The site's left-of-center-pieces -- with generous links to other POVs -- vary wildly in quality and usefulness, but you can find some real gems on disinfo.com. Taken together, the stories on this important, possibly even landmark site are a sharp indictment of the humorless and tepid way the popular media screen out opinion and commentary that's different, provocative or original.
We know too well that most mainstream media -- TV networks, major newspapers and newsmagazines, commercial news web sites -- have been corporatized, homogenized and mass-marketed by profit-obsessed corporate execs from Disney and General Electric. They could as well be -- and simultaneously are -- selling them park tickets and light bulbs as ideas and opinions. Newspapers have grown stupefyingly boring, their commentary relegated to snoozy op-ed pages. Cable TV, once the great hope, is becoming a nightmare of fragmentation, eternal argument and dogmatic fanaticism. Except for slight variations -- Fox News' interesting right-wing tilt, for example -- most mainstream news organizations stock to a militantly moderate point of view, veering a wee bit to the right or a tad to the left but never much further.
The target audience of most major media, from your daily paper to Time and CNN, is the appliance-and-car acquiring middle class, who seem to like their politics tepid and lite, the way AOL users like their Net. With media so firmly in the grip of market research, it's tough to know what they might cover if they were left to their own imaginations.
"Disinformation" is, to say the least, different. It was launched in l996 by Richard Metzger, now edited by Alex Burns. It's arguably one of the best-designed and most interesting alternative news and underground culture sites online. Apart from its own content, the site provides a subculture search engine which directs a reader to sites and relevant links. The site's political bias is clearly leftish, but its links are refreshingly open-minded, incorporating ideas, opinions and responses far beyond traditional definitions of "progressive." In fact, Disinformation is really, in many ways, a dogma killer. Despite the editors' viewpoint, readers get drawn into all sorts of opinions and debates any time they pursue a story or essay.
Apart from the excitement generated by a website that circulates about alternative ideas -- ideas the Net helps to keep alive -- Disinformation is beautifully designed. There's a Disinformation store, of course, offering T-shirts and books. There's easy access to stories by popularity and topic -- from activism and aliens to media, mind control, spirituality and technology. For all the ballyhoo and media hype about sites like Slate, with its heavy Microsoft subsidy, Disinformation really seems to get the fusion between interactivity and ideas. It's an exciting place to browse.
From the beginning, the Net was meant to open up information and give voice to different kinds of people and points of view. The Web, with its hyperlinking, took that idea still further. But in the past few years, that notion seems to have grown tired, in between the copyright wars, the dot.com era and the so-called Net slump. It seemed that corporate America -- Yahoo, MSN and AOL -- was devouring the Web whole. That's why sites like Disinformation are so important. They are the real heart of the Web.