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Reds Under Our "Heads" & Other Risky Features of Alternativeland


Objections have been raised to the presence in the Prism of Special Sections from a local group tied to a political party (the Communist Party) with high negatives in its profile.

First, let"s talk about a more familiar group. The US Democratic Party has had an unsavory history and is politically entwined with the forces of rapacious exploitation, repression, and environmental destruction. In foreign affairs, Democratic administrations have led bloody military interventions too numerous to mention and designed and maintained some of the world"s outstanding torture regimes, as well as assisted in the imposition of "structural adjustment policies" by international banking institutions which sentence the populations of developing nations to slow starvation and which oversee the dismantling of those nations" economic and alimentary self-reliance.

On a more local level, Democratic Party politicians, like the Republican ones, regularly partake in engorgement rites at the revenue trough provided by corporations, bankers, real estate interests and contractors. Democratic Governor Hunt"s administration seems hardly able to put the proposed "low-level" waste dump site in Wake County out of its threatened existence in spite of the blatant wastage of over $100 million in start-up costs. Democrat Hunt found it expedient to kick the supports out from under thousands of North Carolinians on welfare without troubling much about the need for child care or transportation or the lack of liveable wages. While the construction on I-85 continues for many years to be a death trap in Durham County, the governor-appointed Department of Transportation can seemingly instantaneously pave a million dollar road solely to suit the big alums at UNC games.

There are some courageous and innovative Democratic candidates and supporters. These Democrats‹tainted by association with a vicious and venal organization though they may be‹have been and continue to be welcome to air their perspectives and otherwise participate in putting together the Prism.

We recognize that, in spite of the short-sightedness and sometimes wrong-headedness of these Democrats, there is quite a range of opinion within the constituency of Democratic Party members. And as long as their participation in the Prism is sincere, constructive, not aimed at some sort of take-over, and not plainly contrary to the paper"s Statement of Intent (see page 2), we welcome their assistance in our efforts.

So far, we have talked about Democrats, political representatives of a current force (global capital) which is at the root of current injustice and inequality.

The objections, by letter (above) and by informal communication, concern the presentations of a local Communist Party club (Hosea Hudson) within our pages. These "Special Sections" presentations entail a particular relationship between the local organization and the Prism. The relationship has been spelled out in brief notices in our pages: the guest organization must bear a portion of the preparation as well as a portion of the cost of printing. In return, the guest group is able to benefit from the visibility resulting from Prism"s distribution and also from the experience gained from editing and producing pages in association with our regular staff. Of mutual benefit to both the Prism and guest group is the "networking" and kinship which develops between us as activists. This has been borne out through our Special Sections with Black Ink, Student Environmental Action Coalition, Internationalist Books, and the Hosea Hudson Club.

The parameters of the Special Sections have not been precisely defined and will be up for discussion by Prism staff.

However, the staff of the Prism has confirmed its determination that, in spite of individual differences and even discomfort with some of the stigma that certain groups may carry for some of us, we honor diversity, openness and First Amendment rights as principles to carry proudly. (Naturally, the Prism will not carry articles inconsistent with the principles set out in the Statement of Intent).

Controversy over specific content will no doubt continue to emerge as it has in the past. It is worthwhile relating that a few years ago, the Prism was ejected from a local church well-known for sticking its neck out on the issue of lesbian and gay rights. Despite the minister"s admiration for the Prism , we could no longer distribute in the church due to Kropotkin"s columnar statement, "To masturbate is human, to fuck is divine."

Apparently, we could have avoided (and still could avoid) rejection by some of our potential audience by not allowing certain words‹"Communist" or "fuck"‹in our pages. But shying from each controversy also has a cost, particularly in order to continue to be an alternative publication.

Admittedly, a principled free speech stance always bumps up against issues of journalistic taste and editorial judgment. We would not have too much hesitation in rejecting a proposed headline such as "Kill All the Killer Amerikkkan Kops!!!" But it is more difficult to reach all our potential and disparate audiences without risking turning some off. What may reach alienated music scene counterculturists may sour soft-spoken, middle-aged solidarity activists on us‹and vice versa. What pleases reproductive rights activists may precipitate losing some African American church-goers who oppose abortion but fight for affordable housing. We hope to bridge those gaps yet remain provocative‹that"s what we"re here for.

One last point that ought to be made: the work of McCarthyism, or self-censorship, is not done by reactionary witch hunters or conservative editors alone. Much or most of this work is accomplished by the acquiescence of liberal or even progressive screenwriters, labor officials and reporters in the exclusion of proscribed persons, groups, and ideas.

The objections to Hosea Hudson have come from politically progressive folks who are apprehensive about trouble. In fact, no conservative objections have surfaced from worried store managers where the Prism is distributed. And no objections to either Hosea Hudson or the "hot potato" Mother Teresa article (October front page) emerged from local political candidates who stood only to lose support by appearing in our pages.

This brings us to the next gear in the machinery of McCarthyism/self-censorship (or whatever we should call fear-based exclusion). It is the anticipation of adversity brought on by association with a stigmatized group. The campaign of fear is effective because so many fold, for whatever reasons.

I write here on behalf of my own beliefs but certainly I"m not overstepping to state that the Prism respects the concerns of all our readers and invites further discussion of this or any other issue.

-David Kirsh


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