Sunday, April 16, 2006

Musings and thoughts on why you should be watching/listening/reading Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: It's very good to have you with us. Well, let's talk about your vantage point, from having served on the Church Committee. And for young people who are watching or listening right now, they may have never have heard of this committee.
GARY HART: Basically, what the country is going through now is a rerun of what happened during periods of the Vietnam War, in which largely the Nixon administration undertook illegal activities to place American citizens under surveillance and accuse them of unpatriotic conduct, and justifying support for the war -- using support for the war as a justification for violation of constitutional rights and liberties. So, what's happening now is a rerun of history, in effect.
AMY GOODMAN: And at that time, can you talk about some of the things that you uncovered? You've been writing about it, talking about deja vu all over again.
GARY HART: Well, I think the most startling discovery of our committee -- and let me just put that committee in context. There had never been genuine congressional oversight of the intelligence community in the United States since the C.I.A. was formed in 1947. By and large, members of Congress did not want to know what was going on. When press leaks of unconstitutional behavior on the part of the administration occurred, there was public demand for some kind of investigation. That's what led to our committee.
We had eleven members -- six Democrats, five Republicans -- including the late Barry Goldwater and others, and we began a unique undertaking which was to try to find out what the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. and N.S.A. and others were up to. And it was during that that the most startling revelations had to do with our efforts to assassinate foreign leaders, particularly Fidel Castro, over two or three administrations, and this massive scheme to surveil American citizens. AMY GOODMAN: Can you elaborate on that, the attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro?
GARY HART: Well, it's a long, long story, obviously. With almost demented insistence, we tried to kill him. What we spent our time doing, once we discovered these plots, was to find out who ordered it. And to this day, I don't think anyone ever found out where the instructions came from or whether the officials in the C.I.A. and other agencies just simply decided on their own. There clearly was indication that President Kennedy and his brother wanted --
AMY GOODMAN: Robert Kennedy.
GARY HART: -- Castro gone. Robert Kennedy. But they never, to our knowledge, they never said, 'Kill him.' It's one thing to say we want somebody out of office, another thing to say assassination. And we found no record that an assassination order was ever given by the president.
AMY GOODMAN: And the killing of Kennedy?
GARY HART: Well, it was outside our mandate to go back and reopen the Warren Commission. We had no authority to do that, but former senator Schweiker and myself undertook a kind of subcommittee effort to see if there was any connection between the efforts to kill Castro and President Kennedy's subsequent death, and we found some evidence that was new, but nothing that was determinative. I think the real question that we were trying to get at was why would the C.I.A. employ senior Mafia figures in this effort? And that was rather startling discovery on our part.

The above is from Amy Goodman's interview with former US Senator Gary Hart which aired on Democracy Now! March 28, 2006 ("Fmr. Democratic Senator and Presidential Candidate Gary Hart: 'Both Houses of Congress Belong to the President's Party'"). Did you see it on the Evening News? On Nightly News? On World News Tonight? No. Which is why we agree with Ava and C.I.'s point in another feature in this edition that we wouldn't curse Amy Goodman by wishing she anchored on a corporate news network.

Let's back up for anyone new to Amy Goodman (or her co-host Juan Gonzalez). Democracy Now! is an hourly broadcast that airs Monday through Friday. Where can you watch it? At the site online. On public access television around the country. On some PBS stations. On Direct TV and Free Speech TV. Maybe you prefer listening? You can listen online at the website. You can listen on Pacifica Radio stations (over the airwaves and online). You can listen on community radio stations and on some NPR stations. Not able to do that? Your computer doesn't handle streaming? Well, online at the Democracy Now! website, you can read transcripts.

So what's your excuse for not checking it out? (We hope you have none because you already are checking it out.)

If you're not checking it out, what did you miss last week? How much time do you have? Wait, how much time do we have?

For one thing you missed an interview with Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker on Bully Boy's planning for bombing Iran. "Oh," you say, "I saw him on 360 with Anderson Cooper this week."
Ah yes, the soundbyte as dialogue. Trust us, you missed out. How about Gustavo Jiminez?

Please don't tell us you asked who? He is one of the student leaders in the walkouts that have taken place across the nation.

And speaking of activism, how about the people of St. Augustine Parish? They got the Church reopened. They had to fight for days and days . . . What? You don't know about the flihgt against the Church's flight from New Orleans?

Huh. Well that net neutrality issue, that's pretty big, right? Without it the "information highway" will be come a toll road, know what we're saying? You missed that too?

We'll we're sure you got valuable information from your news source. You must have heard about the trouble going down at The Village Voice, though, right? Nothing on that?

Exactly what did your news programming provide you with this week? Oh, you got a clip of Diane Sawyer's then upcoming interview with Tom Cruise? Sweet! We bet that help put food on your table and keep you informed.

