Pittsburghers were very fortunate to have Amy Goodman stop here two weeks ago on her 100-city tour. Goodman, who co-hosts Democracy Now with Juan Gonzalez, is one of the great journalists of our time, reporting on stories generally misconstrued or altogether ignored by the mainstream media. She spoke with passion and precision about the urgent issues of our time, including the importance of maintaining independent journalism in the face of corporate controlled media. As Goodman put it, we need an independent media that is not funded by the pharmaceutical industry when covering health care, the weapons manufacturer when covering war, or the oil and gas industry when covering energy and environmental issues. She reminded the audience that journalism was the only profession protected by the constitution because it provides the checks and balances necessary to maintaining a democratic society. Weaving together connections between past and present movements for social justice, as well as the relationship between historic oppression and current threats to economic, racial and gender equality, Goodman illuminated her role as the people’s journalist.
While recently reporting at the Republican National Convention, Goodman attempted to ask David Koch, of the infamous multi-billionaire Koch brothers, if he believed “unchecked, concentrated wealth will subvert democracy”. Koch, in an act which so accurately reflected the hidden face of the ultra rich who have such an impact on the world but so little accountability, was shielded by surrounding delegates who stood to protect him from Goodman’s pesky questioning. She redirected the question to Ed Cox, Richard Nixon’s step-son and chairman of the New York state Republican committee, who surprisingly answered “No”.
Goodman noted that we are about to witness the first post-Citizen’s United election. The Koch brothers have promised to spend over 400 million dollars in campaign contributions this election year, and have already disseminated election propaganda to Koch Industries employees warning them about the supposed threat that a liberal government, with it’s imposition of a mandatory living wage and increased corporate taxation policies, poses to their job security. This is a particularly ironic twist of facts in light of recent events in Freeport, Illinois where workers at the Bain Capital-owned Sensata Technologies are protesting the impinging loss of their jobs. When Sensata bought out the former company, Honeywell, in 2010 they informed workers that their jobs would soon be outsourced to China, and that they would have to train the very Chinese workers who were being hired in their place.
Interestingly, Goodman discussed the extent to which Mitt Romney has strayed from the discerning, conscientious legacy left by his father, George Romney. George Romney, who ran against Barry Goldwater for the 1964 Republican Party presidential nomination, actually spoke out against the growing extremism within his party. Even after losing the nomination, Romney Sr. would not support Goldwater, whose stance against civil rights represented the very extremism about which he attempted to sound the alarm.
Goodman talked about other pressing issues, including threats to women’s reproductive rights, the militarization of American police and the death penalty. She drew connections between movements for social justice in America, such as the abolition and suffrage movements, the populist movement, civil rights and the current undocumented movement. She said, “we need a media that goes to the grassroots and let’s the people speak for themselves”, and quoted an undocumented protestor she met outside of the Democratic National Convention who explained that after living in the U.S. for 18 years, he’s paid more taxes than Citi Bank!
Goodman also shed light on connections between oppressive forces. She ended with a story about a property in Maryland, just a couple of hours from the White House, which was once known as “Mount Misery”. It was given this name in the 19th century when owned by Edward Covey, who was known as a “slave breaker”, or someone who would torture so-called “troublesome slaves”, including Frederick Douglas. Goodman explained that Donald Rumsfield, who himself is associated with encouraging and defending the use of torture by the American military, purchased a summer home on the very same property where Mount Misery once stood.
Such connections seem particularly important in a moment when voter ID laws, which disproportionately affect people of color, threaten to further disenfranchise upwards of 750,000 Pennsylvania residents. Goodman pointed out that while Paul Ryan believes a fertilized egg should be defined as a person, and Mitt Romney argues for the personhood of corporations, it is time we start paying attention to the “flesh and blood” people in this country and in the world. For those of us who agree, tuning into Democracy Now, which airs every weekday at 8am on 88.3 WRCT, isn’t a bad place to start.