DEMOCRACY DAY DAMNS

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By Mike Ghenu

They were unkempt, angry, and mostly male. Leftists of all stripes converged at the Bloor Cinema last Thursday for a movie screening and talk featuring independent media icon Amy Goodman.

The screening was attached to Media Democracy Day, a forum organized to showcase left-wing and alternative media voices that was held at Ryerson last Saturday. Goodman is one of the most prominent anti-war voices in America and her show Democracy Now! is broadcast by public mediaoutlets throughout the United States.

Goodman is currently on tour promoting her first book, The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them. Goodman, 47, is a loud and constant critic of the war in Iraq, of major corporations that she accuses of profiting from that conflict, and of the corporate media, which she skewers for presenting a sanitized and distorted image of war and its victims.

Since graduating from Harvard in 1984, Goodman has reported from places rife with human tragedy such as Nigeria and East Timor. The reporting has won her some of journalism’s most prestigious awards, like the Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting and the George Polk Award.

Goodman wants to challenge journalists to “go where the silence is and say something.” Before her talk, a 30-minute film called The War and Peace Trilogy was shown, featuring clips of Goodman’s speeches, finely segued with sound and video clips from the mainstream media.

The film is dominated by Goodman’s voice, which is amplified and echoes as she lets forth a continuous stream of denunciations aimed at the Bush administration, the establishment, and the corporate media. Carefully timed clips from the major networks interrupt her speech and bestow a kind of instant verification of her arguments.

As she rails against “the media war game,” and the “parade of retired generals” serving as pundits for the major networks during the war, familiar footage from CNN, NBC and Fox News flashes in the background.

The multi-media montage reveals one of Goodman’s most effective tactics: using the media’s own product against itself. Never-theless, some of the clips are opportu-nistic and taken out of the context of the times.

Yet they portray the media through a critical lens and raise valid questions about the representation of dissenting viewpoints in the mainstream media. In her hour-long speech after the screening, Goodman took aim at the pundits “who know so little about so much,” the mainstream journalists who have shirked their responsibility of bringing out the full diversity of opinion, and Amazon.com for wiping out independent bookstores.

Although full of quick checkmates, her speech was less effective than her documentary; it meadered among anecdotes and endorsements of independent media outlets and book vendors.

Goodman did express an interest in bringing her show to Canadian listeners and politely answered a question about the reasons behind the media’s failures in the run-up to the Iraq war.

“The corporate media acted as a conveyor belt for the lies of the Bush administration,” she said. She is said to spend most of her waking hours engrossed in her work.

Her passion and dedication to present the other view and air the voices of the unheard showed through the entire evening.

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