Amy Goodman hosts a groundbreaking radio news show out of New York City, which is also videocast. She covers news from a non-corporate perspective, extolling what she calls Independent Media. She titled her latest book, Democracy Now, because she says it is the only way she can get her show’s name in the New York Times. If it becomes a best seller (which it has) they sort of have to list it. Otherwise, cover non-corporate news and you’re excluded from the corporate media. You’re not quite respectable. That’s a major part of her work, presenting stuff that is hidden, distorted or underplayed by the mainstream establishment.
The book documents the history of the show, co-hosted by Juan Gonzalez, a New York Post columnist and activist. It is co-written by her brother David and Denis Moynihan who she credits with getting the show videocast and distributed widely, now at 1400 TV and radio stations worldwide. I was very surprised to find it on my screen one morning in a small town motel in Ohio a few years back. Since the show is a news outlet its history is of the main stories happening since its inception in the mid 90s. The book gives a brief history also of the Pacifica Radio Network, on which it airs, and ventures beyond the timeline as in outlining the 1969 Stonewall Uprising when covering LGBTQ issues. And you can hardly discuss U.S. foreign policy without touching on Vietnam, Central America under Reagan and other samples of rogue Empire. Had Democracy Now been around in 1984 when the world court convicted the U.S. of terrorism for its attack on Nicaragua, more citizens might have known. The mainstream certainly didn’t deign to inform us.
Amy doesn’t always broadcast from her New York City studio. She was on-the-scene at the 1999 Battle of Seattle where elite World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings were disrupted. And in Minneopolis for the Republican convention where she was arrested, despite being press. Outrageous to learn that the city was indemnified from lawsuits for its illegal suppression of dissent by insurance paid for by Republican fat cats. She was there on the streets when a million people marched opposing the pending invasion of Iraq which you can be forgiven for not knowing about if you depend on the mainstream for information. She was knocked to the ground by U.S. supported Indonesian soldier’s rifle butts in East Timor, trying to protect demonstrators from lethal response and in Ferguson Missouri for the police riots. She was in Paris recently at the Climate Conference, reporting on police assaulting peaceful demonstrators and interviewing those excluded from the talks.
This is the critical issue of our time, climate change. The accord reached in Paris was so superior to past failures that it seemed like a triumph, that we’re finally addressing the issue. But a close look shows little enforcement mechanism for the voluntary carbon reduction goals and the numbers involved, even if achieved, still doom great masses to rising seas. Islanders and poverty-stricken areas of the world are gravely threatened but also any coastal city – think New York City, Miami, Houston… can a disturbance this great be accomodated by our civilization? Given the reluctance to act now when something can be done, one would be tempted to predict chaos when the consequences arrive – an event not as far into the future as we might wish. Scientists keep shortening that time-frame as they uncover ever more disturbing data. As Amy says, in media coverage in the U.S. climate deniers are given equal time. It is as if the flat earth society were given equal time in discussions of the planet’s form, for balance. Even Sarah Palin recognizes that 97% of scientists agree that climate change is real and homosapien plays a key causal role… she just doesn’t know what to do with that info since she is unwilling to give up her denial. Hey, 97%? that’s not significant!
Other issues covered by this inspiring history (the show is subtitled the War and Peace Report), is the hypocritical treatment of whistle blowers, contrasting the slap on the wrist given General Petraeus’ self-serving disclosures of classified information with the career and financial ruination, and criminalization directed at CIA agents who released damning information to fulfill their oath to defend the constitution. Then of course there’s the rabid hunt for Julian Assange and Edward Snowden and the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning. These are particularly enlightening: the perpetrators of murder are immune while the soldier with the courage to reveal the slaughter is imprisoned; the Constitution violators are honored (think Bush/Cheney/Wolfowitz etc;) while the whistle-blowers are smeared, hounded, fired or transferred to meaningless assignments. Similar to the condemnation of those who initially revealed U.S. torture while the torturer masters were protected. Something’s topsy-turvy here and that’s Democracy Now‘s job, to expose hypocrisy and corruption. Other issues include the prison industrial complex, the arms industry, gun safety, the death penalty debacle, unconscionable police killings, the confederate flag, the American Psychological Association’s enabling torture policies and more.
The Occupy Movement began (aside from its inspiration in Egypt) in lower Manhattan only blocks from the Democracy Now studios. Democracy Now was there when the police, acting as protectors and defenders of the rulers rather than the people, shut it down – just as in the early union movement when the government sent troops to suppress striking workers, siding always with the Boss. Later Homeland Security coordinated, and Mayors cooperated, with nation-wide suppression of Occupy as it spread across the country. Democracy Now conducted many interviews with figures routinely barred from the mainstream, substantial interviews with brilliant dissidents like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Cornel West and Arhundati Roy, interviews which demonstrate just why they’re banned from the mainstream. The 1% are obsessed with protecting their privilege and given their extreme wealth they can summon the apparatus of media and government to their service. They are fully aware and terrified of, so careful to obscure the fact that, as Arhundati Roy has said, “They are few, we are many.”