Like so many of you, Democracy Now! is one of my key sources of news. As I said yesterday, Amy Goodman really should need no introduction to anyone here at Firedoglake. The work of the DN! team are a shining example of journalism in a field that mostly seems to have fallen asleep.
The Silenced Majority is a collection of Goodman and Denis Moynihan’s weekly columns of the last four years, but taken together the columns become more than just a recap of the headlines of the day. The reporting on Democracy Now! never focuses on the spectacles which are dazzling the mainstream media, but instead on the real stories behind the flash. This collection, which gathers the short columns into thematic collections like “Obama’s Wars” and “Wikileaks and the Crackdown on Dissent,” functions as a quick reference to what’s really been going on in politics and on the world stage.
In his book review on My Firedoglake, Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan Explain the Past Four Years, David Swanson wrote:
How quickly we forget, or even never knew, this recent history — history that will never make it into school-approved history books. Reading this book, I was reminded of watching, for the first time, the movie Fahrenheit 911 by Michael Moore who wrote this book’s introduction. That movie recounted basic facts about recent years, many of them familiar to anyone who’d been paying attention, and yet the information came as a shock to most moviegoers. This book would come as a shock to most readers.
To regular Firedoglake readers, it may not be so much shock as deep satisfaction — the book reads like a greatest hits compilation of the issues which matter. Occupy and the Arab Spring, nuclear power, the climate crisis, capital punishment, racism, and the continued failure of the drug war all feature in the book among many other topics.
During the eviction of the original Occupy Wall Street encampment from Zuccotti Park, other journalists were content to stay confined to the tiny corral police had set aside. The authors slipped free of the police and snuck into the park where they describe a book they found in the wreckage of tents, tarps and sleeping bags:
We saw a broken bookcase in one pile. Deeper in the park, I spotted a single book on the ground. It was marked “OWLSL,” for Occupy Wall Street Library, also known as the People’s Library, one of the key institution that had sprung up in the organic democracy of the movement. By the latest count, it had accumulated 5,000 donated books. The one I found, amidst the debris of democracy that was being hauled off to the dump, was Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley.
As the night progressed, the irony of finding Huxley’s book grew. He wrote it in 1958, almost thirty years after his famous dystopian novel Brave New World. The original work described society in the future where people had been stratified into haves and have-nots. The Brave New World denizens were plied with pleasure, distraction, advertisement, and intoxicating drugs to lull them into complacency, a world of perfect consumerism, with lower classes doing all the work for an elite.
In the “Luminaries” section, The Silenced Majority highlights key figures including some I had not have considered like British spy turned spy novelist John le Carré:
His latest book (his twenty-second), just out this week, is called Our Kind of Traitor. It targets a fictional array of London bankers and their protectors in Parliament, who collude with Russian Mafiosi to prop up the collapsed world economy by laundering hundreds of billions of dollars in criminal profits.
Or blacklisted musician E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, who wrote “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?”
Harburg was deep in debt after the 1929 Wall Street crash. Gershwin suggested that Harburg write song lyrics. Before long, he wrote the song that captured the essence of the Great Depression, ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” [Yip's son] said of the music industry then: ‘They only wanted love songs or escape songs, so that in 1929 you had “Happy Days Are Here Again” … There wasn’t one song that addressed the Depression, in which we were all living.’ ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?’ became a national hit and remains a kind of anthem for hard times, corporate greed, and the dignity of the working people.
This column was expanded on Thanksgiving into a full-length program on Harburg.
The authors are also concerned with the state of journalism itself. Why are the stories that Democracy Now! covers so often overlooked by the mainstream media? In the introduction, Goodman and Moynihan have strong words about the state of the press:
At the heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement is the critique that wealth and opportunity are not equitably distributed, and our media system, largely controlled by corporations, contributes to that status quo. The Internet has created a seismic disruption to the balance of power in the media. … While fighting to presere a free Internet, journalists, press organizations and the public must not give up on the older legacy media institutions. Television is still how most Americans get their news. We have a public television system in the United States that is a shadow of public broadcasting abroad, forever hobbled by congressional threats to ‘zero out’ its budget.
The ‘crisis in journalism,’ which has been blamed on the Internet’s disruption of traditional advertising business models, is also traceable to the very corporate behavior that many of the Occupiers are protesting. Leveraged buyouts of media properties have left newspapers with massive debt, forcing layoffs of journalists and support staff. By stripping away the profit motive, by removing the Wall Street bankers from the picture, solid, disciplined nonprofit journalism is possible.
Amy Goodman has had many lively conversations about this book while on tour around the country. Here’s one we linked yesterday from the Baltimore Book Festival:
[I hope all the firepups will help me give Amy Goodman a very warm Firedoglake welcome. As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments related to the various topics of the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions and each other. Off-topic comments should go to an open thread like this one. -Kit]
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]