Independent media veteran Amy Goodman wants “a media that celebrates dissent, that is a sanctuary of dissent – because that’s what will make this
country healthy, and that’s what will make us safer, here … and around the
Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer
of Democracy Now!, a TV and radio show she helped launch in 1996. She began her career in community radio at Pacifica WBAI in New York and produced their evening news for ten years.
AMY GOODMAN: When the networks wonder why they’re losing all this audience and trying to figure out what to do, why not instead of going high-tech go the other way, very simple? Do what they’re supposed to do, and that is present a forum for the full diversity of voices? In the lead-up to the invasion, most people were opposed to the invasion in the United States, and yet overwhelmingly the media presented one voice, those of the retired generals and corporate executives and politicians who were for war. And even among those, they had to choose, because one of the big untold stories of this period of war and occupation is that from the lowest levels of the soldiers to the highest levels of the military officials, the generals, there’s tremendous dissent. So you had to make a conscious effort to ice out dissent. That’s not the role the media should play in a democratic society. The media shouldn’t be about selling. The media is too important now. The media are the most powerful institutions on earth; more powerful than any bomb, than any missile the Pentagon has deployed, the US media. But used in the wrong way, it’s as destructive. And that’s how it was used in the lead-up to the invasion: to manufacture consent for war, even when most people didn’t feel that way. But when people don’t hear an echo of their own thoughts or any reflection of anything they or their neighbors or their community or even people in their country feel, it starts to change people. They either feel extremely alienated or they think they’re crazy. And we need a media that celebrates dissent, that is a sanctuary of dissent, because that’s what will make this country healthy, and that’s what will make us safer here in this country and around the world. It depends who owns the media, who runs it. And right now we’re going through an era of the largest media consolidation in this country’s history. But people are fighting back, and that’s really the hope. On the one hand, you have media moguls gobbling up smaller radio and television stations, or the big ones merging with each other. And on the other hand, you have a visceral sense in this country, and I don’t care people’s political stripe, from progressive independents to conservative Republicans having the sense that it is a danger to democracy if you have one media mogul owning the newspaper, radio, and television in the town, that is a threat to democracy, that’s a threat to national security. In the midst of the occupation, 2004, there was another story going on, and it was the story of the oldest black republic in the world, Haiti, born of a slave uprising in 1804. 2004 should have been its jubilee year, a year of celebration, a bicentennial of Haiti. And instead it experienced yet another coup, this country born of a slave uprising. The US wouldn’t recognize it for decades, afraid it would inspire slaves in the United States to rise up. Now, in 2004, the President Jean-Bertrand Aristide—ten years before, he had been ousted in a coup that was fomented by those on the payroll of the United States, of intelligence agencies. Ten years later, we see the same thing take place. And yet the media hardly paid any attention. And when they did, they only told the US government administration’s view of the story, which of course is to obscure their own role. In February 29, 2004, President Aristide and his wife were forced out of the country. The number two man in the US embassy came to them, President Aristide told me, and said that they should leave or they could die, thousands of Haitians could die. They were put on a US jet and, with US military and security, flown out of the country and dropped off in a remote area of Africa called the Central African Republic. We didn’t know what had happened that weekend, actually. Suddenly Aristide’s disappeared. But on March 1, in the morning, we got a call from US Congress member Maxine Waters and the founder of TransAfrica, Randall Robinson. And they said they’d just heard from President Aristide, that he said he was the victim of a modern kidnapping in the service of a coup d’état backed by the United States. We went on the air. We put the transcripts on our Web site at democracynow.org. The corporate network reporters took those transcripts to the White House, to the Pentagon, and started to question at the news briefing. At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld was there, and they said, “Is it true what Pacifica’s reporting about Aristide’s charge that the US was involved in this, what he called ‘modern kidnapping’ in the service of a coup?” He started to laugh, Rumsfeld did. They said, “We asked for an answer not a laugh.” And he said, “That’s ridiculous.” And I’ve learned in my years as a reporter that when a politician tells you that’s ridiculous, you’re probably on the right track. And so two weeks later, Congress member Waters, Randall Robinson, founder of TransAfrica, and a small group of people chartered a plane to retrieve the Aristides and bring them back to this hemisphere. Democracy Now! went on that plane. I took a camera. We were the only broadcast journalists there. Flew from Miami in this oh-too-small plane over the Atlantic. Flew from Miami to St. Thomas, to Dakar, Senegal, to Bangui, Central African Republic. And as the delegation negotiated with the dictator, Bozizé (the US really knows how to choose them), Bozizé would go away to decide what to do. I mean, here was this delegation that had called the bluff of the most powerful country on earth, the United States. The US was trapped; Bozizé was trapped, because they were saying he was a free man that they had just come to live there. And President Aristide would say as Bozizé would go away, “He’s going to get his marching orders from the United States and from France.” As this negotiation was happening, I was broadcasting back on the satellite phone at our Web site, democracynow.org. AP was taking the reports and putting them out around the world in print version. Finally, Bozizé released them and we went back on the plane, from Bangui, Central African Republic, to Dakar, Senegal, to the Cape Verdi Islands, across the Atlantic to Barbados, and we ultimately ended up in Jamaica, where the Aristides were deciding their next move. And when we got to the tarmac in Jamaica, CNN called, and they said, “We’re going on the air.” And I said, “Let me bring over Congress member Waters.” They said, “No, the anchor really isn’t even briefed on this story. We’re going to be interrupting the show. It’s kind of lifestyle show. Just start talking.” And so we went on, and I think he thought I was reporting from a vacation site: “Oh, now we go down to Jamaica with Amy Goodman.” And he said, you know, “What’s happening?” And I said, “Well, a historic trip has been made. The president of Haiti has just been returned to this hemisphere.” And clearly he was then being briefed, the anchor, in his other ear, and he said, “What about the violence?” suggesting that Aristide would inspire violence. I said, “It’s very important you raise that issue. We have to look at the people who fomented this coup, like Jodel Chamblain, number two man in the FRAPH, the paramilitary death squad that had been on the payroll of the United States in the first coup ten years before. He’s been found guilty in absentia of the murder of the justice minister ten years ago, of a Haitian businessman, and he is the one that the US is working with along with others in this coup.” And he said, “You’re kidding.” And it went from there. And I really do think that from the CNN interview, to the corporate network reporters taking the transcripts from the Web site, to reporting and AP picking up those reports on what had actually taken place, I call this trickle-up journalism, and I think this can make a tremendous difference in this country. We’re going to break the sound barrier. It really is a matter of life and death.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.