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Goodman on Goodman
Posted on Nov 30, 2009
SCHEER: I can? You – you have – c’mon – you have a standard. You know what you want, OK? And that’s given the show it’s integrity.
GOODMAN: Well, I mean, we care about … getting at the truth, giving people a chance to speak for themselves. You know, they don’t have to agree with each other. If you come away from Democracy Now! feeling like you got a chance to express your point of view … You know, I was thinking about—we did a column on this about “The Dubious Mr. Dobbs” – you know, Lou Dobbs leaves CNN. Juan Gonzales and I had an hour with Lou Dobbs in our studio, not us in his. And I recognized, from seeing other interviews with him, how he controls the set where he is, but that he could say something isn’t true just because he could say it’s not true. Or he could say something is true that absolutely wasn’t. That was repeated over and over on his show. And the only way to challenge it was to go back to the videotape, ‘cause if I said, “You said that it’s illegal immigrants who have brought us more leprosy in the last three years than ever in the history … completely fabricated! Now, if we presented the information, he would probably say, “I’ve never said that.” So, we had to have it on videotape. But it was a fascinating discussion. And then have him respond, and he can take as long as he wants to respond.
SCHEER: Right, it’s interesting. A little footnote on that: I – when I was working at the L.A. Times once, we had a headline about leprosy coming in with illegal immigrants. Illegal aliens – they still call them at the L.A. Times.
SCHEER: And I went to our editors and I said, “What is the factual basis of this story?” It was one of those things, just whipped out in the good old days of journalism. And I called – I forget her name – Shirley something – was the chief health officer here in Los Angeles, and I said, “Was there any basis to this?” And she said, “No. There is no basis. Leprosy is not spread this way, it’s not coming in with these immigrants. It’s a total farce.” I don’t think the paper ever ran a correction on that story. So just a little footnote on the good old days.
But I wanna get back to the Amy Goodman issue – not to make you a personality – but I think the thing that characterizes, whether it’s done collectively or with your personality, you have an integrity in this show. You don’t give into the whims. You’re doing journalism. You are really doing journalism. And you’re showing that you can do journalism and have passion, care about the oppressed, care about social justice, but you’re committed to fact, you’re committed to logic.
GOODMAN: You’ve got to be fair and accurate.
SCHEER: Yes, yes.
GOODMAN: And that’s the – I mean, everyone has a point of view. It’s the mainstream journalists, if you can call them that—actually you can’t – that teach us that every single day. We know all of their opinions on every issue. It’s when you have opinion that’s slightly different from theirs and the status quo – they call that opinionated, and they are simply being objective. But let’s be real. The only thing that matters – yes, we all have opinions – is to be fair and accurate.
SCHEER: Right. So let me ask you: Where do you get the original – I noticed you dedicated the book to your mother who recently died. And is that where you got – where did you come from? Who—?
GOODMAN: Well, my parents were wonderful – it’s hard even to think I’m referring to them in the plural and saying were – ‘cause I lost my mom to cancer just a few weeks ago, and she was a remarkable woman, as I dedicated to her, the most remarkable woman I’ve ever known. My parents were deeply involved with the community. I don’t even think at the time we said activist – just totally committed to making the world a better place in every which way. My father sat on the library board for 25 years.
SCHEER: Where is this—?
GOODMAN: In Bayshore, Long Island. I was born in Washington, D.C., but I grew up outside of New York where you take the ferries to Fire Island. And my mother established a peace chapter in our town. She taught women’s history and literature at local community colleges. And, you know, this would be for the cops, the firefighters who, if they get a few more credits, they could get a higher salary. They come to the class, think, “aww, Chick Lit,” you know, “this’ll be the easiest class I could take.” And my mother’s introducing them to Virginia Woolf and Toni Morrison, and it’s the ‘70s, it’s women’s liberation. And suddenly the firefighter’s bringing his wife, and the cop is bringing his daughter – “Oh, this is what they’re talking about, why they’re so restless, why they’re talking back to me!” And soon the class would be packed with whole families! And then my mother decided to go back to school and get a degree in social work. And she was – her curiosity is what drove her. Same with my dad. The intensity – I mean, when we would bring friends home, my parents would so question them. We’d say, “Please, don’t give them the third degree!” But my friends would leave and say, “My God! Your parents care so much! They’re actually interested!” And that’s true. There was nothing fake about it. And that is, I think, where my brothers and I – all of us—this intense curiosity.
My mother met at a Hebrew-speaking camp where they weren’t allowed to speak English. Noam Chomsky also went there. My father would say, “How’s Noam Homsky?” I would say, “Dad, he’s a linguist – it’s Noam Chomsky.” They were bunkmates.
GOODMAN: This is a Hebrew-speaking camp; you’ll have to ask Noam more about it. But they went there for years. And to show the complexity of my mother, one year she was voted Funniest Camper, and the next year, Most Serious Camper. But they learned a kind of classical Hebrew. And which they didn’t really realize was so classical until she went to Israel and people would laugh and say it’s like it’s listening to someone speak Shakespearean English.
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