By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –
It is that fundraising time of year again, folks. This year everyone who contributes $100 or more to Informed Comment by Paypal will receive a signed copy of the paperback version of my recent book, The New Arabs. Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor has kindly agreed to send them out for me off the Paypal addresses, so occasional glitches of the past should not recur. Thank you to all of my supporters for your generosity and your encouragement of an independent press!
Look, we also need support in the amounts of $5 and $10. If you liked or benefited from something you saw here, and can’t afford an average of $10 a month, then a one-time smaller contribution is still welcome (and essential). Isn’t IC worth as much as one or two lattes per year at a coffee shop? The site is stronger if all fans participate. If everyone who appreciates Informed Comment donated even a small amount, we could turn it into a media giant.
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Personal checks should be made out to Juan Cole and sent to me at:
P. O. Box 4218
So, all those who contribute to Informed Comment at any level will become members with a Golden Lion beside their own name in the comments as recognition for your role in making this site possible. You will also be included in a private newsletter only for contributors with some additional big picture behind-the-scenes analysis which will be newsletter only. Remember that there are contribution buttons off to the upper right on all the individual post pages.
2015: A Year of Crises
2015 was a year full of tragedy and triumph with regard to Middle Eastern themes, and Informed Comment has been there with solid analysis widely recognized as unique and as key to understanding these events. I write a column daily. Don’t ask me how. In some large part, it is because I don’t want to let you down.
Regular readers know that what they get here is not the Main Stream Media accounts by all-purpose pundits unfamiliar with the region, by retired officers paid under the table by arms corporations to promote conflict, by loud-mouthed casino moguls too rich to be told by their staffers that they are making fools of themselves, or by lobbyists not required to reveal their organizational pasts or on whose payroll they serve. I have argued back against wild allegations about Muslims and the Middle East made by the US political class, at a time when many journalists politely interviewed them without challenging their bigoted and inaccurate assertions. This site has been unafraid to take unpopular or controversial stands– against NSA snooping, against Climate denialism, against hatred of our Muslim brothers and sisters, against the statelessness and victimhood of the Palestinians, against casual warmongering of the Lindsey Graham ilk, against racism of any sort. Unlike those other outlets, it is a little unlikely that this site will be supported by right wing billionaires, and so if you want it to continue, it is up to you.
And what a year it was. President Obama and the UN Security Council concluded a deal with Iran to restrict that country’s nuclear enrichment solely to making fuel for reactors, setting off a colorful struggle with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the GOP Congress, which Mr. Obama won. Russia entered the Syrian war. Tunisian democrats won a Nobel Peace prize. Saudi Arabia and allies bombed Yemen back to the stone age. Turkey had two elections, the first with a pluralist outcome and the second with an ominous authoritarian one.
Paris was struck twice by terrorists trying to induce a clash of civilizations, and my urging of people not to take the bait in “Sharpening the Contradictions” was one of the more popular things I’ve ever written. In November, when Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet, my analysis of why went viral and gained me lots of fan mail, such as a message from a prominent political scientist who said it was the best offering of context he’d seen. I had given a keynote at a conference in Turkey in mid-October, and used my time there to try to get a sense from locals of the current political situation. Informed Comment readers’ contributions always pay part of my expenses on a trip like that, and enable me to do what I do.
This is a sign I saw in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, which had been hit by an unprecedented bombing earlier in October, denouncing terrorism on the part of civil society organizations, including labor unions; it was a reminder that beyond geopolitics, this kind of violence is a struggle for working people of all kinds:
“We Curse Terrorism!”
What we do for our Readers
Afraid of missing the best in analysis of Middle East issues? Be sure to sign up for delivery of the daily postings by email so you don’t miss even one. My aim is to be even more comprehensive, and to provide insights on world developments not found elsewhere that challenge lazy conventional wisdom and inside-the-beltway tunnel blindness. I seek to provide visitors with one-stop access to high quality curated sources for research on the Middle East, including maps and key documents and translations. That endeavor obviously requires resources, and the more we have the more we can do. Your support allowed me to pay guest columnists and syndicators for some of our more popular entries this year.
Our new format, driven by a technical plug-in, has allowed four or five postings a day on world affairs and progressive politics, so that I’ve been functioning as an editor and curator in finding or soliciting these other pieces for you.
In our pages, we’ve had eyewitness accounts from Egypt, Israel, Gaza, Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey, and searching, critical opinion pieces on politics and Islam. And, I’ve continued to give you an interpretive essay every day of the year on what I think is the most important or interesting story of the day. (Those who like the old weblog view and are mainly interested in my essays can still find it here (click on the underlined text).
