Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Media Flounders As Antiwar Movement Grows

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By Stewart Nusbaumer

Washington, DC -- Of the hundred or more speakers at the antiwar protest in Washington -- no one in their right mind could listen to all of them -- I heard only one say that “the media is not doing its job.” That was Cindy Sheehan. The mother of a son killed in Iraq, who last month camped out in a ditch near President Bush’s Texas ranch and ignited antiwar sentiment throughout the country, said what nearly every one of the tens of thousands of protestors was thinking.

In the media “pen” next to the speakers’ platform, journalists mill around. Some interview celebrities -- right now, George Galloway the British firebrand and Jim Hightower the Texan populist are being interviewed. Other reporters listen to the speeches -- Leslie Cagen, national coordinator for United Peace and Justice is on the podium – mercifully, their speeches are kept short. Photographers snap away, while camera crews film. Occasionally a journalist leans over the fence and asks a regular demonstrator some questions, but not often. The real story is never the tens of thousands of antiwar demonstrators, most of the time the real story is the demonstration is not even covered.

“Who’s that?” a middle-aged blond journalist, in an impatient tone, asks me. Her attractive blue eyes are edgy and narrow. I could tell she expected me to give her a quick answer.

“That’s Ramsey Clark,” I say. Only a few feet away, half a dozen reporters are circling the frail elderly statesman of the political Left, microphones are shoved within inches of his face. I fear a over-caffeinated journalist might bash his teeth out.

“Who’s that?” she snaps back, appearing irritated with my answer.

“You mean you don’t know who Ramsey Clark is?”

“Who’s that?” she repeats yet again, evidently believing journalism is the art of persistence and little else.

“He was the Attorney General in the Kennedy Administration, and I think the Johnson Administration, and a fixture ever since in the antiwar movement and Left’s causes. In the 90s he --”

“Oh,” she says, and then walks away in the opposite direction. I glimpse at her press credentials, which indicate she is a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Soon there is a heavy rush of journalists to the far side of the pen. “Back up,” the tall, lanky United for Peace and Justice media coordinator pleads. “We need a circle here.” The mob presses forward. “We can’t start until….” The mob holds its ground. “Please, back up!”

“Who’s that?” a tall red-headed journalist asks. I feel my forehead, making sure there is not an “information” sign there. He’s young, maybe in his mid-20s. Ok, I think, he's at least young. In the circle of crushing journalists is a tall blond-haired woman, who I immediately recognize as Cindy Sheehan. And there is the perennial media star, Jesse Jackson.

“It’s Cindy Sheehan,” I tell the reporter from the Allegany County News, according to his press ID. He stares at me. “You know who she is, don’t you?” He continues staring, mouth slightly open. “Look,” his face lights up, “there’s Jesse Jackson.”

“He’s not who everyone wants to question,” I say dismissively. “They are there for Cindy. You know, the woman whose son died in Iraq and camped outside of Bush’s ranch?”

“Oh, yeah” he says slowly. “But they’re there for Jesse Jackson.”

“No, I was just at a news conference in New York, everyone ignored Al Sharpton -- yesterday‘s news. The media mobbed Cindy.”

“No, they’re there for Jesse,” he insists.

“Look, I don’t care. Go over there, you can ask Jesse any question you want. No one else is.”

Michael Cull is not a journalist, and he doesn't want to be one. Strongly opposed to the Iraq War, he came all the way from Palmer, Alaska to the Washington demonstration. He eerily resembles Dick Cheney, but I decide not to tell him that. “The media is on trial,” his clear blue eyes sparkle with intensity. “Actually, I say to hell with them.”

He notes that The New York Times buried its article on the demonstration, and The Washington Post carried nothing in its Saturday paper that could have informed interested readers of the antiwar events. “Maybe forgetting about the mainstream media is one of the good things that will come out of this event," Cull says. "We have Air America and others, we’re creating our own progressive media.”

Indeed, the throngs that came to Washington will often convey more in their email exchanges than you are likely to glean from the mainstream media. And maybe Michael Cull is correct, we need to focus more on developing a strong, dynamic media than continue to be disappointed in the narrow, corporate media.


Stewart Nusbaumer is editor of Intervention Magazine. You can email Stewart at Stewart@interventionmag.com.

We predicted shortly after the 2004 "election" that the MSM would be irrelevant by the 2006 mid-terms. Looks like the may surpass our predictions, and find their irrelevancy sooner. My feeling is, who the hell cares whether the MSM covers anything anymore. The Antiwar Movement will continue to grow by leaps and bounds with each day that passes, each Republican indicted and each death, laying at the feet of the Bush administration and their enablers in congress and the corporate media.

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