Silencing the Town Crier

Tuesday, 02 September 2008 18:15 By Leslie Griffith, t r u t h o u t | Perspective | name.

Silencing the Town Crier
"Democracy Now!" host and journalist Amy Goodman is seized by St. Paul police.

    "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."
    - Thomas Jefferson.

    How in the world can this happen? How in the world can citizens remain ensconced in their homes watching "American Idol" when a true American, who should be idolized, is getting arrested for nothing more than asking a few questions?

    Amy Goodman, who hosts one of the rare alternative news programs in the country, "Democracy Now," is not known for attracting attention to herself.

    She is not a Bill O'Reilly, shouting and screaming at anyone who disagrees. She is a journalist who loves diverse voices and putting events into perspective - helping American citizens get the information they need to make informed decisions.

    Yesterday, Goodman witnessed and experienced something very frightening that likely was not mentioned on your local news.

    During the opening of the Republican National Convention, she was arrested for asking police where her two producers were. They had been arrested, and because SHE asked a question police did not like, she was arrested too.

    After more than 20 years as a journalist, Goodman was doing what reporters are supposed to do. She was gathering news inside the Republican National Convention as well as seeking opposing views outside. Heavens to Betsy - a real journalist telling both sides!

    The video of a demure Goodman walking into a group of police who were dressed in riot gear - looking like guards outside a dictator's palace - is surreal. It also convinced me that Republicans would love to provoke citizens practicing their constitutional right of civil disobedience into acting like misguided idiots. Then the mass media, which have been lifting pom-poms for the Bush administration for years, can blame them and make them look like lunatics worthy only of dismissal.

    If Amy Goodman had been wearing an American flag or a Republican emblem on her lapel, I doubt she would have landed behind bars.

    Voices of dissent have always restored balance after times of extreme, and if those voices are silenced, can we still call ourselves a democracy?

    Goodman is one of the few working news persons to ask tough questions of powerful people, and they don't like it.

    This is the age of the bully, and those bullies don't want anyone showing America or the world that there is concern about where our country is headed. Bullies don't like discussion, and yesterday Amy Goodman was bullied right into the paddy wagon.

    Today, many of those in power want to convince sleeping Americans that dissension is evil - that it's unpatriotic and should be feared.

    How can a country formed by revolutionaries not understand that there is no democracy when there is no free press?

    To kill those who question is to kill democracy itself, and the end product is a dictatorship.

    When Iraq was invaded and the town criers lost their voices for not asking why, Americans lost their faith in journalists who are charged with protecting them.

    Now, as a small group fights to wrestle control away from a rich and powerful few owning our conduits of information, dissenting voices are rarely heard - these few own the people who should be asking the questions.

    But they don't own Goodman, and that's why she was arrested.

    Mass media owned by Viacom (entertainment) General Electric (arms dealers) Disneyland (let's just have some fun) and Fox (Rupert Murdoch, who likes to give John McCain a lift in his jet once in a while) are not about to give newsrooms across the country back to its citizens.

    Those sitting in anchor chairs reading the news are often there because they will say and do anything the corporation tells them to, and every one of those corporations has an agenda - and it's not protecting the public.

    Our conduits of information have been hijacked; a man, acting like a dictator, is in the White House; the town criers of democracy are getting arrested, and Americans' heads are so full of infotainment, Prozac and Zoloft that getting off the couch seems like a real inconvenience.

    There is a reason Americans rally. It is our right, and it is our way of pulling a country moving toward self-destruction back into the arms of the people who love it most - those who believe in all sides getting told; those who believe information without perspective is harmful; those who believe infotainment is not news, and those who believe corporate control of newsrooms is destroying a democracy.

    What a sad time for journalism. What a sad time for America.

    What will it take for journalists to put down their pom-poms for corporate media, get out of bed with the Bush administration and start fighting to do their jobs again?

    Perhaps Amy Goodman's illegal arrest will get Americans to stop listening to those who tell us the enemies are all around us and understand that the enemy is here within these divided states.


    Leslie Griffith has been a journalist in newspaper, radio and television for 25 years. One of her first assignments was in Moscow during the Cold War. Griffith has earned two Edward R. Murrow awards; nine Emmys; 37 Emmy nominations; the prestigious Casey Medal for helping to stop the exploitation of the nation's children; seven Radio Television and News Directors Association awards; the 2006 People's Choice Award for Best Anchor in Oakland Magazine, and the 2005 Associated Press Anchor of the Year. Griffith received commendation from The Associated Press for being the first to confirm on September 11, 2001, that the passengers on Flight 93 fought back. Griffith won the National Genesis Award for exposing abuse at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 2005. Griffith is currently working on a book about corporate censorship of the media called "Shut-up and Read." To reach Griffith, go to

Last modified on Wednesday, 03 September 2008 07:53