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I recently attended the Los Angeles Green Festival, an event showcasing eco-friendly concepts from sustainable food to hemp clothing to electric cars.
As a blogger/journalist, the highlight of the event for me was a talk by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! about her new book, The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope, a collection of weekly column pieces co-authored with Denis Moynihan. As you may know from my Ladybud article on Pacifica Radio, I believe independent reporting is a must, and once again Goodman backed up my belief with eloquence.
Goodman began her lecture with a bang, explaining her honest belief that people who care about social issues like climate change, wealth disparity, and a broken prison system “are not a fringed minority, not even a silent majority. But a silenced majority.” According to Goodman, this silencing is coming from the corporate media, and control over media must taken back by the public.
HUMAN RIGHTS STORIES YOU MAY NOT HAVE HEARD FROM THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA
Goodman began her lecture by speaking about the broken prison system and its targeting of people of color, relating stories like that of Henry James, who was falsely convicted of rape in a 1982. James was released 30 years later, after a misplaced DNA sample was found that proved his innocence.
Goodman also offered a brief look at the Angola Three, focusing on Herman Wallace. After 42 years of solitary confinement, Wallace was released from prison just three days before his death. Louisiana State Prison – also known as Angola, nicknamed after the African slave trade hub – is a “plantation prison”. Goodman drew a disturbing image of what the prison looks like today: “five thousand, mainly African-American men picking cotton in this plantation prison, with the mainly white guards on horseback, with their shotguns, riding around, lording over these prisoners.”
Goodman’s final example of the failure of American prison system was the story the 2011 execution of Troy Davis, sentenced to death in Georgia for a crime he may not have committed. Democracy Now! was the only major news outlet to offer continuous coverage of the story, featuring a six hour live broadcast on the eve of Davis’ execution. While all the other media trucks were off to the side mostly waiting to give a quick soundbite of the event, Goodman and her crew got right into the heart of the protesting crowd and conducted interviews.
In addition to raising major questions of human rights in America, these cases are all eminently newsworthy; however, as Goodman illustrated, none have received major mainstream media coverage.
AMERICA VS. THE REST OF THE WORLD
Goodman also spoke about global environmental issues and America’s role in the discussion worldwide. Democracy Now! will soon be in Poland for the UN Climate Change Summit, and Goodman explained that the world view of global warming is much more evolved than that of the United States. Politicians and media in other countries are not debating whether global warming is human caused or even exists – which is the main discussion in America – but instead are focusing on what we need to do about it.
In Goodman’s view, media can also be a driving force for world peace. There is a huge disconnect in American perception of the current war raging in the Near East and Northern Africa. Imagine, for example, if the children of drone strike victims were constantly interviewed on Fox News or MSNBC? If Americans didn’t need to seek out gruesome images of death and horror stories through social media, perhaps we would be less passive about what is happening in our names.
NEWS COVERAGE WITH AN AGENDA
A recent Democracy Now! episode covered a Public Accountability Initiative study of the mainstream media’s use of “experts” during the US strike on Syria. The study exposed the fact that these “experts” were actually tied to companies with financial interest in the attacks. Goodman noted that the problem is not that these “experts” were being interviewed, but that the audience was not informed of their interests. Of 111 times that these “experts” were either quoted or appeared on a US mainstream news show, they were identified as having ties with the military-industrial complex only 13 times.
Goodman tied everything together by explaining that without independent, agenda-free coverage, Americans’ perceptions of many events and movements are skewed, if even acknowledged at all.
Most Americans understand that the news media on television has an agenda, leaning “right” or “left.” As accustomed as we’ve become to this trend in recent years, this is not how news should be delivered. If a show has an agenda, it should not be called news; this type of coverage belongs in a forum or a talk show. News should deliver facts; whether those facts conflict with personal views or the views of the White House should not matter. But in today’s society, news has just become another business, and business is booming.