Norman Solomon

Norman Solomon

: Photo from Creative Commons / Author of Photo: Adriel Hampton from Dublin, USA


* 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

Early Radical Roots

Born in the District of Columbia on July 7, 1951, Norman Solomon grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland. As a teenager he became a political activist with the radical Montgomery County Student Alliance (MCSA), which once published a report depicting the local school system as a rigid, authoritarian institution that stifled free inquiry and discussion. Solomon’s affiliation with MCSA caused the FBI to begin monitoring him in 1966. Moreover, the Bureau shared information about MCSA with the Secret Service and military intelligence agencies.

Anti-Nuclear Activist

After briefly attending Reed College — a private liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon — Solomon in the 1970s lived in Portland and became an activist against nuclear power and nuclear weapons. In the late ’70s he spent several weeks in jail, for repeatedly engaging in protests demanding the closure of the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant. Solomon also served as chief researcher for the Committee for Veterans of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which reported that U.S. Army veterans who had served in Japan after America’s detonation of two atomic bombs in 1945, now suffered from inordinately high incidences of blood disorders and cancers.

In November 1981, Solomon and journalist Duncan Campbell co-authored an article in the British socialist magazine New Statesman, inaccurately claiming that a recent U.S. Navy Poseidon missile accident at a Scottish naval base could have caused a radioactive disaster in Great Britain.

In 1982 Solomon and fellow leftwing 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.

Arrested for Blocking a Train Carrying Weapons Cargo

In September 1984, a District Court judge sentenced Solomon to ten days in jail for his participation in a protest where approximately 30 activists obstructed a railroad track in Vancouver, Washington, so as to block a train carrying U.S. Energy Department cargo from a weapons manufacturing facility in Texas to the U.S. Navy Trident submarine base in Bangor, Washington. Solomon at the time was the “disarmament director” for the interfaith group, Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Going to Moscow to Propagandize Against America’s Growing Military

In the 1980s Solomon made eight trips to Moscow, traveling 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 protester 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. Also during their time in Russia, Solomon and Guarisco lent rhetorical support to two Soviet government-run front groups urging American disarmament – 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.

Co-Founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

In 1986, Solomon helped Jeff Cohen establish the New York-based “media watchdog” group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

In August 1988, Solomon was appointed as the head of FAIR’s new office in the District of Columbia.

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.

Alliance of Atomic Veterans

In 1988 Solomon moved back to the Washington, D.C. area, where he served as a spokesman for Anthony Guarisco’s anti-military, anti-nuclear organization, the Alliance of Atomic Veterans.

Columnist & Book Author

In the 1990s Solomon relocated from D.C. to San Francisco, though he continued his association with Jeff Cohen and FAIR. From 1992-97, Solomon and Cohen co-wrote a nationally syndicated newspaper column titled “Media Beat.” Solomon thereafter continued the column solo until 2009. And between 1995 and 2002, Solomon and Cohen authored three books together.

Radio Program

In 1994 Solomon was a founder of the National Radio Project, which produced public affairs programs and was subsequently renamed the International Media Project. As part of this endeavor, Solomon and investigative journalist David Barsamian co-hosted a weekly syndicated radio news program called Making Contact. In the late 1990s Solomon shifted from being a regular co-host of this show, to being its “senior advisor.”

Founder of the Institute for Public Accuracy

In 1997 Solomon founded the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA), which seeks to “increas[e] the reach and capacity of progressive and grassroots organizations.”

The Trouble with Dilbert: How Corporate Culture Gets the Last Laugh

That same year, Solomon published The Trouble with Dilbert: How Corporate Culture Gets the Last Laugh. This book was an attack on the popular comic strip Dilbert, which, as the L.A. Times put it, “chronicles the frustrations of a nerdy employee in a nameless, absurdly run company.” Though the Dilbert cartoon purported to “mar[k] the supposed outer boundary of opposition to corporate machinery,” said Solomon, in fact it merely “teaches through example … that the best we can hope for is a cynical aside and an acid quip.”

Opponent of Private Media Ownership

Favoring a government-funded press, Solomon in the early 2000s asserted on multiple occasions that private media ownership inevitably causes big money to block “the windpipe of the First Amendment.”

Siding with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq

In September 2002, as a U.S. invasion of Iraq seemed increasingly inevitable, Solomon headed an IPA delegation to that country; he was accompanied by such notables as Democrat Congressman Nick Rahall and former Democrat Senator James Abourezk. Following the trip, Solomon, who condemned the United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq as American military spies, reported that his meetings with Iraqi officials had been suffused with “some real warmth,” a “shared desire to avert the looming specter of just a really horrific war,” and “moments that were really transcendent, in terms of human connectedness.” Adding that “the idea of pre-emptive strikes” by the United States was “insane,” he said “we all agreed on … the regime change demand of the Bush administration as being a major obstacle.”

