Greetings, and welcome to the Hampshire County Independent Network blog.
This blog was created initially to advertise an event HCIN sponsored at the Hampshire County public library in March 2008, a presentation, by members of the group DC911 Truth, of the evidence for the controlled demolition of the World Trade Center. We created the blog at DC911 Truth’s suggestion, so we could have an “Internet presence.” Otherwise, we haven’t felt the need to use this blog in the intervening years, because we’re a local group who actually talk to each other, and sometimes email. So the blog hasn’t been necessary for group communication. We’ve also been relatively inactive as a network, and haven’t sponsored any official events since the 9/11 truth presentation.
Most of our political activity, as individuals, has been channeled into electoral or national politics in the last couple of years. But I think we all agree that the payoff for these activities has been mixed, at best. So we are again collectively searching for the best way to express a progressive opinion in the less than progressive political environment here in Hampshire County, West Virginia, which so often seems dominated by the willful ignorance of the Tea Party mentality.
Another point of agreement among the organizers of HCIN is that a big part of the problem of one-sided political bias, locally, is the local newspaper, the Hampshire Review. Now no one is more aware than myself that this may sound like the sour grapes of a former Review columnist. But for seven years, from 1996-2003, I had an insider view of the decision-making process at the Review, and watched the Review opinion page move from Establishment liberals like Steve Ailes and Ken Hechler, who were regular weekly columnists in 1994, to today’s center-right yahoos, who more closely reflect the actual views of Charlie and Sallie See, the Review’s publisher and editor (as well as—it must be admitted—the views of the majority of the local population, transplant and native alike). Charlie has frankly admitted to me his agreement that the press is only truly free for those who own one.
Until recent years, there was the opportunity to engage in a political dialogue in the Review’s letters to the editor column, where a two-letter per month policy allowed for a back-and-forth between opposing viewpoints. These dialogues frequently generated a lot of public interest, and since progressive views are more solidly based in science, logic and fact than conservative views, which generally rely on tradition and so-called “common sense” for their authority, you could sometimes discern a distinctively progressive adaptation in what remained a conservative local consciousness. For example, in an exchange after the 2004 elections, when a letter from a triumphant Republican expressed some anti-gay sentiments, I answered by documenting how the Nazis were also anti-homosexual, and Hitler’s base constituency was rural conservatives. I don’t recall seeing very many, if any, anti-gay letters since then.
But the dialogue in the letters column also sometimes created controversy, which is counter to the Sees’ editorial policy, which can be boiled down to a Babbit-like (if you recall Sinclair Lewis’ novel of that name, about a small town bigshot) local boosterism. Bless their hearts, Charlie and Sallie always want to make the county look good, and in fact do a lot of good for the county. But when they reduced their letters policy to one a month, it muzzled the local political dialogue, which then created a disadvantage for progressive opinion here, because progressivism thrives best when it is honed in rational debate. It even costs money now to write an endorsement letter for a candidate in the Review.
So to fill the political vacuum left by the fact that there is no longer any local progressive voice appearing in the regular columns of the Hampshire Review, nor a real opportunity for useful political dialogue, the principal HCIN organizers—Bill Arnold, Windy Cutler, and myself, Michael Hasty—will start publishing our opinions here at the Hampshire Independent. I guess our model is the alternative newspapers of our youth. We’ll see how things develop, but you are welcome to participate yourself, either by offering comments on a particular post (which I’ll probably leave relatively unmonitored, since I don’t want to spend all day in front of a computer; if things get too weird, I might make some rules, like no anonymity) or by sending me your own submissions on local or national topics for publication as a post. If you’ve got news, with on-the-record witnesses or documents, I’ll post that, too. Send your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It can be honestly said that every generation lives in a unique political moment. But ours—and by “ours,” I mean us boomers and the two adult generations after us—is unprecedented. No generation of humans before us has ever faced the uniquely perfect storm of a collapsing global environment—already in the process of a sixth major extinction, and undergoing climate change already surpassing predictions of its intensity; the disappearance of the very foundation of the global economy, oil, as global oil production has already passed its peak—a phenomenon discussed in Pentagon war games and corporate think tanks, but mostly absent from public discussion; and the slow crumbling of the first truly global empire, as Americans are turned into neofeudal serfs in a system political scientist Sheldon Wolin describes as “inverted totalitarianism.” A uniquely American form of totalitarianism, overseen by the most far-reaching surveillance state any tyrant ever dreamed of, a velvet glove whose steel hand remains, even at this moment of imperial overreach, the most powerful military force in human history. A “corporate-managed democracy” now inhabits the otherwise empty corpse of the American republic that Benjamin Franklin warned us we may lose.
In the face of all that, what can we do but join together locally, talk to each other, and find out what kind of community we really are?
If this blog can help that process, and bring more people into the process, and give us a place to try to follow the light of reason through the darkness of the ignorance and confusion that so often surrounds us, and if we can add an effective progressive voice, absent not only in the Hampshire Review but also in national corporate media, to the local political dialogue, then we can take some satisfaction that the Hampshire County Independent Network is being true to its goals.
We welcome your participation.
- Michael Hasty