What's that you say? That's the least of your problems? Well unload, we've got a few minutes.

"There I was," you say, "with the nation on the eve of the war, trying to get the facts about what was going on and what the issues were. I was watching the evening news, I was watching the cable news, I even watched the NewsHour and their bump-bump-bah-bump bumper music gives me a headache. So I put in all that time and now it turns out, it was all a waste. Everything they said -- repeated, whatever! Lies. I was lied into war! I spent all that time watching these programs that were supposed to inform me and all I got was like way uninformed!"

Interesting. And yet you still watch those programs.

Here's the thing, viewers (and listeners and readers) of Democracy Now! knew there was administration spin and then there were actual realities. We didn't get blindsided because there was discussion, there was debate, there was much more than "Today our fearless leader stated . . ."

So let us repeat: And yet you still watch those programs?

Amy Goodman doesn't need a corporate network behind her. What she and Juan Gonzalez and the staff of Democracy Now! do could never fly on corporate news where the only voices that matter are those in office or those who've just left offices (appointed or elected). Now there's a time to utilize those voices. But they shouldn't become the only voices out there. Or, as Amy Goodman has repeatedly noted, ex-generals shouldn't be regular guests (on the payroll of the broadcasters, no less) when peace activists are left uninvited.

Everyone makes a mistake. That's not the issue here. A mistake can be corrected. You say, "We reported wrongly . . ." and can move on. But what was practiced by corporate news wasn't a "mistake" in reporting -- implying they got a detail wrong as they attempted to convey a total picture. To convey a total picture, they would have had to have listened and given space to dissenting voices (as prominent as the space they gave to those supporting the war). They didn't do that. The mistake wasn't in one report. The mistake was their concept of reporting itself which is acting as a newsletter for those in office.

World News Tonight For and By the Government would be a better title. Nightly News For The Beltway is another example. The Evening News If You Matter to Us.

So having been misled, why are you still relying on the same news sources. As the Bully Boy infamously said (or maybe we misunderstood him), "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, I'm a corporate news whore." Something like that anyway.

Laura Flanders is on vacation so we thought we'd use this week to note Amy Goodman and the decision was based in part upon this by Elaine:

I'll note a moment of panic today during Democracy Now! that Sunny and I both had. Amy Goodman was coughing and had to take a break. Before she came back, Sunny and I were both pointing out that the show broadcasts not far from ground zero in NYC and remembering this item from Thursday:
"Report: 15,000 Suffer From Medical Problems in NYC Post 9/11" (Democracy Now!):
In other news, the BBC is reporting the number of victims suffering medical problems in connection to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center has risen to at least 15,000 people. The US government has been hit with a class-action lawsuit that alleges it offered false assurances to Manhattan residents and workers that the air was safe in the aftermath of the attacks. In a landmark ruling, a New Jersey coroner said this week that a police officer's death was "directly linked" to his work at Ground Zero after 9/11. The officer, James Zadroga, died in January.
When she came back, she explained that she had a spring cold. (I think that probably comes from the fact that she's all over the country, getting the word out, covering news and doing outreach work for community media.) We both sighed in relief when she said that. Amy Goodman, who celebrated a birthday Thursday, does so much for indymedia and, if you found yourself worried in that moment, do your part to get the word out or do your part to get the word out because she had a birthday. But get the word out. Twenty years from now, due to further media consolidation (I think it will happen short of a major citizen revolution), the media landscape will have changed. I also think it's true that, twenty years from now, we'll see hundreds of Amy Goodmans because she's made a difference and she's demonstrated the role that journalists can and should play. She's altered the landscape and become a role model.

That cough was a scary moment. But on the week of Amy Goodman's birthday, a number of us were noting the realities of what DN! provides and the realities of the attention it gets (or, more often, doesn't get). As C.I. noted:

The left can be critiqued (in any manner, in any tone) by the left -- that's not a problem. What's a problem is repeating easy slams from the right, distortions made by the right, to prove how "reasonable" you are. (Also not helpful is taking a story Democracy Now! covers -- and covers well -- and instead noting the mainstream as though they just broke news or discovered a topic. A point Cedric wants noted but one that I'm sure the community will agree with. This week alone, Amy Goodman's interviewed Seymour Hersh, Greg Palast -- and shown some of his BBC report -- and others while she and Juan Gonzalez have addressed the issue of the Village Voice. The attention level Democracy Now! receives could be upped by about a thousand and still not note the degree to which this program breaks ground daily. Irritating to members is reading statements such as "NPR just did a really wonderful report that was groundbreaking and blah blah blah" when in fact the topic was covered by DN! and other Pacifica Radio programs days, weeks, months ago. There's a lot of stroking NPR from our left print set. Not a great deal of support for Pacifica Radio.)

So are you complaining about how the corporate media failed you but still using it as your primary source for news? How much sense does that make?
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