Democracy Now’s “Alt Media” Platform for Humanitarian Imperialism in Syria 1

By Elliot Gabriel

Mint Press News

NEW YORK CITY — The dust had barely settled after last weekend’s U.S.-led bombing of Syria before a split in the political class developed. While some Beltway figures, media personalities and former officials hailed the bombings, others decried the “limited” nature of the airstrikes. At the grassroots level, a somewhat different debate gripped the left and the right — those who opposed the bombings were accused of buying into the propaganda of the Syria-Russia-Iran alliance, while would-be defenders of human rights called for increased military measures to degrade the killing capacity of the “Assad regime.”

Democracy Now!, the daily hour-long news show hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, has long been the flagship institution for U.S. progressives. With its jaunty 90s opening theme, timely coverage of world events, liberal (maybe radical-liberal) take on global affairs, and impressive range of top-tier guests including authors, government officials, policy experts and activists, the syndicated program is seen as an exemplary display of independent journalism.

No doubt, the New York-based show is in a class of its own when compared to the vapidity and sensationalism of shock-jock right-wing radio or smug, Beltway liberalism of Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartmann or Cenk Uygur. Like a gust of oxygen in the choking smog of AC360-Maddow infotainment, Amy Goodman resembles an enlightened aunt at a Fourth of July party — a female version of Ira Glass who brings a kale, cauliflower, almond cheese and cumin-spiced casserole to the potluck while discussing difficult topics in an unshakeably calm, Zen-like manner.

Despite its reputation as a standard-bearer for left-of-center “alternative media,” Democracy Now isn’t immune to the pressures of U.S. politics: sometimes the Battle of Seattle veterans canvas their suburbs for Barack Obama; sometimes Michael Moore or Noam Chomsky get out the vote for Hillary.

In a similar manner, Democracy Now frequently accommodates narratives that would seem at home on CNN or the state-run Voice of America. With alarming regularity, the “war and peace report” has showcased passionate voices advocating Pentagon or State Department solutions to dire human-rights crises across the globe, including “regime change.”

Case-in-point: Syria. Since the country plunged into the depths of withering all-sided conflict and proxy war pitting the government of Bashar al-Assad against a range of opposition groups – from Gulf Arab-funded jihadists to Western-funded secular armies, with few independent players in between – the program regularly features interviews with activists who feel that Washington can play a progressive role for the people of the region through the deployment of the U.S. Armed Forces, covert aid to factions on the ground, and the routine violation of international legal norms such as the United Nations Charter.

Democracy Now generally isn’t a Pentagon mouthpiece; a large portion of its coverage does consist of decent progressive journalism. Yet interspersed throughout programming covering genuine popular movements, we find narratives covering the left flank of U.S. imperialism, normalizing the use of U.S. military force for ostensibly “humanitarian” purposes.

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