Going to the Heart of the Story
An interview with Amy Goodman
Amy Goodman is left-wing royalty.
Her radio and TV show “Democracy Now!” is broadcast on more than 750 stations worldwide. She’s also co-authored three New York Times bestsellers with her brother, David Goodman.
But the radio host never set out to become a progressive celebrity. Goodman has always endeavored to give a voice to those who are seldom heard. Her latest book, Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times, hit bookshelves at the end of March. “It’s people taking a stand,” Goodman says of the political tome. “It’s about when people don’t go looking for trouble, but when it comes to them and they stand up.”
Goodman meets quite a few heroes during the production of her show. But to further research their subject, Goodman and her brother made a point of talking to people they met while traversing the country on previous book tours. A small sampling of the stories they encountered came from the first U.S. Army officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq, librarians who challenged the Patriot Act and prevailed and the New Orleans residents who are taking on city hall to regain their homes.
While sipping a cup of coffee in her car, Goodman answered our phone call about some of the most pressing concerns of the day. Our conversation was interrupted sporadically by Goodman's exclamations of “Wow, this is serious here!” And “Oh my god, this is amazing!” as she traveled through a severe snowstorm in North Carolina. Goodman is on a 70-city tour to promote her new book.
Under a Democratic president, how does the focus of “Democracy Now!” change?
Our focus doesn’t change at all. We’re here to cover power, not cover for power. We are not a party to the parties. We are here to provide a forum for people to speak for themselves, to chronicle grassroots movements, and there’s no more important time than now.
What’s your take on President Barack Obama’s first couple months in office?
This is the key moment. When you look back at FDR’s administration, the first 100 days laid the foundation for so much. As for what’s happening now, there’s very significant moves. When he first came into office, President Obama issued an executive order to close Guantánamo in a year. He is sending more and more troops to Afghanistan. He’s expanding the war.
What role does the media play in covering the escalation of the war in Afghanistan?
The media is repeating the same mistake that they did in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, and that is beat the drums for war. When was the last time you saw someone on television opposed to the war in Afghanistan as President Obama expands that war? These are very serious issues and we need a forum—which should be the media in this country—to discuss and debate them. It’s young men and women of this country who are the fodder for these wars. They can’t have debates on military bases. They rely on us.
How do you think the media has covered the economic crisis and the White House’s solutions to it?
We are living in a time where in the media you hear the amplifying of the concern of socialized medicine and health care for all. Where is the same concern about socialized debt? The U.S. taxpayer is buying up the debt. But when the economy turns around, the government is proposing privatizing the profits. You socialize the debt and you privatize the profits. I don’t think Americans think that’s fair.
What would you propose instead?
We have to have an honest accounting of what’s happening right now. One of the things we try to do on “Democracy Now!” is bring people on who think outside the box; people who are looking at the economy, not just to restore what was, but to look at what would be a more equitable solution.
What do you hope people get out of your new book?
Inspiration. It’s a documentation of movements in this country; an understanding of what has taken place over the last years. But not only the last years, because we go back in time as well. We talk about Rosa Parks and her remarkable activism in Montgomery, Ala. Even though she is a very famous woman, her story well chronicled, the media still gets it wrong when they say she was a tired seamstress and not a troublemaker. She was a first-class troublemaker.
Do you think the media pays enough attention to grassroots activism?
No. The media doesn’t cover movements. They are filled with these pundits who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong. What we believe in doing on “Democracy Now!” and in our book is going to the heart of the story—to the people that are living that story and letting them speak for themselves.
Goodman will speak at UNM’s Woodward Hall on Sunday, April 19, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $5 for students. They can be purchased at Bookworks (4022 Rio Grande NW). Goodman will also be reading on Saturday, April 18, in Taos and Santa Fe and earlier in the day on Sunday, April 19, in Mesilla and Silver City. For more info, go to tour.democracynow.org.