions that no one else is willing to ask. And beyond explaining the context of the current crisis, the book rallies readers to confront problems with solutions. Both timely and historical, After 9/11: Solutions for a Saner World is a critically engaging source of news and opinion.

Seeta Peña Gangadharan is a freelance writer and media activist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She contributes to, Television Race Initiative/Active Voice, The Wire and Art News

After 9/11: Solutions For A Saner World // AlterNet // 187 pages // Independent Media Institute // 2002 // ISBN 0963368710 // $15.00 //