Broadcasting a Challenge to Empire
What are my personal reasons for broadcasting a challenge to empire every week?
Each Monday morning, I get up early and walk over to the student center at Keene State College. My destination is WKNH, the college radio station on the third floor. As mentioned in my last post, I am one of the community volunteers who sit at the station’s control panel one morning a week to broadcast the hour-long Democracy Now! news program with award-winning journalist Amy Goodman and then several other shows from the Pacifica Radio Network.
Now available on over 400 noncommercial radio stations across the country, Democracy Now! has become the fastest growing alternative media collaboration in community radio’s history. Each weekday morning, Democracy Now! provides hundreds of thousands of listeners around the country with access to people and perspectives rarely heard in the mass media. As its own website says, this maverick news program includes reports and interviews with independent journalists, ordinary people from around the world who are directly affected by U.S. foreign policy, grassroots leaders and activists, as well as progressive academics and independent analysts. In addition, Democracy Now! hosts real debates between people who substantially disagree, such as between White House or Pentagon spokespeople on the one hand, and grassroots peace activists on the other. And on Goodman’s show, these people talk, they don’t shout.
Those of us who help broadcast Democracy Now! around the country each have our own personal reasons for volunteering. For me, it is one of the ways I make a public witness to the moral vision at the heart of my Quaker faith. At its root, the way of Jesus is a profound challenge to the worldy way of empire, greed, lies, and violence. His is a prophetic conversion call to the way of peace, justice, truth-telling, and care for creation. As Paul wrote to Jesus’ followers who lived in the belly of the Roman Empire over 2000 years ago, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable, and perfect.”
I like Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! program because she’s a journalist that refuses to conform to torture, wars of aggression, military occupation, illegal spying against citizens, or corporate rule, social injustice, the death penalty, and ecological degradation. Like all good muckraking journalists of the past, Goodman seeks to uncover the truth as a means to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
Amy Goodman also has guts. She once was attacked and almost killed by the Indonesian military for daring to cover the US-backed Indonesian genocide against the East Timorese people. While my own media work at WKNH is not at all heroic, I still believe it is meaningful. Given that a real democracy requires educated and informed citizens who are not cowed or hoodwinked by people in power, I feel like I’m doing my small bit each Monday to help foster a more diverse and democratic media in a country where just six-to-eight corporations now own and control over 50 percent of the nation’s mass media outlets.
We will need to restructure the dominant corporate media system in the years ahead, and change the very undemocratic policies of the Federal Communications Commission, but I am still impressed when people start building a functional alternative media voice in the here and now.
Next post, I'll list some alternative community radio resources in case this type of media activism might appeal to you or someone you know.