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'Democracy Now!' host Amy Goodman in town

Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman is stopping in Ashland during her 100-city tour to learn about grassroots organizing and hear thoughts on war, campaign financing and other issues — not from "know-nothing pundits," as the independent journalist calls people who appear on corporate-owned stations, but American citizens with concerns about their country and community.

This week, Goodman spoke in Oakland, San Rafael, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Portland, Olympia, Seattle and Spokane. On Sunday, Oct. 28, she will spend the early afternoon in Bend, and then arrive here to speak at the Ashland High School Mountain Avenue Theatre to benefit Southern Oregon Public Television. Before that appearance, she will attend a reception fundraiser for radio station KSKQ's "Watts Up!" campaign to extend community-owned and -produced radio from Ashland to all of Jackson County.

Supporting community media is part of the mission of Democracy Now!, the daily, independent radio and TV news program Goodman started in 1996 that is now aired on more than 1,100 stations. One of the first to broadcast the show was SOPTV.

Goodman was in Ashland in 2005 and 2009, both times with the release of a new book. Her latest book, "The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope," was co-written by Denis Moynihan, who will also speak at both events.

While riding in a car before an appearance on Friday, Goodman spoke to the Ashland Daily Tidings about what she has learned on this months-long journey and who she'd like to hear from while in Ashland.

DT: What are your plans in Ashland?

AG: We will do a global broadcast from Ashland, and it's thrilling to be able to give voice to the Silenced Majority, the people who are concerned about war, the growing inequality in our country, climate change, labeling GMO foods and other issues of significance.

What you get from the major networks is a small circle of pundits who know so little and who are trying to explain the world to us and getting it so wrong. Why is it so hard for them to go to the heart of the issue, to speak directly to the people concerned? To me, that's power, passion and authenticity, people describing their own experience.

DT: You report a lot about the Occupy Movement. In Ashland last October, what began as a two-day economic protest in the downtown Plaza stretched on 24 days with round-the-clock protesters waving signs and accepting bags of food and encouragement from sympathetic business owners, residents and tourists. From their efforts, other groups formed and spread across the Rogue Valley and beyond. From the Occupy protesters you spent time with across the nation, what was their common goal? Did they succeed?

AG: I'm going to talk a lot about the Occupy Movement because it is so important. On Sept. 17, 2011, people marched on Wall Street and ended up in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan and started the movement. The media hardly covered them and yet Manhattan is the media metropolis of the world. The next week, the media started asking, "Who are these people? If they had a spokesperson, we would have them in the studio."

I think any Madison Avenue advertising executive would be drooling right now if credited with the most effective slogan in history, "We are the 99 percent." That was a message that was understood across the country. The word "occupy" occupied the language. It's an extremely important movement that continues to evolve. People sitting together and making demands — we certainly haven't seen the end of that.

DT: Thirty years ago, a small group of Ashland residents successfully lobbied to have the city declared a Nuclear Free Zone and they formed Peace House, which continues to support peace and justice. At an Oct. 19 event for Peace House, supporters applauded Medea Benjamin, who suggested the group now strive to make Ashland a Drone Free Zone. Who is your trusted source for drone information?

AG: There are a number of people studying where drones are and what they are being used for and how making people in Pakistan afraid to gather or send their children to school for fear of a drone strike is not good for our democracy. Stanford and NYU (New York University) law schools released the report "Living Under Drones." Medea Benjamin wrote a very good book, "Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control," and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill talks about them in the video "A Short History of Drones."

This is a very important issue that was not discussed in the first two presidential debates, and in the third debate, both candidates agreed that drones should be used. I think these candidates are outside the mainstream of America. If Americans understood how other countries suffer from a drone attack, they would not stand for it. It's our role as journalists to go outside the Washington consensus to look at other information, to learn what people on the ground feel about it.

DT: The Ashland Independent Film Festival has shown documentaries such as "The Invisible War," about women in the U.S. military being raped, which was screened in 2012, "Killing In The Name," about an al-Qaida suicide bomber killing 27 members of a wedding party, shown in 2011, and "Bomber," about a regretful World War II bomber pilot, shown in 2010. Can you recommend a film the AIFF should consider for its festival in April 2013?

AG: My co-host, journalist Juan Gonzalez, has a film based on his groundbreaking book, "Harvest of Empire," about the untold story of Latinos in America. It's fascinating and I think people will be riveted.

DT: Have you heard of the Ashland Food Project? It was started three years ago by a handful of Ashland residents to collect donations from households every two months to stock shelves at the Emergency Food Bank. The easy-to-implement program has spread to dozens of other cities. How often do you get to report on individuals' successes compared to government failures?

AG: Thank you for telling me about the Ashland Food Project. I want to share more of these success stories around the country. There are so many important things happening on the ground and I try to bring out these stories.

DT: In "The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope," you and co-author Denis Moynihan profile individuals who have enacted change. From your experience, what actions are needed for one person to have impact?

AG: This is where the hope comes in. People all over the country are doing something about the problems we see. I'm fascinated by those who stand up against power and they often win. This tour has been a remarkable journey that has allowed me to hear how people organize in their community. These stories are deeply inspiring because environmental, economic and political issues are not theoretical. They are real concerns.

DT: You say part of your mission at Democracy Now! is to "shore up independent media." How sturdy is independent media?

AG: It is like a huge kitchen table that stretches across the globe. It is where we debate important issues of war and peace, life and death. Public access TV, PBS, college, community and NPR stations are all part of the fabric of independent media. When the real voices of people on the ground are heard, an audience becomes devoted to the news outlet.

DT: During the debates, there were several public places in Ashland — from the Southern Oregon University library to the Black Sheep Pub and Playwright Pub — that held well-attended debate-watching parties. Afterward, people lingered to talk about what they heard. Have you noticed a different outcome when people watch a debate with voters who aren't all in 100 percent agreement? Would you recommend a debate-watching party?

AG: Absolutely. I think the division on the ground is not as great as what we see in Washington. People in communities are linked in all different ways, through work, schools and beliefs. How we all interact is the beauty of community.

Media could be the greatest voice for peace, it could be a place where we dialogue with each other. Once we understand where people are coming from, everything is easier.

Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or jeastman@dailytidings.com.