This letter, from Robert W. McChesney, was mailed to our subscribers a few weeks ago. We are hoping that the many friends of Monthly Review in our email family will also take a moment to read this letter and respond to our request. We urgently need your support.
Dear Friend of Monthly Review,
Back in 1994 I had the privilege of interviewing Noam Chomsky on the state of the news media in the United States. “I hear from friends all the time,” he told me, “that because of the Internet they are going to stop subscribing to left publications because they can find anything and everything for free online.” Chomsky found the position preposterous, and worried about the future of progressive media if their stalwart supporters abandoned them. If left media went under, the Internet would certainly not be able to offer “anything and everything” online.
I have spent much of my time since that interview writing about the digital communication revolution and how its affects our journalism, culture, capitalism and politics. You have seen much of that work in the pages of Monthly Review.
One of the surprising developments of the digital era has been that it is in certain respects more of an information desert than it is an information rainforest. No, I do not mean there is not an infinite amount of material online, or that a person cannot find material with relative ease that a generation ago would have been all but impossible to access, even for a billionaire. That’s true. But as my work demonstrates, we should not take these privileges for granted; they are under attack by telecommunication cartel of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, media conglomerates, homegrown monopolies like Microsoft, Google, Apple and Amazon, corporate marketers, and a national security state that in combination are doing their level best to make the Internet their private fiefdom. We are in a series of pitched battles right now to protect what is most democratic about the Internet.
This is a broad social problem, affecting all media, and it is going to require a political solution. All over the world progressives and socialists are struggling to create independent community media with real resources, free of wealthy domination and corporate control. I do not think it is an exaggeration that the fate of the left and of democracy are directly tied to our ability to create such a communication system, one that provides the basis for self-government.
The bad news is that this is a long-term, existential struggle and here in the United States we are going up against the most powerful corporations in the world. And these corporations own the politicians in both major political parties.
The good news is that you do not need to wait for major political changes to support independent media. In fact, if you do not support independent media, you will be undercutting the possibility of major political changes. You are holding on to that lifeline right now, when you subscribe to and read Monthly Review, read MR Press books. You know that the material we generate at Monthly Review is not garden-variety material you can find in the corporate media. If there is one thing that has become ever clearer to me in this period of continued economic crisis it is how desperately the MR critique and the MR viewpoint need to be spread far and wide. It is unique, and uniquely valuable. Monthly Review provides original cutting edge analysis in every issue, and at least three or four times a year Monthly Review produces the sort of articles that are astonishing and can be found nowhere else.
There is more good news. The digital revolution is making it possible for Monthly Review and MR Press to become much more efficient and dramatically increase their visibility. A little money can go a very long way. To put it another way, this technology can be a terrific opportunity—or our death knell.
This is why we need your support at this critical time. Yes, we need the money just to keep our doors open and pay our bills. But we also need the money so we can catapult Monthly Review deep in the 21st century. We have an opportunity, and we have a plan.
There are two main areas that we continue to develop:
First, we are working to convert the entire Monthly Review archive into a searchable database of individual articles. What this means is that typing a simple phrase into your search engine will bring up specific references to MR articles wherever they have appeared in the past sixty-four years. You will also be able to search the database by author, article title, and subject. This, in turn, makes it a powerful tool for students, researchers, journalists, and ordinary readers looking for alternatives to the “content” of accepted economic wisdom. And it strengthens and extends Monthly Review’s educational role at a time when people are anxious and eager for those very alternatives. Converting our archive has required a massive effort to achieve, one that publishers many times our size have simply outsourced. But while such “packagers” do all the work, they also take a substantial portion of the profits—something that a small, non-commercial publisher like Monthly Review simply cannot afford to let happen. We need your help.Second, we are greatly expanding the number of MR Press titles that are available as ebooks. Many large publishers have the luxury of converting their entire backlists to ebooks in one effort—and to realize the financial benefits accordingly. But for a small non-commercial press, this is impossible for us to achieve. For the last two years, we have been simultaneously publishing all new MR Press titles as ebooks and in print, but financial barriers prevent us from converting older books. Many of you remember a few years ago when the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez gave President Obama a copy of Open Veins of Latin America. If MR Press had ready an ebook version of Open Veins, we could have sold thousands of copies in the storm of publicity that followed. But that wasn’t the case. Right now, ebook sales account for less than 5 percent of our total sales but it has the potential to be much more. We need your help.
Imagine Monthly Review with full digital capacity. That’s my kind of digital revolution!
But there is no room for illusions. Monthly Review exists because there is a community that values its content outside of the “values” of the so-called “free market” monopolized global information prison. Making our content available in digital format for the coming generation will never be a path to financial security exclusively. Rather it is a political obligation that goes to the reason Monthly Review exists. In fact, we are proceeding in the face of a sharp financial problem.We have no support other than yours. Please click this link to make an online donation or write, as you have in the past, a generous check and mail it to the address below. Monthly Review has no endowment. We rely on your contributions for our survival. Now we are asking for an extra effort. A relatively small amount of money can have a massive political impact on the web if it is deployed strategically.
You hold the future of left media, of Monthly Review’s brand of radical politics, in your hands. This is an extraordinary opportunity. We are counting on you.
Robert W. McChesney
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