The feisty journalists at Democracy Now! caused quite a stir at the Republican Convention, in Tampa Bay, Fla., last month — and not just for the independent news program's provocative daily coverage. In one incident that itself got widespread attention, DN producer Mike Burke and a cameraman were attacked by the daughter of casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson after asking him about his campaign contributions. And then there was billionaire industrialist and right-wing financier David Koch's response to being approached by longtime DN reporter and anchor Amy Goodman. "Every time I would go to him in the New York delegation ... the delegates around him stand up, and he sort of cowers behind them," says Goodman.
Goodman and DN have been raising hackles for years. The show — broadcast on more than 1,000 TV and radio stations globally — airs locally on WRCT 88.3 FM and on public-access cable channel PCTV. On Thu., Sept. 13, Goodman speaks at Carnegie Mellon University as part of a 100-city book tour for The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope, her new collection of syndicated newspaper columns written with Daniel Moynihan. The event benefits PCTV and the Pitsburgh Campaign for Democracy Now.
Goodman spoke with CP on Sept. 3 by phone from Charlotte, N.C., as DN was launching its coverage of the Democratic convention.
What were some underreported stories out of Tampa?
The Democrats and the Republicans put on these conventions to try to control the message, to put out an orchestrated message, and they pour millions into doing that. And it's our job to get behind that, to speak to the delegates about the issues that affect so many people that they don't want to talk about.
With the Republicans, they had a uniform message coming out of Todd Akin [the anti-abortion senator who said women can't get pregnant from "legitimate rape"]. It's not just
Akin. He's significant because he's a senatorial candidate, but he and [vice-presidential candidate] Paul Ryan have sponsored bills together. Paul Ryan is adamantly anti-choice and proud of it.
When you try to ask delegates about that, they would always say, "Women don't care about that, they care about the economy." One after another. I asked Senator Hatch, [from] Utah. He said, "I've asked my wife — they don't care about this, they care about the economy." I asked Governor Walker, of Wisconsin: "No, that's ridiculous. They don't care about reproductive rights. They care about the economy."
Of course, reproductive rights is an economic issue. But that's not what they wanted to talk about. And so looking at the records, that's the key. Because these aren't people who don't have a record, right? Mitt Romney, no matter how he doesn't want to talk about his years as a governor, was a governor. And Paul Ryan of course is very powerful in Congress, and they have bills they've sponsored, and that's what we have to look at.
What is Ryan's record on reproductive rights?
[He was] co-sponsor of the Sanctity of Life act, which says that a fertilized egg is a person. That has huge repercussions. I mean, 98 percent of Catholics use birth control. Many birth-control methods would be made illegal by this. Like the IUD, which prevents implanation of a fertilized egg. [Also] fertility treatments that Mitt Romney's son Tag used to have his boys.
Now, I shouldn't even be talking about this. I think that's a completely private issue. Although they've talked about it. If Paul Ryan's bills were passed and made law, Mitt Romney would not have the grandchildren he does. That's an amazing story. It does matter what the vice president's record is, because he is a heartbeat away from the presidency.
The moment that might live the longest from Tampa was Clint Eastwood.
The [convention's] one uncontrolled moment. Oh, my gosh, there's so many things to say about it. ... Just the implicit racism in this whole thing. I was on the floor at the time, and you had this huuuge picture of Dirty Harry, the outline of a man with a rifle, and he's talking about the invisible man, the invisible president in this chair, which reminds us of the Invisible Man and [author] Ralph Ellison, talking about African Americans in this country.
And you look around the convention hall, and yes, African Americans are not invisible — they're not there. There are a few, and they're much more highly represented on the stage, because that's how the Republicans are trying to cover that.
What's your new book about?
We call the book The Silenced Majority. Because we really do think that those who are deeply concerned about war, concerned about poverty and equality, corporate control, issues of privacy, are not a fringe minority. Not even a silent majority. But the silenced majoity. Silenced by the corporate media.
Our last column was called "Workers Feel the Pain of Bain" and we met them in Romneyville, which would be a Hooverville-like encampment set up at the Republican convention. (Here there's an Obamaville.) And from workers from a Bane-owned factory in Illinois who are losing their jobs a few days before election day, because the company Sensada, which is owned by Bane, is going to train — and [the workers] were sent to China to train — the people who will take their jobs. And the Chinese workers were sent to Illinois so they would train them even further.
It's a painful story. And when they went to question Romney about this at one of his campaign stops, when they raised the question, everyone around him, the Republican supporters of Romeney, shouted "U.S.A., U.S.A" to drow them out, and they were taken out by security. And as one of them siad, "Here we are, American workers, and they are calling us Communists, when we are protesting that us jobs are being sent to Communist China."
You know, you have a small circle of pundits on television who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong. ... [The book is] bringing out the voices of people at the grasroots ... whose voices you rarely hear. There is much more agreement in this country than is reflected in the media.
You don't think the country is as divided as we hear?
I think so much is made of the partisan bickering in Washington, and the divide. I think the problem is a bipartisan consensus.
Because if you look at the big issues — for example, war. President Obama now involved in the longest war in U.S. history. Mitt Romney supports that war and wants it to be longer. You look at the economy. There's no question now the Democrats, in the time of an election, trying to show the distinction, adopt the rhetoric of Occupy, talking about the 1 Percent, and Mitt Romney representing that. .... But on these big issues, on war, on the economy, many have asked questions — I mean, what was the chant yesterday, and the protest, about bailing out the banks and selling out everyone else?
President Obama surrounded himself [with] the very bankers and those involved in the financial institutions, from Larry Summers to Timothy Geithner to others that ... were part of the system that created this loss, and that's who he turned to, instead of those who were issuing the warnings. And then, once it happened, where are the penalties, where are the trials, where [is] the holding those in power in these financial institutions accountable?
So you think there's even grassroots agreement on how to fix the economy?
I think people feel that people at the top who have made a fortune on this, who were responsible for the economic collapse, should be help reponsible. I mean you have people on a corner who steal a Hershey's bar and they're put into jail for I don't know how long. Where is the accountability at the top when we're talking about millions and billions of dollars?
Of course the Democrats are in a bind, as are the Republicans on this, and that is they are now in a multi-billion dollar election, in this post-Citizens United era. And they're turning for support to the very financial leaders of these insitutions that they should be holding accountable.
What's been the effect of the Occupy movement on this election?
I think it already had a tremendous effect, for example in the language used. Any Madison Avenue PR executive would drool to have come up with the slogan "We are the 99 pecent." I mean, it resonated across this country, among Republicans, Democrats, Greens, independents.
I think dissent is what created this country and what will save this country. ... You never know when you [will] have a moment like the Occupy encampments. But it takes different forms, and we have to see how it percolates up. I think people are galvanized, they are deeply concerned, and we'll see what happens.
Hear Amy Goodman on the one thing people agree on about the economy.