We were up to 5 million page views last year at the server, from four and a half the year before. Informed Comment also has a big presence in social media. Twitter impressions for the most recent quarter alone were 5.1 million. Of course, we can’t track email circulation, and likely as many readers or more see posts that way as via Twitter or Facebook. I’m proud to say some 45 percent of our readers are women, and 60 percent of you are 34 and younger. (We’ve got the key demographic!) But remember, these impressive circulation figures are not generating any income and don’t pay the bills.
Fans will want to know that this fall there appeared a paperback edition of my new book, The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East,
which has been widely and favorably reviewed and which makes an excellent holiday present for your friends and relatives :-)!
Philosophy and Mission of Informed Comment
Despite rising costs of maintaining this site, years ago I decided that I did not want to put Informed Comment behind a firewall and charge a subscription fee for it. That just isn’t who I am. In my own view, there has been a long crisis between the United States (and perhaps much of the West) and the Muslim world that I felt a duty to attempt to interpret and analyze for both publics, not just for well-heeled elites. More recently issues have arisen such a climate change and the energy and water crises, which have a great deal to do with the Middle East and South Asia, my areas of expertise. This is a democratic blog, for the people and in dialogue with the people, for the common weal.
Travel and Field Reporting in 2015
Although I have some research funds from my university, there are categories of expense it does not cover, and my ability to go spontaneously to the region when there are important developments is enhanced by your subscriptions (academic fellowships have to be plotted out at least a year in advance, which is too inflexible for my style of academic journalism). Also, I do some pro bono speaking and traveling for, e.g. peace groups, and you support those expenses, too. Your support gives me the determination and courage to go on. Visits to the region this year included a trip to Istanbul in January, to Doha, Qatar, in May, and to Ankara in October. The trip to Qatar was for the annual Aljazeera Forum, and I got to meet and hear movers and shakers in the Arab world there, gaining a sense of the politics behind our headlines. I also gave a presentation, in Arabic, arguing that sectarianism is a symptom and not a cause of the social conflicts in the region. My conference in Ankara had in-depth presentations on the plight of the 2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, giving insight into why some of them risk life and limb to try to flee to Europe.
Juan in Doha, May ’15
Middle East issues are often framed by right wing media such as Fox Cable News in Islamophobic and frankly racist ways. Unscrupulous “news” providers play on the comparative lack of good information and analysis to manipulate public opinion on these matters so as to create fear and promote right-wing policies. Informed Comment is one of the few solid counterweights to this propaganda. Corporate news outlets, even relatively liberal ones, can almost never report evenhandedly on controversial issues such as the plight of the stateless Palestinians, because of fear of consumer boycotts. Likewise, much of the MSM in the US seems determined to obscure the dangers and sources of climate change, perhaps influenced by the vast wealth of Big Carbon or even because their parent companies are invested in that sector. Informed Comment is unconstrained by such considerations.
How to Help
Voluntary subscriptions or donations can be sent to Informed Comment via the contribution link in this post (which takes Paypal payments or credit cards). Here is the direct link again:
Thank you to all of my supporters for your generosity and your encouragement of an independent press!
Personal checks should be made out to Juan Cole and sent to me at:
P. O. Box 4218
Plans for 2016
For 2016, we will continue to explore and develop the potentials of this magazine-format Informed Comment, to make sure it is the best possible resource on the contemporary Middle East.
I have several projects at Informed Comment for which I’d like to ask those who can to support. These plans continue to serve the larger goal of promoting understanding between the West and our neighbors in the Middle East. I will also continue to follow energy issues and climate change as these unfold, with their implications on the US, Europe, and the global South.
When events call for first hand reporting, I will continue travel for research and journalism to places where important developments are unfolding affecting US foreign policy, including of course the Middle East. Your contributions also allow me to solicit and pay for pieces from stringers on the scene.
To make all these projects a reality, I do need your help. Our budget is a tiny fraction of any other news organization in the world. Given the wide online circulation of IC posts, your contribution here makes an incredible difference in the news landscape.
All those who donate $100 or more will receive a signed copy of my recent book, The New Arabs. Some kind readers give more than once a year, but if you want the book, consider making a single larger donation. All those who donate will become part of an Informed Comment supporters club who will receive my occasional private newsletter with some big picture political analysis and a Golden Lion beside their name.
Smaller contributions are also very much appreciated! Paypal is convenient for small contributions and crowdsourcing is now the name of the game.
Your donation helps me keep Informed Comment independent and prolific. Together we keep independent media alive. I would like to thank all my readers and contributors again for your support in 2015 and look forward to an even more productive 2016 together. Thank you for supporting our independent thinking and dialogue!