Amy Goodman in Grand Rapids: Media that doesn’t cover the critical issues of the day is a disservice to democracy
Jeff Smith also contributed to this story.
Democracy Now show host Amy Goodman and her colleague Dennis Moynihan, co-authors of the new book, The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprising, Occupations, Resistance and Hope, spoke in Grand Rapids yesterday to an audience at noon in the Wealthy Theater.
Goodman began her talk by reflecting on when she was in Haiti and got the call from Democracy Now to host the daily news show. She was in Haiti covering the election that was won by Aristide, where 90% of Haitian population voted even though many of them risked their lives to do so. She remembers it being the same time that Clinton was elected in the US the first time and how so few people turned out to vote in the US.
Goodman said that things in the electoral arena have changed a great deal since then and that covering the Democratic and Republican Conventions has become quite instructive in terms of where we are as a country. She remembers going to the Democratic National Convention in 2008, where there were war protestors, people opposing both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. She remembers then Sen. Obama who said he would filibuster a bill to stop the AT&T/Verizon telecom spying, but when he became a nominee he changed his mind and voted for the legislation that would give the telecom companies retroactive immunity. The gratitude from the telecom companies could be seen, Goodman said, with AT&T logos on delegate bags, lanyards and a big soiree by ATT for “thanking the Democrats for getting them out of jail free.”
At the RNC in 2008 it was even more intense, with the city highly militarized and reporters being arrested, which included Goodman and two of her Democracy Now crew. Goodman was arrested, she said, just for demanding that her colleagues be released. It is true that numerous journalists were arrested at the RNC, but Goodman failed to mention that hundreds of activists were arrested, physically assaulted and detained in harsh conditions. Goodman also failed to mention that the FBI had infiltrated the group organizing the counter-RNC actions and were facing years in prison just for planning and coordinating actions.
A few days later back to convention center, some of the networks wanted to interview Goodman. One NBC reporter said, “ I didn’t get arrested.” Goodman responded by saying, “I don’t get arrested in a skybox either.” At another press conference, the St. Paul police chief said he would love to see reporters embedded with law enforcement. The next day Goodman saw a Fox reporter embedded with this moving police escort. The embedding of journalists has brought journalism to an all time low, according to Goodman.
The Democracy Now host then said that in this hi tech digital age all we get is “static, distortions and half truths. What we need is a media that covers power not covers for power.”
The theme of the responsibility of the media was what Goodman emphasized most. She made the point that, “if the news media does not cover the critical issues of the day, then they do a disservice to our democracy.” Unfortunately, this is the kind of news media we have in the US.
Goodman did refer to the victory of Barack Obama in November 2008 as historic, but she went on to say that so many of the issues the people who elected Obama cared about were not changed but intensified in the wrong direction. Goodman cited Guantanamo not being shut down, the Afghanistan war, the attack on government whistleblowers, immigrants and the increase in government surveillance.
Goodman then went on to talk about how social movements, such as the abolition, civil rights, suffrage, and anti-war movements are what made the US a great nation. Such comments echo the work of radical historian Howard Zinn who always emphasized that it was social movements and not voting that has made the difference on major issues.
Goodman spoke about Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr and A Phillip Randolph and many other unsung heroes of the civil rights movement. She talked about how the news media misrepresented Rosa Parks as being a tired seamstress who didn’t have the energy to give up her seat on the bus. This is such a distortion, since Parks had been part of the NAACP for more than a decade and part of an effort to challenge the racist segregation of the bus system and the sexist treatment of women for years.
The Democracy Now co-host also talked about brutal murder of Emmett Till at the hands of a white. Mamie Till, being incredibly courageous, asked that there be an open casket so the world could see the ravages of racism. Mamie Tll had an important lesson for the press of today…..Show the pictures. “If we saw the pictures of war every day above the fold a baby dead on the ground, every story referred to a dead soldier or a woman with her legs blown off by a cluster bomb, in just a week the American people would say no war.”
By way of wrapping up, Goodman cited the former Dean of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, George Gerbner. Gerbner said that the media “has nothing to tell and everything to sell.” “This is exactly why we need an independent news media in this country if change is going to take place,” said Goodman.