For two years prior to the war in Iraq, there were intelligence information and weapons inspectors reporting that "this doesn't add up," the claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, said award-winning journalist Amy Goodman in a talk at the North Dakota Peace Coalition meeting Saturday in Bismarck.
"The evidence wasn't there," said Goodman, host of the only national radio and television new show that's free of corporate underwriting, "Democracy Now!" in New York.
But she said that information was "iced up."
Goodman, whose show airs locally here on Community Access Television, Channel 12, at 7 a.m. weekdays, says the reporting, the soundbites, that the American public is getting from corporate-owned media isn't doing the job. The large media conglomerates are simply regurgitating and bolstering the misinformation of the power elite, she said.
In the case of going to war in Iraq: "The media simply acted as a conveyor belt for their lies," she said.
And that's not a journalist's job, the only job protected in the U.S. Constitution. "Our job is to be the Fourth Estate," she said.
"Leading up to the war there was almost no coverage of the peace movement," she said after her talk at United Tribes Technical College, where there were copies of her new book available, "The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers and the Media That Love Them."
Because of the lack of coverage, the peace movement appeared to the public to be a fringe movement even though it wasn't, she said.
"In the lead-up to war, the majority of people were actually against war and for more inspections and diplomacy," she said. "In fact, I would say those opposed to war were not a fringe minority, not even a silent majority, but the silenced majority, silenced by the corporate media."
And lack of coverage continues -- little done, for example, on the about half-million anti-war protesters that showed up at the recent Republican National Convention. And a lack of coverage on the subsequent mass arrests.
"It was a total crackdown on dissent," she said.
Goodman said there is the ongoing sanitation of war footage that seems to focus on hardware, shots of fighter jets with the setting sun behind them and such, but little in the way of carnage as networks edit out what's deemed to be "tasteless."
"War is tasteless," she said.
She said she thinks one week's worth of heavy media coverage showing dead babies and women's legs sheared off by bombs, and people in the U.S. would say no to war as an answer to conflict in the 21st century.
Her new 2004 book is already in its seventh printing, climbing the best-seller lists and getting thumbs up from people such as Noam Chomsky, author of "Hegemony or Survival" and an MIT professor.
Howard Zinn, historian and author of "A People's History of the United States," praises Goodman for carrying "the great muckracking tradition of Upton Silclair, George Seldes and I.F. Stone into the electronic age..."
Movie director Michael Moore calls Goodman "the only daily voice of truth on the radio in the United States of America."
Goodman, who began her journalism career in 1985 in community radio at Pacifica Radio's New York Station, WBAI, has been an eyewitness to carnage. Goodman, reporting on the U.S. backed Indonesian occupation of East Timor in the early 1990s, witnessed a massacre of 270 East Timorese by Indonesian soldiers using their U.S. weapons, M-16s. She and a fellow journalist, Allan Nairn, were beaten with rifle butts, and Nairn's skull was fractured, but they were eventually released after soldiers determined to their satisfaction that the two were Americans.
Goodman has won some of journalism's top awards -- the George Polk Award, the Robert F. Kenney Prize for International Reporting and the Alfred I. duPont Columbia Award. Her show's co-host, Juan Gonzalez, is an award-winning columnist for the New York Daily News and president of the National Association of Hispanic journalists.
Goodman said journalists need to "go to where the silence is." Give voice to those not getting media time.
"The media goes to the small circle of pundits who know so little about so much," she said. "Instead, go to the people who are closest to the story."
Goodman says it's journalists' job to provide a forum for dissent.
She said the media should be like a huge kitchen table where life and death and war and peace issues are fully aired.
"Anything less is a disservice to the servicemen in this county," she said.
Goodman said it's also important that people who engage in dissent feel safe. But she related a couple of the many examples in her book to show how dissidents' civil liberties are under assault in the U.S.:
A father and son, shopping at a mall outside of Albany, N.Y., in March 2003, bought T-shirts. Stephen Downs' shirt read "Give Peace a Chance" and Peace on Earth." His son Roger's shirt read "Let Inspections Work" and "No War With Iraq."
A mall security guard requested they take off the shirts, when Stephen Downs refused, police were called, and Downs, a retired attorney, was arrested on trespassing charges. Two days later, 150 supporters wearing peace T-shirts protested at the mall, forcing the mall to drop the charges against Downs.
Katie Sierra, 15, of Charleston, West Virginia, was suspended after wearing to school a T-shirt with this message: "When I saw the dead and dying Afghani children on TV, I felt a newly recovered sense of national security. God Bless America."
Lilian Bachmeier, 70, of Mandan, said she is a avid Democracy Now! and Goodman fan.
"She speaks for the marginal ... People who will not be given time on the corporate media," Bachmeier said.
According to the show's Web site, democracynow.org, the schedule for last Friday's show included interviews with Middle East experts about the recent Sinai bombings and the collapse of the peace process and a Sharon aide's position that a U.S.-backed settlement policy was designed to freeze the peace process.
There were also interviews planned with Terry Tempest Williams -- an author, professor and environmental activist -- about a public university in Florida canceling her speech because of its fear that she would criticize Bush for his environmental policies.
Also planned was an interview with Lou Dubose, author of a new biography, "The Hammer," on U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay R-Texas, to talk about how Congressional Democrats and government watch groups were stepping up calls for his resignation after the House Ethics Committee admonished him for failing to carry out his duties in a forthright and ethical manner.
Democracy Now! started out on a couple of stations and can now be heard on 240 radio and television stations including Pacifica, National Public Radio and community radio stations, public access and PBS and satellite stations, DISH Network Channel 9415 and DirecTV Channel 375. For local stations and air times or to listen-watch online, log on to democracynow.org.
© 2004 Bismarck Tribune