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Weird stuff at Common Dreams

This is only curiosity and speculation. With some questioning thrown in for good measure.

Common Dreams is a web-site with progressive, national and international news. Like other, similar sites, it often leans too much towards Democrats and the two party system. Though, they occasionally cover the Green Party and Ralph Nader.

I was disappointed to hear recently that Common Dreams was changing its comment policy. They were creating some amount of screening comments, and also making the posted comments less prominent on the web-site. Comments appear “hidden” until a reader decides to make them visible. In addition, there would be a new amount of screening of comments. I found it curious that this action happened at the end of August, just weeks before the Democratic National Convention. I wondered if it was another effort at unity, another way to keep the dissenters of the left in a Freedom Cage. I have no proof, only speculation.

In addition, I thought it was of note that today, the start of the Democratic National Convention, that the Common Dreams web-site has a gray box on top that says, “Sorry. We are experiencing technical problems. Our tech team is at work. Please stay tuned.” I don’t even know what the problems are.

But, I wonder if it is a coincidence about these problems at a media outlet that represents some voices from the dissenting left? Could it be that someone inside or outside saw that affecting Common Dreams could affect the level of critique of the events in Denver?

Of course, it could all be coincidence. Or, it could be a simple or complicated reason related to the passing away of one of the founders of Common Dreams on July 18th.

I do not know the status of the comments change at Common Dreams. Though, looking at a new story just know, when you click on it, you have to do an extra click to see the comments. I know that some in the Common Dreams community gave an outcry of opposition when they announced the change. One such complaint noted on a blog is excerpted and linked below:

Thursday, August 21, 2008
Open Letter to Common Dreams
Dear Common Dreams,

“Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical, liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Wont you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable!”
—Supertramp, the Logical Song

I have faithfully visited commondreams.org daily (at the very least) for the past two years. It has been one of my few solaces in this politically traumatizing and socially shattering world. It was a place I could come to for some sense, for some reason, for support.

That last bit came about unintended—an unexpected blessing. The ‘comments’ section of commondreams soon became my absolutely favorite part of the website…

Imagine my shock and disappointment in the letter I received yesterday announcing that from now on the comments section will be “hidden” and regulated. The letter stated that thousands of readers disliked the “tone and level of discourse” of the comments section, that it was “a step backwards.”

Rather it is this decision to silence (for that is what it boils down to) that is backwards…

Nearly all our freedoms have been annihilated: Our government is controlled by, and thus serves only, wealthy groups and corporations. Our legal system has been shot—the law is now that if the powers that be don’t like you, you’re a gonner. Our media is the mouthpiece and propaganda machine of this corporate-elite; it serves to tell us what is acceptable and what is not, what we can and cannot say, what should make you comfortable and what should make you uncomfortable. Our education system is no better, serving to in-corporate us into the society as benumbed automatons.

The comments on commondreams were a testimony that a few of us at least were not content with this status quo and were not willing to accept it. They showed a necessity to participate, be it in so small a way. Your letter and decision will succeed in curbing this participation when we are already so constrained…

So, I must conclude that the only reason for this shut-out is that the pressure of having too many voices unshackled and discerning was too much for some readers and for the news center. In an oppressed world it is difficult to hear natural human responses to that oppression: passion, outrage, rejection. But as a great 8th century Muslim scholar once said: “When the dignity of men is offended, and they have not the sense to be outraged, know, then, that you are no longer dealing with men but with jackasses.”

We are not jackasses.

Yours vocally,

Marryam Haleem

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