Book: The Exception to the Rulers
Author and Journalist
Wednesday, May 19, 2004; 2:00 PM
In her new book, "The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them," Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman tackles the power elite and the media conglomerates she says stifles journalism.
Goodman was online to discuss Democracy Now! and her new book.
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
What news sites do you get your information from?
Amy Goodman: First off, hello to everyone joining us on this forum. Right now I am at our firehouse studio in New York, just blocks from Ground Zero. Our offices are within the space of Downtown Community Television, which is a community media center that trains people in documenting their own communities. We have a dedicated staff of producers and reporters. Together we comb through news sources from across the globe. We generally read most major newspapers, we get a lot of leads and info from emails from people who watch/listen/read Democracy Now!. We broadcast on more than 200 TV/radio stations on Pacifica, NPR, community radio and TV, as well as on radio stations across Australia, Canada and Europe. Some of the news sites we find interesting or helpful are: commondreams.org, antiwar.com, guardian.co.uk, independent.co.uk, on iraq: juancole.com, also talkingpointsmemo.com, znet.org, alternet.org, news.google.com. These are just a handful Also, people can check our site for more links and info at www.democracynow.org. Thanks for the question.
How important is "media literacy" and should it be part of teaching standards in the U.S., as it is in Canada, Australia and Great Britain?
Amy Goodman: Thanks for the question. Media literacy is critically important to a democratic society. The great journalist IF Stone told journalism students there are two words they should remember: governments lie. I think many people have a natural skepticism about what government officials say. The problem is when the media act as a megaphone for those in power. The media is supposed to be, as we call our book, "The Exception to the Rulers." In the old Soviet Union, people knew to read between the lines of Pravda. Here in this country, the media has acted as a conveyer belt for the lies of the administration (and previous administrations). Just look at FAIR's study in the week leading up to and after Gen. Colin Powell gave his speech at the UN. Of the 393 interviews done by the 4 major nightly news casts around the issue of the war, ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS's Newshour, only 3 were with antiwar representatives. That does not represent mainstream America. At the time a majority were against the invasion, for inspections and for diplomacy. This is not mainstream media, this is an extreme media, beating the drums for war and misusing the public airwaves.
First of all, welcome and thank you for doing this chat! I was so glad to see your name in the schedule. Why do you think the media is not doggedly following up on the outing of the CIA official (Ambassador Wilson's wife)? Today, I put this question to Dana Priest of the Post, telling her that Wilson has said it is because reporters are afraid of losing White House access. She said -- ridiculous. What do you think?
Amy Goodman: The media reflect the establishment consensus. Before the invasion of Iraq, let's not forget that the Democrats supported Bush's war (with very few exceptions). The media followed suit, icing out dissent. On the issue of Ambassador Wilson's wife, it was a story when the Democrats made it one but that is not the way the media should behave. After all, we are talking about one of the clearest cases of documentable criminal conduct committed by Senior Administration officials since Watergate and Iran/Contra. Check out our articles on democracynow.org, "Does a Felon Rove the White House?" and "The Ties That Blind" about the Ashcroft/Rove connection.
Are you interested strictly in news, or do you also cover arts and culural events that have a political or protest statement to them?
Amy Goodman: We deal with all of these issues. On both Democracy Now! and in our new book, we talk about the crackdown on artists. Take hip hop artist Michael Franti, whose band mate'smother had military police visit her because of the antiwar nature of Spearhead's music. We reported on the memos and directives at ClearChannel and MTV around the time of the war. MTV sent a memo to artists warning them about antiwar lyrics. The media should be a sanctuary for dissent. It makes us all safer.
It was a pleasure to see you and David in Denver recently. We're very privileged to receive DN!; here. What can you tell us about its availability nationwide? How many stations air it, to (potentially) how many listeners? Besides Pacifica and independent stations like our KGNU, how many NPR, PBS or commercial stations carry DN!;? Are you also reaching the "heartland" or mainly college towns? Thank you.
Amy Goodman: Thanks for coming out to the Denver event. We air on more than 220 radio and TV stations. Several years ago, we were on several dozen community stations. Now we are not only on Pacifica Radio, but also NPR, satellite TV (DishNetwork's Freespeech TV Channel 9415), public access TV stations across the country and we just got picked up by our first PBS station. Two to three stations a week are picking us up. You can ask any public access tv station, NPR station, community radio station or PBS station to air Democracy Now!, a daily grassroots, unembedded, international news hour. Stations are finding that our show beats Morning Edition and All Things Considered in fundraising for local stations. Right now we are on our 70 city tour, visiting communities around the country holding fundraisers for independent media outlets. You can see the schedule at www.democracynow.org/book
How do you explain Mr. Bush's 45-48 percent standing in most polls? After this dismal mess in Iraq, and the economy, the environment, and most social and domestic issues, who is it that could be supporting him?
