The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Themby Amy Goodman, David Goodman
Her comments turned Charlie Rose red in the face. Bill Clinton called her 'hostile, combative, and even disrespectful.' Newt Gingrich said to her, 'You're the kind of reporter I warned my mother about.' Meet Amy Goodman, award-winning journalist and host of the daily hour-long talk show that is a beacon for passionate, critical, and hard-hitting news. On subjects ranging from the deceptions of the George H. W. Bush administration to the corruption of media monopolies and corporate influence over the government, Amy Goodman attacks and exposes the lies and hypocrisy that put democracy at risk. Goodman has traveled the world reporting and speaking out in defense of human rights and offers no apologies for her advocacy. At lectures, rallies, and other public appearances, thousands turn out to hear her speak the truth. Now, in her first book, she offers her no-holds-barred perspective on world events.
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The Exception to the RulersExposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them
By Amy Goodman
Hyperion BooksCopyright © 2005 Amy Goodman
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIntroduction The Silenced Majority
The troops marched slowly up the road, their U.S.-made M-16s in the ready position. It was November 12, 1991, a day that would forever be seared into my memory, and into history. I was in Dili, the capital of East Timor, a small island nation 300 miles north of Australia. East Timor had been brutally occupied by Indonesian troops for sixteen years, since they invaded in 1975. The Indonesian military had sealed off East Timor from the outside world and turned it into their private killing field. A third of the population - 200,000 Timorese - had died. It was one of the worst genocides of the late twentieth century.
I had just attended mass at the main church in Dili with Allan Nairn, journalist and activist, then writing for The New Yorker magazine. After the service, thousands marched toward the Santa Cruz cemetery to remember Sebastian Gomes, yet another young man killed by Indonesian soldiers. The people came from all over: workplaces, homes, villages, and farms. They traveled through a geography of pain: In almost every other building, Timorese had been held or tortured, disappeared or killed. Whether it was a police station or a military barracks, a hotel or an officer's house, no place was beyond reach of the terror. Not even the church was safe. It was about 8 a.m. when we reached the cemetery.
We had asked people along the way: "Why are you marching? Why are you risking your lives to do this?"
"I'm doing it for my mother," one replied. "I'm doing it for my father," said another. "I'm doing it for freedom."
In the distance, we heard an eerie, synchronized beat. Suddenly we saw them. Many hundreds of Indonesian troops coming up the road, twelve to fifteen abreast. People grew very quiet.
We knew the Indonesian military had committed many massacres in the past, but never in front of Western journalists. Allan suggested we walk to the front of the crowd, hoping that our presence could head off what looked like an impending attack. I put on my headphones, took out my tape recorder - I usually kept these hidden so as not to endanger Timorese caught talking to us - and held up my microphone like a flag. Allan put his camera above his head, and we went and stood in the middle of the road, about fifteen yards in front of the crowd. By visibly showing the tools of our trade, we hoped to alert the troops that this time they were being watched.
A hush fell over the Timorese. Those in the back could run, but the thousands of people in front were trapped by the cemetery walls that lined both sides of the road. The main sound was the rhythmic thump of boots hitting the road as the troops marched in unison toward the people. Children whispered behind us. Then, without any warning or provocation, the soldiers rounded the corner, swept past us, raised their U.S.-made weapons, and opened fire.
People were ripped apart. The troops just kept shooting, moving their guns from left to right, killing anyone still standing.
A group of soldiers surrounded me. They started to shake my microphone in my face as if to say, This is what we don't want. Then they slammed me to the ground with their rifle butts and started to kick me with their boots. I gasped for breath. Allan threw himself on top of me to protect me from further injury.
The soldiers wielded their M-16s like baseball bats. They slammed them against Allan's head until they fractured his skull. For a moment, Allan lay in the road in spasm, covered in blood, unable to move. Suddenly, about a dozen soldiers lined up like a firing squad. They put the guns to our heads and screamed, "Politik! Politik!" They were accusing us of being involved in politics, a crime clearly punishable by death. They also demanded, "Australia? Australia?"
