"The media can be the greatest force for peace on earth. Instead it is wielded as a weapon of war", says Amy Goodman. Critics of war and dissenting opinions are filtered out in the mainstream press. The corporate media would often just reenforce the corporate consensus of corporations together with the well funded politicians, who are funded by those very corporations. This would lead to a narrowing of points of views in the US. "I talk about the silenced majority, because those who are opposed to war, those who are opposed to torture, who are deeply concerned about poverty and corporate control are not a fringe minority. Not even a silent majority, but the silenced majority. Silenced by the corporate media, which is why we have to take it back."
Amy Goodman: founder, producer and host of the newscast Democracy Now, Right Livelihood Award laureate, author of "The Silenced Majority", New York City
David Goessmann: Welcome to Kontext TV. 90 per cent of the media in the US are controlled by six big corporations: Comcast, Time Warner, Bertelsmann, News Corporation, Viacom, CBS and Disney.
Fabian Scheidler: In 1983 it was 50 corporations. Today around 230 media directors decide about the flow of information for almost 300 Million Americans. In recent years many newspapers and broadcast stations had to close or were taken over by bigger corporations. In many cities and regions media monopolies have been built up due to loosened media ownership limitations. Only four per cent of the media are in the hands of women. An international low point.
David Goessmann: But there are also independent media in the US – and they are attracting larger audiences while at the same time corporate news media suffer from losses of circulation and ratings. A special success story is Democracy Now. The grassroots radio and TV news hour, financed by donations is now on air for over 16 years. It has emerged to a global newscast airing on over 1000 stations worldwide and the Internet. The independent coverage of Democracy Now on wars, the financial crisis, climate change or global protest movements has set new standards in the American news journalism.
Fabian Scheidler: Our guest is today the founder, producer and host of Democracy Now Amy Goodman. The journalist has received dozens of awards like the renowned George Polk Award. She is the first journalist to have received the Right Livelihood Award better known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. Goodman is author of several books. Her latest is called, “The Silent Majority. Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope”. Kontext TV met Amy Goodman in August last year in the Democracy Now Studio in New York City.
David Goessmann: You once said that media are more powerful than bombs. Could you follow up on this and talk about the way in which the mainstream media in the US have used this power?
Amy Goodman: The media can be the greatest force for peace on earth. Instead it is wielded as a weapon of war. When the United States goes to war, the media often beats the drums for war instead of asking the basic questions. The range of questions are between what the Republicans and the Democrats say. And when they agree there is no range for opinion, e.g. in the lead up to the Iraq war the Democrats like Hillary Clinton, who was a Senator at the time, joined with the Republicans in supporting at the time President Bush in going to war with Iraq. And the media then reflects the positions of the Democrats and Republicans, which is "they're together". What we need is a media that brings out the full range of opinion, because the majority of people do not fall within that very slim range. I talk about the silenced majority, because those who are opposed to war, those who are opposed to torture, who are deeply concerned about poverty and corporate control are not a fringe minority. Not even a silent majority, but the silenced majority. Silenced by the corporate media, which is why we have to take it back.
David Goessmann: Talk about Democracy Now. Over 16 years ago you started the show on Pacifica Radio. Now it is a daily global grassroots news hour aired on over 1000 stations worldwide. You call it the exception to the rulers.
Amy Goodman: I mean, we coined the term exception to the rulers, because that's what all media should be. We're not supposed to be a party to the parties. We're supposed to hold those in power accountable. There is a reason why our profession is the only one explicitly protected by the US Constitution, because we are supposed to be the check and balance on power. I wrote a book with my brother, David Goodman, called "Static". And the reason we called it that, is in this high-tech digital age with digital radio and HDTV, still all we get is static. That veil of distortion and lies and misrepresentations and half truths, that obscure reality. When what we need the media to give us is the dictionary definition of static: Criticism, opposition, unwanted interference. We need a media that covers power, not covers for power. A media that is the 4th estate not for the state. And a media that covers the movements that create static and make history. That's a media that serves a democratic society.
David Goessmann: You invite voices on your show who are barely heard in the US mainstream media. Talk about these dissidents, critics of war, social activists, scientists, journalists, artists and whistleblower. What is the significance of this “adversarial culture” – to put it in the words of Howard Zinn.
Amy Goodman: The media should be a sanctuary for dissent. Because dissent is what will save us, it is what this country was founded on. But all too often the corporate media reenforces the corporate consensus of corporations together with the well funded politicians, who are funded by those very corporations and we are seeing narrowing of points of view being brought out by the media, not a broadening of points of view and we're supposed to broadcasting not narrowcasting. It's a huge responsibility. I see the media as huge kitchen table that stretches across the globe, that we all sit around and debate and discuss the most important issues of the day: War and peace, life and death. And anything less than that is a disservice to service men and women of our country, because they can't have these debates on military bases. They rely on us in civilian society to have the discussions that determine whether they are sent to kill or be killed. They determine whether they'll live or die. Anything less than that is a disservice to a democratic society. The media is the way we come to understand the world. Unless we know about a country or a person personally, we learn about it through the media. And we have to learn it through something other than a corporate lens or a corporate microphone.
David Goessmann: Tens of thousands of people died in the war in Afghanistan and also in Pakistan because of the drone warfare. 1.5 million people died or were killed in Iraq, according to a Lancet study. The Iraqi city of Fallujah has a high cancer rate, even higher than Hiroshima, after the atomic bomb dropped there, because of the usage of uranium ammunition by US forces. Do people in the US know about this ?
Amy Goodman: When the US is there the media pays attention, but not to people at the target end. It's the people dropping the bombs and when they leave, there is no attention paid at all. And we have to understand what happens in the wake of war, not only during war. And then you have the situation in Yemen and in Pakistan, where President Obama keeps a kill list himself and he personally checks of the people to be killed. I mean, you wouldn't have believed this years ago. Some of the most conservative Republican presidents, we are now at the point where President Obama is more conservative than they are. Compare President Obama to Richard Nixon. It's an amazing thing to say, but he originally said he would close Guantanamo, one of his first executive orders within a year, and it hasn't been closed. We see the drone war expanding and sadly what happens is, if there aren't casualties - American casulties - people don't pay attention. And drone war is about hitting buttons on military bases here, that leads to deaths of people there. We don't want to see any casualties. I really do think that in the 21st century war is not the answer to conflict. And we need a media that brings out the views of the peacemakers, of the diplomats, of the people who have been working for peace, instead of those who wage war.