On Friday, March 14, Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of international, independent news show “Democracy Now!” is coming to Santa Fe’s Lensic Performing Arts Center, and she’s dishing truth. During the special event, An Evening with Amy Goodman, she’ll talk about what’s really happening: the un-sugarcoated, harder-to-swallow version of the news that many folks hear limited details about via the mainstream media—or as Goodman prefers to call it, “corporate media.”
Her multi-award-winning show “Democracy Now!” is in its 18th year. “Now we can vote and buy cigarettes, not that we would buy them,” she said. The lengthy journey has been one continuous fact-finding mission with the goal of telling the unfiltered truth about issues and events.
“We began in 1996 as the only daily election show on public broadcasting,” Goodman said. The plan was just to broadcast the show until the election ended. But she said it was needed even more after the votes were counted. “There is a hunger for independent voices that has only grown since then. We started with eight radio stations in the beginning and have grown to more than 1,200 TV and radio stations today.”
That station roster includes New Mexico public stations KUNM, KNME and KSFR. “New Mexico public broadcasting is one of the new additions to our daily lineup as of just a few months ago,” Goodman said. That’s why she’s here: Her appearance is a fundraiser for public broadcasting in our state. “We’re so excited to come back to New Mexico. I think of it as my second home,” she said. “It’s a very exciting time for us, and it’s important to bring all of the public media in New Mexico together to support the public spaces.”
What began as a temporary broadcast is now the largest public media collaboration in the country, and it's dedicated to building independent media and bringing the truth to the masses. “When we cover climate change, it’s not brought to you by oil and gas companies. When we cover health care, it’s not brought to you by health care companies,” Goodman said. “The vast majority of the media is run by a handful of corporations. That’s why we have to fight to maintain public space. Independent media outlets are so important to understanding the world,” she continues. “The way we understand the world—if we don’t know people from another country—is through media, and it needs to be through some way other than through a corporate lens.”
To Goodman, tragedies like these reinforce the fact that we need a more sustainable way to live. She said we can’t rely on our traditional sources of energy—oil, gas, coal and nuclear—as a long-term strategy. “‘Democracy Now!’ has been to every UN Climate Summit since 2009. We [the US] are so behind. The overwhelming scientific opinion is that humans are speeding up climate change and global warming. People from all over the world can’t believe how backward the dialogue on this is in the US. We have to accept what is true and what we need to do about it. That is the debate they’re having in the rest of the world—not whether it exists, but what we’re going to do about it.”
Other key issues for Goodman include wars and conflicts around the globe. And she’s got serious firsthand knowledge. Goodman almost died covering the 1991 occupation of East Timor by Indonesian troops. “My colleague and I survived a massacre there while investigating the human rights situation,” she said. Members of the occupying regime who attacked them used weapons supplied by the US. “Before our eyes, they killed 250 people around us and beat us to the ground. Then they put us before a firing squad—with US machine guns to our heads—yelling ‘Politik! Politik!’”
Goodman said almost losing her life, along with witnessing the determination of the people of East Timor to be free, provided a terrifying, powerful lesson. “As journalists, it’s our job to go to where the silence is,” she said. “We come from the most powerful country in the world and as journalists, it is up to us to look at the effects of our foreign policy.” That’s why Goodman feels one of the most important stories being ignored by the “corporate media” is America’s “secret wars.” “The nighttime raids, drone strikes, the targeted killing, [this] has to be debated in a democratic society,” she said. “And the national surveillance state—you’ve got this big surveillance data center being built in Utah. We are just beginning to understand the extent to which the US government is monitoring our communication. This is our job, in media, to provide a forum for these discussions to take place.”
“When we cover climate change, it’s not brought to you by oil and gas companies,” Amy Goodman explains the independent reporting of Democracy Now! “When we cover health care, it’s not brought to you by health care companies.”
That’s why what Edward Snowden has done is so significant, said Goodman. “Every level of our lives is being monitored, and it’s not subject to a democratic discussion. That’s what Edward Snowden has provoked. He said his goal was not social change, but giving info to the American people to decide if they want to debate these issues,” she said.
She believes that people do want to know—and debate—what’s happening. “My colleague Jeremy Scahill was nominated for an Oscar for the documentary Dirty Wars,” said Goodman. In the documentary, Scahill traveled all over the Middle East to investigate America’s covert operations in the war on terror. The film was criticized by some for being “self-indulgent” and not providing a thorough history of dirty wars to place modern-day events in the proper context. But Goodman said the film accomplished something important. “His Oscar nomination shows how much people want to know about it. If we live in a democratic society, we have to debate these issues.”
It’s that debate, and sharing true, personal stories that Goodman believes is media’s biggest contribution to society. “The power of media is providing a forum for people to speak for themselves,” Goodman said. She believes there’s nothing more powerful than hearing someone share their personal experience. “It makes it much less likely that you will want to destroy that person. We begin to understand where someone is coming from, and that is the beginning of peace. I think the media can be the greatest force for peace on Earth.”
You can call it higher education.
“We need the media to talk about these issues that are rarely discussed. I see public media as the university of the airwaves. That is why I am coming to New Mexico to support it. It’s open admission for all.”