We understood what was at stake with this question. In October 1975, Indonesian soldiers had executed five Australia-based television journalists in an attempt to cover up a military incursion leading up to the December 7, 1975, invasion of East Timor. On December 8, Australian journalist Roger East, the only other Western reporter left in East Timor, was dragged out of a radio station in Dili down to the harbor and shot.
Almost exactly sixteen years later, as Allan and I lay on the ground surrounded by Indonesian soldiers, we shouted, "No, we're from America!" They had stripped us of our possessions, but I still had my passport. I threw it at them. When I regained my breath, I said again, "We're from America! America!"
Finally, the soldiers lowered their guns from our heads. We think it was because we were from the same country their weapons were from. They would have to pay a price for killing us that they never had to pay for killing Timorese.
At least 271 Timorese died that day, in what became known as the Santa Cruz massacre. Indonesian troops went on killing for days. It was not even one of the larger massacres in East Timor, and it wouldn't be the last. It was simply the first to be witnessed by outsiders.
"A Sanctuary for Dissent"
Going to where the silence is. That is the responsibility of a journalist: giving a voice to those who have been forgotten, forsaken, and beaten down by the powerful. It is the best reason I know to carry our pens, cameras, and microphones into our own communities and out to the wider world.
I am a journalist from Pacifica Radio, the only independent media network broadcasting in the United States. It was founded in 1949 by a man named Lew Hill, a pacifist who had refused to fight in World War II. When he came out of a detention camp after the war, he said the United States needed a media outlet that wasn't run by corporations profiting from war. His vision was of an independent network run by journalists and artists - not by "corporations with nothing to tell and everything to sell that are raising our children today," in the words of journalism professor George Gerbner, founder of the "cultural environment" movement.
KPFA, the first Pacifica station, began in Berkeley, California. FM radio was in its infancy at the time, so KPFA had to make and give out FM radios in order for people to hear the station. As would happen so many times in the decades that followed, Pacifica Radio tried something no one thought would work - building a network based on the financial support of individual listeners. This marked the birth of listener-sponsored media in this country, a model later used by National Public Radio and public television.
The Pacifica network grew to five stations: KPFA in Berkeley, KPFK in Los Angeles, WBAI in New York, WPFW in Washington, and KPFT in Houston. In 1970, KPFT became the only radio station in the United States to have its transmitter blown up. The Ku Klux Klan did it. In 1981, the KKK's Grand Wizard claimed that his greatest act "was engineering the bombing of a left-wing radio station," because he understood how dangerous Pacifica was.
Pacifica is a sanctuary for dissent. In the fifties, when the legendary singer and African-American leader Paul Robeson was whitelisted during Senator Joseph McCarthy's witch hunts, banned from almost every public space in the United States but for a few black churches, he knew he could go to KPFA and be heard. The great writer James Baldwin, debating Malcolm X about the effectiveness of nonviolent sit-ins in the South, broadcast over the airwaves of WBAI.
Today, Pacifica continues that tradition. My colleagues at WBAI, including Elombe Brath and the late Samori Marksman, have taught me how a local radio station can be the gateway to a rich world. Samori was a pan-Africanist who taught me so much about the history of Africa and the Caribbean. Elombe Brath has long provided a voice for leaders of African liberation movements. These men made the whole world our community. Great African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, and Julius Nyerere were local voices to WBAI's listeners. In his role as WBAI program director, Samori would call me into his office under the pretext of discussing some bureaucratic minutiae. I would emerge three hours later, newly educated about a liberation movement in Africa or the Caribbean.
It's still much the same. On any given day, you can listen to the news on CNN or National Public Radio, then tune in to a Pacifica station. You would think you were hearing reports from different planets.
We inhabit the same planet, but we see it through different lenses. On community airwaves, color isn't what sports commentators provide, and it isn't the preserve of a "diversity" reporter. We are a cross section of races, ethnicities, and social classes explaining the world we see around us.