Helping Sean Penn Visit Baghdad for Anti-U.S. Propaganda Trip

In December 2002, Solomon and IPA sponsored a trip to Baghdad by actor and anti-war activist Sean Penn, in hopes that Penn could use his celebrity status to, as Solomon put it, “inspire many Americans from various walks of life to explore how they can impede the momentum toward war.” During the trip, Penn made numerous statements that had great propaganda value to Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Penn made a return trip to Iraq for the same purpose in late 2003, this time with help not only from Solomon, but also from the radical activist Medea Benjamin.

Urging Democrats Not to Support Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader, 2004

Though he was a longtime supporter of independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, Solomon in 2004 urged liberal and leftist voters to cast their ballots instead for Democratic nominee John 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. By Solomon’s telling, Nader had “become a de facto ally of the current emperor” (Bush) and was positioning himself to “hurt the Democratic Party in a big way” by siphoning votes away from Kerry. Wrote Solomon on October 30, 2004:

“Ralph Nader won’t receive more than 1 percent of the vote nationwide on Election Day, but he’s already the winner in a spectacular game of ‘chicken.’ After the vast majority of former allies jumped off his electoral vehicle, Nader kept flooring the accelerator — while scorning them as ‘scared liberals’ who ‘lost their nerve.’

“For decades Nader’s signature issue has been corporate power. But David Korten, author of the seminal book When Corporations Rule the World, is one of the many high-profile Nader 2000 endorsers who’ve opposed his 2004 venture. ‘Your campaign is the wrong war against the wrong enemy for the wrong reason,’ Korten wrote in an Oct. 21 open letter to Nader. ‘Tragically, it has come increasingly to appear that its primary intention is to throw the election to Bush to extract your personal vengeance against the Democratic Party.’

“As a former Nader supporter, I’ve come to similar conclusions. His has been a pointless project — unless the point is to again prove that he can hurt the Democratic Party in a big way. With most polls showing a dead heat, Nader insisted on the need to keep running all-out, even — and perhaps especially — in the closest states. Nader’s travel schedule for late October, putting him in Florida and several other battleground states, must have been appreciated at the White House.

“More than any other American reformer of the last half-century, Nader kept showing that the emperor had no clothes. Now, at a crucial moment in history, Nader has become a de facto ally of the current emperor.”

Media Democracy Legal Project

Circa 2006, Solomon served as an adviser to the Media Democracy Legal Project, a National Lawyers Guild ally that sought to “attain democratic governance of our publicly owned airwaves in accordance with the democratic ideals of our U.S. Constitution.”


Solomon has long been a harsh critic of Israel. For example:

  • In 2008 he described the Jewish state as “a mighty practitioner” of “moral imbecility,” whose “ongoing … war crime” against the Palestinian people was being carried out with “an accomplice named Uncle Sam” and was making many people around the world “ill with rage.”
  • In 2014 he accused Israel of perpetrating “the mass slaughter of [Palestinian] civilians.”

Progressive Democrats of America

In 2010, Solomon became a national board member of the Progressive Democrats of America.

In early 2011, Solomon and Jeff Cohen collaborated to create the online activist group, which expressed dissatisfaction with both “a far-right Republican Party regime that is largely a subsidiary of corporate America, and a Democratic Party whose leadership is enmeshed with corporate power.”

Solomon Describes His Politics as “Green New Deal”

In a May 2011 interview with Marin magazine, Solomon had the following exchange with the interviewer:

Q: Please describe your politics. Do you consider yourself a pacifist?

A: My politics are perhaps best described as “Green New Deal.” I believe that government can be made to work for the benefit of the entire society. Access to quality education, adequate health care, consumer protection, civil liberties and environmental safeguards are not frills or mere privileges — they should be our birthrights as Americans. Likewise, regulatory agencies should be given the resources and power to really protect the natural environment, whether that means preventing oil spills in waterways or restricting greenhouse gases so we can reverse global warming.

Solomon’s Political Heroes

In the same May 2011 interview, Solomon identified his leading political heroes as the late Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Martin Luther King Jr., the late Senator Paul Wellstone, and former Senator George McGovern.

In a November 28, 2011 interview with Common Dreams, Solomon named John ConyersBarbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, Jim McGovern, Raul Grijalva, and Lynn Woolsey as some of the Democrat legislators whom he most admired and respected.

