Although the media in Australia is generally better at providing in-depth and balanced coverage of events than the media in the US, I still find myself missing Pacifica Radio’s New York-based Democracy Now! program.
While in Australia, I’ve been periodically checking the Democracy Now! website which offers audio streams and transcripts of all the show’s programs. Two segments from last Tuesday’s program particularly caught my eye.
In one of these segments, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman interviewed journalist Eric Boehlertand, author of the recently published book, Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush. Boehlert argues that the corporate, mainstream media in the US has essentially given up its role as defenders of the public interest and instead succumbed to pressure from the Bush White House and the conservative right.
Bohelert writes that the reasons for this are many, including a “consolidated media landscape in which owners are increasingly – almost exclusively – multi-national corporations; the same corporations anxious to win approval from the Republican-controlled federal government to allow further ownership consolidation. The press timidity is also fuelled by the Republicans’ ‘tight grip on Congress . . . and the mainstream media’s natural tendency to revere beltway power . . . This timidity is also driven by beltway careerism; by media insiders who understood that despite the cliché about the liberal media, advancement to senior positions is actually made doubly difficult for anyone with a reputation for being too far left, or too caustic towards Republicans.”
Boehlert also argues that the Bush administration uses a variety of tactics to undermine and control the media, including curbing access, bullying reporters, hyping terror alerts, paying off pundits, and producing fake newsreels.
To read the transcript of Democracy Now!’s interview with Eric Boehlertand, click here.
The second segment of last Tuesday’s program that caught my attention was Amy Goodman’s conversation with Pulitzer Prize winning author and popular political columnist, Thomas Friedman.
As Amy notes in her introduction, “Thomas Friedman is one of most widely-read political commentators. His books include the award-winning From Beirut to Jerusalem and The Lexus and the Olive Tree. His latest book is The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century. Later this month, he will host Addicted to Oil: Thomas Friedman Reporting, a television special on the politics on this country’s reliance on oil, or what he calls ‘petropolitics’.”
Now, I have to say that I’m not a big fan of Thomas Friedman, so I was very interested by the prospect of this avid proponent of corporate globalization (and the might of the American military which he says is needed to protect and expand it), being interviewed by the host of a program that claims to be “the exceptions to the rulers.”
Reading the transcript, I wasn’t disappointed. One part that particularly interested me was when Goodman questioned Friedman on his belief that “excuse makers” for terrorism are “one notch less despicable than the terrorists” and should be placed on a US State Department list.
Friedman criticizes anyone who attempts to explain how US actions abroad might fuel terrorism. Personally, I don’t consider such attempts to be “despicable.” Nor do I believe that seeking to identify and explain the motivations of terrorists is the same as “making excuses” for these same people’s deplorable acts.
Following is the exchange between Goodman and Friedman regarding this issue:
Amy Goodman: Last July you wrote a controversial column calling on the state department to monitor and publicly identify excuse makers and hate mongers.
Thomas Friedman: Yes.
Amy Goodman: You wrote, “After every major terrorist incident the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed. Every quarter the State Department should identify the top ten hate mongers, excuse makers and truth tellers in the world.” That's your quote.
Thomas Friedman: Absolutely. I believe that.
Amy Goodman: To make an enemy's list, the state department –
Thomas Friedman: People who make excuses for terrorism should be exposed and identified. I also use my own pen to expose and identify people in Israel who explore hate mongering as well toward Palestinians, among the settlers. I’ve been probably one of their biggest critics and enemies in The New York Times referring to them as fanatics and lunatics.
Amy Goodman: For people who say we have to understand why others in the world are angry, do you think they belong on the State Department list?
Thomas Friedman: [There’s a difference between] understanding why people are angry and understanding why people tell you that 9/11 happened, and no Jews were in the twin towers at that time because they were all warned ahead of time. So, let's be clear about what I was saying. I was very focused on people who want to justify the murder of innocent women and children, innocent civilians, and I very much believed then and I very much believe now that they should be exposed. I think Jewish hate mongers should be exposed as well as I believe I made clear in that column, too.
Amy Goodman: Are you concerned today in this country about people who are fiercely critical of the war in Iraq, the occupation, being called unpatriotic, being called hate mongers, being put on government lists?
Thomas Friedman: Amy, if you read my column, one of the biggest critics of the war is the woman I live with, and I’ve probably mentioned – I don't know how many times, in my column – my wife's criticism of the war. I believe it's honorable. I believe it's a perfectly moral position. I would be disgusted by anyone calling them traitors.
Amy Goodman: And why do you trust the State Department to make the determination on who they would call terrorists for being critical of the invasion?
Thomas Friedman: We clearly know what hate speech is and we know what legitimate opposition is. I know the difference.
Amy Goodman: And do you think the State Department knows the difference? The Bush administration, President Bush?
Thomas Friedman: I think they could. I know the difference between hate speech and people who oppose a policy on legitimate grounds, and opposing the Iraq war is not hate speech, I'm sorry. Basically justifying the bombing of the World Trade Center is hate speech. I know the difference. If you don't, that's your problem.
Amy Goodman: Do you think the State Department does?
Thomas Friedman: I'm not going to get into this silliness.
To read the full transcript of Democracy Now!'s interview with Thomas Friedman, click here.