It was only coincidence that award-winning journalist and independent media champion Amy Goodman spoke to a Durango audience Sunday on the 11th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan, but she used the milestone as an early point in her talk that centered on the changing power of the media.
Goodman, the host of the radio news program “Democracy Now!” is echoing to audiences in her tour of 100 cities that the voices of the “silenced majority” must rise louder than media outlets that are increasingly becoming mouthpieces for the corporations that own them. Few anti-war voices were heard in the media when the United States went to war with Afghanistan and Iraq, she said, and it remains the same 11 years later.
“There is a silenced majority by the corporate media, and we have to take it back,” Goodman told a nearly packed Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College on Sunday night.
Goodman’s tour is partly in support of her recently released book, which she wrote with former fellow “Democracy Now!” journalist Denis? Moynihan, called The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope. The tour also is in part to raise awareness of and money for public radio and television stations. The duo is making sure to hit the swing states in the upcoming general election, of which Colorado is one. They aren’t stumping for a candidate. Rather, they are carrying the cause of independent media, urging citizens to demand that mainstream media give voices to the minority – candidates, causes and movements.
Goodman decried the lack of inclusion of third-party candidates in presidential election debates. She said the change in 1988 from having the League of Women Voters running the debates to the Commission on Presidential Debates – a nonprofit controlled by the Republican and Democratic parties – shifted the political picture to a skewed representation of parties and candidates.
After Wednesday’s debate in Denver, at which only President Barack Obama and Republican hopeful Mitt Romney participated, “Democracy Now!” hosted a “gated debate” that included two of the several third-party presidential candidates. The goal, Goodman said, was to “bring out voices that are ignored or marginalized” by mainstream media. Only two participated – Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson – and they answered the same questions put to Obama and Romney by debate moderator Jim Lehrer. Stein’s and Anderson’s answers are just as valuable – or maybe more so, Goodman said – because their campaigns lack the funding that puts them on better footing to compete with the two major political parties.
“When we listened to their answers, what we started to hear was a spectrum of the debate that we rarely hear,” she said.
The media has to be held accountable for not including these minority voices, Goodman said, adding that citizens need to understand the power of the media.
“This is how you learn about the world, and it should be other than through a corporate lens,” she said.
The din of the major parties is made louder by the large sums of money backing them, and it was made worse when U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that the government can’t restrict independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. That U.S. citizens often don’t really know the sources of money being spent on the election is a threat to democracy, she said.
Political and social movements are important antidotes to corporate dominance, Goodman said. She used several examples to underscore how powerful activism can be, including the Arab Spring in the Middle East, Occupy Wall Street in New York City and the protests by union members in Wisconsin.
“With the ‘We are the 99 percent’ – is there any slogan in the history of the United States that has reverberated more than this?” Goodman said, referring to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
She urged the audience – specifically the young and students – to be proactive to keep the “silenced majority” from continuing to be ignored. You never know what will spark a movement that will prompt monumental changes.
“If you think the battles of yesteryear, like that of Martin Luther King or Rosa Park, were so clear cut, think again,” she said.