Friday, December 31, 2004

The Exception to the Rulers, by Amy Goodman with David Goodman

Amy Goodman witnessed the 1991 Santa Cruz cemetry massacre in East Timor first hand, along with her colleague Allan Nairn. Allan Nairn suffered a fracture to the head and Amy had to constantly wipe the blood off him while trying to escape without getting killed by the Indonesian Army. When they landed back in the US they tried to get media outlets to take on the story - no one was interested. Luckily a BBC journo was there as well and took video footage that was eventually smuggled out. Only then did the media take interest.

Amongst other distinctions Amy Goodman was called by President Clinton, 'hostile, combative and disrespectful' during a phone interview conducted for the radio show Democracy Now! He had called in during the 2000 election wanting to plug Gore - instead he got a shellacking.

I'd describe this book as Michael Moore for the 24-39 year old demographic. It's a hodgepodge of various current topics - dodgy corporate business practice, war on Iraq, lies in government, the Patriot Act and the innocent people who get caught up in it.

At first I wondered if I really needed to read this book. Surely all of these things have been covered a million times. But by half way through I was really hooked on Amy. I like her perky writing style and fearlessness. She just asks all the uncomfortable questions - even when interviewing Bill Clinton. And she puts a light on a lot of things that don't get any media attention. If I could multiply her by a hundred thousand I would.

Perhaps the most shocking part of the book was her detailing of the Patriot Act, which was rushed through Congress and barely read by those who voted for it. It's okay if you don't get caught up in its dragnet, like the majority of Americans, but if you do, it's utterly frightening.

In one part Amy quotes a journo or writer (I forget which), who happened to be eating in a restaurant that was raided by the police because they thought it might have terrorist connections. The guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time asked to see a lawyer and this was denied to him. Then some police officer checking details on a lap top computer started yelling at him, 'Don't you understand, this is a war we're fighting'. He was only eating his dinner! Then there are the raids in the middle of the night etc. As I said, if you're a regular US citizen you might say this is all fine and dandy, you agree with it because you have to be tough on terrorists. But if you're a totally innocent person caught up in this, and you have your basic rights denied, then it's a different matter.

The new laws even go so far as to allowing the police to check your library records, to see what you like to read, upon request! If that were the case in Australia, I'd be very worried for myself, as I like to get out books on terrorism and the war on Iraq. I could find myself questioned by some bozo who knows nothing, letting authority go to his head.

In Australia we can look forward to the middle of 2005 when John Howard, Mr Moderate himself, will get full control of the Senate. Of course he's saying he's going to be very temperate and won't go overboard. As if! I'm sure we're all in for quite a few surprises.

Amy's radio show has a website at www.democracynow.org

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