NOW's Susan Cole speaks with Matt Taibbi, Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman at TIFF 2016.
Fred Peabody’s documentary, All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, And The Spirit of I.F. Stone, currently at TIFF, honours the iconic independent journalist by tracking some of the most courageous indie newshounds now at work in the U.S. All of them castigate the mainstream media for irresponsible coverage that’s letting Americans down.
NOW spoke to Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and filmmaker Fred Peabody. I asked them what every aspiring journalist needs to know to battle the news media’s laziness, celebrity obsession and for-profit strategies.
1. Cover the movements and let -activists speak for themselves
Amy Goodman Go to where the silence is – which is often quite noisy. It’s just silent in the corporate media. On September 3, Democracy Now! went to North Dakota, where thousands of mainly native Americans had gathered around the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, who are protesting the Dakota -Access Pipeline. It was the largest unification of native Americans in decades. They’ve been there since April. We went so the activists could frame the issue themselves.
The protesters walked up to plant their tribal flags where the company was excavating, and found the bulldozers in full throttle on the site of a burial ground. Security came out with dogs, beat the protesters and let the dogs attack them. It was a massive showdown, originally reported as the natives attacking security. But we sent out actual footage online and got 14 million hits. Why weren’t all the media there?
2. Leave the country.
Matt Taibbi Journalists get out of J-school and get a job right away at a network or newspaper and try to rise up, which is a bad idea. There are too many cultural ideas that are impossible to shake unless you step outside. The only way to [find your] independent voice is to go somewhere else, especially away from America, where the messages are so dominant and on the same wavelength. Get away, find out who you are, find out how the world works, and then come back and tell the truth.
3. Find the historical frame
Nermeen Shaikh A lot of reporting is about what happened five minutes ago or 20 minutes ago or at most 24 hours, and that has a corrosive effect. You think you know what’s happening in Iraq or Afghanistan. But news now gives you a false sense of knowledge and at the same time erases what led to that particular moment.
Think about suicide bombings. How many suicide attacks took place in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq between 1982 and 2001? Two. From 2002 to 2014 there were over 3,200, resulting in 35,000 deaths. If we had journalism that looked at what preceded 2002 (Bush’s invasion of Iraq), many things would be illuminated.
At the refugee camps in Calais, the largest in France, tons of reporters talk to refugees to write human interest stories: How much are you suffering? How little are you eating? What clothes are you wearing?
But why are these refugees there? Do you think they just wanted a change of scene and it’s a choice they made? The answer makes for a politi-cal story, and if we don’t include the politics we’re just adding to the misery of the Third World.
Amy Goodman Why are they there? All you have to do is look at the maps of American bombing targets and how intimately we’re connected to the barrel of the gun and the bombing campaigns. Even climate change and climate change refugees – these are our responsibilities.
4. Read the right things
Fred Peabody Read I.F. Stone’s Weekly. Read Manufacturing Consent, by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman – it’s the Rosetta Stone for understanding mainstream media. Then -decide for yourself what kind of journalism you want to do.
All Governments Lie screens Thursday (September 15), 9:15 pm, Scotiabank 14; Saturday (September 17), 5 pm, Scotiabank 5.
Get more TIFF 2016 here.