Pamela de Maigret is a filmmaker, producer and journalist. Previously a foreign correspondent and US Congress liaison, she is currently writing a book about the disenfranchisement of the moderate center in American politics, drawing on her experience as a life-long Republican activist.
PAMELA DE MAIGRET, JOURNALIST, PRODUCER, FILMMAKER: I was a loyal Republican. I grew up with a loyalty to the Republican Party. And now I’m extremely critical of these people in Washington who call themselves Republicans and aren’t—they’re radicals; they’re not Republicans. I think what we’re seeing now in the present administration, unfortunately, is that there is no sense of economic balance. We seem to feel that we can just simply spend money and spend money. And we can, because we print it. American currency still is the reserve currency. Oil is still, fortunately for us, denominated in dollars. But what happens when that’s no longer true? One of the reasons I think we went into Iraq is because Saddam Hussein wanted to denominate the oil revenues from his oil-for-food program in euros rather than in dollars. Iran is talking about the same thing now. And that would simply destroy the United States dollar as a reserve currency. This is not the basis of what I would consider and people like me consider conservatism. From my point of view, which is a conservative American point of view, I would like to see IWT covering the world in a much clearer perspective. Let’s talk about Iraq, for instance. We here in the United States know nothing about what’s going on in Iraq. Unfortunately, with our embedded journalists, we get little snippets of what the army and the Department of Defense and the administration wants us to see. We are not seeing what’s actually happening out there. Now, I can go to the Internet, which I often do, and I can get information from Agence France-Presse, I can get information from The Asia Times, I can get information from all over the world, but I have the time to do this. Unfortunately, most people don’t. They want to be able to come home, as I do too, at six o’clock at night, put up your feet, and listen to what’s really happening in the world. As conservatives, it’s important for us to be able to understand what we’re doing right now in Iran. You don’t see it in the newspapers. You get hints here and there about this tremendous argument that’s going on, whether or not we’re going to go out and invade Iran. I mean, this is insanity, unfortunately. But how can we, as the citizenry, make any reasonable decisions, how can we talk to our congressmen, how can we talk to our Senators, how can we make our voices heard, if we don’t, for instance, have the information about what’s going on in Iran? I think one of the most important stories right now—and, of course, this has to do with what’s going on right now at the time that we’re doing this interview—but one of the most important stories is the Valerie Plame story, in other words, Joseph Wilson’s wife, who was outed as a CIA agent, which of course is illegal, needless to say. This is a story which, fortunately, does have a little bit of traction in the press now, but I’d like to see it on the front page of every single newspaper every single day and as the lead story in every television broadcast, because what we’re talking about is very, very serious criminality within the White House, and perhaps going all the way up to the president. Now, it seems to me that this is a story that should be covered, either to exonerate those people who are being accused or not. Not only does one see on the news what the programmers think you want to see, but the programmers by what they include and what they cut out or don’t include are determining what you are going to see, therefore determining what you want to see. You want to see that which is familiar, that which makes sense to you. And once that’s been fed to you, you get a feedback loop going there. And I think that’s very, very dangerous as far as an informed public is concerned. You need to have ideas, all sorts of different ideas, coming in from all sorts of different areas in order for you to be able to make up your own mind and to be a knowledgeable and informed voter, for instance. I’ve always been active in politics, in Republican politics. And I decided to go to Florida as an election protection volunteer because I felt it was the conservative thing to do. Obviously, most of the election protection volunteers were more liberal than I. They were mostly Democrats. But I don’t think that honest elections have anything to do with being liberal or being conservative; honest elections are honest elections. And they are the only way that the American public can make its views known, truly. I went to West Palm Beach, Florida. Everyone thinks of Palm Beach, Florida—and I know Palm Beach very well—as, you know, being wealthy and being upper class and being Republican. Well, West Palm Beach, Florida, isn’t. West Palm Beach Florida is where all of the maids and the gardeners and the pool people live. Very large black precincts. They have a long history of having been disenfranchised in West Palm Beach, Florida. Our group was