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By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | - -
Let's get this done, friends. I can't do it all by myself, and need your contributions to succeed. Since 2002, Informed Comment has stood against lies and propaganda, against bigotry, against injustice, and for reasoned and fact-based public discourse about the pressing public policy issues facing our country. It is now needed more than ever, since corporate media has been willing to turn its airwaves over to demagoguery on a regular basis and now is rushing to normalize Neofascist themes and personalities that cannot be accepted.
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.
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(No big parcels please)
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 an occasional 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. 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.
Regular readers know that what they get here is not the corporate media accounts by all-purpose pundits unfamiliar with the region, by retired officers paid under the table by arms corporations to promote conflict, 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 the Islamophobes 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, 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.
Juan with Peace Prize Nobelist and Iranian human rights activist, Shirin Ebadi
Bottom feeders don't play fair, and after the recent election I have already been put on watch lists where my views have been misrepresented and I have have been libeled. The shock troops of intolerance always hope that a right wing and corrupt government will help them suppress free speech and dissent, or at least will look the other way while they play dirty tricks. The best way to fight back is to gain an ever bigger hearing, but getting there isn't free. (The troglodytes get millions from crackpot billionaires to spread lies and hate, but they can be overruled by crowdfunding if everyone pitches in).
This year everyone who contributes $100 or more to Informed Comment by Paypal will receive a signed copy of my translation of Kahlil Gibran's Spirit Brides. Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor has kindly agreed to send them out for me off the Paypal addresses, which worked like a charm last year. Thank you to all of my supporters for your generosity and your encouragement of an independent press! 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.
2016: The Year that Changed the World
2016 was a tremendous turning point in world history. We saw right wing populism, allied with much darker racist and plutocratic currents, take over the United States of America. We saw the British right wing inveigle the British public into departing the European Union, with disastrous effects on British trade and science. We saw the beginning of the end of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) in Iraq. Russia reemerged as a great power in the Middle East with its intervention in Syria. We saw the deadly tango of Salafi jihadi terrorism and Western Islamophobia continue its destructive performance across a range of countries. After the bungled coup of July 15, Turkey spiraled down into a seedy one-party state, abandoning the promises of the zeroes of a more democratic and tolerant government with a rule of law. Egypt sunk into economic crisis and farcical dictatorship. Lebanon finally got a president, a Hizbullah ally. Israel's ruling Likud Party ramped up its colonization of the Palestinian West Bank, abandoning the two-state solution forever.
What we do for our Readers
At Informed Comment, I have tried to provide the historical background and the context to these startling developments, getting beyond the one-damn-thing-after-another rush of news reports. I used your contributions to pay for op-eds by a wide range of contributors, academics and journalists with deep expertise who have first-hand experience with the region. They also, above all, have a heart. I also subscribed to alternative analysis sites and spent hours a week curating content for you.
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 corporate news 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.
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. (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 nearly 6 million page views last year at the server, from five million the year before. Informed Comment also has a big presence in social media. Twitter impressions for the most recent quarter alone were 3.3 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.
Just reminding fans of the availability of the 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. Pressing ssues 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 2016
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 two conference presentations, in winter and spring, in Doha, Qatar and a fall conference presentation in Istanbul.
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
(No large parcels, please)
Plans for 2017
For 2017, 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.
Informed Comment will be all over the incoming Trump administration when it misrepresents minorities, when it puts out phony statistics and propaganda ("false news"), when it tries to enact policies, like reviving coal-burning plants, that harm the American people.
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 ecology.
All those who donate $100 or more will receive a signed copy of my translation of Kahlil Gibran's Spirit Brides . 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 2016 and look forward to an even more productive 2017 together. Thank you for supporting our independent thinking and dialogue!