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NORMAN SOLOMON Printer Friendly Page

Sean Penn's Peace Mission Guru
By Mark Hand
January 2, 2003

Fifth Column Public Policy Institute
By Chris Arabia
January 7, 2003

Sean Penn's Baghdad Homecoming
By Ben Johnson
January 21, 2004

Penn's Pontifications
By Ben Johnson
June 3, 2003

 


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  • Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA)
  • Took actor Sean Penn and others to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2002 to propagandze against the U.S. 
  • Former executive of “media watchdog” organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
  • Made eight visits to Moscow in the 1980s

 

Norman Solomon is the founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA), which provides leftwing "experts" and spin to influence journalists in the mainstream press. In the mid-1990s he served as President of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), which complains of a paucity of leftist views in the media.

Solomon’s ideological mentor was the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), whose major contribution to Marxist thinking was the idea that radicals should seek "cultural hegemony" by capturing "the institutions that produced society's governing ideas." In that tradition, Solomon has devoted himself to radicalizing society by shaping and controlling the media through which people acquire ideas and information.

Born in 1951, Solomon grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland. The FBI began monitoring him in June 1966 because of his radical activism with the Montgomery County Student Alliance.

In the 1970s Solomon lived in Portland, Oregon, where he became an activist against nuclear power and nuclear weapons. He served as chief researcher for the Committee for Veterans of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a group that tracked down U.S. Army veterans who had served in Japan near the end of World War II and found that they suffered from comparatively high incidences of blood disorders and cancers.

In November 1981 Solomon and journalist Duncan Campbell co-authored a sensationalist article in the British socialist newspaper New Statesman, inaccurately claiming that a U.S. Navy Poseidon missile accident that month at a Scottish naval base had nearly caused a mushroom cloud and radioactive disaster in Great Britain.

In 1982 Solomon and fellow left-activist Harvey Wasserman co-authored the book Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America's Experience with Radiation, which offered a negative view of the effects of radiation from nuclear tests, weapons manufacture, nuclear waste storage, and atomic reactors.

In September 1984 a District Court judge sentenced Solomon to ten days in jail for having been one of thirty protestors who -- in an effort to block a train carrying U.S. Energy Department cargo from a Texas weapons manufacturing facility to the U.S. Navy Trident submarine base in Bangor, Washington -- had obstructed railroad tracks in Vancouver, Washington. Solomon at the time was the "disarmament director" for the interfaith "peace" organization, Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Solomon's writings and protests during this era dovetailed perfectly with Soviet propaganda that pushed for American nuclear disarmament.

Solomon made eight trips to Moscow during the 1980s. He traveled with press credentials as a reporter working for the Pacific News Service and Pacifica Radio, but in the Russian capital he behaved more as an anti-American propagandist and political protestor than as a journalist. In February 1986, for instance, Solomon and U.S. military veteran Anthony Guarisco staged a sit-in at the American Embassy in Moscow, demanding that the United States join the Soviet Union in a nuclear test ban. As journalist Mark Hand reported, "Two Marines eventually carried Solomon out of the Embassy, while Guarisco walked out on his own."

During their Soviet sojourn, Solomon and Guarisco lent rhetorical support to two Soviet government-run front groups pushing the disarmament line -- the Soviet Peace Committee and the Soviet Veterans' Committee. They also met with the nominally "independent" Committee to Establish Trust Between the USSR and the USA.

In 1988 Solomon moved back to the District of Columbia, where he worked as spokesman for Guarisco's anti-military, anti-nuclear organization, the Alliance of Atomic Veterans.

In August 1988 Solomon was hired to run the new Washington, DC office of FAIR, a group founded two years earlier by Jeff Cohen with the aim of helping America's establishment media move ever farther to the left politically.

In 1990 Solomon and Martin A. Lee co-authored Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in News Media. In 1992 Solomon published The Power of Babble: The Politician's Dictionary of Buzzwords and Doubletalk for Every Occasion. In 1994 he wrote False Hope: The Politics of Illusion in the Clinton Era.

From 1992 until 1997 Solomon and Cohen co-wrote a newspaper column, "Media Beat." Soloman has continued the column solo since then. Distributed by Creators Syndicate, Solomon's column is carried by some establishment newspapers such as the Cleveland Plain Dealer and by counter-cultural publications such as San Francisco's Bay Area Guardian and Michael Albert’s radical "Z" outlets Zmag and Znet (which between them have published and archived more than 120 of Solomon's articles and columns).

