It’s bad enough to have a presidential candidate repeatedly egging on large crowds with the idiotic charge that the very same media whose coverage permitted him to run for the highest office in the land is now somehow “the enemy.” It’s a basic bullying tactic demagogues have used for years to try and kill Democracy by shutting down the free flow of honest information by co-opting the press. We should all be alarmed at the degree to which Trump’s supporters are buying into this lie about an imagined media conspiracy attacking his candidacy. We should be further alarmed by the suggestion that the “2nd Amendment people” might be able to do something about what Donald Trump claims is a “rigged election.” This is more than bad enough, it’s beyond the pale and totally unacceptable behavior by anyone in the national limelight.
Now, on a completely different front but nonetheless alarming, we have a well known journalist, Amy Goodman, being forced to stand before a judge in North Dakota, for the crime of committing journalism. One would expect to hear about this kind of kangaroo court prosecutorial nonsense in some third world country, not here.
Goodman, committed the unforgivable sin of taking her camera crew to the scene of a standoff between an oil pipline company and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe near Mandan, North Dakota. The Standing Rock Sioux and others, fear that a rupture in a pipeline that’s being built across sacred land could pollute the nearby Missouri River, a source of drinking water for millions. So, they have been protesting the pipeline’s construction. Ms. Goodman, went out to cover the protest and has subsequently been charged with trespassing, a charge that was dropped when the local DA apparently decided he couldn’t make it stick. So he then turned around and charged her with “riot,” because she was there with a camera crew covering a protest that had been ongoing for months.
The Nation magazine reports, “Their protests, which began in April and ballooned through the summer months, represent the largest mobilization of Native American activists in more than 40 years—and one of the most vital campaigns for environmental justice in perhaps as long.”
For the most part the story had been ignored by the mainstream networks and now Goodman has been charged because she took a camera crew out to cover it?
Issues facing native Americans have been largely ignored for years, as white society turned a blind eye to the reservations. Covering the Sisseton Whapeton Sioux Tribe was one of the reasons I was hired to go to South Dakota in the early 70’s. The Native Americans there were tired of being ignored by the media. Some, in the days before cable and satellite, had filed lawsuits demanding more and better coverage. It’s a trend that continues, as the mainstream networks largely ignore the battle between the Standing Rock Sioux and those who would run a pipeline across sacred Native American ground with the obvious support of local government officials who are now prosecuting a nationaly known journalist for being so bold as to commit journalism.
It’s something to consider while we continue watching paid political “surrogates” shout out lies at otherwise responsible journalists on CNN, while the network ignores the Standing Rock Sioux and other valid issues, like a reporter being arrested for the crime of committing journalism in Morton County, North Dakota.
There is news out there, if only the 7/24 “news” channels would cover it. Why don’t they? Probably because it’s easier, less expensive and far more dramatic to pay people to stage news by putting them on a set and then having them scream at one another ad nauseam about Donald Trump’s tweets and Hillary’s email.
Their imperative is not covering news to educate and enlighten their audience, it’s making a profit. Any obligation they might have to their viewers is nothing more than an afterthought. Moreover, a dangerous connection exists between news organizations promoting the lies of a demagogue by paying surrogates to repeatedly go on the air and spew their manufactured venom and a journalist being hauled into court in a county which apparently has no belief in the First Amendment.
The danger this disinformation and misinformation has to the country should be obvious. At some point public good must be elevated above profits and our courts must do all they can to protect the First Amendment rights of those who gather information in an effort to educate and enlighten.
The “riot” charge against Amy Goodman was dismissed by a Morton County, ND judge on 10-17-16.