Speaking truth to power…
Maybe I missed it. Maybe it was buried somewhere in the back pages. But after David Barsamian spent more than an hour with Kansas City Star reporter Scott Canon, even Tom Crane, who helped organize the first Progressive Media Awards, wasn’t sure the Star had printed anything about Barsamian or the awards’ ceremony.
According to Crane, Canon had been asking Barsamian a lot of questions prior to the Sept. 27 event held at All Souls Church in Midtown. But if the Star decided not to print what Barsamian — author of Targeting Iran and producer of Alternative Radio on KGNU, a community radio station in Boulder, CO — had to say, it validates the reasoning Crane and others had in founding Friends of Community Media (FCM).
“Alternative media is in jeopardy,” said Crane about why FCM hosted the media awards event. “Progressive media is in a minority and needs to be recognize.”
FCM sprang from Friends of Community Radio, a group of KKFI supporters who resisted changes at the community radio station a few years back. Management then had moved public policy programming, particularly shows with a progressive point of view, away from heavy listener time slots to late-night spots. Eventually, shows like Democracy Now and Counterspin were returned to their morning times and new management took over the station.
FCM members, together with a group called Citizens for Media Reform, formed the nonprofit Friends of Community Media in June. FCM seeks to promote diversity in media ownership and coverage, “and enable citizens to create their own media and influence existing media.”
Part of what FCM wants to do, said Crane, is “bring in speakers from national progressive media to call attention that progressive media needs to be supported.” David Barsamian is the first such speaker sponsored by FCM.
Barsamian founded Alternative Radio and has worked in radio since 1978. He has written for The Progressive, Z Magazine and is known for a series of interviews, later published in book form, with Noam Chomsky, considered the left’s leading intellectual. He has also published extensively on United States and Iranian relations, and has received the ACLU’s Upton Sinclair Award for independent journalism.
Barsamian began his lecture with a satiric spin on mainstream news broadcasting, calling himself on the staff of “Facade News,” where “We go straight to the surface of a story and stay there.” He called mainstream media reporters “lapdogs with laptops.”
Barsamian laced his talk with facts and incidents that he said the mainstream media has ignored or glossed over. Those included the little reported training in nonviolence Rosa Parks received prior to igniting the civil rights movement in 1955 in Montgomery, AL; the recent U.S. bombing in Somalia; that the United States under President Eisenhower overthrew “a popular leader in Iran in 1953” to establish a monarchy; that Iran’s defense budget is $5 billion compared to America’s $460 billion; that the main cause of violence in Iraq is the presence of U.S. troops and that “there’s a connection with poverty and illiteracy and joining the U.S. military.”
The Bush administration was called a “rogue, criminal regime” by Barsamian. “Because of the actions of the U.S., terrorism has proliferated and is the fruit of reckless and bellicose actions” by this administration, he added.
Where once being a conservative was an “honorable term,” Barsamian said, the current Republican administration is not conservative but contains “radical nationalists,” in which American foreign policy is governed by a fear that the U.S. “could lose control of the world.”
“Never have we had an administration more worthy of impeachment,” Barsamian said to loud applause. “It is trashing the essence of democracy. The case is rock solid for impeachment.”
He called the recent Senate resolution to partition Iraq “classic colonialism” and “pure racism when we speak for them.” Barsamian blamed corporate control of the media and “compliant journalists” for the American public being ill-informed.
Barsamian says there is a buildup for war against Iran. “Hitler said the same thing about the Polish people that Bush says about the Iranians.” Any premise that that the U.S. military is too broke or stretched too thin to go to war against Iran is based on the premise that “our leaders are rational and sane,” he added.
Barsamian charged that the country’s international policies under Bush have caused the United States to lose its moral power and virtue — “what gives a nation it’s very soul.”
KKFI came in for praise from Barsamian, calling it “was one of the best community radio stations in this region.”
Vicki Walker, host of KC Media Watchdogs and on the staff of the KKFI news department, introduced a new recognition from FCM called the “Golden Plunger Award.” Walker said the award will given next year based on a list the Media Watchdogs will keep of “stories that are a waste of time.”
Tom Klammer, host of Tell Somebody on KKFI, spoke of the effort to have the Federal Communication Commission lift cross-ownership rules which limit the number of radio stations, TV stations and newspapers one corporate media group can own. “We need to stop this selling out of our free press,” said Klammer.
Lewis Diuguid, vice president of community resources and columnist for The Kansas City Star received the Media Excellence Award. Diuguid was called a “lonely voice” for progressive politics at the Star.
“People have to get out of the habit of being happily uninformed,” said Lewis in accepting the award.
His newspaper would be a good place for that to start happening.
Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at publisher_editeKC@kcactive.com.
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