When it comes to independent, agitational journalism, the standard is Amy Goodman and her radio/television institution, Democracy Now! Goodman and her staff often find themselves accosted by officials, foreign and domestic. This happened again on Thursday. But it didn’t happen in East Timor or Burma. Goodman was detained by our neighbors to the north.
Canadian border officials held Goodman in Vancouver for 90 minutes when she attempted to enter Vancouver to attend events launching her new book, Breaking the Sound Barrier . But the Canadian Border team didn’t care what she was there to do. They wanted to know what she was going to say. They demanded to see her notes. They searched her car and surreptitiously checked her laptop. They returned her passport with papers demanding she leave the country within 48 hours.
What could possibly have led to this level of scrutiny? They cared little that she was there to discuss the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or the state of health care. The critical concern of the Canadian Border authorities was that Ms. Goodman would be discussing the 2010 Winter Olympic games in Vancouver. This is not a joke.
In an interview with CBC News, Goodman recalled that the border agent "made it clear by saying, ‘What about the Olympics?’ And I said, ‘You mean when President Obama went to Copenhagen to push for the Olympics in Chicago?’ He said, ‘No. I am talking about the Olympics here in 2010.’ I said, ‘Oh I hadn’t thought of that,’ He said, ‘You’re saying you’re not talking about the Olympics?’ He was clearly incredulous that I wasn’t going to be talking about the Olympics. He didn’t believe me."
Ponder for a moment the Canadian state’s paranoia wedded with arrogance. They moved quickly from concern that Goodman would be a critic of the games, to aghast that it would not be the centerpiece of her speech.
As Derrick O’Keefe, co-chair of the Canadian Peace Alliance said to me, "It’s pretty unlikely that the harassment of a well known and respected journalist like Amy Goodman about whether she might be speaking about the Olympics was the initiative of one over-zealous, bad apple Canadian border guard. This looks like a clear sign of the chill that the IOC and the Games’ local corporate boosters want to put out against any potential dissent."
In Vancouver, dissent is now the only obstacle to an Olympic-sized theft. The games stand to cost Vancouver, in the analysis of the Vancouver Sun , "$6 billion and counting so far." Local papers are starting to ask, "Could the Olympics bankrupt the City of Vancouver, or put it in a financial straitjacket for decades to come?"
But it’s not just the economic theft.
Harsha Walia, member of No One Is Illegal and the Olympic Resistance Network, said to me, "In the lead-up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, we have witnessed and been subjected to an increasingly fortified police state, including intimidation and harassment of activists by security and intelligence forces as part of an unparalleled $1 billion security and surveillance network. In contravention of basic rights, police have stated their plans to set up checkpoints, search people without cause, and erect security exclusion zones."
The Canadian government has leveled public housing, stifled civil liberties and harassed local activists. The last thing they want is someone like Amy Goodman telling the world.
"I am deeply concerned that as a journalist I would be flagged and that the concern — the major concern — was the content of my speech. " said Goodman.
We need to see what happened to Ms. Goodman as a challenge to expose truth about Vancouver. Amy Goodman is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s make the 2010 Games the Titanic.
[Dave Zirin is the author of “A People’s History of Sports in the United States” (The New Press) Receive his column every week by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact him at email@example.com .]