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Democracy Now! host argues for alternative media

by Archives October 23, 2007

Amy Goodman sees independently owned media as a necessary counter-balance to American corporate stations like CBS, CNN, NBC and Fox.
The host, co-founder and executive producer of Democracy Now!, an independent media program that delivers a different spin on world events, came to Canada from the U.S. for Media Democracy Day to speak at McGill University Friday night. Democracy Now! is an ‘independent’ media outlet because it is not supported by grants or funding from either corporate or government sources.
Goodman, who also came to town to promote her book Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders and the People Who Fight Back, began by touching on Maher Arar’s case and believes Americans are a compassionate, but misinformed people. “We live in a globalized world, but when it comes to getting information we here in the U.S. are so ignorant. In Canada [Arar] is your Time magazine man of the year and in the U.S. we hardly know [about him],” said Goodman.
She believes her role in the alternative media is to let real people tell their own stories and to put prominent public figures on the same stage as the political leaders of grassroots movements. “The corporate media and the major stations in the U.S. use the same circle of pundits who know so little about so much but still explain the world to us,” said Goodman.
She brought up the example of a ten-year-old Iraqi girl named Sally who, according to Goodman, lost her best friend and her brother in a U.S. air strike in Fallujah. She also lost both of her legs and came to America to receive prosthetics from a donor and tell her story on Democracy Now!
“When you hear someone speaking from their own experience. it breaks down barriers. Whether you agree or disagree, that is not the issue.” Goodman said, explaining that their stories put a human face to the headlines.
On the other hand, she said that hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, who recruit based on “marginalizing and vilifying, feed off the stereotypes and caricatures that come out of media that don’t allow people to speak for themselves.”
In 2007 Alan Greenspan, the former head of the U.S. Federal Reserve, was promoting his book Age of Turbulence. Goodman jumped on the opportunity to bring the man who was so close to the president’s ear during the invasion of Iraq onto her show. Part of the surprise was that author Naomi Klein, who is well-known for providing a harsh analysis of corporate globalization, had also been invited.
They cornered Greenspan because he is the only high official to publicly state that, indeed, the war in Iraq is all about oil: “Why didn’t you say this four years ago when it mattered, when everyone hung on your every word?” Goodman asked a flustered Greenspan.
“Mr. Greenspan you say this is a war for oil, yet do you understand that under the Geneva Convention that it is illegal to wage a war, to invade a sovereign country, for their natural resources?” Klein added.
“That is what we do on Democracy Now! [We] set up those in power with [the] powerful voices of the grassroots who rarely are in the same corporate network studio. That should be the role of the media,” Goodman said to the audience on Friday.
According to Goodman, in the wake of the discovery that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the U.S. corporate media’s superficial coverage of the days leading up to the invasion was exposed. She believes this caused many people to turn to alternative media sources. “We have to seize this moment, to use this window to bring out authentic, honest information which begins with people on the ground. to have a discourse between those in power and those in the grassroots.”

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