"Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted all else follows…"
George Orwell's novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, begins with the clocks striking thirteen. Something wasn't right…
Welcome to October 2013, and the clocks are going backwards. Back to the days when a free independent press was almost impossible. Back to the days when Engels described Salford as a `workers' camp', where people toiled all the hours god sent, for shocking wages and crap housing. Where autocratic rulers slapped down any dissenting voices…
The Salford Star first appeared online in 2009, forced out of print by advertisers scared to be associated with a publication that dared to challenge, question and hold to account public authorities that had the financial muscle in the city.
Early online articles included showing up the hypocrisy of the then Government Communities Minister and Salford MP Hazel Blears, and her `Communities In Control' policy, urging that "a strong independent media is a vital part of any democracy" (see here).
This was back in the days when a certain Ian Stewart, then Eccles MP, was banging on in the House of Commons about the joys of community media "serving some of the most disadvantaged groups in our society…It provides a voice for many people who are disengaged and excluded from traditional media… They…act as a platform for arts innovation, for community debate, and for communication with local and national government, thereby increasing social cohesion and community involvement in the democratic process and in citizenship." (see here)
How far have we come in those four years? On a local level, in Salford, the Star has been subject to constant ludicrous outpourings by the now City Mayor, Ian Stewart and his Assistant Mayors – the latest of which made the Rotten Boroughs column of Private Eye (see photo).
The Star is now treated officially by Salford Council as akin to Al Qaeda – we get no press releases and no responses for quotes or interviews, while Mayor Ian Stewart loves to call us, and anyone else who dares to challenge his policies, `extremists' (see here).
It got to the point earlier this year where the Salford Star actually went on strike in protest against illegal withholding of financial and Freedom of Information material (see here); while we tried to drag Assistant Mayor for Housing and Environment Gena Merrett to a Council standards panel for her very public slurs – only for it to be rejected by Ben Dolan, head officer for Environment, who was effectively ruling on his boss! (see here)
Despite all this, the Salford Star has constantly broken exclusive stories, well ahead of the national and local media.
And despite all the bile and spin coming from the political centre of Salford Council, we're sure the Mayor would like to know just how many Labour councillors and Council officers actually tell us what a good job we're doing, even if they don't always agree with our conclusions. It's about some kind of accountability. It's about democracy. It's about things that have very quickly been forgotten as power and money warps the moral compass.
Meanwhile, on a national level, the Tory-led ConDem Government is in the process of forcing through Parliament a `Gagging Law' (see here), and some shocking press regulation, which will also usher in the taming of independent voices and community media.
The Salford Star is getting squeezed locally and nationally and keeping the publication going has been bloody hard but well worth it, thanks to constant support from the community. Only last week, a desperately needed new computer was donated to the Star. And, not a month goes by without a small donation appearing from somewhere. We're at the point now where the print magazine can almost be published again. In the meantime, there's 2,000 articles on here and many more to come…
`Does Big Brother exist?
`Of course he exists…'
`Does he exist in the same way as I exist?'
`You do not exist…'
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* Please note that the Salford Star fundraising night previously advertised here has been cancelled for various reasons. Hopefully there will be something else very soon.