PAUL GLOVER ESSAYS: community control of food, fuel, housing, health care, planning, education, finance.

The Ithaca Journal
Goes to War

by Paul Glover   *   February 1991

Opponents of the Persian Gulf War were not surprised when the Ithaca Journal declared that "like it or not, we are at war," and that protest was "unrealistic" (1/22/1991). Since its founding as the Seneca Republican in 1815, Ithaca's biggest journal has condemned grassroots power.

The Journal advised Ithaca's anti-war majority that "protests can damage troop morale" (1/22/91). The loss of arms, legs, manhood and friends, however, damages troop morale more than demands that war stop.

A scrappy paper, the Journal has never seen a bad war. "U.S. Troops Must Stay in Vietnam," they editorialized (9/8/1967), regaling us with daily body counts of enemy dead. Then after years of scorn for anti-war demonstrators, whose generation was being slaughtered, the Journal lamented that "the young do not seem to respect the judgement of their elders" (4/1972). They opposed the ABM and MIRV nuclear missile treaties (3/10/1970), which even Henry Kissinger now regrets. And we can expect them to demand war at this time.

Relentlessly, the Journal has sneered at the voices of social change. They have opposed disarmament, civil rights, labor justice, ecology, and womens' equality until public protest forced urgent changes. The Journal learns last, after years of struggle.

In 1887, for example, the idea of votes for women was "ridiculous" to the Journal. In 1885 they noted that a "motley-looking" group of women protested by voting illegally, but only "gained a little cheap notoriety" (11/4). Even up to the 1970's the Journal chuckled at womens' liberation and printed cheesecake photos. The Journal had to be picketed to learn that murder purportedly inspired by unorthodox sexual activity is not defensible (6/28/1988) or sensational.

For 120 years African-American Ithacans appeared in the Journal as the butt of unquotable 'darkie' jokes, and were laughed at in local columns. A flag-waving parade of 500 local Ku Klux Klan "made an attractive spectacle," said the Journal (10/4/ 1925). Even now, Blacks make banner headlines here most readily when accused of killing whites, and until twenty years ago were always identified by race in crime reports.

The Journal likewise had no patience for the massive labor strikes of the 1890s which reduced our working day from 14 hours to 8 hours. They grumbled about the coal price hike caused by higher coal miners' wages and shorter hours, as late as 5/5/1916. There is no favorable union news, nor sharp investigation into working conditions or the damaging effects of low pay. Cornell's president, however, merits major coverage (11/25/1999) because he earns only $377,414.

The Journal has clamored ceaselessly for expansion of population and pavement. They therefore did not want to hear anti-highway "propaganda" about a proposed four-lane road up West Hill (3/10/1989), beyond their own editorials (3/6 and 3/10) in favor of the highway. Defenders of Stewart Park were similarly dismissed as "self-styled citizens" (8/19/1986).

The 1991 Journal pronouncement against antiwar protesters was more of the same old growling: "case after case is reported of seditious utterances and seditious publications of all sorts..." (11/19/1919). And notably, "despite the dictatorial methods of Fascism, it remains true that Fascism has done much for Italy." "No objective critic can fail to see that, viewed by the practical standard, it [Fascism] has been, on the whole, a success" (11/3/1932).

On the day that Senator Joseph McCarthy accused former President Truman of an administration "crawling with communists," the Journal defended McCarthy and warned that "It's too easy to cry 'McCarthyism'" (11/24/1953). Encouraged by such newspaper support, McCarthy proceeded to accuse Eisenhower of "criminal folly" in dealing with communists (5/4/54). In 1970 (3/27) the Journal supported the "no-knock" law (allowing police to enter without warning) proposed by Attorney General John Mitchell, the Watergate burglar.

The Journal editorialized against the Fairness Doctrine, which gave the poor equal time to rebut broadcast corporate propaganda (8/10/1987). This is natural, because the Journal belongs not to the free press, but to the slave press. The Gannett Corporation owns 97 other daily newspapers, 22 TV stations and 100 websites, earning a pretax profit of 19 percent (largely by paying low wages). Gannett itself is owned by 628 corporations, prominently including war or apartheid profiteers like Citicorp, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Microsoft, Philip Morris, Coca Cola, and General Electric. Their interests will seldom be seriously criticized in Journal pages.
Journal goes to war
Likewise, the Journal does not agressively confront local corporations with proactive stories of industrial pollution or conflicts-of-interest between planners, developers and major employers, or their racism in hiring.

The Journal is above all defender of the wealthiest, whose large projects stimulate greatest demand for large advertisements. When Wal-Mart sought to locate in the city of Ithaca, the Journal published editorials favoring Wal-Mart on the same days that Wal-Mart placed full page ads .

The latest social movement frustrating the Journal is that for smart growth, which proposes exciting new directions for economic development. Smart growth breaks from the routines that have made so many other cities hard to live in, by emphasizing homegrown economic initiatives, capitalizing on each community's unique character, making sure that development strengthens ecology and social justice.

Thus the Journal now editorializes against environmentalists concerned about big box retail development in the Southwest Park floodplain, calling them "a parade of doomsayers" (11/23/1999), and against the Ithaca Green Party as promoting a "mockery of democracy." The Journal featured a 'scientific' poll of local opinion'favoring' Southwest development, just before the Council vote.

The larger Gannett world is as predictably flat. Paltry columns of daily global information reach us through the eyes of Associated Press. There is no reliance on the hundreds of translated international news services such as APF, DPA, IPS, EFE, MENA, ANSA, ROSTA, PANA and Kyodo. Ithaca, full of well-travelled people, deserves to see the world as we are seen.

Though the Journal has a perfect right to print what it wants, and to exclude as well, the public has a right to know that though the Journal pretends to be objective and complete, it is not. Newspapers are editorials from cover to comics. While the 'objective' style invites Journal readers to read as though God wrote, every story necessarily reflects the back-ground of the reporter, right down to the adjective. Few Journal reporters, however well-intentioned, have been here long enough to develop historical insight. Thus we often read events rather than processes. Editors decide what is news, and headline for drama.

A daily newspaper in a small city has the power of government, to steer our awareness. Therefore it is proper to confront its intentions. As Ithaca's citizens explore new directions and break new ground, the Ithaca Journal must be taught, finally, to respect the challenges to entrenched power that keep America free.


When the Ithaca Journal calls asking you to subscribe, you can ask, politely, why Ralph Nader was not included in their campaign 2000 coverage.

Call or email the publisher (272-2321)to convey your opinion.

Volunteer to help start an independent progressive weekly newspaper.