asked to cover 35 precincts. These were the precincts, which had had the most trouble in the last elections—people not being able to vote, people being disenfranchised. So once we got there, a group of volunteers and I got there, we were then asked to cover 83 precincts, which spread us awfully thin, as you can well imagine. Our job was to be completely non-partisan, but to give voting information. Anyone who needed help, who was worried, didn’t know where to go, didn’t know what they could do—come to us, and we will answer the questions for you. So this was our job. We decided, a group of us there, that we should cover the pre-elections as well. And we did. We went out for three or four days. The pre-elections were taking place during a ten-day period, but we didn’t get there in time. So we went out, and we found quite literally within these precincts, most of them black, that everything that could be done was being done to make voting difficult. There weren’t enough voting machines; the voters in several of the precincts had been told they had to go to a different precinct. We were the ones who put the notices on the old precinct door to tell people where to go—this hadn’t been done. The police were intimidating. And not only did they intimidate me, they intimidated the voters. Now, we as the election-protection volunteers have the right to stand not closer than fifty feet to the voting place. We were told by the police—and we were told we’d be thrown in jail, and they meant it—that we could not stand on county land. And many of the polls in the precincts were in county buildings. So this meant that we had to be across the street. Then what we decided to do, since we couldn’t talk to voters before they were going into the precinct, we talked to voters as they came out, and we asked them this one question: did you have a good voting experience? Now, that’s all we said: did you have a good voting experience? And they sometimes said yes. It’s true. Sometimes they said, yes, they had a fine voting experience. It was fine. However, that was the exception, not the rule. The voting experience usually was not a good voting experience. The machines stuck or skittered. People would try to press a button for one candidate, and then using these touchscreens—which are a disaster, I believe. And they also don’t have a paper trail, so you don’t know what the touchscreen, you know, is actually recording. On many occasions, the touchscreens, when one candidate, his name was touched and the screen lit up, what happened, unfortunately, is that when you get to the end of your ballot, you can then bring up the screen that will tell you everything, all of the various different candidates that you voted for, and then you could press and say, yes, this is my vote. On many occasions, people coming out of the polling places would say to me, “But when I try to check my ballot, various people I voted for didn’t come up. Either the lights weren’t lit beside their names or actually the opposite candidate was lit. And then I’d ask them what to do in the polling station, and they’d say, oh, well, just go back and try it again.” And one person told me that she tried five or six times and was not able to get the candidates names to light up that she was actually voting for. It was very hard for me not to come back from Florida absolutely paranoid. I mean, everything I was seeing was at best the worst kind of mix-up and confusion, and that would be at best; and at worst it was straight fraud. I can’t believe that the machines that are made by the same companies that make our ATM machines cannot get it right. I just don’t believe that. It’s not possible. We’re getting nothing at all about this story. That’s why we need something like Independent World Television to be able to follow the story and keep following the story and follow Representative Conyers, for instance, when he had hearings about this story. It just disappears. It would be a wonderful story. However, it seems to me that the large corporations like Diebold and ES&S who make these machines evidently have some power, because you’re not seeing this type of a story coming up. You know, I don’t think that anybody from the White House is calling up someone at CBS and saying, “Look, you’ve got to kill this story.” That’s not what’s happening. There is a pervasive sense that journalists get about what their editors want, what will help their careers, what will get on television, and what won’t get on television. It’s more an attitude which is fostered, and it’s fostered because that’s where the money and the power is. And it’s this pervasive attitude of not seeing the news as something that the public needs in order to make decisions about the way in which they’re going to vote. Unfortunately, since it’s necessary now to make money on your news departments, which you’d never had to do before—remember, there used to be this firewall up between the news departments and the entertainment part of television. Of course, this has come down, and now news has to pay for itself. And, unfortunately, you don’t get news when news has to pay for itself.
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