From "Fodder, or Essays Against the Administration", 2004
The ordinary, wide-eyed American information consumer has gotten used to being told How Things Are. Once, perhaps, a solitary individual could expect his concerns to rise, by their merits, from his lowly common station up into the public or the official sphere. Possibly he could write a letter to his local newspaper editor, and have his idea elevated into the public discourse. Maybe even the general sentiment of a whole locality could be gauged, if ever so roughly, by the sentiments expressed in the neighborhood news-sheet - and a savvy enough policy-maker would employ a staffer to skim through a whole pile of such periodicals to be sure they know the pulse of the people. And, in the rarest and most exquisite cases, one such publication, acting on behalf of its local constituency, might even be so gumptious as to challenge the moral authority of some privileged and powerful public figure - and be unconstrained in its liberty to do so, or in its leverage as an organ of the public and unbeholden to any higher interests.
This, of course, is no longer the case in America. The local paper and the regional broadcaster have been absorbed into great agglomerated interests with their roots in the remote gardens of the already-powerful. The direction of civic discourse has turned around, and now the city paper and the local news-cast have become bullhorns for the announcement of official opinion, raining down from great heights. While once the American free press served to take an idea from the lowly civil sphere, and raise it up and up to the general public and even into officialdom, today, ideas only trickle down to us from the uppermost echelon of professional decision-makers and content-producers. The degree of public informédness and the range of opinion has thus become indistinguishable from Florida to New Jersey to Oregon, where once these various sorts of people would have something of interest to learn from one another, if they ever ventured to travel and meet. Now, Americans all know about the same amount of stuff, and know it the same way - because they have been told it by the same omnipotent information-producers. They also, therefore, have no reason to get up and go out into the world, because their countrymen two thousand miles away are no more interesting than they are.
The Philadelphia Independent was founded to counter exactly this trend; to return to the deserving people of that city an outlet for their interests, a platform for their annunciations, a forum for their expression, and a voice for their enlightenment. There is no out-of-town corporate authority for TPI, there is no reluctance about printing something that might offend the agricultural demographic or the lumberjack segment, or that might put off readers who mountain-climb or husk corn. The Philadelphia Independent is just that and from just there; and, sadly, in America, it is therefore unique.
It is a bit of happenstance that during the Independent’s very infancy, so too appeared on the American landscape the presidency of George W. Bush. He was made possible by that very cultural entropy produced by the decline of American media diversity; without the detached concern of a thousand various constituencies, there was no-one to sound the alarm against his extremism or his incompetence. It would have been unseemly for any editorial-writer or tele-journalist in the employ of a national or international corporation to call Mr. Bush by such names. With the whole atmosphere of American opinion made this tepid, any ogre could come in and win a major party’s nomination. And the Junior Bush did.
Philadelphia has something of a proud reputation for confronting national crises, and the Bush Administration is nothing if not a crisis. The prime interest of the people of Philadelphia soon became the condition of the American nation, and the Independent found itself supplementing its renowned local coverage with eloquent exhortations in support of democracy against oligarchy, on topics as broad as War and Wealth, as well as those as narrow as local public transit. The Philadelphia Independent was obliged to step into the enormous void of Conscience left behind by the dissolution of the free and unfettered American press.
In doing so, it produced editorial literature that the rest of the American media was too cowed and collared to make: here is a denunciation of the Iraqi campaign as a failure six months before the most reluctant mainstream outlets dared suggest there was even a flaw in the plan; here is an analysis of the atrocities at Guantánamo Bay that dares to discuss the most heinous of our policies, still scarcely mentioned elsewhere; here is the first instance of American media calling a lie a lie; and here are a bevy of other outlooks upon the dismal condition of human civilization, all made from the widest historical perspective, whole orders of magnitude more inclusive and incisive than the insular, idiotic treacle that oozes out from the anchorman’s lips or the managing editor’s censored pen.
It is, as Independent founder & editor Mr. Schwartz has written, Philadelphia’s “ancient duty” to strain against tyranny and put into print the sentiment of the Humane. This book, then, is the modern manifestation of that all but forgotten duty. If Mr. Bush succeeds in demolishing the republic and aggravating the world into perpetual conflict, this book will remain as a record of the last effort of the Reasonable. And if Junior Bush is toppled, his crimes exposed, his agenda thwarted, and his remarkable human deficiency finally realized, this book will take its modest place in the honorary library of the victorious. There is nothing in this book but newspaper editorials and expository essays; but inherent in these is that fundamental faith in Good Ideas that once created our nation and will, in time, rescue it from its own fatal mutations. There are certainly other ailments in the world besides George W. Bush, but in George W. Bush the people of Philadelphia and the scolds of the Philadelphia Independent see a disease that can only be cured with the local medicine. It is this newspaper’s intent to prove Mr. Bush correct in his instinct to abolish the free press for the sake of his political supremacy, by withering him with his failure to do so absolutely.
-Eliza Anne Bonney