Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan are touring the country with a new book that everyone should have and read. “The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope” is a history of the Obama Years in the form of a thematically organized collection of columns — columns that grew out of the reporting done by the most useful show on our airwaves: Democracy Now!
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.
A column from November 10, 2010, included in the book, begins, “If a volcano kills civilians in Indonesia, it’s news. When the government does the killing, sadly, it’s just business as usual, especially if an American president tacitly endorses the killing, as President Barack Obama just did with his visit to Indonesia.” Who recalls that episode now? Who remembers the crises that jump in and out of our media: the cruelties imposed on Honduras or Haiti? This book brings together a full four years and moves us to ask where each story has now gone.
Here we read a history of teasing: There’s going to be accountability for foreclosure fraud very soon. No, really. Any day now. Any month now. We’ve launched a new study into, um, an investigation of a review procedure capability program. No, seriously. Investigations are underway into the crimes of Rupert Murdoch. Really, we mean it.
Too many of these columns end with references to pretended federal efforts of law enforcement that were never heard from again. There is no doubt an office somewhere in the FBI in which people are paid to calculate the ideal timing for pretending to pursue justice in one cause or another, and the ideal timing for switching over to silence and forgetting. But it all looks laughable and offensive if you read four years’ worth of it all strung together.
This book encourages placing events in context and practices that habit. “Just before this Sunday’s election in Haiti,” Goodman and Moynihan wrote on March 23, 2011, “President Rene Preval gave Aristide the diplomatic passport he had long promised him. Earlier, on January 19, then U.S. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley tweeted, referring to Aristide: ‘today Haiti needs to focus on its future, not its past.’ [Aristide’s wife] Mildred was incensed. She said the U.S. had been saying that since they forced him out of the country. Sitting in a plane a few minutes before landing in Haiti, she repeated the words of an African leader who criticized abuses of colonial powers by saying, ‘I would stop talking about the past, if it weren’t so present.'”
Part of the recent history reviewed here is the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement. As our government/media work to rewrite those stories, Goodman and Moynihan remind us of the days when people in Cairo held up a sign that read “To: America. From: the Egyptian People. Stop supporting Mubarak. It’s over!” This collection takes us through the occupy movement and numerous other stories that are ongoing and developing, serving as an ideal primer for those now getting or staying involved.
The current crisis in Syria, for its coverage of which Democracy Now has been criticized, is too new and does not appear in the book.
Enough is included in this book for disturbing patterns to emerge without comment from the authors. Here, for example, are four years of empty threats to our government from our people. Many have probably forgotten Bill McKibben’s statement in August 2001: “Our hope is to send a Richter 8 tremor through the political system on the day Barack Obama says no to Big Oil and reminds us all why we were so happy when he got elected. The tar sands pipeline is his test.” Apparently there was no plan for what to do on the day (after day after day) on which Obama did not remind them why they were so happy. There was no contingency plan for his failing the test. There was no comprehension of how this guaranteed that he would choose to fail the test. And there is now forgetfulness of the growing ludicrousness of past promises and past pseudo-threats to power. Move the goal posts. Declare a new showdown. Avoid reading this book.
The themes of the book include many that never entered the recent Obama-Romney debates. Among them: race, and the death penalty. The themes of the book are not presented in isolation, but in interconnectedness. A Chicago police officer, Jon Burge, goes on a torture spree. “Where did it all begin?” ask Goodman and Moynihan. “One thing is clear: In 1968-69, Burge was an MP at the U.S. Army’s Dong Tam camp in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, where captured suspected Viet Cong soldiers were allegedly interrogated with electric, hand-cranked field telephones supplying shocks. Torture techniques similar to this were rampant under Burge’s command in Chicago.” On October 6, 2010, Goodman and Moynihan wrote:
“News broke last week that the U.S. government purposely exposed hundreds of men in Guatemala to syphilis in ghoulish medical experiments conducted during the late 1940s. As soon as the story got out, President Barack Obama phoned President Alvaro Colom of Guatemala to apologize. Colom called the experiments ‘an incredible violation of human rights.’ Colom also says his government is studying whether it can bring the case to international court. … Ironically, the Guatemala study began in 1946, the same year as the Nuremberg tribunals, the first of which tried Nazi doctors accused of conducting heinous experiments on concentration-camp prisoners. Half of those accused were put to death.”
Numerous such connections are pointed out in the book or inevitably arise in the reader’s mind. The U.S. Supreme Court in the Troy Davis case finds it constitutional to kill an innocent person. President Obama creates a drone program the serves primarily to do that very thing on a large scale.
While the Occupy movement would not have existed as a national phenomenon without the corporate media, Democracy Now was there first and stayed with it longer. Getting more people to watch Democracy Now must be an easier thing that getting the corporate media to favor the dismantling of corporate power. Goodman and Moynihan, who barely sleep, and who are driven by the urgent moral need to confront the horrors the corporate media rarely notices, are on their way to a town near you. Welcome them.