August 23, 2004

Becoming AWARE of our commentary policy... 

WILL has always been a place where community dialogue is encouraged. One way to do this is invite people in the community to do guest commentaries on the air. In my 17 years here I've seen a number of commentators come and go, and a number of controversies along with them. When you invite people to say something, they want to do it their way, which is understandable. Alas, sometimes "their way" would violate editorial standards we feel pretty strongly about. But what are those standards? Until very recently WILL didn't have a written policy on listener commentaries, and since no-one had submitted any for a while, no reason to make one. That changed when the Champaign-Urbana group known as AWARE asked us to air commentaries written by several of its members. At this point, I'm going to simply turn the narration over to AWARE itself, since this description from the AWARE web site is in my view pretty accurate. The commentary in question follows as well:

"The following AWARE audio commentary was submitted to WILL-AM 580 in early May, 2004 by AWARE member David Green. But it was rejected by WILL because even though AWARE's first audio commentary was accepted and broadcast in March 2004, WILL subsequently implemented an editorial policy for such listener-submitted audio commentary that precluded discussion of national or international issues. Some of us in AWARE intend to work toward change in what we view as arbitrary restrictions on this form of public comment at WILL, so that ideas such as those presented in this commentary may once again be heard on our community's public radio station.

"Submitted to WILL-AM 580 on behalf of AWARE by local resident David Green.

"As local men and women in our military continue to sacrifice for our government's "war on terrorism," it is vital to place the events of 9/11 and our subsequent wars in historical context. But this past March 15th, NPR's Morning Edition aired a commentary by Ruben Navarette titled "Enough with Vietnam." Navarette claimed that reflecting on our experience in Vietnam is irrelevant to preventing a future attack on our soil.

"Indeed, he expressed no interest in any of the historical context relevant to an understanding of terrorism as a response-however immoral--to U.S. foreign policy. This imperial history broadly includes U.S. relations with both Latin America and Asia, but at the very least must consider U.S. policies in the Middle East since World War II that have consistently viewed the people of that region as pawns in the service of American interests. These interests translate into control over the region's oil resources. Uncensored and unflattering historical perspectives are vital for an understanding of the continuities of U.S. foreign policy, and the consistently aggressive actions by leaders of both parties that-until 9/11-had not resulted in an attack within our borders.

"George Bush and John Kerry share this historical myopia. Bush has repeated the deceptions and illegality of the Vietnam War in Iraq. Meanwhile Kerry writes in A Call to Service "it's time to recognize (Vietnam) as an exception, not a ruling example, of the U.S. military engagements of the twentieth century." But I would assert that the key to understanding Vietnam is as the most egregious example of the rule that the U.S. is willing to use force against any country whose popular aspirations threaten the interests and profits of U.S.-centered global corporate capitalism. Since World War II, this rule has been applied with bloody results in Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, Indonesia, Chile, Angola, Nicaragua, and elsewhere.

"We all want to avoid the pain of another event like 9/11. But to do so we must critically examine the continuities of our history-including Iraq-and then fundamentally change coercive U.S. foreign policies. It is my view, on behalf of the Anti-war Anti-racism Effort, that continued denial of our problematic past and present only makes future attacks more likely."

I posted WILL-AM's Policy on Listener Commentaries here a while back, but for reference here it is again. It's likely we'll revisit this policy in the near future. Even though some people don't believe it (names withheld to protect the guilty), we pretty much bend over backwards to work things out. The question for you, dear reader, remains the same as ever: What do you think?

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