By Hannah Brandt
On April 29, Fresno welcomed Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan thanks to an event put on by local KPFA Pacifica Radio affiliate, KFCF 88.1. Amy Goodman is host and executive producer of KPFA’s national weekday TV and radio news program Democracy Now! Denis Moynihan is an award-winning independent journalist and author. The two have been traveling around the country promoting their new book, Democracy Now! Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America.
Pacifica Radio was started immediately following WWII by two pacifists in Berkeley, Cal. as a progressive, independently funded radio network. After organizing a group of conscientious objectors to create the Pacifica Foundation, KPFA went on air in 1949. Democracy Now! began broadcasting on KPFA in 1996, in the wake of the explosion of cable news channels and conservative talk radio. The show was developed as an alternative to corporate media and is now the largest public media partnership in the U.S., airing on 1400 public television and radio stations. In addition, millions of people around the world listen and view it through democracynow.org.
Democracy Now! is celebrating twenty years on the air at the same time the Central Valley KPFA affiliate, KFCF, is marking forty years in the air. In fact, KFCF was one of the first stations to carry Democracy Now! Goodman and Moynihan spent one day in Fresno, first at a small gathering meet-and-greet in their honor. Those of us who got up close and personal were given the chance to talk briefly with them about important issues like education, the environment, racism, human rights, and the responsibility of the media. Their visit culminated in a presentation to a large audience at the Big Red Church near Fresno High. Around 200 people attended this main event, squeezed in elbow-to-elbow, with several people standing in the aisles.
Ears strained to hear Goodman talk about her work over twenty years of reporting. Her speech, in some ways a sermon, preached to the choir, mirrored the layout of the book. She began by talking about the War and Peace Report, which is the subtitle for Democracy Now! Goodman said, “the United States is engaged in what can only be called an endless war.” The war in Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history. President Obama has been at war longer than any other U.S. president. She asked the question, “What if war were not an option? What if people had to resolve their conflicts non-violently?”
While this is one of the central questions Democracy Now! asks on a regular basis, corporate media does not. Therefore, most Americans are unaware that there are other viable resolutions to international differences or even that there is an anti-war movement in this country. When it has resurged at times in recent years, the anti-war movement has been quickly suppressed by policymakers and law enforcement and gone unreported by most media outlets. There was vehement dissent against the War in Iraq, but few outside Democracy Now! reported it. In 2002, “Dennis Kucinich’s experience in his own congressional offices confirmed the results of research we conducted at Democracy Now! namely that the telephone calls flooding Congress against a military invasion of Iraq outpaced calls in support many times over.” The truth of this has only increased since the movement has become more marginalized.
She also discussed how this endless war has created a “national security state where torture, spying, and killing of innocent civilians and mass surveillance at home have become normalized.” Stressing the dangerous, but crucial work of whistleblowers is a main focus of the show as Goodman interviews Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden himself, remotely tracking these realities and the concerted effort to shut them up. When the media becomes part of this effort to silence important voices, it loses its purpose.
The book also tackles immigration and the fear undocumented residents feel about demanding their rights. The fact that 1000 people on average have been deported daily during Obama’s presidency has forced many to organize into action. Goodman pointed out that “today’s immigration policy is a political quagmire that enflames passions and incites racism and xenophobia.” She said John F. Kennedy’s denouncement of how immigrants were treated sixty years ago is still true. They are only welcome “….as long as they come from Northern Europe, are not too tired or too poor or slightly ill, never stole a loaf of bread, never joined any questionable organization, and can document their activities for the past two years…”
Goodman also trudged into the Occupy movements, militarized police forces, American white supremacy, climate change, and the LGBTQ movements. While mainstream media focus on these issues for a hot minute, Democracy Now! continues to follow up on these subjects over years. When Bree Newsome scaled up the flagpole of the capital building in South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag, it did make all the networks. But a few days later other outlets had moved on and forgotten it, failing to dig into the historical significance of this human moment. Democracy Now! had lengthy, meaningful interviews with Newsome rather than brief sound bites.
In this age where the news media is increasingly controlled by corporate conglomerates, the public is crying out for authentic, investigative journalism. Very often it is obvious there are pieces of the story missing in mainstream media, voices that are not heard. There appears to be quiet, where there is actually a blaring clamor. As Covering the Movements’ book jacket states, “Goodman takes the reader along as she goes to where the silence is.” On April 29, she called on Fresnans to never give up the fight for justice, truth, and equality.
Hannah Brandt is the editor of Community Alliance newspaper. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @HannahBP2. Follow the paper on Facebook at Community Alliance Newspaper and on Twitter and Instagram @fresnoalliance.