Tuesday, May 17, 2005

You know, we do have excellent left wing radio and television in St. Louis--just not much of it. What we have is Amy Goodman's radio and tv show, Democracy Now. I get her tv show on my Dish Satellite, but if you don't have satellite, there's always trusty KDHX, 88.1 FM at 6:00 p.m. Pacifica network, which produces Goodman's programs is grassroots funded, so she calls her work "trickle-up journalism".
Moyers pointed out Sunday that there are still journalists doing thoughtful, high caliber work in mainstream media, though not many. Goodman's remarks at the opening plenary of the National Conference on Media Reform were less gracious. She looks upon beltway journalism as having "nothing to tell and everything to sell." For example, a research study showed that before the Iraq war, only three out of almost 400 interviews about the coming conflict were with anti-war leaders. That makes us, in her phrase, the silenceD majority. She feels that the Pentagon has "deployed" the U.S. media in this war. (Another speaker described embedded reporters as "in bed" reporters.)
The media's habit of glossing over inconvenient, unpleasant truths has gotten worse, she believes, since Viet Nam. The picture of a naked girl burning from napalm that galvanized this nation back then would simply not appear in print today. Goodman pointed out that gap in modern reporting to one of her guests, Aaron Brown, who replied that censoring those kinds of photos is "a matter of taste," but isn't it war that is tasteless? If American citizens saw in their media, for even just one week, what citizens of other countries routinely see from Iraq, they would be staggered.
Despite the increasingly murky picture of reality our media gives us, Goodman doesn't assume our press was ever particularly honest. After the U.S. bombed Hiroshima, one American reporter went there and documented the horrors of radiation sickness among the population. Lest a realization of what we had done take hold here, the Pentagon secretly commissioned William Lawrence of the New York Times to write a series denying that the people of Hiroshima were suffering. Lawrence received a Pulitzer prize for that series.
If you want the skinny on what's happening worldwide, you need alternative media. On Goodman's show today, she interviews a man who spent years as what he calls an "economic hit man." Working for our government, his job was to lure third world countries who had some commodity we wanted--say, oil or a canal--to accept huge loans they couldn't possibly repay. He gave Ecuador as an example: we wanted their oil, and now fifty percent of their GDP is owed to the World Bank. Ninety percent of the loans given to such countries would come back to Halliburton or Bechtel in the form of contracts to build large infrastructure projects (ports, highways, dams) that benefitted only the wealthy. These loans, usually from the World Bank, were accepted by corrupt heads of state in return for bribes. The rare honest heads of state who resisted taking these bribes tended to be assassinated. Once it became obvious that the loans could not be repayed, our government would offer to forgive some or all of the debt in exchange, for example, for cheap oil. Extracting that oil often meant destroying rainforests and indigenous populations.
That brand of truth telling made some good ole boys in Texas angry when Pacifica first went on the air in 1985, so the KKK there blew up the network's tower three times in one year. After that, they gave up and trusted to public indifference. Although it's true that Pacifica isn't giving CNN or CBS a run for their money, still it is growing. Now is the time when liberal media is poised to grab more and more attention. We need to appreciate the superb work Goodman does and spread the word.


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