Dear TomDispatch Readers,

It’s not complicated. In fact, it’s painfully simple. I hate sending you a letter like this (just as I don’t like receiving such funding appeals). Yet here I am doing just that. I try to do it as seldom as possible. As this year ends, in fact, this will be the only letter I’ll have sent imploring you for your support of TomDispatch.

Unfortunately, the situation is all too simple. To keep doing the work TomDispatch does, I need money. I need to pay a splendid staff. (My good fortune is that the wonderful Lannan Foundation has always supported me — and, at 76, I still edit books as well.) I need to pay authors for articles. That’s approximately 120 pieces a year that aren’t my own at $300 a pop. (You do the math.) I’ve needed to pay striking sums of money for the updated TD website due to be launched early next year. It all adds up, unfortunately. And what it adds up to, since TD doesn’t take advertising, is you. You or I’ll have to stop. It’s that simple. You — your contributions, your support — really do make all the difference between TomDispatch continuing and (no exaggeration here) not.

I’ve been doing this for 18 years now, since I first stumbled into producing a no-name email listserv just after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. In my own way, in these endless years of forever war, I’ve been a forever site. But the question always is, as George Bernard Shaw put it so long ago in his play Saint Joan, “How long, oh Lord, how long?” Unfortunately, that depends significantly on you. (And if I’m starting to sound repetitious, what choice do I have?)

I doubt there’s another site around that’s offered what I think of as our angle on the world: critical in a sharp, original way, and focused above all on this country as a great (and now failing) imperial power on what increasingly looks like a failing planet. From the beginning, TD has never stopped focusing on this country’s global military posture and its forever wars (as well as, most recently, thanks especially to the superb Michael Klare, Donald Trump’s special military legacy, a new Cold War with China and Russia).

I think TomDispatch was, in fact, the first “progressive” site to regularly publish articles by retired (or sometimes even active) military officers critical of American war-making, including this year Andrew Bacevich, Danny Sjursen, William Astore, Erik Edstrom, and most recently, co-founder of the Costs of War Project and military spouse Andrea Mazzarino. In addition, in 2020 (as in the past), TD has focused on the way the U.S. government spends taxpayer dollars on what still passes for “defense,” despite its military’s 800 bases around the world and those endless wars (which Donald Trump has not, in fact, ended). Pentagon experts Mandy Smithberger and William Hartung have focused on the soaring Pentagon budget, the revolving door between that institution and the rest of the military-industrial complex — the latest secretary of defense nominee is (no shock) on the board of directors of weapons giant Raytheon — and the global arms sales racket. Rajan Menon typically considered what’s being “invested” in the latest futuristic armaments, hypersonic weaponry; while Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and now a TD regular, has focused on what, in the midst of a pandemic, isn’t spent on Americans who truly need it.

Recently and typically, I think, TD featured a piece by Cassandra Stimpson and Holly Zhang on Washington’s think tanks (many supported and funded by major weapons makers and foreign powers). It arrived just in time for Biden’s foreign-policy nominees, right out of think-tank hell, to be introduced. In addition, this year, TomDispatch Managing Editor Nick Turse explored the nightmare of climate change on a planet of displaced people; Frida Berrigan considered pandemic living up close and personal; Nomi Prins explored the Great Depression, coronavirus-style; former New York Times columnist Robert Lipsyte put pro sports in the pandemic blender; and that’s just to start down a list of contributors and their leading-edge subject matter.

And mind you, one of the small wonders of TomDispatch is that, while the site itself is modest indeed, the articles it publishes travel the web and are regularly reposted at websites ranging from Salon to the Nation magazine, Common Dreams to Alternet, and so are read by hundreds of thousands of people. And don’t forget our publishing program with Haymarket Books. Next year, we’ll have three new volumes coming out from three splendid TomDispatch authors: the third and final book in John Feffer’s superb and gripping dystopian trilogy, the Splinterlands series; historian Alfred McCoy’s history of the rise and fall of empires from the sixteenth century to late tomorrow night; and TD regular Rebecca Gordon’s book on the role of torture in American history.

One regret I have is that I can’t thank each of you when I see your contributions come in. I only wish I had the time, since I’m always both deeply appreciative and moved by the fact that this site’s contributors are spread so widely across this complex country (and even world) of ours. What else is there to say, except that I hope you’ll visit our donation page and think about what you might give to keep TomDispatch rolling on?

For all of you who already contributed this year, there’s no way I can thank you enough. You’ve made my life meaningful in this century.


Warm regards,

Tom (Engelhardt)


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