Topic: media criticism
You’ve probably tuned in to the media tug-of-war: When will WXXI stop digging in its heels and start airing Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now?
For months, local activists led by Metro Justice have been petitioning, demonstrating and demanding that Norm Silverstein and his crew do the right thing. But no go. WXXI insists that Goodman and her radio/TV/webcast weekday news show are beneath its standards. I won’t go into all the details here; just remember real pros like Bill Moyers and Diane Rehm take another view. Rehm has said Goodman’s doing “a first-rate job.” The newly-retired Moyers, in a recent appearance with Goodman, urged people concerned about the decline of media democracy to get local stations to carry DN.
That should be ‘nuff said. But there’s one other angle I think has been overlooked.
When Silverstein, et al., pronounce DN unworthy, they’re actually serving a community consensus stronger than the one that’s formed in favor of the show. I mean the gentlemen’s agreement, particularly strong in a postindustrial company town like Rochester, that left opinions are to be left out. Goodman and co-host Juan Gonzales may interview plenty of right-wingers, middle-of-the-roaders and official sources, but they won’t get absolution from the company men for an original sin: giving airtime to authentic lefties.
Compare what Goodman gives you to what you get from WXXI and other mainliners.
The past week or two, the media have been dealing with Ariel Sharon’s Gaza pullback. The mainliners, including NPR and the PBS NewsHour, follow every word and gesture of the far-right colonists (not that there aren’t innocent victims among the latter who should have their say). This coverage, echoed from network to network and station to parochial station, is so relentless that you’re left with the feeling that the colonists have garnered more interest in a few weeks than have thousands of Palestinian evictees - put on the street, or worse, while their homes were bulldozed - during the full 38 years of occupation.
DN, though, has given voice to the voiceless. Goodman recently interviewed a Palestinian family whose home was destroyed in Rafah, a community beside the Gaza-Egypt border that last year suffered what leading Israeli human-rights activist Jeff Halper calls “collective punishment” and “state terrorism.” (Rafah will also suffer endless occupation by Israeli forces, “withdrawal” or no.) It happens this family’s home was the one that young Rachel Corrie was defending when she was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer (made in the USA). Goodman also interviewed Corrie's mother. So Goodman provided vital information from two sources - one here, one “over there” - that have largely been muzzled.
In this connection, DN also has carried a studio interview with Morton Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, and gave him a polite hearing. But again, that kind of balance won’t make the pendulum swing toward Goodman. That’s because she consorts with the wrong kind of people. For example, more than once she’s interviewed celebrated - and often wrongly reviled - Israeli journalist Amira Hass, a Gaza-based writer with the highly respected Ha’aretz daily.
Check out Hass’s work online when you’re looking up DN. You’ll find both women get to the real sources on the ground, and that both are unafraid to be of the left.
In Israel, though, being a leftie or courting the near-occasion of sin by talking to lefties doesn’t get you banned from the “major” media. You may get an earful from your opponents, but you do get heard.
Parting shot: I recall a Curt Smith show on XXI a few years back when several guests, including current XXI news chief Michael Caputo, were asked who was their most-admired woman of the 20th Century, or something to that effect. I was rooting for someone to say Emma Goldman, especially given the Rochester connection. One guest did say Eleanor Roosevelt, I believe. But it's Caputo's choice that stuck in my memory: Golda Meir, the Israeli leader who infamously said there was no such thing as the Palestinians. I try hard not to read too much into this. But it's interesting how a guy who must be helping bar the door against Amy Goodman can be so generous to a very troubling historical figure.