2011-12 Campaign for Congress “in Sync with Occupy Wall Street”

In 2011-12, Solomon ran, as a Democrat, for a U.S. House of Representatives seat that was slated to open up as a result of the impending retirement of California Democrat Lynn Woolsey. “I want to strengthen the Congressional Progressive Caucus and help make it more of a force to be reckoned with,” he said. Solomon’s campaign priorities were to:

  • implement “a new New Deal to revive our economy” by imposing “a one-quarter of 1 percent transaction tax on Wall Street,” which would “generate roughly $150 billion per year in revenues” and thereby create “millions of new jobs”;
  • “put climate change back at the top of the agenda in Washington” by imposing “a tax on carbon (with revenues equitably distributed to the American people) to reverse global warming and bring greenhouse gases under control”;
  • combat “income inequality” by ending “government policies” – like “tax cuts for the wealthy” – that “favor the top 1 percent over the rest of us”;
  • “bring down the federal deficit responsibly [by] cutting the Pentagon budget, eliminating the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy, ending tax loopholes for big corporations, and imposing appropriate taxes on Wall Street speculation”;
  • oppose any cuts to Social Securiy, which Solomon described as a “solvent” and “self-funding social insurance program” that “must be fully protected”;
  • use “diplomacy to halt nuclear proliferation” in the Middle East “at the same time that Washington fulfills its own obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”; and
  • “hal[t] the destructive momentum of extreme overreliance on fossil fuels,” turning instead to “green, clean” wind and solar power.

In November 2011, Solomon said the following about his congressional campaign: “Our campaign is very much in sync with [the newly launched, anti-capitalist] Occupy Wall Street. Issues that I’ve been talking about from the outset of this campaign last January, and for many years before that, are part of the OWS focus — Wall Street’s undemocratic power, the widening disparities between the rich and the rest of us, the need to eject corporate money from politics.”

Solomon finished a distant third in the 2012 Democratic primary, garnering only 14.9% of the vote and thus failing to qualify for the general election.

Advocating a Nobel Peace Prize for Bradley Manning

In 2013, Solomon and his RootsAction organization launched a petition drive calling for a Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded to Bradley Manning (a.k.a. Chelsea Manning), a U.S. soldier who had been convicted of espionage for leaking some 750,000 sensitive and/or classified documents to WikiLeaks. “No individual has done more to push back against what Martin Luther King Jr. called ‘the madness of militarism’ than Bradley Manning,” the petition read.

Supporter of Bernie Sanders for President

In 2016 Solomon supported the presidential candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders and served as a coordinator of the independent Bernie Delegates Network. When the eventual Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, eventually selected Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate, Solomon accused Mrs. Clinton of showing “demonstrable contempt for the progressive wing” of the Democratic Party. He further stated that Clinton must have known that “her choice of Kaine can only inflame rather than soothe her relations with the huge constituency of Bernie supporters.” He added that progressives “will understand what it means when their efforts to challenge oligarchy have been met by Clinton’s selection of a loyal servant of oligarchy,” and that “if Clinton has reached out to Bernie supporters, it appears that she has done so to stick triangulating thumbs in their eyes.” More suitable choices for a running mate, said Solomon, would have been Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, or Tom Perez.

Solomon again served as a coordinator of the independent Bernie Delegates Network in 2020.

Calling for Impeachment of President Trump

In 2017, Solomon and RootsAction collaborated with another advocacy group, Free Speech for People, to lead an “Impeach Donald Trump Now” movement.

Additional Information on Norman Solomon

More than once, Solomon has approvingly quoted the late Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci‘s assertion that the proper temperament for a revolutionary is “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.”

Solomon is a former associate of the Center for Investigative Reporting, which seeks to “hold the powerful accountable and reveal government fraud and waste of taxpayer funds, human rights violations, environmental degradation and threats to public safety.”

Solomon has been a supporter of the Bay Area New Priorities Campaign, whose mission is to pressure Congress into cutting expenditures on the U.S. military while increasing spending for social welfare programs.

Over the years, Solomon has written numerous pieces for Al-Jazeera and Al-Jazeera America. Moreover, his op-ed articles have appeared in such newspapers as the Washington PostLos Angeles TimesNewsdayNew York TimesBoston GlobeMiami HeraldUSA TodayPhiladelphia InquirerBaltimore Sun and The Hill. His articles have also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, Canada’s Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.

Solomon has authored or co-authored the following books:

  • Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation (with Harvey Wasserman) – 1982
  • Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in News Media (with Martin Lee) – 1990
  • False Hope: The Politics of Illusion in the Clinton Era – 1994
  • Through the Media Looking Glass: Decoding Bias and Blather in the News (with Jeff Cohen) – 1995
  • The Trouble with Dilbert: How Corporate Culture Gets the Last Laugh – 1997
  • The Wizards of Media Oz: Behind the Curtain of Mainstream News (with Jeff Cohen) – 1997
  • The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media: Decoding Spin and Lies in Mainstream News – 1999
  • Adventures in Medialand: Behind the News, Beyond the Pundits (with Jeff Cohen) – 2002
  • Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You – 2003
  • War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death – 2005
  • Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State – 2007
  • War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (2010)
  • War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine (2023)

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