Amy Goodman | Interview
The Democracy Now! host wants democracy…now.
On September 1, while inside the Republican Convention center in St. Paul, Amy Goodman, the investigative journalist and host of Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!, learned that two of her producers had been arrested while reporting on street protests. Goodman ran outside; when she asked the riot police about her colleagues, she was also arrested. On September 11, we heard Goodman speak at UIC about the incident and her latest book, Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times (Hyperion, $23.95). We called her the next day.
Time Out Chicago: You said that after the riot police arrested you, the Secret Service took away your journalist-ID badge. Why do you think they did that?
Amy Goodman: You’d have to ask them. More than 40 journalists were arrested. The effect is extremely chilling. It is a message to journalists that we are physically imperiled if we cover police actions.
TOC: I saw the online clip of your arrest. What happened to your producers?
Amy Goodman: If you go to our website [democracynow.org], you can see Nicole [Salazar] filming her own violent arrest. They were coming at her and saying, “Face on the ground!” She was saying, “Press!” She’s showing her press ID, and they take her down. They bloody her face.
TOC: You’ve been tough on the mainstream media. What’d you think of its coverage of all this?
Amy Goodman: The media has reached an all-time low—the embedding process in Iraq. Now we see that model used in our cities. We have to be able to put things on the record without getting a record.
TOC: You’ve spoken about “the small circle of pundits who know so little about so much.” When did punditry replace investigative journalism?
Amy Goodman: It’s a long-time trend. It’s cheap. They talk to each other, they get it wrong, and then they wring their hands and say, “How did we get it so wrong?” And then they do it again. It’s a very painful knee-jerk reaction to just report what power says. That’s not our job as journalists. We’re not supposed to be stenographers to those in power. We’re supposed to be the check and balance of those in power.
TOC: Anyone in the media you see as an especially big offender?
Amy Goodman: It’s easy to say Fox, the megaphone for the White House, but you see the Fox-ification of the whole media. The New York Times: On the front page, they beat the drums for war. Eventually, they have this box on page A10 about how they got it so wrong. You need those boxes on the front page as many times as the articles by Judith Miller, Michael Gordon and others alleging WMDs, citing unnamed sources, just being a mouthpiece.
TOC: What exactly is the “madness”?
Amy Goodman: The fact that to too many people in the world the U.S. represents torture, war, violation of civil liberties. And people in this country are standing up, whether it’s the librarians saying no to the USA Patriot Act or high-school kids saying no to their principal who doesn’t want them to perform a play about war.
TOC: Couldn’t one read about the book’s “ordinary heroes,” like Malik Rahim, who founded Common Ground Relief in post-Katrina New Orleans, and say, “See? Individuals can take care of themselves. There’s no need for big government”?
Amy Goodman: But Malik Rahim cannot rebuild New Orleans. This is the reason we have a government, to help at times like these. And the government failed us. One of the first moves of the Bush administration was to try to invoke the executive order as they do in Iraq: They said you can’t photograph the bodies. You don’t stop the problem by stopping people from seeing the problem.
TOC: The book lays a lot of societal ills at the feet of the Bush admin’s culture of deception and surveillance; it even mentions the Patriots spying on the Jets. You really think the administration is that culpable?
Amy Goodman: It is not the administration alone. The administration could not have waged war on Iraq without working hand in hand with the Democrats. Letting the telecommunications companies off for spying on the American people: The Democrats joined with the Republicans in granting them retroactive immunity. This has been a bipartisan affair.
TOC: What’s the story of “Dave’s Press”?
Amy Goodman: My brother David, who I write the books with, started Dave’s Press in his room; he’d labor over this old Xerox. It was a family calendar, but he’d talk about the war in Vietnam. He was eight years old. [Our family] debated the issues of the day in the letters-to-the-editor page….My grandparents are all immigrants from Russia and Poland and escaped persecution. That sensitized us—the idea of the Holocaust: “Never again.” That’s “never again” for everyone.
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