Happy New Year! A Reflection on 20 Years at Truthout

The New Year’s holiday is a time for memories, for an accounting of the span you’ve just passed, for an assessment of where you are now, and for looking down the road and making wild-ass guesses about where you’ll be a year from now.

This New Year’s Eve is particularly poignant for me, as January 2022 marks 20 years I’ve been writing and working for Truthout. Trying to wrap my mind around it is a challenge, to say the least… 20 years! I was a 30-year-old teacher and writer. I had a manageable weight, little gray hair and a surprising sunny disposition. September 11, 2001 had just occurred, the Afghanistan War was barely underway, while the serial horrors that would follow the Iraq War were still ahead.

Now? Let’s just say that sunny disposition has a few dings and scuffs in it. I’ve been riffling through memories as this anniversary has approached, and each has left me more gobsmacked than the last.

After the Iraq invasion, I was staying in an upstate New York hotel. Donald Rumsfeld, along with his team of wreckers, had been working overtime to convince Americans that Iraq was full of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), that an attack was imminent. I happened past the hotel manager’s office, and what do you know? I found a whole bunch of plastic sheeting and duct tapeIn case Saddam Hussein decides to gas New Paltz, it was placed on the floor.

There were all the times George W. Bush lied and got away with it, thanks in no small part to a co-opted, timid, post-9/11 “news” media. There was the time Dick Cheney refused to give his official papers to the National Archives because, he argued, the vice president’s office was not part of the executive branch. Another incident was when he shot a man in his face. The guy eventually apologized to him. The time when Barack Obama blew off Abu Ghraib and the horror of CIA black sites with a blithe, “We tortured some folks.” The time when Donald Trump was actually president for four years. The time when President Biden was (!) His domestic agenda was sabotaged in the name of fellow Democrats.

The time… God save us all, the time…

In the very first articleI wrote for Truthout 20 years ago, I concluded with the following paragraph: “It is one thing to coddle and court a corrupt energy company for political and financial gain. It is quite another to court a terrorist-supporting, murderous regime to exploit valuable natural resources. The latter cost many people their retirement savings. The latter has cost thousands their lives. Both are criminal. The other is unacceptable. Both are deeply connected to George W. Bush. There will be hell to pay.”

That’s the thing, though: There wasn’t, hasn’t been, and probably never will be any hell paid whatsoever. If you told me 20 years ago that things would be worse today, I’d have found it hard to believe. We are now mired in a deadly global pandemic that has no end in sight. Mothership capitalism, which is always bad, has become worse. This has made the climate worse and is now a serious threat to our existence. Politics is also worse. The money involved in politics is even worse. Gun violence is worse. The Republican Party’s hard right turn toward overt fascism is worse. The Democrats’ ossified leadership and its talent for dropping bombs on its own boats is worse, though the newly muscular Congressional Progressive Caucus may have words about that ere long.

I started this job to improve the quality of life. I stuck with TruthoutBecause we are a unionshop that is committed to the same cause, and because our reader-donors are our only benefactors. No hedge fund scumbag will ever decide to sell tomorrow. TruthoutParts.

You can’t imagine what that means for a political writer in such an untethered environment: Because of our generous readers, I am able every word to be me because of the freedom afforded by them. I can now say that after 20 years, I have never sold my beliefs or principles in print to placate a pissy stockholder, or nervous advertiser. None of us have. We have never done it before.

That’s enough for now. If I could wish for anything, it would to get another twenty years to do this.

Likely as not, though, I’ll be back here in 20 years talking about the day we lost Boston and New York to the Atlantic Ocean. Or maybe not. That’s the thing about tomorrow: It’s only a rumor. The rest is upto us.

Happy New Year to all. Thanks from my heart for the 20, and God help us, here’s to 20 more. Strong hearts.