January 24, 2003

Media Protest Counter Blast

You know it hurt when the media turns on its damage control operations full blast. After the worldwide demonstrations last week in defiance of the brutally cold weather, the media propaganda network immediately started working hard to close the wound.

On Tuesday, the first business day after Martin Luther King weekend, France and Germany took a bolder stand against the US drive to attack Iraq. Undoubtedly they noted that US polls showed little support for war if the UN was not backing it. They have seen their own populations in irate opposition to war against Iraq. They have seen people all over the world demonstrating against the foolish war plans and they have seen hundreds of thousands come out into bitter cold in the US to register their opposition to the war agenda. They know Bush's support is not solid.

Bush's poll numbers are deteriorating rapidly and the administration and its network of supporting corporations are in a panic about it. So now we are seeing stories in which International ANSWER, the organizer of the peace march in DC, is referred to as a communist organization.

I'm not sure how many people this will bother, but if someone calls a peace march at a time when the country is on a precipice about to leap into a probable catastrophe, I support the peace march, no matter if its organizers are called "communists" by some one. And what the hell does that word mean anyway?

I got e-mails from friends who heard some very disturbing reports on NPR. "I heard on NPR that Terry Gross was going to have a show on the peace movement and interview someone from ANSWER, and Win Without War, and another peacenik from the '60s," wrote my friend Auset. "I was juiced. I think, oooh, can't wait to write Cogs and let him in on this. The movement is really sittin pretty. I was in heaven. Well, it wasn't but a few sentences into the interview with the SDS hippie sellout that I heard the refrain 'hey, you, get offa my cloud!' I plummeted back to corporate media reality. It was a setup. The whole three interviews angled around discrediting ANSWER as a quasi-commie organization in cahoots with Ramsey Clark who Terry actually called "goofy" and in support of Sadaam Hussein. The ANSWER rep was on the defensive the whole time with Gross(tesque) red-baiting to put McCarthy to shame. The guests poo poohed ANSWER, waxed mainstream and distanced themselves from the causes of Mumia and the Palestinians that had gotten play at the march. Gross sliced away at the beautiful coalitions that ANSWER had formed. War, nuclear mayhem, and political and economic hijinks on the horizon and all she can think to do is to discredit the organizers of the biggest march on Washington since Nam. Forget discussing what brought all those people together, commies be damned."

Another friend wrote me that he had awakened to NPR reports of an inexorable march toward war that were so horrific he had to say a prayer. "The rest of the day, NPR will offer George Bush testimonials and reluctant rationales, as to why the US must 'go to war,'" he writes. ³Some Washington bureaucrat, by the name of Eagleburg, offers a convoluted argument as to why we must do the deed. Hussein must now prove with tangible evidence that he has nothing to hide. But you can¹t prove a negative, and so, Check Mate! The rouge states of Turkey and N. Korea are positioning for payoffs. The joker [Iran] is still in the deck. Eagleburg continues: He persuades us that the outcome of the arms inspections is, in any event, irreverent. He leaps to the grand conclusion that "Bush has to go in, to protect his reputation."

He continues: "Oh, ok, so this is just a personal thing between George and Hussein, it's showdown in the OK Corral, brought to you by CNN Real TV Productions: We made him, we can destroy him. I wonder, am I actually hearing an American government official telling the American people‹on what used to be thee public radio station--that hundreds of thousands of people will have to die, with irrevocable damage to both the environment and the global economy-- so that George W. Bush can maintain his reputation. What reputation? The NPR correspondent‹reluctantly--acquiesces. There is no rebuttal‹no voice of the people. We want our station back!"

"Have we all gone mad?" is his anguished cry. "Is it possible that one man [with global connections, extremely wealthy associates, and the street savvy of a professional front man] could have such a dramatic change on a powerful and sophisticated society? Yes, what you see happening is real and not going to go away."

Then several people sent me an article from Salon about counting crowds. The estimates ranged from 30,000 people at the DC peace march on January 18 to half a million and more. Then Salon pulls out its "expert," one Clark McPhail, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who they say "is one of America's preeminent authorities on protest crowds."

Clark attended and he says, in his voice of absolute certainty that there were "60,000 tops." He said he got this by counting the square footage of the crowd and multiplying it by population density, which makes some sense, but also makes some large presumptions about how cut and dried such an operation is.

This article then gets into a great deal of rather detailed, arcane discussion about people-counting methods that sounds like a lecture by a deadly boring professor in a freshman sociology class. The expert insists repeatedly that he is not trying to "minimize," the protest, that he has no agenda. Of course he is a scientist, one of those meta-mortals who has no vested interest and stands aside from the universe observing with pure objectivity.

But the effect of the article is just to diminish, to chop and chop and hammer that thing until the surviving impression of the demonstration is laughable, pitiful. Pathetic. What a joke. The one is San Francisco was bigger, the article says.

If you can stay awake through all the pseudo-science, you will find the sentence, "For really huge protests, aerial photographs are necessary to determine how much space is occupied, but Saturday's rally was small enough that McPhail and another professor, John McCarthy of Pennsylvania State, could easily walk through the gathering many times, noting its borders and its density."

Now this is where I get really stuck. Again the impression, what this article is saying over and over is, This demonstration was little. I was there. I walked the entire route. I know the stream of people on that route from beginning to end took hours. I don¹t believe people on the ground could see the whole crowd. I am extremely suspicious of the statement that they could "walk through the gathering many times." It was just not that finite on the scene. And more than the details I am skeptical about the tone, the slant and the underlying intent of the article.

Susan Sarandon at the peace rally in New York last fall said, "Take a good look around because it won't look this way in the media tomorrow." That's it. They are going to try to beat that thing down until there is nothing left of it. But those of us who were there know differently.

Back to Home Page