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Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on over 700 TV and radio stations in North America. Time[…]

Amy Goodman has faith in the power of authentic stories.

Amy Goodman: Oh, I don’t think it’s that hard. People are attracted to or interested in authentic stories and people’s life experiences. When you hear the name of a person and you hear them telling their story, you stop. You take a breath. You listen. As opposed to the, you know, the know nothing punditry that we get on all the networks. I mean, that is not interesting, and so when people say… People aren’t interested in politics. Look, are they tuning in to these political discussions? We have to bring them entertainment. No, and they’re smart not to, because that is chatter. That is not what is actually happening. That’s a certain class of a very select, small group of people. But when you have people telling their own stories… I’ll give an example. A few days ago, we did a story on recruiters, and we didn’t have the professors or the pundits talking about recruiting in America. We had 2 kids. We had Irving Gonzales and Eric Martinez. Eric, 17, and Irving is 18, and they’re friends, and they come from a poor section of Houston, Texas, and they were being heavily recruited. The recruiters are crawling through their high school. I mean, they’re in their classrooms and they will call them out.

They will say, “Hey. I wanna talk to you,” when they’re sitting in their classroom. And these kids agreed to be part of something called the delayed enlistment program. You know, they’d graduate from high school and then they go into the military, but it was nonbinding, what they signed. And when they decided not to do it, they wanted to go on to college directly, the recruiter said, well, they would be arrested, that they now had to go to war. And they resisted. One was taken to a hotel, on his way to basic training.

They were threatened. And we had the two other kids on, talking, and we had a Congressman on, Gene Green from Houston, hearing them tell their stories, how one was taken to a hotel. He was not able to go down from the second floor to the first floor. The elevator was disabled, so he couldn’t go down, and he was gonna end up who knows where, in Iraq or Afghanistan. And it was a remarkable story, how his friend called him up and said, “Where are you?” he said, “Well, I’m already in the hotel. This isn’t a game. We have to go or we’re gonna end up in jail.” And he said, “That’s not true. I’ve been talking to people. I found out this is untrue. They’re lying to us.” And of course they were. The recruiter was. But we also had on the head of the army recruiting command from Louisville, Kentucky, a man named Douglas Smith, and asked them about why they were being told they would be arrested if they didn’t go to war. The sergeant in charge of their… The sergeant who had been the previous recruiter in the Greenspoint Recruiting Station at the local mall had threatened another kid and said, “If you don’t show up at 2:00, we will have a warrant out for your arrest,” and he was removed, as he should have been.

What wasn’t said is he was, ended up as the commander of another recruiting station. So I asked this recruiting spokesperson about this, why it was that he was promoted, and he said, “What do you want these guys to get? The death penalty? Okay. He made a mistake,” he said. “But what do you want? To get the death penalty?” I said, “There’s a difference between the death penalty and a promotion.” Well, the congressman got so enraged as he listened to this, as he listened to 17 year old Eric, holed up in a hotel, terrified, his mother told he would be going to jail if he didn’t go off to the military, that he’s now just written a letter to the Secretary of Defense and he’s demanding an investigation.

There is nothing more powerful than people telling their own experiences. We had a little boy on. We [heard]… You know, everyone knows immigration is a very critical issue in this country, but to hear people discuss it, your eyes glaze over and you wanna turned to any entertainment and non reality show, right? We should really have reality shows, like the reality of what it means to be in for profit immigration prison. That’s a good reality show, as opposed to the ones that don’t express reality. But there’s a reason why people turn to entertainment, because the kind of obfuscation and lies on these talk shows are not worth watching. What about when you really hear a little boy like Kevin, who we had on, 9 years old.

We heard that this little boy and his parents were put in an immigration prison in Texas. We got through to the prison, live on Democracy Now!. I was talking to his father, and I said, “Is Kevin there?” Kevin was his son, born in Canada there. His parents are Iranian. And I said, “Kevin, where are you?” He says, “I’m in jail.” This boy was 9 years old, and I said. “Well, what do you want to do right now?” And he said, “I just want to go to school. I wanna be free.” In the United States, it hardly got any attention, but in Canada, those few words, those sentences of this little, innocent boy got played all across Canada. On radio, on television, quoted in the newspapers, and the Canadian government finally allowed the family in. There’s nothing more breathtaking than when you hear someone speaking their own truth. With all of these channels we have, where are people describing their own experiences about issues that matter, that we determine? I mean, that’s what public policy is all about, and so, go to the target end, hear what people have to say, and that’s media serving a democratic society.


Recorded on: August 11, 2008