Solomon and Cohen co-authored three books published by Common Courage Press. One was Adventures in Medialand: Behind the News, Beyond the Pundits (1993). Another was Through the Media Looking Glass: Decoding Bias and Blather in the News (1995). The third was Wizards of Media Oz: Behind the Curtain of Mainstream News (1997).

In a 1992 anti-nuclear, anti-American speech at UC Santa Cruz, Solomon said, "I often think of a statement attributed to the Italian anti-fascist Antonio Gramsci, who spoke about what he called the need for 'pessimism of the mind and optimism of the will.'" The words quoted by Solomon were Gramsci's definition of the "revolutionary temperament."

In 1994 Solomon and Jeff Cohen began a continuing tradition of giving annual FAIR awards called "The P.U.-litzer Prizes" for examples of what they deemed right-wing or capitalist bias in the media.

Although he has continued to work closely with Cohen and FAIR, Solomon in the 1990s moved from Washington, DC to San Francisco. From there he has written articles for such leftist outlets as The Progressive, the National Catholic Reporter, and The Nation. For a time, Solomon was an "associate" of the liberal Center for Investigative Reporting. He has appeared widely in the broadcast media, not only in the U.S. but also in Britain (BBC) and Canada (CBC radio and television).

In the mid-1990s Solomon and David Barsamian co-founded a weekly syndicated radio news program called Making Contact. Barsamian, whose own longstanding show Alternative Radio originates from his home base in Colorado, is closely affiliated with Michael Albert's "Z" publications. Barsamian co-authored several books with Noam Chomsky and others with the Marxist historian Howard Zinn. (Making Contact continues today as an international radio program produced and syndicated to as many as 165 radio stations by the left National Radio Project in San Francisco. Since the late 1990s Solomon has eased back from being a regular co-host of this show to being its "senior advisor.")

In 1997, with seed money from the Stern Family Fund ($200,000) and from Bill MoyersSchumann Center for Media and Democracy (at least $100,000), Solomon created the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA).

That same year, Solomon published The Trouble with Dilbert: How Corporate Culture Gets the Last Laugh, a neo-Marxist interpretation of the popular comic strip.

Solomon's 1999 collection of columns titled The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media: Decoding Spin and Lies in Mainstream News won the "George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language" from the left-liberal National Council of Teachers of English. This book's introduction by leftwing educator Jonathan Kozol characterizes Solomon as someone in "the tradition of Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, and I.F. Stone."

In a 2002 column urging Democrats to remain strongly anti-war, Solomon wrote:

"Inside the amphitheater in Philadelphia at the 2000 Republican National Convention, I was struck by the blood-curdling joy that delegates expressed when speakers voiced enthusiasm for past and future wars. The Democrats will never be able to equal such mind-numbing fervor for military madness. It's tragic that so many seem to be trying."

As part of the leftwing anti-Iraq War coalition, IPA arranged and funded activist actor Sean Penn's winter 2002-03 trip to Baghdad to provide propaganda supporting Saddam Hussein and attacking Republican President George W. Bush. As the handler who accompanied Penn on this junket, Solomon proclaimed that the actor's "visit could inspire many Americans from various walks of life to explore how they can impede the momentum toward war, whether in Baghdad or at home in the United States."

In 2003 Solomon and Reese Erlich co-authored Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You, a book that includes an introduction by Howard Zinn and an afterword by Sean Penn.

A harsh critic of Israel as well as of the United States, Solomon has written for the Saudi-backed Arab News and has been a featured guest on Al-Jazeera satellite television. "There are ways that the U.S. government could legitimately reduce the negative coverage it gets on al-Jazeera," wrote Solomon in 2004. "For instance, if President Bush wants al-Jazeera to stop airing grisly footage of dead Iraqi civilians, as commander in chief he could order U.S. troops to stop killing them."

In 2004 Solomon joined Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, David Barsamian and other former supporters of independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader in urging "progressive" voters to cast their ballots instead for Democratic Party candidate John F. Kerry -- on the theory that Nader stood no chance of defeating George W. Bush in that year's  election, whereas Kerry had a good chance of winning.

In June 2005 Solomon published War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

 

 

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