Goodman siblings hold power's feet to the fire

May 07, 2008 | 09:31 AM
Setauket's Dorrie Goodman does not have to worry about sibling rivalry between her two middle children, Amy and David. Unlike many brothers and sisters who have trouble getting along, Amy and David work well together. So well, in fact, they just published their fourth book, "Standing Up To The Madness: Ordinary Heroes In Extraordinary Times" (Hyperion).

"It is the story of regular people in communities all over the country who have taken courageous stands in a variety of different ways since 9/11," David Goodman said in a cell phone interview. The Bay Shore native and his sister, both former editors of the Bay Shore High School newspaper, are currently touring the country on a coast-to-coast 50-city promotional tour.

Dorrie Goodman and her late husband, parents of four children, moved to Setauket about 10 years ago. "They were a huge inspiration to us," David Goodman said of his parents.

Their father was the co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility on Long Island, and Dorrie Goodman is a retired teacher currently active in the peace movement.

"Mom is our first and best editor — still reads everything we write," said David Goodman. Her support extended to runs to the nearby Emma Clark Library to get books David and Amy needed for research while writing "Standing Up To The Madness."

Dorrie Goodman said much of the writing by Amy and David is done at her home in Setauket, a "middle ground" between Amy's home in Manhattan and David's in New England.

When not collaborating with his sister, David Goodman is a contributing writer for Mother Jones magazine and specializes in investigative journalism. Amy Goodman is the well known host of the radio and television show "Democracy Now!," the flagship program of the Pacifica Radio network heard on more than 650 radio stations around the country. It airs locally Monday to Friday on WUSB 90.1 FM. Amy Goodman co-founded "Democracy Now!" in 1996.

"Our collaborations have been a natural outgrowth," David Goodman said, "as we have experienced an almost unprecedented crack-down on civil liberties and dissent in general."

According to David Goodman, the book focuses on "people who did not go looking for trouble, but when trouble came to them, they found themselves taking a stand."

Among those profiled in the book are four Connecticut librarians who successfully challenged a provision in the USA Patriot Act ordering them to be silent about government research into library patrons' records.

"They are now some of the only people in America who successfully fought off a very draconian provision" of the anti-terrorism legislation, David Goodman said.

The book also profiles a climatologist who works for NASA, censored after he attempted to warn of the dangers of global warming. According to David Goodman, the scientist was assigned a "minder," a 24-year-old whose "only qualification" was that he had volunteered in the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign.

"We feel like these people have really defended democracy in our country. At a time when our political leaders have really abdicated leadership these ordinary people have stood up," David Goodman said. "It's important for people to understand that they can stand up to the madness, and they can make a difference."

As a solo writer, David Goodman, the investigative journalist, has written about South Africa and transformation of apartheid through ordinary people.

"I'm telling stories through people, looking at the impact right at the grassroots," he said. "It is the best way to convey the impact that political decisions have. We go to where the silence is and bring back the voices of the people that have been shut out of the media."

David Goodman said that he values the role he and his sister play as journalists independent of mainstream media. "We're bogged down in a war that's based on lies," he said. "The media acts as stenographers to those in power. We need a media that's independent and not backed by corporations that profit from war …"

Lest anyone should think of the Goodman siblings as Democratic partisans, Amy Goodman has been called "hostile," "combative" and "disrespectful" by President Bill Clinton following a half-hour interview on Election Day 2000. The "Democracy Now!" co-host said she was just doing her job. She has frequently criticized the "corporate media" for failing to report objectively.

Amy Goodman began her career in 1985 with WBAI, a local public radio station. In 1990 she and a colleague, Allan Nairn, traveled to East Timor to cover the unrest in that South Pacific island country. For her efforts to report on the "U.S.-backed Indonesian occupation," according to the "Democracy Now!" website she was beaten and then barred from the country. The pair subsequently produced an award-winning documentary, "Massacre: The Story of East Timor."

Lee Lutz contributed to this story.

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