Take, for example, my WBAI colleague Errol Maitland. In March 2000, while he was reporting live from the funeral of Patrick Dorismond - a Haitian-American who was shot and killed by police - Errol attempted to interview New York City police who were moving in on the crowd of mourners. We listened as he tried to question police, who then threw him to the ground. Errol was beaten by New York City police officers and had to be hospitalized for weeks. When I visited him in the hospital, I found him handcuffed to his bed. All for what? For reporting while black.
It was stories like Errol's, in New York and around the world, that my WBAI colleague Bernard White and I took on each day for a decade on the morning show Wake Up Call. We heard people speak for themselves, instead of hearing them defined by officialdom. Bernard, a former New York City schoolteacher, has deep roots in the community. Whether in the classroom, on air, or as Samori's successor as WBAI program director, Bernard's idea of education is to have people tell their own stories, document their own lives.
I began hosting Democracy Now! in 1996, when it was launched as the only daily election show in public broadcasting. Listener response was enormous. Suddenly the daily struggles of ordinary people - workers, immigrants, artists, the employed and the unemployed, those with homes and those without, dissidents, soldiers, people of color - were dignified as news. I call it trickle-up journalism. These are the voices that shape movements - movements that make history. These are people who change the world just as much as generals, bankers, and politicians. They are the mainstream, yet they are ignored by the mainstream media.
After the 1996 election, we decided to continue the show as a daily grassroots political newshour. When the media began beating the drums of war after September 11, 2001, Democracy Now! expanded to television and became the largest public media collaboration in the country. We now broadcast on hundreds of community radio and public access TV stations. We beam out over satellite television and stream on the Internet at democracynow.org.
Why has Democracy Now! grown so quickly? Because of the deafening silence in the mainstream media around the issues - and the people - that matter most. People are now confronting the most important issues of the millennium: war and peace, life and death. Yet who is shaping the discourse? Generals, corporate executives, and government officials.
In a media landscape where there are more channels than ever, the lack of any diversity of opinion is breathtaking - and boring. As my colleague Juan Gonzalez often says, "You can surf through hundreds of channels before you realize there is nothing on TV." In a society where freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution, our media largely acts as a megaphone for those in power.
That's why people are so hungry for independent media - and are starting to make their own.
Vibrant debate and dissent exist in this country, but you are not reading or hearing about this in the mainstream press.
If you are opposed to war, you are not a fringe minority. You are not a silent majority. You are part of a silenced majority. Silenced by the mainstream media.
After 9/11 the media personalities on television - you can't call many of them journalists - kept saying that 90 percent of Americans were for war.
Were you ever called and asked your views? And if you were, what were you asked? Because if someone called and asked, "Do you believe the killing of innocent civilians should be avenged by the killing of innocent civilians?" I'm sure that 90 percent of Americans would say no. We are a compassionate people. But people cannot take action if they don't have accurate information.
Politicians who never met a war they didn't like (and in the case of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, never fought in any of them) began to beat the drums of war after 9/11. Corporations chimed in, knowing they could make a killing off of killing. And then came the mainstream media to manufacture consent, as Noam Chomsky puts it.
To understand how the media shape the message, look at who the messengers are. The media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) did a study of the "experts" who appeared on-camera on the major network news shows during the critical week before and week after February 5, 2003 - the day Secretary of State Colin Powell made his case to the UN Security Council for invading Iraq. This was at a time when 61 percent of Americans supported more time for diplomacy and inspections. The FAIR study found only 3 of 393 sources - fewer than 1 percent - were affiliated with antiwar activism.
Three out of almost 400 interviews. And that was on the "respectable" evening news shows of CBS, NBC, ABC, and PBS.
So if you ran to the bathroom while watching TV during that critical two-week period - sorry! You might have missed the only dissenting viewpoint the network news offered.
This is not a media that is serving a democratic society, where a diversity of views is vital to shaping informed opinions. This is a well-oiled propaganda machine that is repackaging government spin and passing it off as journalism.
