TomDispatch grew out of an e-mail publication that publishing-industry veteran Tom Englehardt began disseminating—initially to his friends—in November 2001. These e-mails consisted of articles that Engelhardt deemed significant, from a wide array of news websites. Topping each of the articles with a line or two of his own commentary, Engelhardt described his efforts at that time as “a clipping service.” As Engelhardt’s recipient list grew ever larger, sometime in 2002 Hamilton Fish V, then-president of the Nation Institute, urged him to put his mass e-mail online as a blog. In December of that year, Engelhardt followed through on Fish’s suggestion and called his new blog TomDispatch. It became a project of the Nation Institute, where Engelhardt himself was (and still is) a “Fellow.”
Covering all manner of social and political issues, domestic and foreign, TomDispatch‘s mission is “to connect some of the global dots regularly left unconnected by the mainstream media and to offer a clearer sense of how this imperial globe of ours actually works.” The site currently features Engelhardt’s regular commentaries along with original work by scores of leftist authors including such notables as Tariq Ali, Anthony Arnove, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Juan Cole, Mark Danner, Barbara Ehrenreich, Glenn Greenwald, Mark Levine, Bill McKibben, Victor Navasky, Frances Fox Piven, Arundhati Roy, and Orville Schell. The late Howard Zinn also contributed to TomDispatch.
Anti-Americanism is a thread that runs through many TomDispatch entries. For example, one July 2012 piece charged that “exporting and facilitating violence of all sorts all over the globe” has long been “an American tradition, from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, from Haiti to Hiroshima.”
That same month, another TomDispatch entry depicted the U.S. as an irremediably racist nation, citing, as one proof of this, the fact that African-Americans and Hispanics are “overrepresented” among victims of police shootings. The piece quoted a Hispanic attorney stating that while “white kids in affluent neighborhoods … have no reason to fear police,” “young men with brown skin in poor neighborhoods … are targeted by police.”
By TomDispatch‘s reckoning, America’s transgressions are by no means limited to military and racial matters. Yet another 2012 blog post, for instance, alleged that because U.S. industrial activity had contributed mightily to “a faster than expected build-up of greenhouse gases,” the Earth’s atmospheric temperature was rising even faster that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had predicted in its gloomy 2007 forecast. Particularly significant was the threat this posed to the forests of the western United States, which “account for 20% to 40% of total U.S. carbon sequestration.” “At some point,” said the piece, “as western forests succumb to the ills of climate change, they will become a net releaser of atmospheric carbon, rather than one of the planet’s principle [sic] means of storing it.” This, according to TomDispatch, was contrary to the supposedly absurd “claims of climate deniers”—those who do not accept the contention that human industry, particularly in capitalist societies, causes global warming.
Also in 2012, a TomDispatch blog post rejected the notion that the U.S. was facing a debt-and-spending crisis, and blamed that “myth” for having “emboldened those who claim that we must cut government spending as quickly, as radically, as deeply as possible.” Suggesting that reductions in government expenditures “are guaranteed to harm, if not cripple, an economy still teetering at the edge of recession,” the piece reported that “a number of leading economists are now busy explaining why the deficit this year actually ought to be a lot larger, not smaller; why there should be more government spending, including aid to state and local governments, which would create new jobs and prevent layoffs in areas like education and law enforcement.” Similarly, it said that “false claims about the higher cost of government health programs” had led many people to unwisely “demand that health-care solutions come from the private sector.” The “Obamacare” legislation of 2010, added TomDispatch, would actually “reduce budget deficits by $119 billion between now and 2019” (emphasis in original).
In September 2012, on the first anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement’s inception, a TomDispatch entry praised OWS for the “remarkable things” it had already accomplished, and the “more remarkable systemic change [that still] could be ahead.”