Amy Goodman: A new poll came out from the Univ. of Maryland that says that 57% of Americans do believe WMDs were found in Iraq. It's not because Americans are stupid. They simply are good media consumers--they consumed the media that told them repeatedly for more than a year that there were WMDs. We need a media that is independent of those in power. Our profession is the only one protected by the Constitution. We're supposed to be a check and balance on government. The media has failed miserably. It has reached an all-time low.
Amy Goodman: A number of people have written in with questions about our coverage of the ouster of the democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide.
Democracy Now! was the first national media outlet to report that Aristide said he was the "victim of a modern kidnapping in the service of a coup d'etat backed by the US." The transcripts of our reports were taken by reporters to the Pentagon. Rumsfeld was asked by journalists if what we were reporting was true. He said it was ridiculous. I know from my years as a reporter that when a politician tells you, you are ridiculous, you're probably on the right track. Two weeks later, Congressmember Maxine Waters, TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson, a Jamaican MP and Aristide's lawyer chartered a small plane to the Central African Republic to pick up the Aristide's and return them amid threats from the Bush administration that they were not to return to this hemisphere. Whose hemisphere? Along with Washington Post reporter Peter Eisner, I went on this historic trip. The Associated Press carried Democracy Now!'s reports around the world. Millions hit our website. We call this trickle-up journalism. You can watch/read/listen to our complete coverage at www.democracynow.org/static/haiti.shtml
BIG media is definitely a BIG problem, whether it's lack of access to information sources in the current administration, fewer journalists doing hard investigations, or interference from the corporate hierarchies. So how does one person demand better when so many others just accept it?
Amy Goodman: Thank you for this question. You are not alone. As we write in the book, you are not part of a fringe minority or a silent majority. You are part of a silenced majority, silenced by the corporate media. We must challenge them and do everything we can to build a strong independent media in this country. For instance, Pacifica Radio, indymedia.org, etc.
Hi Amy, Wow what a privilege to have you answering our questions! I'm a huge fan and listen almost every morning. My question is about the Israeli/Palestinian issue: What can we as U.S. citizens abd voters do to encourage our politicians to be more sensitive to the Palestinian plight? Often, it seems like the Bush Administration (and sadly the Kerry camp) is in bed with the Sharon government. What can we do to encourage our leaders to speak out for justice and security for EVERYONE in this troubled region?
Amy Goodman: We have to demand a more balanced media when it comes to Israel/Palestinian question. There is a much more robust debate in the Israeli press, in newspapers like Ha'aretz, than in this country. A while ago I interviewed Shulamit Aloni, considered Israel's first lady of Human Rights, who talked about how the exclusion of peace voices by the American press hurts the Israeli peace movement. Today we had a direct report from Rafah hospital after Israeli gunships attacked a protest march of thousands, many women and children. Yesterday we talked to Uri Avnery, formerly with the Irgun underground, veteran Israeli reporter Amira Haas, one of the few reporters in the Rafah refugee camps and Haider Abdel Shafi, the head of the Red Cresent. I give all these names to encourage the rest of the press to start including these voices in their coverage. Our role as journalists is to go to where the silence is.
Los Angeles, Calif.:
Why do you think we don't see you or others who hold anti-war views very often on news shows on CNN, ABC, NBC or CBS?
Amy Goodman: In the book, we talk about our interview with CNN host Aaron Brown. When pushed, he admitted that CNN came late to the peace movement, but, he said, once the war is on, those voices are irrelevant. We asked how the Vietnam war would have ended. And what about the pictures? The media sanitized this war. The horrific pictures of tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib have horrified not just the Arab world, but the whole world. It is not just the horror of the acts, but the fact that there are pictures. If, a year ago, we had seen pictures of children torn apart by missiles, women with their legs blown off by cluster bombs, I believe we never would have gotten to this point.
The political divide seems larger than ever: it is as if the active part of the Republican party and activists to the left of it lived in alternate realities. Do you think this polarized climate is healthy? If not, what do you think could/should be done to stem the divisions?
Amy Goodman: I believe that political labels are increasingly irrelevant. Conservative and progressive lines are breaking down. Conservatives, like progressivees are concerned about corporate control, privacy, a massive war budget that is far greater than money being spent at home. Americans losing their pensions as CEOs bring down their companies (ie Enron). I'm often not invited on corporate networks because they want either a pro-Kerry or a pro-Bush position. The world is much more complicated and I think the spectrum of the debate is much greater. It excludes most people in this country and around the world. One recent guest we had from Guyana was talking about globalization. As I moved onto another discussion, on the US elections, she said she wanted to be a part of that too. I asked "why?" She said, "The whole world should get to vote for the president of the United States."
Amy Goodman: Thank you everyone who wrote in. For those whose questions I did not get to, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can check out our website to see when you can catch the show: www.democracynow.org. It airs live at 8am EST. You can watch or listen on our website or tune in on your local stations. Check our listings: www.democracynow.org
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