Why does it matter? Well, consider the alternative: Imagine if instead of 3 voices against the war, the networks allowed 200 war skeptics on the air - roughly the proportion of the public opposed to war.
And imagine if the U.S. media showed uncensored, hellish images of war - even for one week. What impact would that have? I think we would be able to abolish war.
Instead, after our loved ones and neighbors followed orders and marched off to war (unlike the children of the top warmakers), the networks showed us a colorful, video-game version of what was going on.
In Iraq, the U.S. government discouraged independent coverage of the war - sometimes at gunpoint.
Excerpted from The Exception to the Rulers by Amy Goodman Copyright © 2005 by Amy Goodman. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Amy Goodman is an internationally acclaimed journalist. She has won many of the most prestigious awards in journalism, including the George Polk Award, the Alfred I duPont-Columbia University Award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting. Democracy Now! airs on more than 200 radio and TV stations around the world. David Goodman is an award-winning independent journalist whose articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Mother Jones, Outside, The Nation, and numerous other publications. He is the author most recently of the critically acclaimed Fault Lines: Journeys into the New South Africa. He lives with his wife and two children in Vermont.
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The coveted five stars that I rarely give to a book, is truly deserved. Goodman documents war profiteers and exposes them. She also cites her sources very well. She is a true journalist! I like her as much as John Stossel. Amy Goodman attacks anyone abusing their power or being corrupt! Who's side is she on? The truth! Thats the side you will find her on. Exception to the Rulers will educate you on the truth about the Iraq war and the "War on Terror". Uncovering the lies of the Bush Jr. administration. A very interesting read. Republicans will not like this one.
Amy Goodman is a much needed voice come true. This book covers much of what has already been said on her radio show, but it provides a good deal of interesting documented facts that are not acknowledged by popular PR, sorry, I mean media. This book draws connections between the 'war on terror' to its promotion by the PR to the money gathered by Bush family and their circle of friends to the rise in stocks of those who have contributed to bush campaignes since the 80s, among many other things.
While not providing much new as to the activities of the current admininstration, except as to degree, it does render a long overdue indictment of so-called 'news organizations', pundits and other talking heads. She documents very well what intelligent people have long observed, that those to whom we have relied on for providing us with information have sold their objectivity and integrity for 'easy' and 'priveleged' access. It very properly brings into serious question their credibility.
I haven't finished the book, but already it has given more information than I've ever heard from our 'mainstream' media. This is an amazing book, written by smart and courageous journalists; it ought to be required reading for every voter in this country. It grabs you immediately and doesn't let go, as you read the horrifying events that begin it, and into the almost as horrifying plans our current leaders have in store for us. Although it was not the intent of its authors, I suspect that too many of our otherwise highly intelligent citizens will read this book, see those plans, and will immediately think, 'That makes sense; yes, this is what this country must do to make us safe...and these are the people who will do it.' But that's not true; the Bush/Cheyney GOP--NOT like our GOP used to be!--whose plans are going forward do NOT have OUR best interests in mind, but their own acquistion of power and wealth beyond even our imaginings...but they need our complicity, fueled by FEAR, to achieve those ends, which will result--and has already--in the ACTUAL loss of our safety, our liberties and our right to freedom to work for personal as well as national prosperity for us all. You can make a judgment re how competent they will be by what they have done, so far, as they knowingly spend lives to feed our oil dependency, advancing their own enormous wealth and personal power to a global scale. As an aside: There is another--sane--way to ensure our safety (from everybody except a certain element among our own people) to cure our oil addiction: Make oil obsolete, even as oil once made horses and steam obsolete: Encourage & adequately fund research & development into alternate means to get the power we have come to rely upon. Foolishly, as it turns out, since the source of that power is now in the hands of people who hate and despise us, often with understandable reasons for it.
