Friday, April 28, 2006

100 editions of the BEING HAD Times

The following essay was written for the BEING HAD Times. This morning I published the 100th edition, and thought that I could list it here as well.

From:Adam Goodman, editor of the BHTimes
The BEINGHAD Times: Stories from both sides of the fence
The BHTimes was started last September for purely economic reasons and this is absolutely the truth. We didn’t have enough money so as a means of trying to expand the readership I added on this news page in the hopes of attracting a bit more attention to my regular blog. Making a news page was not my first thought, I played with several ideas for blogs that might have some sort of interest for people, but eventually I settled on the idea of covering Belarusian news because it seemed to be something I could speak relatively knowledgably about and was obviously connected to everything else I was doing here. I mean, I am living here and therefore I thought I could put a unique spin on things.

I don’t really know what I had been expecting from the production of this gazette. I knew that it was going to be a little bit more expensive in terms of time and money ( the internet bill is much larger than it was), but I was hoping that this would turn out to be only an investment, and that there would be some kind of return.

There has been.

Over he last half year I have received probably five times the mail I had previously received from my blogging. I have gotten some press attention, been called to do interviews, been asked for statements and opinions from both press sources and students looking to hear something different about Belarus. I have been called to the mat for the editorial policy; at first for supposedly being wishy-washy and then for not going along with the anti-Lukashenka media hysteria surrounding the elections. I have been congratulated for “telling the truth”, reprimanded for telling lies, and have regularly been called all sorts of names, both good and bad.

Now, as far as this goes, I make no claims of journalistic talent here; I certainly could have done a lot more about getting interviews with public figures and I could have added a lot more writing than I did. But for sure I am not out here simply copying news stories either.

What The BEING HAD Times is, and has been for the last 100 issues is a balanced review of news from the Republic of Belarus. And to my mind being balanced means considering both sides of the argument. Finding a reasonable (peaceful) answer to a problem between two opposing sides requires listening to each other and this means allowing both sides to speak. This is all that I am doing here. I don't print every article I find, that would be impossible as well as unnecessary, but I do print what is being said out there regardless of whether or not they are pro or con- the only real criteria is that the thought has to have at least a reasonable amount of legitimacy to it.

So really, what is the truth here? Is Alexander Lukashenka a dictator? Yes. But folks, HE WAS POPULARLY ELECTED HERE AND THIS IS THE TRUTH!! Is he bad for Belarus? Not necessarily. The country is not rich in resources, it does have an ideological preference which is not of the western model and because of this, Mr. Lukashenka seems absolutely to suit the needs of his constituency. And he really does work at the job so this is not a matter empty corruption. So I for one agree and support that he is the president of Belarus and I think as much as anything, I really, really wish the west would get this point already.

Do you want to say that you don’t believe this, that the elections were rigged and that the Belarusian press services only lies and spreads propaganda? Well, the biggest example of propaganda of the last month came from the west concerning the Ukrainian elections. Ukraine’s elections were considered “free and fair” but Belarus’ was rigged. Why was this so? Well, to me this had everything to do with the results of the Ukrainian vote allowing for a pro-western coalition to retain power even though Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of the Regions, a pro-Moscow group, won the most votes. See what I mean? When the west got to retain power in Ukraine the elections were fair but when they were told to go jump in the river by Belarus, it was a rigged deal. It’s all just a war of words except that at the bottom line, it is the people of Belarus who end up suffering the most. They are the ones who must pay for all of the empty rhetoric as the fight continues over which thoughtless group gets to exploit and utilize them.

So this is why I have not supported the west unilaterally on these pages despite pressure to do so. This does not mean that I agree with the suppression of free speech or that I completely agree with a wholly state run economy, but clearly there has not been a whole hell-of-a-lot of honesty or even any reasonable ideas coming from the western side of the curtain concerning the economic and political situation for the FSU. And also frankly on his side, Mr. Lukashenka has kept things together; he seems to have the best interests of his country at heart, he definitely has the support of his people and therefore he also has mine. If I thought that the west had something real to offer Belarus or even if I thought that what they had to offer was even fair, I would have joined in with the crowd. But I don't, so the BEING HAD Times is what you get.

To me all of the rhetoric that is out there simply means that the debate is still open and this is why you get both Belta and Charter ’97 to read here. This is why the president always gets the top position on the page and why I also print stories allowing Milinkevich and Kazulin and Lebedko and Lungvall and BR23 and Viasna to speak here as well. I did have a ZUBR jeans “16” up once, but I don’t place any symbols or flags on this page regularly and I do edit out the boring and repetitive “Lukashenka, called the last dictator of Europe” tag whenever I find it in stories- and believe me, it is in A LOT of stories. And this is what I think real journalism is at least supposed to be about: Trying to tell the truth about what you are speaking of and presenting it is such a way that people can decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong.

I do think that The BEING HAD Times has been reasonably successful in this regard and to a point, has also been successful in making an impact on other Belarusian media. I say this because one media spot basically stole my “two sides of the argument” theme; another started listing normal Belarusian news stories along side its opposition rhetoric (whereas before that had only derided the government), and still another actually started to pay attention to the facts of their stories more, rather than just trash talking. And believe me, for all of this I am happy and I very much enjoy being a part of the Belarusian blogging community- even if (outwardly) they don’t seem to like me very much.

But most of all I think the BHTimes has been successes because it has given me an opportunity to meet a lot of people who I would never have otherwise had the chance to. I have also been much more involved in things and I think that this is as important as any economic assistance that has come along. For sure I get sick of sitting here all night sometimes and I really wish that Belarus would figure out a way not to be so damned expensive with their internet time, but all in all, I always still seem to have the energy to get up and make another edition; And I have made 100 of them so far.

Thank you all for reading me and for tuning in from time to time to see what is going on.

More soon...