Why we still need change - Raymond Mungo, Marshall Bloom, and the Liberation News Service

Reading Famous Long Ago, My Life and Hard Times with Liberation News Service brings to mind the fact that struggle is never finished. Yes, we need to have some hope, we need to stand up and cheer every day when another decent, humanizing, and reasonable executive order is delivered by the Obama White House… and yet, we also have to remember that there is a reason why we still need change in the first place.

The memoir by the unlikely hero, Raymond Mungo, and the ghost of his alter-ego, Marshall Bloom, is riddled with the brazen and ridiculous posturing of green college grads and their acid-dropping cohorts who are hell-bent on saving the world. And yet, it is also true to itself, to its own ingenuity, self-deceptions, and aspirations. In a way, their self-determination to create the alternate news service, the non-lapdog, non-suckup, non-yesMan, non-corporate shill news service; where independent bylines gathered together under a loose umbrella called freedom of speech and freedom of the press, was noble indeed.

Isn’t the DIY attitude of sticking it to the man and digging up the truth an especially salient example for us today? We have yet to put a wooden stake through the heart of Fox News and the foaming mad dogs that nobody seems capable of dislodging from pulpits and radio stations across the nation. Nonetheless, with our fresh crop of instantaneous, multi-variate web feeds, spreading and snaking across the Internet like rampant jungle vines, can’t we come up with better means to get the real information out?

It’s absolutely shameful to think that the editors of major “news” services, such as AP and Reuters, or the made-men of the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post (etc) can even walk the streets without being pelted with rotten eggs and dog-shit! Where were they! Where were they when the obvious treachery of Bush and Cheney was grinding away like a cat-o-nine-tails on the backs of the innocent? Where were they? Publishing some jingo-istic propaganda out of the Pentagon… covering up for the likes of Feith, Abrams, Cambone, Perle, Bolton, Libby, and the whole stinking crew of traitors… a fine lot of journalists they make!

At least we had the likes of Truthout, Buzzflash, Common Dreams, and a thousand other mini-news feeds to sustain us through the darkest and bleakest of times. Nor should we, in celebrating the victory of reason over rampant red-faced psychosis, be complacent. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, to redefine our networks, and to move forward with new agendas for permaculture and sustainable development. Only a super-energized base of free wheeling, free thinking men and women will be able to defend our rights when those backstabbing zombies come back. And, no doubt about it, they will be back! Does Sarah Palin seem capable of understanding her own inadequacies? If the GOP can stand up a cynical snake-oil spewing cut-throat like W for President, what makes any of us think that they will hesitate to stoop even lower?

For some historical perspective, let’s consider a few lines from Mungo’s highly entertaining book, and remember why it’s important to start something, and to light a fire under the establishment’s ass!

“The great siege and elevation of the PentagonThe weekend of October 21st, 1967 was described the peace movement flyers as a “confrontation with the warmakers,” a noble pursuit. The Washington press waxed poetic about its concern for the dignity of the Federal monuments that these outsiders were certain to defile, if given a chance…

The news broke that ten thousand troops were to be at the ready in nearby Fort Belvoir, Virginia… The government was preparing for the first time in decades for a serious threat to its Capitol, by its own citizens, over an unpopular war. The World War protesters, the bonus marchers, the 1963 civil rights march were not akin to this. This could only be compared to the burning of Washington in 1812.

Marshall Bloom and I saw the Pentagon weekend as an excellent opportunity for the first meeting of the underground press, and we had for weeks been planning and advertising such a gathering, to be held at the Institute for Policy Studies… one of the few left-oriented research institutions in the nation.

The meeting began in mid-afternoon Friday, October 20th, the day before the Pentagon confrontation… Marshall began to speak of the goals of the Liberation News Service to provide a link among the anti-establishment presses, to offer hard information to the Movement, etc, when the staff of the East Village Other [EVO], led by Walter Bowart in an Indian headdress, began a lengthy poem about the underground and an enthusiastic pitch for the fraternal order of the Underground Press Syndicate, which EVO directed.

This brought Grossman and Stamberg of the Washington Free Press to their feet with charges of embezzlement against the Underground Press Syndicate and EVO. John Wilcock, publisher of Other Scenes, quickly corroborated that EVO was staffed by a pack of thieves. Before the issue could be resolved, however, Allen Cohen of San Francisco Oracle rose to read a poem, precipitating a lenghty East - West poetry competition between the New York Indian forces of EVO and the San Francisco Oracle Hari-Krishna heads.

And so it went… The college editors were interested mostly in campus revolution, the pacifists in the war, the freaks in cultural revolution and cultural purity. The underlying buzz became a steady roar; Marshall burned his draft card, donned his Sgt. Pepper coat with epaulets and tails and quit the podium; a few fist fights broke out between warring factions of the anti-war forces; somebody shouted in regards to the organization of Liberation News Service “Do your thing, do your thing! If we like it, we’ll send you money when we can!”

Our glorious scheme of joining together the campus editors, the Communists, the Trots, the hippies, the astrology freaks, the pacifists, the SDS kids, the black militants, the Mexican-American liberation fighters, and all their respective journals was reduced to ashes.

Our conception of Liberation News Service as “democratic organization,” owned by those it served, was clearly ridiculous; among those it served were men whose very lives were devoted to the principle that no organization, no institution, was desirable… At any rate, it was clear on first meeting our constituency that Liberation News Service was to be an uneasy coalition.”

And today, my fine feathered and otherwise friends, we are no different. But we must at least try to reach out and forge new coalitions while we are still free to do so. Sure, they will be infiltrated and perverted, what else is new? So let us remember, in the seeming chaos of our conflicting interests: Do your thing, do your thing! If we like it, we’ll send you money when we can! Let that simple truth, which launched the Liberation News Service against impossible odds, take us where we need to go.

Marshall Bloom Ray Mungo