Prominent investigative reporter and broadcast journalist Amy Goodman was featured at the “Reimagining our Political Future” event hosted by the UC San Diego Associated Students Office of External Affairs on Monday, Jan. 11. The panel event was centered around the importance of independent media and its relation to political accountability.
Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of “Democracy Now!,” a national daily independent award-winning news program airing on over 1400 public television and radio stations worldwide. Goodman is also a co-author of six New York Times Best-Sellers and is best known for her award-winning reporting on the East Timor independence movement and the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
The panel was moderated by A.S. Vice President of External Affairs Alisha Saxena and A.S. National Affairs Director Zoe Coutlakis. During the hour-long panel, Goodman tackled hard-hitting questions surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and its comparisons to the June 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, the impact of “fake news” on democracy, and the importance of grassroots organizing.
Saxena began the panel with an acknowledgement that UCSD’s campus is built on the indigenous land of the Kumeyaay Nation.
The panel then kicked off with a discussion on independent media like “Democracy Now!” and how it differs from the mainstream media that the majority of people consume. Goodman stressed that how media outlets are funded can change how a story is covered.
“We’re brought to you by listeners and viewers and readers like you and not like you, all over the planet, and they contribute,” Goodman said. “When that many people contribute their five or ten dollars, that makes it possible to bring you independent media. As George Gerbner, the late dean of the Annenberg School of Communications, used to say, we’re not brought to you by corporations that have nothing to tell and everything to sell that are raising our children today.”
Coutlakis then segued into the events of Jan. 6 in Washington, DC, with a question on the role of corporate media in portraying the Capitol riot and whether that media coverage signals a more urgent call to action for Americans to transition towards independent media.
“Could you imagine if this was Black Lives Matter activists? Do you think anyone would have trouble calling this domestic terrorism?” Goodman said. “I think we must call this what it is, when you’re killing people for political reasons, there is no question what took place on Jan. 6, the horror. And I am horrified … that we can only talk about this in the past tense.”
Goodman emphasized white supremacy as the United States’ greatest domestic terror threat. She further elaborated on how she received word from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, right before this event, that Trump supporters and right-wing extremists were preparing attacks in all 50 states on Jan. 20, President-elect Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day.
The discussion then shifted to the topic of “fake news” and how disinformation has threatened democracy and democratic institutions. Goodman broke down the topic into two parts, first acknowledging activists’ work in economic and racial justice, climate crisis and LGBTQ movements.
“When a country is going down a very dangerous road, and we are in a dangerous time right now, make no mistake about it, the hope is the movements. All of these issues really combine to form a pro-democracy movement, and I think we are seeing something coalesce like we’ve never seen before. It goes across the political spectrum, [with] Republicans joining with Greens, joining with Democrats,” Goodman said.
However, she cautioned against the dangers of biased media and confirmation bias. She also highlighted the importance of the media’s continuing to ask questions and challenge those in power as the country moves into the Biden-Harris administration.
“Right now what we’re seeing in Washington is largely [that] the Republicans have stayed behind Trump, and they stay in a media universe that doesn’t challenge them,” Goodman said. “There’s a reason why for so long, essentially, you could call Fox News ‘Trump TV,’ and he even called it that. Now there is some questioning going on of him, and so he’s rejecting even that right-wing network. We have to challenge fake news everywhere.”
Saxena then highlighted the crucial role of Black, particularly female, grassroots organizers in the Georgia Senate runoff that culminated in the Senate flipping blue after Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were declared winners on Jan. 6. Subsequently, she asked for Goodman’s opinion on why grassroots organizing is so powerful and how it can be used to restore democracy.
“Grassroots organizing is the engine of change in this country. It’s who’s making history, and that’s what ‘Democracy Now!’ documents every single day. It’s critical, I think, because, especially you as young people in school, to know that you are the engine of change,” Goodman said. “We need a media that gives voice to, not describes, what you do, but hands the microphone over so you can speak for yourselves.”
Goodman then said that she believes that those who are concerned about war and peace, the climate crisis, LGBTQ+ issues, racial and economic justice are not a fringe minority.
“[They are] not even a silent majority, but the silenced majority. Silenced by the corporate media, which is why we have to take it back,” Goodman said.
The panel concluded with an audience Q&A and a meet-and-greet opportunity with Goodman herself.
The A.S. Office of External Affairs has an upcoming event titled “Indigenous Stewardship & Environmental Justice: A Conversation with Winona LaDuke” on Jan. 25 that is open to the general public. Registered participants will also have a chance to win a copy of one of LaDuke’s books. Students interested in getting involved in civic engagement can find resources at Free Expression at UCSD.
Artwork courtesy of Angela Liang for The UCSD Guardian