On Saturday, September 1, journalist Amy Goodman, co-founder of the independent news program Democracy Now (broadcast daily on radio, television, and online), spoke at Books and Books’ Coral Gables location about her new book, The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope. Muhammed Malik and Subhash Kateel, co-producer and host, respectively, of the Miami-based weekly radio show Let’s Talk About It, interviewed Goodman after the event to discuss The Silenced Majority, which she co-authored with Denis Moynihan, and the state of media and politics during this heated 2012 election cycle.
Muhammed Malik: First things first, what are you doing here in Miami-Dade County?
Amy Goodman: Well, my co-author and I are here … for the launch of our new book called The Silenced Majority, which focuses on voices from the grassroots, not the pundits who know so little.
Muhammed Malik: You have often criticized the role that money in politics has played in subverting democracy. And you’ve also voiced numerous concerns about the state of mainstream media. Please share with us your concerns about how these issues are impacting the public-at-large.
Amy Goodman: Well, I am deeply concerned about the closure of newspapers. I think we need more newspapers, not fewer newspapers. People must be informed in order to make decisions. And I think that newspapers need to reflect the full range of opinion.
And newspapers need to, in particular, cover movements at the grassroots. You see the Occupy Movement rise up, and if you were reading the newspapers you would think that it came out of no where. But it came out of a lot of organizing. And, you know, Democracy Now was talking about it before it happened. Most news networks seem to have had no idea that people were organizing.
And then, talking about Occupy as it developed, we asked what were the concerns of people? And I think those concerns spanned all across the political spectrum. There were concerns about inequality, there were concerns about poverty, they were concerns about that “great sucking sound” from most Americans witnessing wealth going to the top — to a few handfuls of corporate billionaires who were then determining elections.
Coming out of Tampa’s Republican National Convention, I reflected on this when attempting to talk to David Pope and Sheldon Adelson — money-connected individuals whose weight is so significant in terms of the political impact they are having. The Koch brothers, David and Charles Koch, for example, are talking about spending something like $400 million dollars on the elections. Then there’s Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas casino magnate, contributing up to $100 million dollars.
Especially after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision (2010) and while we continue to not really know the sources of much of the vast sums of money that are going into the elections, we are in big trouble. Democracy, I should say, is in big trouble.
Subhash Kateel: So, what is your most heart-felt reflection — besides the fact that democracy is in trouble, which I think is clear — coming out of the Republican National Convention in Tampa?
Amy Goodman: Well, I mean, among the most striking features is that there were so few people of color at this convention. Of course, they put people of color on the stage to speak. But the RNC’s stage-presentations distracted from the fact that people of color were under-represented in the crowds. Also, you know, people often talk about the 99% and the 1% and that Mitt Romney represents the 1%, but when it comes to people of color, to African-Americans in particular, ZERO percent support is what the polls show. That is astounding.
And then at the convention you had that situation of the African-American camerawoman from CNN who was confronted by individuals within the Alabama Republican delegation. And some people — I’m not going to say the whole delegation — threw peanuts at her and said this is how they feed the animals. Now, two people from that delegation were then thrown out of the RNC convention because of that. And what’s interesting is that when [the CNN camerawoman] gave an interview, she said, you know this could have happend at the Democratic National Convention, this could have happend on the streets of Tampa because this is what racism looks like. And we have to deal with these issues of racism in America, and we have to talk about them.
Subhash Kateel: Now, you’re in Florida. And Florida is often considered one of the swing states — if not THE swing state. Would you like to share with us any particular observations you may have about Florida, in terms of the issues that make Florida stand out during national election seasons?
Amy Goodman: Well, I think that just like in many states when you actually talk to people on the ground, they share a lot more in common than they differ. And that’s not often reflected in the media. There are many concerns. Florida is one of the epicenters of home foreclosures. It has been hit hard by storms. These issues of climate change, for example, are absolutely critical. When you turn on the television and you listen to so many weather reporters talk about “extreme weather” or “severe weather” — well, what about putting together another two words: “climate change” or “global warming”. Because there is something we can do about this. And solutions revolve around less drilling, less dependency on oil, and developing a more sustainable future. I think about that when I think about Florida.
Subhash Kateel: What is your favorite part of the new book? What would you encourage folks to focus on in your book?
Amy Goodman: Well, the book is a collection of columns for the last three years on numerous issues. So, there are scores of columns in the book. I don’t have a particular favorite. We have various sections in the book, beginning with “Obama’s Wars”, a tragedy in three acts: the wars abroad, the war on veterans and soldiers, the war on the public treasury. Then there are parts that cover money in politics, climate change, dirty energy, capital punishment, Wikileaks, and crackdowns on dissent, news from the un-reported world. As we move into the Democratic National Convention, one of the people that we write about is John Lewis, a congressman from Georgia, and a number of remarkable figures in our country. Lewis, of course, is a Congressman from Georgia, but he is the flesh and blood of where we began this discussion around voting rights. For some it’s just theoretical, a debate about whether or not we should require a photo ID for voting, etc. But others talk about this as a real barrier that stops people from exercising their right to vote. And Lewis was there decades ago on the frontlines protesting and getting his head bashed in so that African-Americans would be able to vote. And this is a great story.
Muhammed Malik: What advice would you give to up-and-coming journalists?
Amy Goodman: To stick to it. To challenge those in power. To hold those in power accountable. To follow your instincts. To keep asking questions and don’t stop. We need more journalists. In order to ensure democracy, we need information. And we, as journalists, need to dig deep and provide a variety of perspectives and information. I think young people are perfectly positioned because young people question authority naturally. And that’s exactly what you need to be a good journalist.
Muhammed Malik is a human rights advocate and commentator, born and raised in Miami. Subhash Kateel is the host and founder of Let’s Talk About It!, a Miami-based radio program that focuses on the real issues that affect the lives of real people. To learn more, visit the LTAI! website.