The New Internationalist is a radical progressive current affairs monthly based in Oxford, Britain. Although its exact affiliations have changed over the years (they started in 1970), along with the ever mutating form of the left as a whole, currently they are very much a part of the red/green end of what's commonly known as the "anti-globalisation movement"1. Their focus is firmly centred on what they refer to variously as "the global South" or, more blatantly politically but also quite appropriately, "the Majority World" - and what is more generally known as "the Third" or "Developing World". Their concern is global inequality, its results and causes. And more generally it is the countries themselves - their literature, their photography, their culture and their politics.

Each month the magazine concentrates on some particular theme - recent examples have included AIDS, slavery, oil, the rise of the corporations, alternatives to the current global economic system, "turbo-capitalism", and the rise of union movements in the Majority World. They cover these issues in depth, from their own lefty radical perspective, presenting a coherent argument along with the reportage. Which of course is just another way of saying that they are hugely biased, and indeed as a current affairs magazine they should be trusted only to paint one side of the picture - but then that's a side which, due to the general right-wing bias of the mass media2, could quite frankly do with a lick of paint or two. And they do present that side quite well, with a mixture of first-hand tales from the people concerned, ordinary journalism by members of the New Internationalist Cooperative3, and a healthy dose of statistics4.

In addition to the main features, they have regulars which include a letters page guaranteed to be filled with all sorts of interesting extreme opinions, some basic alternative news pages which often present stories or slants on stories you just don't see in the papers5, reviews of books, film and music either from the Majority World or politically based, a crossword which is insanely difficult unless you know everything about everywhere ever, their catalogue of rich and powerful global criminals 6, and an in-depth analysis of the political, economic and social state of a country you've quite plausibly barely heard of.

In all, they provide an important role in reporting the little reported, in representing (as their tag-line goes) "The people, the ideas, the action in the fight for global justice", and they are more than up to the task of meeting all your middle-class guilt/anger needs. Though it would be nice if, just now and then, they let those they criticise answer back...

One last thing - the NI recently published a Peters Projection Atlas, which is a neat little map that (unlike your bog-standard Mercator Projection) shows the world in its correct proportions, showing just how huge Africa and South and Central America are compared to those little tiddling blobs known as Europe and North America. Personally, I'm rather sceptical about the claims that the Mercator Projection represents some grand conspiracy on the part of Northern map makers everywhere - it just happens to be the only projection which has the lines of longitude and latitude properly spaced and hence be usable for navigation - but it's certainly good to correct misconceptions that might have come from it7.

Sources -

  • The magazine itself, obv
  • - a fantastic website containing amongst other things a searchable archive of all the mags since 1984

1a horribly innaccurate term - I'm with George Monbiot on this one in preferring "internationalist movement", myself
2Ah, I smell controversy. But though some may complain of a liberal bias in the media, though I see none of it myself nor any clear mechanism for it, let me assure you that compared to the NI the vast majority of the popular media is very much right-wing.
3What else?
4Often taken, with a healthy sense of irony, from their "enemies" the World Bank, the IMF and allies - though of course expecting rather different conclusions to be drawn from them.
5For example, they seem to have been one of the very few publications to have been properly outraged over the recent Venezualan coup, which appears to have been orchestrated by America and was clearly highly undemocratic. Even the Guardian's coverage presented it in a way which bordered on supporting the coup (though later articles presented the other side of the story)
6Which they call Worldbeaters, and which in recent months has included Vladimir Putin - Ex-KGB man and current President of Russia, Omar al-Bashir - dictator of Sudan, Riley Bechtel - Chair and Chief Executive of Bechtel Enterprises which owns huge swathes of South America's utilities, Ex Israeli Defence Force Minister Effie Etiam, and in a rare moment of frivolity, HRH Queen Elizabeth II.
7 See Peters projection for more on why this is very much an overrated atlas. Though as Linca points out, one problem with the Mercator projection is that it is commonly presented focussed on the North rather than the equator, or at least with more of the North shown than of the South, hence making the South appear smaller. This might be a relic from the olden days, when the North was what navigators navigated, or it might just be because there's nothing interesting down there 'cept ice.

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