Swans 10th Anniversary
by Jan Baughman
(Swans - May 8, 2006) A decade can pass in the blink of an eye; ten years ticked off in the daily grind, day-to-day deadlines, week-to-week obligations, monthly bills, yearly taxes, and then it begins all over again. Can one witness evolution in real time, or does it take the benefit of time to step back and analyze the changes?
When I first met Gilles d'Aymery in 1989, he had since abandoned the corporate life in search of something more meaningful, having always had, in his very fiber, the desire to write. He was full of words and ideas, which the corporate media would not touch with a ten-foot pole. In the early nineties he became -- through no surprise, political circumstances -- a self-taught computer guru, ironically enough in the halcyon days of Silicon Valley. As an early adapter of the Internet, he would show me the vast reserves of information available at the fingertips. Sitting down to search the Net, I didn't even know where to explore. Al Gore and Bill Clinton talked about the nebulous "Information Superhighway" that would change our lives. But who knew? Those were the days when one would laboriously refer someone to a Web site by saying, "Go to h t t p colon forward slash forward slash double-u double-u double-u dot swans dot com forward slash." And here we are today: visit swans.com.
It was a natural evolution, out of a fortuitous set of circumstances, for Gilles to combine his computer knowledge, his writing desire, and the power of the Internet to create Swans, and that resurrected my early journalism experience and love of writing. And Swans has certainly evolved! Over the years, we've gone from publishing a single article five days per week; to one every two to three, even four days; to weekly by mid-1997. The early days more closely resembled the current blogs, with articles reflecting the contributors' unique experiences, perspectives, and interests. But in 1999 Swans changed course. The NATO war on Yugoslavia had a huge impact, and the site became more politicized, more focused on specific issues, and multiple articles were now published each week. By 2001 the current look of the site took shape; the Note from the Editor matured to an encapsulation of the entire edition -- with commentary -- and the biweekly schedule was established, with ten-plus articles in each edition. And the quality and variety of contributors, along with the number of readers, took flight.
It is worth recalling, in an evolutionary sense, that the initial awe of the power of the Internet led many to believe that with the rapid sharing of news and information, the global political climate would be forever changed. No government or individual could get away with the type of atrocities of the past if their effects could be instantly exposed. Sadly, perhaps with the Internet's provision of so much information and disinformation, the popularity of bloggers, along with the corporate media's decay, that evolution has not evolved. We are now simply more aware of the global injustices that continue to occur, day in and day out, and it may be that global apathy has set in. So many I know have completely given up following the news. In the meantime, myriad sites have popped up with single-minded agendas, mobilizing people and raising money to stop this war or that, end hunger, solve homelessness and so on, without fighting the root causes: the political and economic policies that feed on war, promote hunger, and leave people homeless to fend for themselves.
Yet the war on Iraq was not an isolated event brought on by another isolated event known as 9/11. Nor was the war on Yugoslavia a blip on the radar screen any more than was the Vietnam War. The US threats toward Iran are not an isolated reaction to a perceived nuclear threat. The policy of the US Environmental Protection Agency is not independent of the decisions made by the US Food and Drug Administration or the Energy Department. The catastrophe of New Orleans, which has only worsened and fallen into the dustbins of history, is not the result of a single hurricane, but is a symptom of a survival-of-the-fittest philosophy. Yet we still rallied behind stories like Plamegate, hoping for accountability. When accountability didn't come, we relied on the Downing Street Memos to be the smoking gun for change. When that didn't happen, we placed our bets on the wiretapping scandal. Forget torture, forget extraordinary rendition, forget secret camps; each sensational revelation is disappeared like a suspected terrorist when the next one surfaces. Tomorrow is a new day, and a new "reality" TV show will debut to distract our attention, until the next crisis.
Which brings me back to the reality of Swans. Swans is not an activist site in the sense of adopting a single issue: rallying the masses to Bring the Troops Home Now, or Stop Global Warming, or Impeach Bush. We endeavor to put these issues in a broader perspective. Milo Clark, one of the original and steadfast Swans, helped define our perspective: the importance of understanding patterns that connect; the knowledge that the only way not to play a game is not to play; and the recognition that attempting to solve problems using the tools, techniques, and thoughts which create them is silly. Without embracing these principles and acting upon them, we cannot hope for change.
This, then, is how I view Swans: as a relentless voice that is not heard in the corporate media; a weaver of tales, a connector of patterns, presenting the big picture, analyzing the story behind the stories, while celebrating poetry, and books, and culture -- the very things that make us human and give us an appreciation of life in both its light and dark times. We cannot but carry on steadfast, keeping the words and ideas flowing every two weeks; with deadlines, setbacks, inspiration, hope for the future, and the deep appreciation of connections made by this so-called Information Superhighway that allows people to choose the road less traveled, where we would otherwise never meet. That, as Robert Frost said, can make all the difference.
So here's to the next ten years of Swans. Accompany us on the journey.
Starting its eleventh year of free publication, Swans is rich in friends, but poor in cash. If you've enjoyed being a Swans reader, please help us out with aThank you.