Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them: Amy and David Goodman take Exception to the Rulers

Amy Goodman’s famed ability to mobilize her radio listeners each morning on Democracy Now! has finally come to the print medium in her new book The Exception to The Rulers. From astounding tales of bravery in covering the Indonesian Army’s brutalizing of the budding East Timorese independence movement of the 1990s, to award-winning reportage on conditions in oil-rich Nigeria (including such cloak and dagger exploits as mid-flight document shredding and nun disguises), Amy educates and inspires. Even her treatment of the abysmal but already well documented Bush administration record is augmented by a keen reporter’s insight into the contributing (or leading?) role of mainstream media. Analyses are given deeper meaning by being contextualized within a sampling of historical deceptions, distortions and outright cover-ups dating back to World War II.

2004.03.28

When I first heard of this forthcoming title from Amy Goodman, host of the morning radio standard Democracy Now!, I expected simply another product contributing to the current glut of well-intentioned but mostly old news critiques of George W. Bush and his administration’s policies. You know, the lefty rehash of: there were no WMDs, and Rumsfeld shook Saddam’s hand (on Reagan’s behalf) during the exact time period of Saddam’s infamous gassing of the Kurds.


I also expected some high quality first hand material from the hour long Democracy Now! radio and television show. However, I doubted the Goodmans’ (along with almost everyone else’s) ability to actually compel me to jump a book of this sort to the top of my already obscenely long reading list.

As it turns out, I was decidedly wrong in my assumptions about both the content of this book, and the urgency its writers are able to lend to it. It rarely reads as the Current-Events-Lite type of commentary that is so easy for publishers to sell in an election year, and the writers diligently resist the temptation to fall into a simple listing of liberal gripes or synopses of Democracy Now! interviews.

The very first episode related in the book is an astounding tale of bravery on the part of Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn in their coverage of the Indonesian Army’s brutalizing of the budding East Timorese independence movement of the early 1990s. Their eyewitness coverage of the Santa Cruz massacre of November 12, 1991—along with video footage shot by the unbelievably courageous and resourceful English reporter Max Stahl (Max “was inside the Santa Cruz cemetery…. He started to film the people fleeing, and every ten minutes he would stop and bury his videotape in the soft dirt of a fresh grave.”)—played a crucial role in breaking the 19 year media silence on the Indonesian occupation. The resultant international attention was instrumental in the development of the worldwide solidarity movement that eventually culminated in the removal of US and British backing for the occupation, and the state of East Timor declaring independence in 2002.

Other not so well-trodden territory includes reportage on conditions in the oil-rich African state of Nigeria, specifically its neocolonial relations with the Chevron Corporation. This material was the basis for Amy Goodman’s and Jeremy Scahill’s prize-winning radio documentary Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship, and includes such cloak and dagger exploits as mid-flight document shredding and gaining access to Chevron’s CEO while disguised as a habit-wearing nun.

Equally as impressive as the tales of journalistic heroism, is the clarity and impact of Amy and David’s presentation of the above-mentioned already well documented Bush administration record. The more familiar aspects of governmental deceit are here augmented by a keen reporter’s insight into the contributing (or leading?) role that mainstream media has played in the recent battles of the ongoing War on Terror. The analyses are given deeper meaning by being contextualized within a sampling of historical deceptions, distortions and outright cover-ups dating back to World War II.

The presentation is in fact often so powerful as to have moved me from my normally somewhat jaded state into a maddened need for direct and immediate action. At different points in this book, I was moments away from tossing it to the ground and:

  • Putting on a cheesy Give Peace A Chance T-shirt and heading to my local mall
  • Hand silkscreening “When I saw the dead and dying Afghani children on TV, I felt a newly recovered sense of national security” T-shirts to sell, at cost
  • Calling NPR to say the words “Mumia Abu-Jamal” on air, every day
  • Ambushing City Hall officials with a load of tough questions and an mp3 recorder
  • Undertaking a series of interviews with death row prisoners, and publishing them myself
  • Writing a glowing review, with a list of Amy’s upcoming speaking engagements.

This ability to actually mobilize concerned readers—and not just depress them—is just about as admirable as Amy Goodman’s ability and willingness to hold then-President Clinton’s feet to the fire in an impromptu election day telephone interview in 2000. The very tenacity and knowledgeability that dogged Slick Willie into calling her “hostile, combative, and even disrespectful,” is what is working in all our favors, in this book and every single morning on the Democracy Now! show.

My respect for Amy and David Goodman and the Democracy Now! staff and guests has increased exponentially since reading this volume. Presumably the very high quality of The Exception to the Rulers will come as less of a surprise to regular Democracy Now! listeners and viewers, but it will be a particularly welcome and inspiring revelation for people like myself, who rarely find the time to listen to great radio stations like WBAI, KPFK and WZRD, that carry the show.


Amy Goodman’s very popular, $20 a ticket speaking engagements have been drawing crowds of up to 3,500 people. Don’t miss her coming up in your city:

                        2004.04.14 – New York City, NY           2004.04.29 – Boulder, CO

                        2004.04.15 – Los Angeles, CA              2004.04.30 – Denver, CO

                        2004.04.16 – San Francisco, CA           2004.05.01 – Minneapolis, MN

                        2004.04.17 – Berkeley, CA                  2004.05.06 – Madison, WI

                        2004.04.17 – Santa Cruz, CA               2004.05.07 – Chicago, IL

                        2004.04.18 – Fresno, CA                     2004.05.08 – Urbana/Champaign, IL

                        2004.04.20 – Philadelphia, PA              2004.05.13 – Buffalo, NY

                        2004.04.21 – Washington, DC              2004.05.14 – Rochester/Syracuse, NY

                        2004.04.22 – Houston, TX                    2004.05.15 – Cortland/Ithaca, NY

                        2004.04.23 – Albuquerque, NM             2004.05.20 – Seattle, WA

                        2004.04.24 – Santa Fe, NM                  2004.05.21 – Portland, OR

                        2004.04.25 – Taos, NM                        2004.05.22 – Amherst, MA

                        2004.04.26 – Storrs, CT (UConn)         2004.05.24 – Yellow Springs, OH

                        2004.04.27 – Newark, NJ                     2004.05.28 – CA TBA

                        2004.04.28 – New Haven, CT               2004.05.29 – CA TBA

*This review was base on an UNCORRECTED PROOF, quotes have NOT been verified with the finished book.

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News Service: theExperiment

URL: http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=2019