With this book Amy Goodman has made her debut as an author. She is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now! the nationally broadcast radio and TV show of news and political analysis which has risen dramatically over the last two years to become the premier media voice from the left. Written with her brother David, himself a distinguished journalist and author, the book is largely a compilation of stories covered on the show over the last few years and so regular listeners will find them familiar. It is not however merely ¿Democracy Now!¿s Greatest Hits.¿ It is a carefully selected collection of interviews, news stories, and ¿from the field¿ reports, all of differing lengths, some no more than two paragraphs, woven together to achieve the goal of the book¿s subtitle; that is, to expose the corruption of government policy by politicians, particularly those connected to the oil and defense industries, and above all the corporate media that has failed in its civic duty to challenge them. Not surprisingly it is for the latter that Goodman reserves her most acrid criticism and, as she has done relentlessly time and time again over the years, she argues forcefully and passionately for her signature cause; the call for a media independent of corporate control. In the introduction, titled ¿The Silenced Majority,¿ we catch a glimpse of how Goodman¿s passion for journalism was shaped from personal experience. It begins with an account of her harrowing experience reporting from East Timor on a November day in 1991, a day that saw the brutal massacre of almost 300 innocent villagers by the Indonesian army. It was just one of many countless episodes in the horrific story of genocide by Indonesia in East Timor that, beginning in the 1970¿s resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of East Timorese in their struggle for independence. Yet in the American press there was a literal blackout and no mention of it was made. Why? Because at the time Indonesia was a US ally and its military was supplied by the US. This goes to the heart of Goodman¿s outrage as she advances the idea that the role of a journalist is to ¿go to where the silence is¿ or ¿to give voice to those who are powerless and have no voice.¿ THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULERS goes on to chronicle a wide range of anecdotes not usually covered by the mainstream media. The harassment and abuses visited on the immigrant community in the aftermath of 9/11 provides fertile ground. Yes, here in America there were people who ¿disappeared,¿ taken by police into custody without notification to their families who had no information as to their whereabouts and were held without access to legal assistance. The intensification of pressure against anyone who voiced dissent over government policy extended to a Greek professor visiting New York to address an academic conference at NYU. He was handcuffed and interrogated at JFK airport and asked questions like ¿Are you against the war in Iraq?¿ The list goes on, with one example after another of the excesses of the Ashcroft justice department. As is the custom, the back of a book jacket is reserved for the accolades by notable personalities. Among those chosen for this book is historian Howard Zinn who places Goodman in the great ¿muckraking¿ tradition from Upton Sinclair to I. F. Stone. While muckraking is certainly a part of what she does and as a muckraker she is as competent as anyone, I think what Goodman is about is much more. I think that where she is at her best, where she truly excels is in uncovering the hypocrisy that is concealed in normalcy. Nowhere is this more compelling than in her harsh and unyielding attack on the media¿s coverage of the war in Iraq. As she says on pg. 206: The rules of mainstream journalism are simple: The Republicans and Democrats establish the acceptabl
If a reader has to choose one exposé book on the Bush Administration amongst those of Woodward, Clark, Dean, etc. the Goodman siblings is the one to select. One just needs to read the authors¿ logical argument on the Bush ¿oilopoly¿ to understand why especially in light of the alleged oil deal with the Saudis and the oily résumés of much of the leadership. The Goodmans¿ analysis of the Iraq War ignores the pronounced ever changing root reasons for armed combat, but instead follows the money of who gained (via contracts); the authors make a powerful case that major Bush campaign donors are the winners while soldiers and their family members, and the American tax payer pay the price. Underlying this and other arguments is their basic tenet that professional gurus manipulate the media using incredible spins and leaks of ¿dis and misinformation¿ that Spielberg would envy, and the worst gimmick to date is the in your pocket access that rigs the journalist¿s feelings. Can one really say something negative about the troops who feed a reporter, keep them safe, and share stories about home? Though readers will wonder why Amy has not been declared an enemy combatant, this insightful cautionary tome condemns the loss of truth, justice and the American way of freedom under the pretext of spreading democracy to oil slicks. Harriet Klausner