The April-May issue of the online alternative fashion magazine IMT Styles (for “I made that”) has a feature on WW4 REPORT—including an interview with WW4R editor Bill Weinberg by IMT Styles editor Tiffany Brown. We’re happy to make this unlikely connection. The sexy/homespun IMT Styles proves that just because folks reject consumerist culture doesn’t mean they have to be dour, frumpy intellectual hippies (although we at WW4 REPORT are). Here’s the interview:
The first time I heard John Mayer’s “Waiting on the world to change” I thought of Bill Weinberg, a man you may not know but whose work you should definitely acquaint yourself with. While the mainstream media force feeds the masses a steady diet of all the news they see fit to air, there are still some places where you can go to find the stories that somehow slip past the 10 o’clock news and into oblivion. One such place is the online news haven World War 4 Report, a monthly magazine which covers everything from the ongoing slavery situation in Mauritania (that’s a country in Africa, people) to White House censorship of scientists, which isn’t some crackpot conspiracy theory but rather a well-written entry on global warming and the pressures scientists can face when their findings challenge government dogma. That story (along with many others) can be found in the weblog which is updated daily so you never have to go too long without a dose of the news.
Just in case you’re wondering, there is a significance behind the name World War 4 Report and you can find it directly on the site or by visiting Wikipedia—you know you’re curious, so haul ass to the www.worldwar4report.com and see for yourself why I’m suddenly so enamored with the news, PLUS you can see Bill’s direct response (along with some answers to a few other questions that we just had to ask below). In addition you just may learn something, in fact I can almost guarantee you will.
1. When did you begin the World War 4 report and what was the catalyst behind it?
9-11 is the short answer. Right after the attacks, I launched WW4 REPORT as a watchdog on Bush’s new Global War on Terrorism, examining the media reportage with an eye for propaganda and distortion, tracking down the Internet rumors and separating the wheat from the chaff, and particularly watching the foreign press for facts and contexts that don’t make it into the US media.
Since then it has evolved into something much more ambitious. The original mission of monitoring, digesting and critiquing media coverage is now what we do on the daily weblog. But we also do a monthly e-journal, where we produce our own journalism. I’ve been developing a network of correspondents all over the world, providing reportage on stories the mainstream American media either distort or overlook entirely. So instead of just throwing tomatoes, we are trying to build an alternative.
2. What about the selection of stories you cover differs from the selections of more mainstream media outlets?
We pride ourselves on covering what we call the “forgotten wars.” The mainstream media covers Iraq and Israel/Palestine a lot and Afghanistan and Darfur a little, and that’s about it. There is very little awareness that US troops are involved in the wars in Colombia and the Philippines. There is even less awareness of the Islamist insurgency and US-sponsored repression in Yemen, the tribal conflicts and rebellions in the jungles of eastern India, even the guerilla groups and paramilitaries operating in the mountains of southern Mexico, our NAFTA partner. Even within Iraq, you just hear about the Sunnis, the Shi’ites and the Kurds. But there are multiple small ethnicities in Iraq struggling to survive in the atmopshere of war and social chaos. For instance, the Mandeans, who are the last surviving Gnostic group on the planet, are now threatened with actual extermination by the extremists on all sides. Even the alternative media in the US are not really looking at these conflicts. So we also like to say we are the “alternative to the alternative.”
3. Of all the stories you’ve covered to date which do you feel was the most important socially? Which was the most important personally?
Andy Warhol said that one day everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.Well, my fifteen minutes was when I was the first English-language journalist to do a full Q&A interview with Subcommander Marcos, the leader of the Zapatista rebels, after their January 1994 uprising in Chiapas, in southern Mexico. My work on the Zapatistas and related movements became my last book, Homage to Chiapas: The New Indigenous Struggles in Mexico. This remains the work I am most proud of.
In 2003, I spent several months in Colombia and elsewhere in the Andes looking at similar indigenous movements for land, cultural survival and social justice—but in the new terror war context, with the US much more directly involved in the military repression. Indigenous peoples like the Nasa in the Colombian Andes are demanding that the government, the paramilitaries and the guerillas alike respect their constitutionally-guaranteed right to local autonomy and stay off of their lands. They are also demanding the right to land recovery and control of their own resources. Both of these stances have made them a target of deadly repression. Very little has been written about these movements in English. They are the subject of my next book, if I can ever manage to finish it. The working title is Pachamama Returns: Plan Colombia and Indigenous Resistance to the Pillage of a Continent. Pachamama was the Earth Mother goddess of the ancient Andean cultures, and a strong point of identification for the contemporary movements.
4. In addition to the website what other ways are you making your voice heard?
I do write freelance on these issues, most recently for the national weekly Indian Country Today, and occassionally for places like the Village Voice and The Nation. I also do a weekly radio show on New York’s listener-supported WBAI, every Tuesday at midnight. You can listen online at wbai.org. It is a sort of anarchist-oriented variety hour. For reasons too obscure to explain right now, it is called the Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade.
5. Is there any one thing (tangible or intangible), one phrase or one legacy that you want to leave as your mark in the world of journalism?
Well, I should explain the name of my journal. We call it World War 4 Report for two inter-related reasons. The first is that figures as diverse as Subcommander Marcos of the Zapatistas and the neoconservative former CIA director James Woolsey are calling the current (post-9-11) global conflict World War 4. The idea is that the Cold War was World War III. But it is also a war which disproportionately affects indigenous peoples and stateless ethnicities, which some writers and activists have termed the “Fourth World.” These are the peoples—like the Mandeans in Iraq, the Berbers in North Africa, the Naga in India, the Maya in Chiapas and the Nasa in Colombia—who have been left off the global map, both literally and figuratively. I seem to have dedicated my career to helping to give them a voice, helping to put them on our psychic maps, the way we view the world. The survival of their cultures is ultimately important to all of us, because they help point the way towards sustainable, post-industrial economic models—and therefore out of the whole global crisis of wars for oil, an endless dialectic of terror, and looming ecological collapse.